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venture (only a week afrer rhe Presidenr Polk 's a nnouncemenr). In fac r, Va n Valen had decided to go wes r even before Kerr's offer, as rhe dare on his Seaman's Prorecrion Cerrificare arresrs. Susan also informed her husba nd rhar his informarive and arriculare lerrers back ho me were being published in rhe Commercial Advertiser, a N ew York evening newspaper, over rhe pen na me "Van" or "our Co rrespo ndenr." Back o n rhe ship, Van Valen continued to record events borh large and sm all. Two per dogs exhibiring signs of madness we re rhrow n overboard. A large sunfis h (mola mola) sunning irself on rhe wa rer's surface was caughr, killed, a nd a nato mica lly srudied. H ersilia's passengers celebrared Geo rge Was hington's birrhday on 22 Februarywirh a one-hundred-gun sa lure ar daybreak, acco mpanied by fife music and an empry-wa rer-cask drum. One passenger delivered a srirring orarion on rhe Fourrh ofJul y, and anorher read rhe D eclararion of Independence. Music, sin ging and dancin g, acco mpa nied by a fife, drum, and banj o, fo llowed. Fin ally, on 8 Augusr, "El Dorado" was sighred and H ersilia anchored in San Fra ncisco Bay rhe followin g day-199 days our. A frer more rhan six monrhs ar sea, rhe passengers were so our of shape rhar Van Valen observed in an unusually hones r lerrer to his brorher-in-law, " ir was a verry farigueing journey for persons no berrer prepa red rha n we were for rhe underraking, hav ing been co nfined for nea r 7 monrhs on board of a sm all Vessel, w irh lirrle cha nce fo r exercise, and no m anual labor to harden us." One of rhe ra rely-considered adva ntages of overland rravel over rhe sea roure was rhe physical condirioning forced on rravelers of rhe lo ng rrail. Upon landing, Va n Valen wem firsr to rhe pos r offi ce, where he fo und "a bounti ful! supply of Len ers for [him] self and Company." Van Valen m ade his final journal enrry jusr one week larer. Using coordinares from rhe mare's logbook, he drafred a colored cha rr cracking rhe long voyage and pas red ir in to rhe back of his journal. This wo uld nor be rhe end of rhe story, however. As rhe ve nrure's corpo rare correspondenr, Van Valen senr frequem lerrers to his backers, hi s w ife, a nd his brorher-in-law. These lerrers to New York cominued rhrou gh 18Augusr 185 0, providing firsthand

Van Valen's hand-drawn track chart of his 199 -day voyage from New Yo rk to San Francisco aboard the barque H ersilia.

derails of bis life and wo rk in the gold fields; they are exrremely valuable resources for informario n on rhe daily life of a typical fo rry-niner. The parrners began mining along rh e Mokelumne Ri ve r, a few miles sourh of John Surre r's M ill in Coloma, California, where rhe ori gin al nugger rhar rri ggered rhe gold rush had been found by Ja mes M a rshall rwo winrers befo re. Van Valen glu ed an accurate h and-draw n m ap of rhe gold field s inro his journal and described in minure detail rhe va rious kinds of mining operarions in use, depending o n loca l conditions and proximiry to fas t-flow ing rivers. The company srayed in rhe sourhern mining area rhrou gh 1849 a nd in to 185 0, presuming ir to be as good as any o rher fo r prospecring. By Aug usr 185 0, rwo of rhe co mpa ny had lefr , and the am ounr of gold collecred by rhe rem aining rhree partners was slighrly over eighr lbs. Ar rh e rime, gold was officially valued ar $20.67/o unce; eighr pounds yielded a toral of $2,645.76 . Subrracting 25% for rhe fin a nciers nerred $1,98 4 .32 , of which Anchored ships abandoned by their crews who took offfor the gold fields, from William Shews famous p anorama of Yerba Buena Bay, San Francisco, 1853. Many ofthese ship s ended up as cheap Landfill in San Francisco, and some are still being uncovered today when construction crews are digging fo undations fo r new of fice buildings along the m odern waterfront.

24

SEA HISTORY 137, WINTER2011-12

Sea History 137 - Winter 2011-2012  

10 The War of 1812: Year Three-1814, by William H. White • 18 Measure of the Earth: Navigation, Science, and the War of Jenkins's Ear, by L...

Sea History 137 - Winter 2011-2012  

10 The War of 1812: Year Three-1814, by William H. White • 18 Measure of the Earth: Navigation, Science, and the War of Jenkins's Ear, by L...

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