Sunday, July 29, 2012

Voyage in the Lighthouse Yacht to Nova Zembla

July and August are traditional vacation months, and in 1814, not long after "Waverley" was published, Walter Scott began his summer trip to the northern lights with Robert Stevenson.  Below is his diary entry for departure day, July 29th, taken from John Gibson Lockhart’s “Memoirs of the life of Sir Walter Scott”.

Voyage In The Lighthouse Yacht To Nova Zembla, And The Lord Knows Where. 

July 29th, 1814 Sailed from Leith about one o'clock on board the Lighthouse Yacht, conveying six guns, and ten men, commanded by Mr Wilson. The company — Commissioners of the Northern Lights; Robert Hamilton, Sheriff of Lanarkshire; William Erskine, Sheriff of Orkney and Zetland; Adam Duff, Sheriff of Forfarshire. Non-commissioners—Ipse Ego; Mr David Marjoribanks, son to John Marjoribanks, Provost of Edinburgh, a young gentleman; Rev. Mr Turnbull, Minister of Tingwall, in the presbytery of Shetland. But the official chief of the expedition is Mr Stevenson, the Surveyor-Viceroy over the commissioners—a most gentlemanlike and modest man, and well known by his scientific skill.

Reached the Isle of May in the evening; went ashore, and saw the light—an old tower, and much in the form of a border-keep, with a beacon-grate on the top. It is to be abolished for an oil revolving-light, the gratefire only being ignited upon the leeward side when the wind is very high. Quaere—Might not the grate revolve? The isle had once a cell or two upon it. The vestiges of the chapel are still visible. Mr Stevenson proposed demolishing the old tower, and I recommended ruining it a la picturesque—i. e. demolishing it partially. The island might be made a delightful residence for seabathers.

On board again in the evening: watched the progress of the ship round Fifeness, and the revolving motion of the now distant Bell-Rock light until the wind grew rough, and the landsmen sick. To bed at eleven, and slept sound.’

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