This collection consists of a detailed journal written by a young British officer, Lt. Augustus M. Handley, serving under Captain Moorsom, while serving aboard the sailing ship
Bucton Castle traveling from Gravesend, England, to Calcutta, India, to take up a new post in Her Majesty’s 19th Regiment of Foot, then stationed at Calcutta. Handley frequently recounts interactions with Captain Moorsom and other army officers with whom he is traveling, including James F. Francis. During the 1850s,
Bucton Castle ran regularly between Gravesend and Calcutta, and Moorsom occasionally mentioned past voyages to Handley.
Handley begins his journal with a pen and ink drawing of the ship, with every sail and deck labeled, an explanation of how to calculate the ship’s position, an explanation of the ship’s bells for timekeeping, and a list of places anchored at, and sailed from, with dates . Nearly daily entries describe the daily life and routine aboard the ship of Handley, as well as other personalities aboard, the changing weather, sea conditions, distances traveled, latitude and longitude position, detailed descriptions of the changing scenery, and the conditions of the frequently changing winds. Many entries detail the various leisure activities enjoyed aboard the ship, including bets between himself and the captain, church services, reading material available, bolstering matches, cricket, musical soirees, dances, and harpooning porpoises to obtain oil.
There are multiple entries by Handley that record the sightings of many vessels along the voyage. For example, specific details of
D’Asas from Marseilles, France, the whaling ship
Isabella from New Bedford, MA and the immigrant packet
Sussex of London are given. Other ships seen by Handley include
Plymouth Rock from Calcutta,
Socrates (Liverpool to Shanghai), passenger ship
Crimea (Melbourne to New Brunswick, Canada),
Julius de Thonanaf (Nantes to Mauritius) and
Mary Stenhouse (Liverpool to Bombay).