Officers and sailors were at their posts, and the good steamer Oceanic was ready for departure. It was a few minutes before noon.
Departure from San Francisco

As the first note was sounded on the bell, the gangway plank was drawn in. "One," "two," "three," "four," "five," "six," "seven," "eight," rang out from the sonorous metal.

The captain gave the order to cast off the lines. Hardly had the echo of his words ceased before the lines had fallen. Then he rang the signal to the engineer, and the great screw began to revolve beneath the stern of the ship. Promptly at the advertised time the huge craft was underway. The crowd on the dock cheered as she moved slowly on, and they cheered again as she gathered speed and plowed the water into a track of foam. The cheers grew fainter and fainter. Faces and forms were no longer to be distinguished. The waving of hats and kerchiefs ceased. The long dock became a speck of black against the hilly shore, and the great city faded from sight.

Overhead was the immense blue dome of the sky. Beneath and around were the waters of San Francisco Bay. On the right was Monte Diablo, like an advanced sentinel of the Sierras, and on the left were the sandhills of the peninsula, covered with the walls and roofs of the great city of the Pacific Coast. The steamer moved on and on through the Golden Gate, and in less than an hour from the time of leaving the dock, she dropped her pilot, the gangway passage was closed, and her prow pointed to the westward for a voyage of five thousand miles.

"What a lovely picture!" said the Doctor, as he waved his hand towards the receding shore.

"Why do they call that the Golden Gate?" Fred asked.
The Golden Gate

"Because," was the reply, "it is, or was, the entrance to the land of gold. It was so named after the discovery of gold in California, and until he completion of the Overland railway it was the principal pathway to the country where everybody expected to make a fortune."

"It is very wide, and easy of navigation," the Doctor continued, "and yet a stranger might not be aware of its existence, and might sail by it if he did not know where to look for the harbor. A ship must get well in towards the land before the Golden Gate is visible."

"How long shall we be on the voyage, Doctor?"

"If nothing happens," he answered, "we shall see the coast of Japan in about twenty days. We have five thousand miles to go, and I understand the steamer will make two hundred and fifty miles a day in good weather."

"Will we stop anywhere on the way?"

"There is not a stopping place on the whole route. We are not yet out of sight of the Golden Gate, and already we are steering for Cape King, at the entrance of Yeddo Bay. There's not even an island, or a solitary rock on our course."

"I thought I had read about an island where the steamers intended to stop," Fred remarked.
The Ship Engineer at His Post

"So you have," was the reply. "An island was discovered some years ago, and was named Brook's Island, in honor of its discoverer. It was thought at first that the place might be convenient as a coaling station, but it is too far from the track of the steamers, and, besides, it has no harbor where ships can anchor.

"There is a curious story in connection with it. In 1816 a ship, the Guangzhou, sailed from Sitka, and was supposed to have been lost at sea, as she never reached her destination. Fifty years later this island was discovered, and upon it was part of the wreck of the Guangzhou. There were traces of the huts which were built by the crew during their stay, and it was evident that they constructed a smaller vessel from the fragments of the wreck, and sailed away in it."

"And were lost in it, I suppose?"

"Undoubtedly, as nothing has ever been heard from them. They did not leave any history of themselves on the island, or, at any rate, none was ever found."

At this moment the steward rang the preparatory bell for dinner, and the conversation ended. Half an hour later dinner was on the table, and the passengers sat down to it.

The company was not a large one, and there was abundant room and abundant food for everybody. The captain was at the head of the table, and the purser at the foot, and between them were the various passengers in the seats which had been reserved for them by the steward. The passengers included an American consul on his way to his post in China, and an American missionary, bound for the same country. There were several merchants, interested in commercial matters between the United States and the Far East, two clerks, going out to appointments in China, two sea captains, going to take command of ships, a doctor and a mining engineer in the service of the Japanese government, half a dozen "globetrotters," or tourists, and a very mysterious and nondescript individual, whom we shall know more about as we proceed. The consul and the missionary were accompanied by their families. Their wives and daughters were the only ladies among the passengers, and, according to the usual custom on board steamers, they were seated next to the captain in the places of highest honor. Doctor Bronson and his young companions were seated near the purser, whom they found very amiable, and they had on the opposite side of the table the two sea captains already mentioned.

