32. Tacoma to London

After that quiet winter at school in Seattle, and a summer spent breaking rocks in Tacoma to toughen again, two months in autumn take Hayes around the world from Tacoma to London with only a brief stop in Hico to visit the family.  Africa is in sight!

(Tim Bell – Hayes mentions a “Kelvin Patent” for measuring ocean depth.  I couldn’t locate it.  Do you know what he is talking about?)

I’m sorry I can’t upload a map of this chapter and the next; google maps seems to be glitching.  I’ll update the map when they address it.  A shame, not to have it now; it shows Hayes finally sailing down the coast of West Africa in the chapter following this one.  Download the map below to see the truly impressive trace of all his travels to date.

Click here to download chapters 1-32 on Google Earth.  

Here and There Synopsis:

32.1 San Francisco in Ashes

October 6,1906

On the way to San Francisco, Hayes stopped off at Portland “to see a girl I think a lot of.” Both of them ended up hurt. However, “Women have no place in the life of adventurers. He must be fair to them, but must be a celibate or resign himself to settle down in one place for life. This I am not willing to do yet, perhaps never. One dislikes to decide such a problem finally at one full swoop.”

Arriving celibate in San Francisco, Hayes finds a city in ruins. “As far as the eye can see are ruined, blackened walls and heaps of burned rubbish.”

San Francisco in Ashes

“I climbed to the top of Nob Hill and looked down on the burned city. I never expect to see such a catastrophe again. Where was once a city whose streets were lined by great buildings is now wreckage indescribable.”

Despite the ruined city with every street currently clogged black with rivers of ash and mud following heavy rains, Hayes sees nothing but optimism. “There are thousands of men working as if their lives depended upon it, hauling away rubbish, chipping mortar off bricks, hastily erecting new structures and tearing down the old. There is an air of optimism on every side, and the city will rise again from the ruins, better for its purging.” Hayes estimates the city will rise anew in ten years at the current rate of construction. He has no idea where all the money comes from, “but there seems to be plenty of it to carry on now.”

32.2 Riding the Southern Pacific

October 9,1906

Paying fare on the Southern Pacific Railroad with money earned breaking rocks, Hayes retraces his desolate walk across the American southwest from two years previously on his way back to Galveston. Cotton ships from Galveston this time of year; the ships will be signing men. “We are just getting into the sage country, near Indio. How well I remember passing this way two years ago! Hiking it then, footsore and wondering where the next meal was coming from. Life is like that. Up today, down tomorrow until the end.”

32.3 Out of Step in Hico

October 15, 1906

Visiting the family in Hico always unsettles Hayes. The old crowd he knew from ten years ago, who now consider themselves educated, all accepted invitations to a party arranged by Hayes’ sisters. When pressed for stories of his travels, he immediately captured the room. But these educated men and women whose sun rose and set in rural Texas knew the exaggerations of a blow-hard: after an enthusiastic description of the flying fish he’d seen in the tropics, Hayes could see some of the guests smiling incredulously among themselves. “It angered me, and I will not tell again of foreign lands. Even my sisters, college graduates, asked me if there really was such a thing as flying fish when we were alone.” All this ignorance of the wider world: “They call themselves educated, but one wonders what education is.”

32.4 A Ship at Galveston

October 25, 1906

As Hayes anticipated, signing on a with a ship in Galveston will be easy; “Seamen constantly desert, and men are needed to take their places. British ships are best for me, I don’t like the German vessels, at least the bullying mates and petty officers who try to make themselves tin gods.” An extended passage disparaging the German worldview when compared to the Anglo-Saxon follows.

October 27, 1906

Hayes chose to sign on with a ship “not so good as many” because “there is a chance of getting to Africa on her, and take her I will.” The Elder-Dempster ship Sangara, whose usual run follows the West Coast of Africa, came inexplicably to Houston. “Why, unless to pick me up, I cannot say why she is here.” Her crew fascinates Hayes: below deck black men from Sierra Leone and Liberia trim coal. The deck hands hail from Liverpool but after years of the West Africa run, to Hayes they are, “all old Coasters and full of tales about the Ju-Ju, of the never ending bush and palm oil or mahogany.”

32.5 Eastward Out of the Gulf

October 30, 1906

As the Sangara steams east through the gulf, rumors reach the crew of, “a tremendous hurricane that swept the Florida Keys, washing away the barges where the construction crew were housed, many being lots at sea.” Overcast skies loom over the Sangara, “but surely the hurricane will be blown out ere we reach that part of the gulf.”

