In the morning appeared Baron Biegeleben to greet me at the head of the embassy staff and consul general Kreitner as well as the gentlemen of the Japanese entourage whose helpfulness and unceasing industry I fully acknowledge. Also the officials and court servants assigned to us, among them my friend the lifeguard and the man with the always drawn sword who we nicknamed the „executioner“, came to thank for the decorations awarded to them. For the permanent memory about the common voyage I had myself photographed with all the gentlemen of the staff. Then a festive service was held.
Finally the difficult moment had arrived of having to say good-bye to our brave ship, the gentlemen of the staff who I all came to esteem and who were always eager to make my life on board as agreeable as possible, and the brave crew. „Elisabeth“ had become my home during the eight month voyage while she carried us so faithfully across the distant seas, I have felt content, happy and every time after a longer stay on land I always returned with a feeling of joy on board that a traveler experiences when he returns to the home ground from a foreign land.
Here I learned about the good military mind and the excellent team spirit that rules among our naval officer corps. Thanks to the prudence and care of our dear commander who spare no efforts and was day and night at his post to fulfil his honorable but difficult task in any moment, thanks to the excellent leadership of our first officer, thanks to the efficiency and diligence of our navigation officer, finally thanks to the dutiful devotion of the whole staff the destination of our joint voyage has been to the pride and joyful satisfaction of all successfully reached. The quick journey of the part made by steam in connection with the relatively short stay in the various ports had placed many demands especially on the machine room crew that has always fulfilled them in any relation.
With great satisfaction I need to mention the truly exemplary behavior of the crew that kept to their stations and fulfilled their duty faithfully even under the most trying situations, especially so in tropical climates, without having access to the same conveniences of making it more bearable that I had available. A very strong mention is deserved finally by the fact that our crew always acted without blemish on land despite the not always good examples shown to them by American and English sailors. Despite the most tempting promises, not a single case of desertion has taken place.
Our navy has met once again fully the high expectations set in it, and led our flag proudly through the wide ocean to distant lands. Providence has guarded the ship that had to prove itself on its first journey, a favorable star shone above it, as no earnest danger imperilled „Elisabeth“ and no accident happened. Among the number assembled on its planks, death has claimed no victim and no severe illness has struck us.
I walked once more along the front of the crew assembled on parade on deck, said a heartfelt good-bye to all the gentlemen of the staff and entered the gala boat with the commander. When the staff rushed to the bridge and the crew moved to the salute positions and a thunderous hurrah rang out three times to the sound of our anthem, tears ran down my cheeks — I am not ashamed to acknowledge this. The memories about the time I spent on „Elisabeth“ are among the most valuable of my life and will always stay with me.
The „Empress of China“ was ready for departure, but the gangway was still filled with lively commotion. The gentlemen of the embassy and the consulate with their ladies had come once more to greet us. Relations and friends of the other passengers had turned up to say good-bye. We exchanged a last handshake with Becker and Jedina, the machine of the “Empress of China” started to work and the giant ship turned towards the exit of the port. From the Japanese warships and „Elisabeth“ shouts of Hurrah were heard, the music band oft he latter played our anthem and „O, du mein Österreich“. Next to the exit of the port, we exchanged salutes by signals and waved at our faithful companions of our voyage until “Elisabeth” was but a small white spot and Yokohama also slowly disappeared out of our sight.
On board of „Empress“, a totally new life was beginning as I could no longer move as freely as on „Elisabeth“ and I was limited to the so called promenade deck. The bridge was considered a sanctuary not to be entered. We miss the military signals, commands and calls, the shrill whistle of the boatswain, in a word everything that makes life homely for a soldier on a warship. Instead of our fast sailors we see stiff Englishmen, moody Americans and slant-eyed Chinese; instead of German, Italian and Croatian sounds we only hear English and English once more. Neither reveille nor retraite are sounded, only the dull sound of the gong calls to breakfast, lunch and dinner. The music band that used to please us twice a day with pieces from home is here replaced with an enraged Wagnerian who mistreats a lamentable piano from early in the morning to late in the evening so that one could become furious and wants to become a member in a piano protections society.
„Empress of China“, built in London in 1891, is a beautiful large ship owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company. This railway company has three of these steamers in service between Hongkong and Vancouver in order to thus gain passengers for their line across Canada. Whether these covers the costs I do not know as the costs of service are huge and the number of passengers most of the time small.
The key dimensions of the ship are: 139 m length, 15,5 m width and depth. The deplacement is 5904 t, loading capacity is 3008 t; the direct force three times expansionary machine has 10.000 indicated horsepower and provides the steamer with a maximum speed of 18 knots per hour. Coal consumption is 200 t in 24 hours at full power. The rigging consists of four pillar masts with gaff sails. The interior board lighting is fully electric. The ship has space for 170 first class passengers, 26 steerage and 406 deck passengers. At the moment there are 72 of the first category, 7 of the second and 160 passengers of the third category on board. Captain of „Empress of China“ is R. Archibald, reserve officer of the British navy. The crew consists of 71 Europeans and 142 Chinese. My spacious and comfortable cabin — except for a short bed — is located under the bridge and next to the deck salon.
As on any English passenger ship one is quickly turned into passenger number „XY“ and has to comply with the general board instructions that especially strictly limit smoking.
For some time we continued to drive alongside the Japanese coast, escorted by „Yaeyama“ on which had embarked our ambassador, the two legation secretaries and consul general Kreitner. Finally we heard a hurrah from „Yaeyama“ and then we in time lost sight of both the warship and the coast — we steer in the open sea!