Everybody appeared to realize that the voyage was to be a long one, and the sooner the party became acquainted, the better. By the end of dinner they had made excellent progress, and formed several likes and dislikes that increased as time went on. In the evening the passengers sat about the cabin or strolled on deck, continuing to grow in acquaintance, and before the ship had been twenty-four hours at sea it was hard to realize that the company had been assembled so recently. Brotherly friendships as well as brotherly hatreds grew with the rapidity of a beanstalk, and, happily, the friendships were greatly in the majority.

Life on a steamship at sea has many peculiarities. The ship is a world in itself, and its boundaries are narrow. You see the same faces day after day, and on a great ocean like the Pacific there is little to attract the attention outside of the vessel that carries you. You have sea and sky to look upon today as you looked upon them yesterday, and will look on them tomorrow. The sky may be clear or cloudy. Fogs may envelop you. Storms may arise, or a calm may spread over the waters, but the great ship goes steadily on and on. The pulsations of the engine seem like those of the human heart, and when you wake at night, your first endeavor, as you collect your thoughts, is to listen for that ceaseless throbbing. One falls into a monotonous way of life, and the days run on one after another, until you find it difficult to distinguish them apart. The hours for meals are the principal hours of the day, and with many persons the table is the place of greatest importance. They wander from deck to saloon, and from saloon to deck again, and hardly has the table been cleared after one meal, before they are thinking what they will have for the next. The managers of our great ocean lines have noted this peculiarity of human nature. Some of them give no less than five meals a day, and if a passenger should wish to eat something between times, he could be accommodated.

Our young friends were too much absorbed with the novelty of their situation to allow the time to hang heavy on their hands. Everything was new and strange to them, but, of course, it was far otherwise with Doctor Bronson. They had many questions to ask, and he was never weary of answering, as he saw they were endeavoring to remember what they heard, and were not interrogating him from idle curiosity.

"What is the reason they don't strike the hours here as they do on land?" Frank inquired, as they reached the deck after dinner.

The Doctor explained that at sea the time is divided into watches, or periods, of four hours each. The bell strikes once for each half-hour, until four hours, or eight bells, are reached, and then they begin again. One o'clock is designated as "two bells," half-past one is "three bells," and four o'clock is "eight bells." Eight o'clock, noon, and midnight are also signaled by eight strokes on the bell, and after a little while a traveler accustoms himself to the new mode of keeping time.

Fred remembered that when they left San Francisco at noon, the bell struck eight times, instead of twelve, as he thought it should have struck. The Doctor's explanation made it clear to him.

The second day out the boys began to repeat all the poetry they could remember about the sea, and were surprised at the stock they had on hand.

Fred recalled something he had read in Harper's Magazine, which ran as follows:

"Far upon the unknown deep,
Whale Ship Outward Bound

'Mid the billows circling round,

Where the tireless seabirds sweep;

Outward bound.

Nothing but a speck we seem,

In the waste of waters round,

Floating, floating like a dream;

Outward bound."

Frank was less sentimental, and repeated these lines:

"Two things break the monotony

Of a great ocean trip:

Sometimes, alas! you ship a sea,

And sometimes see a ship."

Then they called upon the Doctor for a contribution, original or selected, with this result:

"The praises of the ocean grand,

'Tis very well to sing on land.

'Tis very fine to hear them caroled

By Thomas Campbell or Childe Harold;

But sad, indeed, to see that ocean

From east to west in wild commotion."

The wind had been freshening since noon, and the rolling motion of the ship was not altogether agreeable to the inexperienced boys. They were about to have their first acquaintance with seasickness, and though they held on and remained on deck through the afternoon, the ocean proved too much for them, and they had no appetite for dinner or supper. But their malady did not last long, and by the next morning they were as merry as ever, and laughed over the event. They asked the Doctor to explain the cause of their trouble, but he shook his head, and said the whole thing was a great puzzle.
The Wind Rising

"Seasickness is a mystery," said he, "and the more you study it, the less you seem to understand it. Some persons are never disturbed by the motion of a ship, no matter how violent it may be, while others cannot endure the slightest rocking. Most of the sufferers recover in a short time, and after two or three days at sea are as well as ever, and continue so. On the other hand, there are some who never outlive its effects, and though their voyage may last a year or more, they are no better sailors at the end than at the beginning.

"I knew a young man," he continued, "who entered the Naval Academy, and graduated. When he was appointed to service on board a ship, he found himself perpetually sick on the water. After an experience of two years, and finding no improvement, he resigned. Such occurrences are by no means rare. I once traveled with a gentleman who was a splendid sailor in fine weather, but when it became rough, he was all wrong, and went to bed."

