The Survivors of the Chancellor HTML version

First Day On The Raft
DECEMBER 7 continued. -- Our first day on the raft has passed without any special
incident. At eight o'clock this morning Curtis asked our attention for a moment.
"My friends," he said, "listen to me. Here on this raft, just as when we were on board the
Chancellor, I consider myself your captain; and as your captain, I expect that all of you
will strictly obey my orders. Let me beg of you, one and all, to think solely of our
common welfare; let us work with one heart and with one soul, and may Heaven protect
After delivering these few words with an emotion that evidenced their earnestness, the
captain consulted his com- pass, and found that the freshening breeze was blowing from
the north. This was fortunate for us, and no time was to be lost in taking advantage of it
to speed us on our dubious way. Dowlas was occupied in fixing the mast into the socket
that had already been prepared for its reception, and in order to support it more firmly he
placed spurs of wood, forming arched buttresses, on either side. While he was thus
employed the boatswain and the other seamen were stretching the large royal sail on the
yard that had been reserved for that purpose.
By half-past nine the mast was hoisted, and held firmly in its place by some shrouds
attached securely to the sides of the raft; then the sail was run up and trimmed to the
wind, and the raft began to make a perceptible progress under the brisk breeze.
As soon as we had once started, the carpenter set to work to contrive some sort of a
rudder, that would enable us to maintain our desired direction. Curtis and Falsten assisted
him with some serviceable suggestions, and in a couple of hours' time he had made and
fixed to the back of the raft a kind of paddle, very similar to those used by the Malays.
At noon, after the necessary preliminary observations, Curtis took the altitude of the sun.
The result gave lat. 15 deg. 7' N. by long. 49 deg. 35' W. as our position, which, on
consulting the chart, proved to be about 650 miles northeast of the coast of Paramaribo in
Dutch Guiana.
Now even under the most favorable circumstances, with trade-winds and weather always
in our favor, we can not by any chance hope to make more than ten or twelve miles a day,
so that the voyage cannot possibly be performed under a period of two months. To be
sure there is the hope to be indulged that we may fall in with a passing vessel, but as the
part of the Atlantic into which we have been driven is intermediate between the tracks of
the French and English transatlantic steamers either from the Antilles or the Brazils, we
cannot reckon at all upon a contingency happen- ing in our favor; while if a calm should
set in, or worse still, if the wind were to blow from the east, not only two months, but
twice, nay, three times that length of time will be required to accomplish the passage.