The great ship steamed onward, day after day and night after night. There was no storm to break the monotony. No sail showed itself on the horizon. No one left the steamer, and no newcomers appeared. Nobody saw fit to quarrel with anyone else, and there was not a passenger who showed a disposition to quarrel with his surroundings. Stories were told and songs were sung, to while away the time. Finally, on the twentieth day, the captain announced that they were approaching land, and the voyage would soon be over.
Frank Studying Navigation

Our young travelers had found a daily interest in the instruments by which a mariner ascertains his ship's position. Frank had gone so far as to borrow the captain's extra copy of "Bowditch's Navigator" and study it at odd intervals, and after a little while he comprehended the uses of the various instruments employed in finding a way over the trackless ocean. He gave Fred a short lecture on the subject, which was something like the following:

"Of course, you know, Fred, all about the mariner's compass, which points towards the north, and always tells where north is. Now, if we know where north is, we can find south, east, and west without much trouble."

Fred admitted the claim, and repeated the formula he had learned at school: Face towards the north, and back towards the south, the right hand east, and the left hand west.

"Now," continued Frank, "there are thirty-two points of the compass. Do you know them?"

Fred shook his head, and then Frank explained that the four he had named were the cardinal points, while the other twenty-eight were the divisions between the cardinal points. One of the first duties of a sailor was to "box the compass," that is, to be able to name all these divisions.

"Let me hear you box the compass, Frank," said Doctor Bronson, who was standing near.

"Certainly, I can," Frank answered, and then began: "North, north by east, north-northeast, northeast by north, northeast, northeast by east, east-northeast, east by north, east—"

"That will do," said the Doctor. "You have given one quadrant, or a quarter of the circle. I'm sure you can do the rest easily, for it goes on in the same way."

"You see," Frank continued, "that you know by the compass exactly in what direction you are going. Then, if you know how many miles you go in a day or an hour, you can calculate your place at sea.
Working Up a Reckoning

"That mode of calculation is called 'dead reckoning,' and is quite simple, but it isn't very safe."

"Why so?" Fred asked.

"Because it is impossible to steer a ship with absolute accuracy when she is rolling and pitching about, and, besides, the winds make her drift a little to one side. Then there are currents that take her off her course, and sometimes they are very strong."

"Yes, I know," Fred replied. "There's the Gulf Stream, in the Atlantic Ocean, everybody has heard of. It is a great river in the sea, and flows north at the rate of three or four miles an hour."

"There's another river like it in the Pacific Ocean," Frank explained. "It is called the Japan Current, because it flows close to the coast of Japan. It goes through Bering Strait into the Arctic Ocean, and then it comes south by the coast of Greenland, and down by Newfoundland. That's what brings the icebergs south in the Atlantic, and puts them in the way of the steamers between New York and Liverpool.

"On account of the uncertainty of dead reckoning, the captain doesn't rely on it except when the fog is so thick that he can't get an observation."

"What is that?"

"Observing the positions of the sun and moon, and of certain stars with relation to each other. That is done with the quadrant and sextant, and then they use a chronometer, or clock, that tells exactly what the time is at Greenwich. Then, you see, this book is full of figures that look like multiplication-tables, and with these figures they 'work out their position.' That is, they find out where they are. Greenwich is near London, and all the tables are calculated from there."

"But suppose a sailor was dropped down here suddenly, without knowing what ocean he was in. Could he find out where he was without anybody telling him?"

"Certainly. With the instruments I have named, the tables of figures, and a clear sky, so as to give good observations, he could determine his position with absolute accuracy. He gets his latitude by observing the sun at noon, and he gets his longitude by the chronometer and by observations of the moon. When he knows his latitude and longitude, he knows where he is, and can mark the place on the map."

Fred opened his eyes with an expression of astonishment, and said he thought the science of navigation was something wonderful.

The others agreed with him, and while they were discussing the advantages which it had given to the world, there was a call that sent them on deck at once.
View in the Bay of Yeddo

"Land, ho!" from the lookout forward.

"Land, ho!" from the officer near the wheel-house.

"Land, ho!" from the captain, as he emerged from his room, just aft of the wheel. "Where away?"

"Dead ahead, sir," replied the officer. "'Tis Mount Fuji, sir."

The boys looked in the direction indicated, but could see nothing. This is not surprising, when we remember that sailors' eyes are accustomed to great distances, and can frequently see objects distinctly long before landsmen can make them out.

But by-and-by they could distinguish the outline of a cone, white as a cloud and nearly as shadowy. It was the Holy Mountain of Japan, and they recognized the picture they had seen so many times upon Japanese fans and other objects. As they watched it, the form grew more and more distinct, and after a time they no longer doubted that they looked at Mount Fuji.

