During the first two days the weather was mild and agreeable, we could spend the time on deck in light clothing. Then we came into the vicinity of the Aleutian Islands and the region of the North and North-east winds which carry ice cold air from the polar regions so that the thermometer suddenly dropped to 7° C. and the temperature difference was keenly felt. A few days ago we were exposed to 34° C.! All passengers put on winter clothes, furs or plaids and the air heating of the cabins was activated.
Life on board takes a rather regular turn. At half past 7 o’clock the gong calls to breakfast. The meals are eaten in a beautiful spacious dining room. Otherwise we spend most of the day on the long deck. A very active committee consisting of the second captain and some passengers arranges a number of games which entertain the majority of passengers. Those who do not want to participate in the games sit, covered in plaids, in long cane chairs and read or run to and fro to stay in motion. These „runs“ are especially popular after the meals, namely among the English and American ladies who do almost incredible things. They would probably break the best records by running arm in arm of two or three persons with very long not always gracious strides and turning the edge of the deck unsafe.
During the first days my time was spent adding my travel recollections of our stay in Japan. Later I met more and more of our fellow passengers among whom there were some kind people. Opposite of my cabin lives an English painter who thankfully is able to speak French. He travels around the world for the third time, while his wife is undertaking this „small journey“ already for the eighth time. The turbulent life seems not to please the artist anymore. When we asked him if these numerous voyages of his wife were not burdensome, he answered: „Enfin, c’est une maladie comme une autre!“ Among the passengers on board is also a Prince Galitzin, who has lost an arm in Paris in a rather prosaic way, a rich tea merchant with two blond daughters as well as a number of other ladies of various ages.
With a charming small American woman I play daily multiple games of tennis without being able to make conversation with her as she only speaks English. But we nevertheless entertain ourselves very well. Clam and another American woman are the partners. Our ground is actually terrible because it is much too small, about half the normal size and covered at 3 m in height. During the pitching movements we furthermore stand on shaky ground. We also have to always pick up the two available balls ourselves that roll around on the whole ship after each play so that there is always a small chase and search. This all does not disturb our pleasure to play tennis on the open sea.
Three other games I often participated in require a certain skill in throwing disks and rubber rings at certain numbers. Cricket, which the English would not miss, was always very agitated so that already on the first day a gentleman had broken a finger and two further players left the field of battle with injuries. A ball organized by the entertainment committee was a failure as nobody wanted to play music and dance at first and later when the Wagner enthusiast played a waltz, even though he considered this beneath him, only American couples began to dance so that the ball ended quickly. If all the ladies in the New World obey the custom of only dancing with their husbands, how boring must balls be on that continent!
Besides the games on deck, especially during the evenings, singing was honored both in individual and choir form. But due to the complete lack of good voices and the circumstance that the participants tended to sing off-key on principle the performance did in no way equal the effort put into it and produced no entertaining feasts for the ears.
With true English rigor the strict Sunday rules were executed. The paymaster performed a service. In the morning and afternoon endless chorals were sung. No game was allowed to be played. Even the Wagnerian had to stay away from the piano and when our hunters tried to play a harmless game of cards in the bar room, this was instantly prohibited. In the evening of 3rd September there was even a disputation between two Protestant pastors that the passengers listened to with devotion. One of them was Anglican, the other a Norwegian missionary, actually an unfortunate misshaped man who had lost nearly all the knowledge of European languages and customs during his six year stay in the interior of China and became the butt of jokes and taunts on board. Special hilarity was caused when he was photographed by Hodek in the costume of a Tibetan Lama.
Until 1st September the sea remained calm only a North-eastern wind produced some light ripples — weather conditions that are actually not to be expected during this season. The horizon was cloudy in the morning and the evening but the weather cleared up a bit up to noon. During the first nights we had beautiful moonshine. The color of the sea was no longer the beautiful blue or green that we were used to seeing. It was more of a leaden blue turning toward black.
A large number of various guillemots, seagulls and stormbirds were flying around our ship. Even a small representative of an albatross species showed up. But I could not determine these sky fliers more closely as there existed no sufficiently knowledgeable expert about the named bird species as this was a very unexplored and quite unknown field of ornithology.
On 30th August we passed 180 degrees longitude and now the 24 hours lost on our journey towards the East were recovered so that we countered two consecutive days of 30th August.
The ship covered 350 to 360 miles per day. In favorable winds, the sails were also set but this did not have a visible effect on the speed.
As mentioned, the calm weather until 1st September changed and wind jumped to South-east and brought so high waves with it that even the giant „Empress“ was mightily thrown around even though the ship is well adapted for the sea and moves quite comfortably. Nevertheless all passengers became more or less sea-sick and when the weather did not calm down on 2nd September there was almost nobody else on deck beside me and my gentlemen. Staying on deck, by the way, was not very comfortable due to the cold and breaking waves. The next day returned us the sun and we had once more as beautiful a journey as earlier.
On 4th September, the next to last day spent on sea, a collection was made among the passengers and the amount collected was donated for crew games that were quite animated and offered the English sailors the opportunity to display their skills. The program covered 12 numbers among them an obstacle race over rope barriers and banks as well as through life-savers. The competitors had in the „Finish“ to crawl through a wind sail strewn with flour and caused many hilarious scenes. Also a flat race, a sack race, a tug-of-war and a „potato race“ were organized. In the latter those could claim a prize if they managed to be the first to to put a certain number of potatoes that had been distributed on deck into a bucket. Then followed cock fights, a long jump etc.
After the dinner a festive air dedicated to captain Archibald and his officers composed and authored by the Wagnerian was performed by a mixed choir with dreadful dissonances.
Finally came the moment where I was pleased not to speak English as this lack spared me a bad fate. After the canons had ended, the name of one of the gentlemen rang out among the circle: „Speak, speak“, so that the miserable chosen one could not but rise and give a speech. This custom was upheld until nearly all the gentlemen had spoken and the ship and the happy voyage praised sufficiently. When later everybody’s ship uncle Prince Galitzin with a friendly smile and some encouraging words awarded brooches and photographs of the ship to the ladies and gentlemen who had been the most skilful at the games, the speech torture was repeated for its uncomfortable victims.
Finally it was again time to sing but I fled as everybody was fully committed to mercilessly present all their complete repertoire and enjoyed the splendor of the cloudless starry sky on deck.
- Location: at Sea in the Pacific Ocean
- ANNO – on 26.08.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. The Wiener Salonblatt reports on FF’s departure from Japan on the steamer „Empress“.
- The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is closed for summer until 15 September. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing the opera „Die Afrikanerin“.