Christmas morning, 1885, brought with it a severe cyclone in the Indian Ocean. The Pictou barque William H. McNeil, Captain Thomas Russell O’Brien, with a cargo of sugar from the Philippines for New York, was caught in the storm. Some sails were in tatters, others the crew managed to furl, as Captain O’Brien kept his vessel into the wind to try to ride out the fierce cyclone. After surviving the storm, she limped into Mauritius.
This week, as we lead up to Christmas, I feature a print of the painting of this event, a painting commissioned by an O’Brien of today related to the sea captain of 1885. He had the ship’s log which he allowed me to read through to get a sense of what was happening to the ship to be able to render the events of 125 years ago as faithfully as possible.
Reading through the log, the descriptions of the morning of December 25, 1885, had sufficient detail regarding winds, ship’s course, which sails were successfully furled, and which sails were in tatters, so much information that one could really visualize what the scene might have looked like. It was an interesting project and this print shares the results with those who love the lore of the sea.