Captain’s Wife: Narrative of a Voyage in the Schooner Antarctic 1829, 1830, 1831
This firsthand account by a woman of a voyage to the Indian Ocean and the Pacific is part of the publisher’s Seafarers’ Voices series. New Yorker Abby Morrell, at the age of 19, embarks on the schooner Antarctic with twenty-three sailors and her merchant captain husband. She leaves behind family, an infant son in the care of her mother. Morrell’s descriptions of the places visited, the Cape Verde Islands, Tristan da Cunha, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, and South Africa, are fascinating and well observed.
The narrative contains exotic locales, as well as the customs and superstitions of the mariners with whom Morrell travelled. As the captain’s wife, Abby Morrell didn’t mix with the sailors, but she shared the dangers of the sea with them. She records illness and death aboard ship and violent encounters with native peoples. Morrell holds the work of Christian missionaries in the Pacific in the highest esteem, and refers to indigenous people as savages. Captain’s Wife is a narrative from the days of sail and early 19th-century exploration. Editor Vincent McInerney describes Abby Morrell’s world as one “in which early Pacific traders found themselves, when torture, death, and the cooking pot seemed to lurk within every coral reef.”