Pay is poor on this British ship: ten shillings a month for boys, three pounds – ten shillings to able seamen, and a pound for the Kroo men below deck. The first mate had been a captain, “but his ship was burned at sea by a madman who had hid in the hold.” No blame fell to the mate but LLyod’s, the insurance company, won’t insure a captain who’s lost a ship for any reason. The present captain is unusually cautious. “The British are the best of the lot in their courtesy toward their underlings, but poorest of food and quarters.”

The Elder-Dempster line, under the direction of Sir Alfred Jones at Liverpool boasts “140 ships under various company headings.”

Sir Alfred Jones

Sir Alfred takes a personal hand in policing commerce on all the ships, making him notorious among sailors out of Liverpool. When allowed, sailors can trade old bits of salt pork or old clothes for “parrots, gold, or anything salable when they return to Europe.” Jones sees to it that none of the men carries trade goods on board – even breaking into the mate’s quarters looking for contraband. Only certified traders can be allowed to buy and sell – the negligible quantity traded by one sailor would soon cut into profits if every man on every ship engaged the practice according to Sir Alfred.

Gusty winds from the hurricane have all men on board alert and watchful. “But we may make it without a gale, for the storm should have blown out.”

32. 6 Land of the Free, Home of the Brave.

November 6, 1906

The Sangara takes coal at Norfolk in the winter chill of November. “Almost every ship coming into this port or elsewhere that passed thru Florida Strait has a number of men picked up from drifting barges. … Hundreds of men have been drowned, and the railway building toward Key West from key to key is badly wrecked.” The weather was so thick about the Sangara, her crew couldn’t see any castaways.

With outrage, Hayes notes that, “For some reason we are under armed guard. Men with rifles and side arms walk about the docks, and if one of us steps ashore that man is followed like a criminal.” When Hayes came ashore to cast a line adrift, the guard trained his gun on Hayes the whole time he was on the wharf. “So this is the land of the free and the home of the brave!”

32.7 Chill off Newfoundland.

November 12,1906

Hayes isn’t the only sailor on board with poor clothing, “No man has a warm suit of underclothing, let alone a sea outfit fit to turn the weather.” Chill winds blow off Newfoundland but even on the slow boat Sangara, Hayes hopes for a warm sail on a southerly route through the Gulf Stream.

Hayes likes his British shipmates. “Their tales are of pubs and the blowsy women who foregather there, or of their sordid homes and children, dear to them but of little value to the nation.”

32.8 Goldie and Bunyan in London

November 22, 1906

Hayes’ hope for good weather died swiftly. White squalls with gusty winds tossed the ship about the coast of Newfoundland while attendant grey skies prevented ship’s officers from locating the Sangara by either sun or stars. So the officers began “sounding, both with hand lead and the Kelvin patent every hour. At one place the sea was only seventy feet deep. From the mud or sand in the lead could be told about where we were.” Stormy weather all the way across to Liverpool, “but that is ancient history now, and why worry about it?”

Liverpool in November is a “grimy city” sodden from squalls that sweep up the Mersey. The chill sailors home at Canning place drove Hayes on to London.

Canning Place Sailors Home

In London, Hayes resolutely pursues Africa. “… I am seeing many people here. First some to the trading companies, then to the offices of the great Niger Company. At this last I was fortuned to meet Sir George Goldie.”

Sir George Goldie

To Hayes, men are men to be judged by their actions not their reputations. “The flunkeys approached him as if he were a demigod, but to me he is only a man.” A man who gave him a warm reception, remembering a letter Hayes had sent the previous summer, “and was glad to see a young man with so much spirit, he said.” Goldie encouraged Hayes toward Africa, “but not now.” When Hayes, “demurred at handling liquor in any way,” Glodie said the bush in northern Nigeria might still be possible. “Anyway, it is encouraging to meet a real African explorer. For Goldie was the man who secured Nigeria for the British Empire, and was for a long time governor of that protectorate.”

Not remembering if seven or eight years have passed since he’s been in London, Hayes remarks on the modernizations: plenty of electric lights now, and the streets paved with blocks of jarrah wood from Western Australia. “These blocks make an excellent pavement. Vehicles make little sound traveling over these blocks set on end, and boys and men with squeegees follow one another about four feet apart and that far behind, pushing the mud and slime nearer and nearer to the gutters until the debris falls into the drain.” Nevertheless, the streets are narrow, the houses antiquated, and the sky overcast. “I cannot say I have ever seen the sun shining in this city, so dense is the pall of smoke overhanging it.”

November 30, 1906

The Sangara, on which Hayes came to London, sails for Africa next but the skipper will not sign Hayes. “He says the company forbids this, but the mate, who favors me says it is all bunk.” With just enough money remaining for passage one way, Hayes makes the bold decision to return to Liverpool where he will pay the fare to Africa and count on providence to provide a job once there.

A man’s a man, but if he writes Pilgrim’s Progress, one ought to stop by and see his grave. Among the numerous sights of the city, Hayes viewed John Bunyan’s grave.

