Church parade, before which a short sprinkling first with hail then snow – Fine big rain clouds sailing about a bright blue sky. Some new birds are in the wake, very pretty with checkered black-and-white wings, black heads and white bodies. Had a yarn with a stuttering Scot, who has been fearfully sea-sick. The sea is a fine sight, deep green-blue broken by the white breakers. The cold makes us eat prodigiously. The meat is as a rule rather unattractive, but the other viands good. I am writing in the dining hall, after tea. A Church service is going on at one end through a haze of smoke, whilst at the other men are playing cards, writing etc., and fitfully joining in the hymns. A curious jumble! I envy some of the men their hardihood, old sailors probably and such like, who go about with perhaps only a shirt and tunic, open at the throat. Just heard a fine little sermon, passionate and personal by a man who has himself served as a private and as an N.C.O.
Last night the Maori Officer gave us a magic lantern entertainment, showing numerous views of Rotorua, and its environs. The views were not uninteresting; but his naive and skillful running commentary was well worth hearing. Though an educated man, he is, like most Maoris, a big boy. He claims descent from Hinemoa and Tutanekai, whose story he told in extenso. (Later) Heavy rain has fallen and the thermometer is only 6 degrees above freezing point. Made a pair of mittens by cutting off the fingers of old woollen gloves I had for mountaineering.
Weather still thick and colder. The birds have deserted us and the sea is getting up. A small ship would probably find it rough, but our boat hardly moves except to the swell. Vaccination this afternoon. Our officers do their best to contribute towards our comfort by cutting short parades in bad weather, etc. I have bought a pair of tennis shoes from the Ship’s barber to afford a change from the leather shoes issued to us, which get very wet. An albatross and a smaller bird are now following up the wake. Sea getting rougher. Now well over 3000 miles from New Zealand, the boat doing about 290 to 300 miles a day. Had an interesting yarn with an old sailor (now a machine-gunner) last night. He had been all over the world and had some hair-raising adventures.
Revielle, 6.15. Muster parade 6.35, when we simply answer our names and, if late, are given fatigues etc. Breakfast either 7.30 or 8 a.m. (two sittings). We then tidy up our cabins and scrub our floors. Parade for physical drill 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. Dinner (with hot soup instead of tea) at noon. Parade for physical drill etc., 2.15 for an hour or two, or if wet, lectures in the dining hall. Tea at 5 p.m. Long benches are used for meals, each attended by a permanent orderly, who is exempt from all other duties. In the intervals after parades, and in the evening we play games such as quoits, boxing etc., and read.
We are constantly being reminded of the great importance of keeping ourselves clean, yet we are deprived of the means of cleanliness. We get a salt shower once a week, but, as Bullen points out, it is quite impossible to cleanse either flesh or clothes with sea water. I must tell you of how two corporals perform their morning ablutions. Finding the salt water impossible, they take turns in filling a small mug with fresh (drinking only) water, emptying it over their bowed heads and catching it en route in their hands and smearing it over their faces. The mess on the cabin floor they then utilise for scrubbing out. The clock is put on every night to allow for the distance by which each day we overtake the rising sun. The ship is now sailing with no lights showing and a double look-out. Portholes being all screwed down it is rather stuffy below. They are going to get out a ship’s paper or magazine and a prize of half a guinea is offered for the best title therefor. Weather a little warmer. We have not sighted a single ship. Indian clubs, forming pyramids, somersaults etc., are being introduced into our drill. We have not had an hour’s sunshine for a week. Saw a small piece of ice of a few tons weight but it is too late in the year for bergs (luckily, as weather is very foggy).
Colder and colder. A fair heavy sea is now running with a piercing southerly wind and things are pretty bleak and miserable. Most of the men wear overcoats all day. I only put mine on occasionally, but wear more garments under my dungarees. Some of the waves are very high, and it is fine to watch the ship squash them into a peculiar aerated mass of cold, light prussian-green colour – the colour I saw in the ice-caves on the top of Ruapehu – the colour of cold itself. The canteen is rapidly running out of various commodities so I am laying in a reserve stock of tobacco to avoid the catastrophe of finding myself some fine morning without a smoke.
A sharp southerly breeze is covering the rollers with catspaws or white horses. We hear that we shall sail probably 200 miles south of the usual courses around the Horn but that the Captain says “It’s the best time of year for this trip”. When standing about on Guard I wasn’t too warm with singlet, shirt, sweater, tunic and overcoat. If we take the route expected (to Capetown via the Horn) we will go equal to 3/5ths of the earth’s circumference before making way North. Yesterday we were assigned our respective lifeboats, rafts, etc., and wore our life-belts. They are kapok ones of course, very light. Mine however, is of the old cork variety. The Captain gave us a short lecture about keeping our heads in case of casualty of the ship and said that the officers had orders to shoot any man who panics. The Maoris are a constant source of merriment. The birds now following us appear to be Mother Carey’s Chickens, neat grey-coloured birds, convoyed by a couple of albatrosses, whilst a lonely little sea-sparrow flits about the bow. Albatrosses have no difficulty in getting up off the water though possibly they might if it were dead calm. I am for the first time reading Bullen’s “Cruise of the Cachalot”, find it most entertaining and am longing to sight a sperm whale.
Now about 1,100 miles from New Zealand. In honour of Good Friday the tucker here has been extra special – fish, rabbit, prunes, but as I am on guard (which is kept punctiliously all over the ship), I have had to eat etc., under difficulties. Some amusing boxing contests took place, the Maoris being especially funny. We have not yet sighted a single ship, or anything of interest, only the great waste of sea on all sides and a few lonely sea birds. The cold is steadily increasing.