The diary entries begin in march 1909 as the
NORTH CAROLINA is in the Mediterranean returning from active duty protecting U.S. missionaries during the conflict between Turkey and Greece.
NORTH CAROLINA did not take part in military actions during the span of Mabbett's journals, the volumes are significant for their accounts of everyday shipboard life. The main body of the journals contains observations of shipboard activities rather than meditations of a personal nature.
Among the duties described are guard duty, inspection preparation, and drills. One particular duty recorded is the taking of intelligence pertaining to Argentine port fortifications. The Marine Guard was also called upon to participate in parades. Noteworthy were its functions as honor guard for the funeral procession of Brazilian Ambassador Joaquin Nabuco (April, 1909), as a participant in the Argentine Republic Centennial (March, 1910), and in a parade in New Orleans which President Taft had been schedule to review, but missed.
Mabbett's journal entries describe many activities of off-duty marines and sailors. There are accounts of liberties in various ports on the Atlantic seaboard, mainly of visits to theaters, vaudeville shows, and local landmarks. Other entries concern organized competitions between the fleet crews such as cutter and dinghy races, swimming races, and football and baseball games.
NORTH CAROLINA spent the years 1909-1911 visiting various ports along the coasts of North and South America. Places visited include Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Bahia Blanca and Buenos Aires, Argentine Republic; Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; Barbados; and U.S. ports in addition to New Orleans.
Mabbett's journals record various operation information gathered on these cruises, including data on gunnery drills, mining operations, torpedo practice, speed drills, scouting maneuvers, and fleet battle practice. Entries also contain running descriptions of the
NORTH CAROLINA' s positions at sea, supplementary maps, locations and physical descriptions of lighthouses and light ships, mentions of various ships observed (international and U.S.), and the identification codes of U.S. Navy ships.
Among significant events noted by Mabbett are the transportation of the body of Ambassador Nabuco to Rio de Janeiro (1909), a near collision with the USS
TENNESSEE and USS
MONTANA (1910), the recovery of a lost anchor and chain, and the loss of three steam launches in a storm.
Mabbett's entries of a personal nature pertain to visits with relatives and friends while on shore liberties, social life of marines stationed at Guantanamo Bay, his qualifications on the target range as a marksman and sharpshooter, an accident in which Mabbett passed out and injured himself, and his quarantining for chicken pox and subsequent return to Norfolk on board a hospital ship (1911).
All three diaries are in fragile condition. They have been copied and the originals retired. The 1911 diary is a commercially-made "Wanamaker's Diary" which contains many advertisements and epigrams. All three of the diaries have photographs and clippings glued to the pages; in some cases these attachments obscure the entries. Also included in the diaries are a chart of the northwest section of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and West Indies showing the route of the
NORTH CAROLINA (1911); illustrations by Mabbett of conning tower and smokestack arrangements which identify the fleet ships; a mileage chart of longitude; a log page; a map of scouting maneuvers (1911); a record of speed trials; and target practice scores containing drawings and measurements of the targets.
The journals contain clippings of newspaper and magazine articles, poems, prayers, sayings, song lyrics, and an article on the manufacture of dynamite. There are cigarette box pictures of lighthouses of the United States, magazine pictures of various ships and landscapes, and snapshots showing scenes from the cruise to Guantanamo Bay.
The accompanying photographs consist of a mounted photograph of the
NORTH CAROLINA, a mounted photograph of the Marine Guard on board the
NORTH CAROLINA, and three photograph album pages of images of Marines at Guantanamo Bay (ca. 1911). Also included are four picture post cards (1909-1910) showing a bow view of the
NORTH CAROLINA, the Marine Guard in formation, and Joseph Mabbett and a friend on board the ship. The three mounted, oversized photographs show the Marine Guard in formal poses.