Elihu Bunker journal  1797-1799
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The Elihu Bunker journal (63 pages) chronicles the seal-hunting voyage of the brig Rebecca from December 19, 1797-October 16, 1799. The ship traveled from Sandy Hook, New Jersey, to the Cape Verde Islands, the Falkland Islands, and Mocha Island (off of the west coast of Chile).

The volume contains a combination of log entries made at sea and diary entries made on shore. Bunker regularly recorded the wind direction, the ship's course, and location, and remarks about daily activities onboard. Most remarks pertain to the ship's sails, making repairs, wildlife, and the ship's crew. Within the first few weeks of the voyage, Bunker reported a crewmember's death from smallpox and venereal disease (January 5, 1798).

In mid-February 1798, the Rebecca reached the Cape Verde Islands, where her crew took on salt and prepared for a longer voyage around South America. Before reaching the Falkland Islands in mid-May, the crew "Saw a large Blazing Star In the Northern Hemisphere" (March 22, 1798) and caught 4 porpoises for making oil (April 24, 1798). On June 25, 1798, after trading goods for seal furs and skins in the Falklands, the brig rounded Cape Horn, and in August the crew temporarily settled on Mocha Island, off Chile's western coast. Bunker and others lived under a leaky auxiliary boat while constructing a more permanent shelter, and Bunker described incidents on the island over the following 8 months, including his near drowning and the loss of 2 months' provisions (pp. 41-47). On May 10, 1799, the Rebecca left Chile for New York; the crew arrived there on October 16. The final 4 pages of Bunker's journal have an abstract of the entire voyage, including the Rebecca 's daily latitude and longitude.

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