John Bunyan’s Grave

7 Responses to 32. Tacoma to London

  1. Tim Bell says:

    Hi John – Thanks, as ever, for posting these accounts.

    RE: Hayes mentions a “Kelvin Patent” for measuring ocean depth

    Depth was a very important thing to know back in those days, when it was difficult to get an accurate fix on the position of a vessel with any certainty, especially when in fog or at night. If you could measure the water depth you were in, at least you wouldn’t worry so much about running aground and losing everything.

    The method used for ages was to toss out a lead weight on a long line, hopefully ahead of the ship, and let it sink to the bottom (or to the end of the line). The weight would then be hauled up, arm over arm, and the depth announced in units of ‘fathoms’, which conveniently is about six feet – the breadth of a seaman’s outstretched arms. Markers and knots placed in the sounding line would also give a quick indication of the depth, although recognizing them at night must have been a challenge. The sounding weight would also bring up a sample of the ocean bottom, which was used (sometimes by taste!) to get an indication of the local conditions and suggest where they were.

    When Hayes wrote: “the officers began “sounding, both with hand lead and the Kelvin patent every hour.”, keep in mind that it was already mentioned “The present captain is unusually cautious […]”

    I did some searching on line today, and the ”Kelvin patent’ was an early device intended to automate the sounding process. The early Kelvin machines used a galvanized wire instead of rope. A dial would read out the depth as the weight descended. Once the weight hit bottom, a winch would bring it back up. Early winch drums were operated by hand, but they were later motorized.

    Here is a page describing the ‘Kelvite Mark IV Sounding Machine’, circa 1930, Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an earlier example:

    Here is another page written by SCUBA divers who recovered an early ‘Sounding Machine’ from a shipwreck. This has some useful diagrams showing what the device looked like and how it was used:


    Lastly, a few pages from the “1907 SEAMANSHIP MANUAL SOUNDING TECHNIQUES”:

    Click to access 1907%20SEAMANSHIP%20MANUAL%20SOUNDING%20TECHNIQUES.pdf

    Modern day depth sounders send out a pulse of sound and time the return of the bottom echo to get the water depth under the keel. The company founded by Kelvin and his business partners is still going strong, making these modern systems.

    Best regards-


  2. Noel Martin says:

    Hi John,

    As near as I can tell from looking on the web the “Kelvin Patent” being referred to by Hayes was a pressure sensor lowered from the boat on piano wire. When it reached bottom the pressure was measured and compared to surface pressure and the depth was calculated using the two measurements. Lord Kelvin is credited with its invention.


    • johnmmartin says:

      Hey Noel, There is another extensive comment on the Kelvin device from Tim Bell. (I had neglected to “approve” it so it wasn’t showing.) Tim’s remark makes it seem like the device was just a mechanized way of raising and lowering the weight. Lord Kelvin’s seems more clever.

  3. Noel Martin says:

    Hi John,

    Tim probably knows more about it than I do. My comments came from an ad to auction an Antique 1858 Lord Kelvin Ships Pressure Depth Indicator here:

    In the text describing the item he says:
    “Attempts to measure the depth by simply dropping a very heavy weight at the end of a cable always resulted in the cable reel breaking. Kelvin solved this problem by inventing a compact device that could be lowered on a piano wire and measured the pressure difference between the surface and sea floor, from which the depth could be calculated.”

    I did a cursory search on the web using the patent number listed in the ad but I was not able to find any more information.


    • Noel Martin says:

      OK, now my interest is piqued so I did a little more digging. I’ll have to do some more looking to see if I can find what the patent was about.

      I found this on Wikipedia

      Thomson introduced a method of deep-sea sounding, in which a steel piano wire replaces the ordinary land line. The wire glides so easily to the bottom that “flying soundings” can be taken while the ship is going at full speed. A pressure gauge to register the depth of the sinker was added by Thomson.

      And this from a site named eHow

      Thomson invented an improved system for measuring the depth of water below a ship. Existing sounding equipment was very basic and time consuming. A weighted rope was lowered to the ocean floor before being hauled back up and measured. Thomson’s system used piano wire, which could be raised and lowered mechanically, to lower a small glass tube into the water. The glass tube contained a chemical-based system for recording the depth of water, and the measurements taken could be quickly read once the tube had been brought back to the surface.


  4. Tim Bell says:


    I saw something about that chemical based system as well, but I was not sure just when that improvement came about, so I didn’t mention it in my first posting.

    Now that it comes up again, I am very curious what kind of chemical process you could use to measure depth. Some kind of system that compares the ambient pressure with the starting pressure at the surface, I guess. All that without having the sample vial crushed and ruined by the water pressure at depth.



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