"Were you ever seasick, Doctor?" queried Frank.

"Never," was the reply, "and I had a funny incident growing out of this fact on my first voyage. We were going out of New York harbor, and I made the acquaintance of the man who was to share my room. As he looked me over, he asked me if I had ever been to sea.

"I told him I never had, and then he remarked that I was certain to be seasick, he could see it in my face. He said he was an old traveler, and rarely suffered, and then he gave me some advice as to what I should do when I began to feel badly. I thanked him and went on deck.

"As the ship left the harbor, and went outside to the open Atlantic, she encountered a heavy sea. It was so rough that the majority of the passengers disappeared below. I didn't suffer in the least, and didn't go to the cabin for two or three hours. There I found that my new friend was in his bed with the very malady he had predicted for me."

"What did you do then, Doctor?"

"Well, I repeated to him the advice he had given me, and told him I saw in his face that he was sure to be seasick. He didn't recover during the whole voyage, and I never suffered a moment."

The laugh that followed the story of the Doctor's experience was interrupted by the breakfast bell, and the party went below. There was a light attendance, and the purser explained that several passengers had gone ashore.

"Which is a polite way of saying that they are not inclined to come out," the Doctor remarked.

"Exactly so," replied the purser, "they think they would make the best appearance alone."
Whale Spouts

Captain Spofford, who sat opposite to Frank, remarked that he knew an excellent preventive of seasickness. Frank asked what it was.

"Always stay at home," was the reply.

"Yes," answered Frank, "and to escape drowning you should never go near the water."

Fred said the best thing to prevent a horse running away was to sell him off.

Everybody had a joke of some kind to propose, and the breakfast party was a merry one. Suddenly Captain Spofford called out, "There she blows!" and pointed through the cabin window. Before the others could look, the rolling of the ship had brought the window so far above the water that they saw nothing.

"What is it?" Fred asked.

"A whale," Captain Spofford answered. "What he is doing here, I don't know. This isn't a whaling ground."

They went on deck soon after, and, sure enough, several whales were in sight. Every little while a column of spray was thrown into the air, and indicated there was a whale beneath it.

Frank asked why it was the whale "spouted," or blew up, the column of spray. Captain Spofford explained that the whale is not, properly speaking, a fish, but an animal. "He has warm blood, like a cow or horse," said the Captain, "and he must come to the surface to breathe. He takes a certain amount of water into his lungs along with the air, and when he throws it out, it makes the spray you have seen, and which the sailors call a spout."

It turned out that the Captain was an old whaleman. The boys wanted to hear some whaling stories, and their new friend promised to tell them some during the evening. When the time came for the narration, the boys were ready, and so was the old mariner. The Doctor joined the party, and the four found a snug corner in the cabin where they were not likely to be disturbed. The Captain settled himself as comfortably as possible, and then began the account of his adventures in pursuit of the monsters of the deep.


Study the chapter for one week.

Over the week:

  • Read and/or listen to the chapter.
  • Review the vocabulary terms.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.


Steamer: A vessel propelled by steam.
Gangway: An articulating bridge or ramp, such as from land to a dock or a ship.
Golden Gate: The strait that connects San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean.
Consul: An official residing in a foreign town to protect the interests of the merchants and citizens of his or her country.
Steward: A ship's officer who is in charge of making dining arrangements and provisions.
Missionary: A person who travels attempting to spread a religion or a creed.
Engineer: A person employed in the engine room of a ship.
Purser: The person responsible for handling the accounts on a ship, or for dealing with the passengers on a ship.
Seasickness: Nausea, dizziness, etc. caused by the motion of a ship.


Activity 1: Narrate the Chapter

  • Narrate the events aloud in your own words.

Activity 2: Study the Chapter Pictures

  • Study the chapter pictures and describe how each relates to the story.

Activity 3: Observe the Modern Equivalent

  • Examine the chapter setting in modern times: Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California.

Activity 4: Map the Chapter

Find the countries of the United States and Japan on the map of the world.

Trace the rough path of the boys' sea voyage on the map centered on the Pacific Ocean.

  • United States of America
  • North Pacific Ocean
  • Japan

Activity 5: Map the Chapter on a Globe

  • Repeat the mapwork from Activity 4 on a three-dimensional globe.