"Just to think," Fred exclaimed, "when we left San Francisco, we steered for this mountain, five thousand miles away, and here it is, right before us. Navigation is a wonderful science, and no mistake."

As the ship went on, the mountain grew more and more distinct, and by-and-by other features of Japanese scenery were brought into view. The western horizon became a serrated line, that formed an agreeable contrast to the unbroken curve they had looked upon so many days, and as the sun went down, it no longer dipped into the sea and sank beneath the waves. All on board the ship were fully aware they were approaching land.

During the night they passed Cape King and entered Yeddo bay. The great lighthouse that watches the entrance shot its rays far out over the waters and beamed a kindly welcome to the strangers. Slowly they steamed onward, keeping a careful lookout for the numerous boats and junks that abound there, and watching the hundreds of lights that gleamed along the shore and dotted the sloping hillsides. Sixty miles from Cape King and a bit south of Tokyo, they were in front of the city of Yokohama. The engines stopped, the anchor fell, the chain rattled through the hawsehole, and the ship was at rest, after her long journey from San Francisco. Our young adventurers were in Japan.

With the first streak of dawn the boys were on deck, where they were joined by Doctor Bronson. The sun was just rising when the steamer dropped her anchor, and, consequently, their first day in the new country was begun very early. There was an abundance of sights for the young eyes, and no lack of subjects for conversation.
Japanese Sampan Boats

Hardly was the anchor down before the steamer was surrounded by a swarm of little boats, and Frank thought they were the funniest boats he had ever seen.

"They are called 'sampans,'" Doctor Bronson explained, "and are made entirety of wood. Of late years the Japanese sometimes use copper or iron nails for fastenings, but formerly you found them without a particle of metal about them."

"They don't look as if they could stand rough weather," said Fred. "See, they are low and square at the stern, and high and sharp at the bow, and they sit very low in the water."

"They are not in accordance with our notions," replied the Doctor. "But they are excellent sea boats, and I have known them to ride safely where an American boat would have been swamped. You observe how easily they go through the water. They can be handled very readily, and, certainly, the Japanese have no occasion to be ashamed of their craft."

Frank had his eye on a sampan that was darting about like an active fish, first in one direction and then in another. It was propelled by a single oar in the hands of a boatman, who was not encumbered with a large amount of superfluous clothing. The oar was in two pieces, a blade and a handle, lashed together in such a way that they did not form a straight line. At first Frank thought there was something wrong about it, but he soon observed that the oars in all the boats were of the same pattern, and made in the same way. They were worked like sculls rather than like oars. The man kept the oar constantly beneath the water, and, as he moved it forwards and back, he turned it partly around. A rope near his hand regulated the distance the oar could be turned, and also kept it from rising out of the water or going too far below the surface.
A Japanese Imperial Barge

Nearly every boat contained a little furnace, only a few inches square, where the boatman boiled his tea and cooked the rice and fish that composed his food. Each boat had a deck of boards which were so placed as to be readily removed, but, at the same time, were secured against being washed away. Every one of these craft was perfectly clean, and while they were waiting around the ship, several of the boatmen occupied themselves by giving their decks a fresh scrubbing, which was not at all necessary. The Doctor took the occasion to say something about the cleanliness of the Japanese houses, and of the neat habits of the people generally, and added, "You will see it as you go among them, and cannot fail to be impressed by it. You will never hesitate to eat Japanese food through fear that it may not be clean, and this is more than you can say of every table in our own country."

The steamer was anchored nearly half a mile from shore. English, French, German, and other ships were in the harbor. Tenders and steam-launches were moving about. Rowboats were coming and going, and, altogether, the port of Yokohama presented a lively appearance. Shoreward the picture was interesting. At the water's edge there was a stone quay or embankment, with two inner harbors, where small boats might enter and find shelter from occasional storms. This quay was the front of a street where carriages and pedestrians were moving back and forth. The farther side of the street was a row of buildings, and as nearly every one of these buildings had a yard in front filled with shade trees. The effect was pretty.

Away to the right was the Japanese part of Yokohama, while on the left was the foreign section. The latter included the row of buildings mentioned above. They stood on a level space which was only a few feet above the level of the bay. Back of this was a range of steep hills, which were covered nearly everywhere with a dense growth of trees and bushes, with little patches of gardens here and there. On the summits of the hills, and occasionally on their sides, were houses with wide verandas, and with great windows capable of affording liberal ventilation. Many of the merchants and other foreigners living in Yokohama had their residences in these houses, which were far more comfortable than the buildings near the water. Doctor Bronson explained that the lower part of Yokohama was called the "Bund," while the upper was known as the "Bluff." Business was transacted in the Bund, and many persons lived there, but the Bluff was the favorite place for a residence, and a great deal of money had been expended in beautifying it.
Yokohama in 1854

The quarantine officials visited the steamer, and after a brief inspection she was pronounced healthy, and permission was given for the passengers to go on shore. Runners from the hotels came in search of patrons, and clerks from several of the prominent business houses came on board to ask for letters and news. Nearly every commercial establishment in Yokohama has its own boat and a special uniform for its rowers, so that they can be readily distinguished. One of the clerks who visited the ship seemed to be in search of somebody among the passengers, and that somebody proved to be our friend, The Mystery.

