Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Truth can be stranger than fiction

In my next year's novel, The Rogue's Return, I decided to send my characters back home from Canada on a real ship, the Eweretta. She was a fur ship that arrived every spring and sailed in the fall, taking just a few passengers.

In 1820 she arrived on May 19th, having taken 47 days for the crossing from London, carrying a general cargo for Forsythe, Richardson and Co. But look at her passenger list.
Messrs. Cameron & Son, Capt. Snuff, Lady & family, J. Joseph & Son, Mr Walker, Mrs Mutton & Son, and Mr Summers

If I'd peopled my Eweretta of 1816 with a Captain Snuff and and Mrs. Mutton, everyone would have thought I was playing Clue!

1816 was the "year without a summer" due largely to the eruption of the volcano Tambora in Indonesia in 1815. The shipping record makes some mentions early in the year, when the situation hadn't truly sunk in.

Quebec, late May, 1816.
"The accounts received by the first arrivals at Quebec, this season, which stated that vast and unusual fields of ice were seen floating in the Gulph and along the coasts of Newfoundland, made us naturally apprehensive for the safety of the shipping bound to the St. Lawrence; the long list of so many vessels arrived since, without suffering much injury, must therefore be very gratifying.

The refreshing rains which have fallen lately, have occasioned a very favorable change in our fields and gardens, and give us room to hope, there will be yet abundance for man and beast in all our borders.–Who knows but that the chilly weather experienced at the beginning of this season, preserved the productions of the earth from the ravages of those insects which have so much injured the crops to the southward?"

The "year without a summer" wasn't literal, and the effects varied, but it came close in some areas, ruining crops and causing great hardship.
More here.

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