At Sea to Port Kennedy, 1 May 1893

A day on which we vividly thought about home. The First of May! Usually I would spend this day that marks the official beginning of spring either in the beautiful Prater or in a nice spot of this incomparable land in the mountains of Upper Austria, in Brunnwald hunting cocks. Here too in the tropics the first of May wanted to show itself as a beautiful pleasant day. When I was awakened by the music band with the day’s reveille and a serenade, the sky offered a charming view: The sky was completely clear, the sea was smooth as a mirror and sky-blue. The temperature was not too intensive.

We were driving between the outliers of the island of Flores with its completely extinct volcano Lobetobi (2170 m) and the island Komba which only consists of a smoking volcano. Both islands were covered with thick woods nearly up to the peak on the seaward face and offered a gorgeous view. Later we passed the islands of Andonare or Sabrao, Lomblen or Kwella, Pandai or Pantar and Allor or Ombaai on which in contrast to the other islands also bare stone hills were visible that were probably also of volcanic origin.

In the afternoon the staff had organized a small entertainment as a May feast. First there was a pistol shooting on the iron deck on a beautifully painted target by our „ship artist“ as well as on bottles. Some of the gentlemen proved to be excellent shooters while I, unused in shooting pistols, often missed the bottles. After the target shooting followed a funny sailor feast with various games: The first part of the feast program was the well known sack race in which people were completely sewn in into sacks and there were funny falls and accidents. Then it was the turn of a tug of war which was almost always won by our giant-sized strong stokers. Then a run of pairs of sailors bound together at their feet.

The main attraction of the program, however, was diving for coins in a water-filled barrel a meter high. In this barrel a dollar was thrown. Then the hands of the diver were bound on his back and the divers tried getting the dollar out with their mouth. Naturally this was only achieved after many attempts. Many plunged completely into the barrel and had to be drawn out or emerged out of the water without success after some time which was greeted by the audience with real gales of laughter. The NCOs offered good advice to their charges. If one of the divers finally managed to recover one of the coins, he was received with loud applause by his comrades. The people had a great time and we were pleased by the entertainment this game provided for them.

A very difficult exercise completed the event, namely climbing a 5 m long thick rope that had been covered over and over with tallow and therefore was slick like the skin of an eel. Many tried in vain to reach the top of the rope. Most of the times they had to already give up at the middle of the task as their force was exhausted. One could see how the climbers exerted themselves and even used their teeth. But all effort was in vain. Then a small lanky man stepped up and everybody believed that he would not manage to climb up two meters. Still, agile like a monkey, he climbed up the rope in a few jolts. Loud applause and a nice prize was his reward. After two other sailors had managed to complete the difficult challenge, the improvised May feast concluded with a crew dance.

The setting sun illuminated the horizon and the sea most brightly. At the same time a heavy rain was approaching from afar that poured down on us when we passed the islands of Kambing and Wetar through the Wetar strait between 6 and 7 o’clock.

Links

  • Location: near Wetar island
  • ANNO – on 01.05.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. The German Emperor is on his way home from Naples.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing the comedy „Der Probepfeil“, while the k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing the opera “Freund Fritz”.

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