Lewis Coolidge and the Voyage of the Amethyst, 1806-1811
The Amethyst sailed from Boston in September 1806 to Gough Island in the Antarctic, where a few men were dispatched to seal hunt as the ship continued around the horn to the Pacific Ocean. Coolidge was left in charge of a sealing party in the Cerros Islands off the coast of Spanish-controlled California while the ship returned to Gough. Almost a year later, the Amethyst finally retrieved Coolidge and his crew from the barren Cerros Islands, where they not only had to catch and skin seals but had to sustain themselves on whatever they could find. After more sealing off California, the Amethyst sailed next to the Hawaiian Islands and then on to China to trade the accumulated skins. The ship then sailed to the Palau Islands, where the crew obtained a cargo of sea cucumbers, a delicacy in China. The crew returned to China to sell this cargo and the ship itself, and then Coolidge and the others embarked for home on other vessels. With a keen eye, sharp wit, and a literary style reminiscent of Herman Melville, Coolidge ably chronicles all aspects of his odyssey in the diary published here for the first time.
Coolidge's well-annotated historical account is supplemented by eighteen illustrations, Felt's brief survey of the "Old China trade" enterprise, and his account of Coolidge's life following the voyage. Collectively these elements paint a vivid portrait of an adventurous era on the high seas and of a young man eager to find his way in the world.
About the Authors
Also an Illinois native, John Phillip Felt is the great-great-grandson of Lewis Coolidge. Felt served as an officer in the U.S. Navy and as a foreign service officer in the U.S. State Department. Now retired, he lives in Alexandria, Virginia.
"Coolidge's journal is a worthy companion to classic sea narratives such as Edmund Fanning's Voyages and Discoveries in the South Seas and sheds new light on the early American maritime trade to the Far East."—William N. Peterson, Carl C. Cutler Curator, Mystic Seaport
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