The two had a brief conversation when they met, and it was in a tone so low that nobody could hear what was said. When it was over, The Mystery went below, and soon reappeared with a small satchel. Without a word of farewell to anybody, he entered the boat and was rowed to the shore at a very rapid rate.

There was great activity at the forward gangway. The steerage passengers comprised about four hundred Chinese people who were bound for Hong Kong, but, as the steamer would lie a whole day at Yokohama, many of them were preparing to spend the day on shore. The boats crowded at the foot of the gangway, and there was a great contention among the boatmen to secure the patronage of the passengers. Occasionally one of the people fell into the water, owing to some unguarded movement, but they were soon out again, and clamoring as earnestly as ever. In spite of the excitement and activity, there was the most perfect good nature. Nobody was inclined to fight with anyone else, and all the competitors were entirely friendly. The Chinese people made very close bargains with the boatmen, and were taken to and from the shore at prices which astonished the boys when they heard them.

The Doctor explained that the tariff for a boat to take one person from ship to shore and back again, including an hour's waiting, was ten cents, with five cents added for every hour beyond one. In the present instance the Chinese passengers bargained to be taken on shore in the morning and back again at night for five cents each, and not more than four of them were to go in one boat. Fred thought it would require a long time for any of the boatmen to become millionaires at this rate.

Our travelers were not obliged to bargain for their conveyance, as they went ashore in the boat belonging to the hotel where they intended to stay. The runner of the hotel took charge of their baggage and placed it in the boat, and when all was ready, they shook hands with the captain and purser of the steamer, and wished them prosperous voyages in future. Several other passengers went ashore at the same time. Among them was Captain Spofford, who was anxious to compare the Yokohama of today with the one he had visited twenty years before.

He explained to the boys that when the American fleet came to Japan in 1854, there was only a small fishing village where the city now stands. Yokohama means "across the strand," and the city is opposite, or across the strand from, Kanagawa, which was established as the official port. The consuls formerly had their offices in Kanagawa, and continued to date their official documents there long after they had moved to the newer and more prosperous town. Yokohama was found much more agreeable, as there was a large open space there for erecting buildings, while the high bluffs gave a cooling shelter from the hot, stifling air of summer. Commercial prosperity caused it to grow rapidly, and made it the city we now find it.

They reached the shore. Their baggage was placed on a large handcart, and they passed through the gateway of the Custom-house. A polite official, who spoke English, made a brief survey of their trunks, and, on their assurance that no dutiable goods were within, he did not delay them any further. The Japanese duties are only five per cent. on the value of the goods, and, consequently, a traveler could not perpetrate much fraud upon the revenue, even if he were disposed to do so.

"Here you are in Japan," said the Doctor, as they passed through the gate.

"Yes, here we are," Frank replied. "Let's give three cheers for Japan."

"Agreed," answered Fred, "and here we go, Hip hip hurrah!"

The boys swung their hats and gave the three cheers.

"And three more for friends at home!" Fred added.

"Certainly," Frank responded. "Here we go again," and there was another "Hip hip hurrah!"

"And a cheer from you, Frank," remarked the Doctor, "for somebody we saw at the railway station."

Frank gave another swing of his hat and another cheer. The Doctor and Fred united their voices to his, and with a hearty shout all around, they concluded the ceremony connected with their arrival in Japan.


Study the chapter for one week.

Over the week:

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


Mariner: Sailor or seaman.
Mariner's Compass: A compass (navigational instrument).
Cardinal Points: The four principal compass directions — north, south, east, and west.
Dead Reckoning: A method of estimating the position of a ship or aircraft by applying estimates of the distance and direction travelled to a previously known position.
Quadrant: A measuring device with a graduated arc of 90° used in locating an altitude.
Sextant: A navigational device for deriving angular distances between objects so as to determine latitude and longitude.
Latitude: The angular distance north or south from a planet's equator.
Longitude: The angular distance measured west or east of the reference line at 0° longitude, passing through Greenwich, England.


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: View of Mount Fuji and Yokohama, Japan.

Activity 4: Map the Chapter

Find the oceans mentioned in the chapter:

  • Atlantic Ocean
  • Pacific Ocean
  • Arctic Ocean
  • Which two oceans are not mentioned?

Zoom in to find the following:

  • Tokyo, capital city of the country of Japan
  • Yokohama (south of Tokyo), the Japanese city port where the boys arrived

Activity 5: Map the Chapter on a Globe

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