13823 Rare Letter from Nantucket Whaleship to San Francisco for Gold, 1850
This is a rare letter from the Pacific Ocean aboard the Nantucket whale ship Norman, bound for the San Francisco gold rush. The writer, T. L. Whitaker, discusses the perils of the voyage. Addressed to Mr. G.W.Veneman, the letter is dated July 3, 1850.
Out 5000 miles from Panama with another 1000 miles to his destination, Whitaker is tired of the life and complains about the pasingers (sic) and shortness of provisions. If luck does not improve he may “see the elephant before we get to San Francisco”. An additional section, dated “Sacramento City July 23, 1850” tells of arrival after a 70 day passage from Panama, and learning that ‘the prospects for making a fortune is very gloomey” and “the mines is “all full of miners.”
There is a history of whalers heading for the California Gold Rush after the demise of the whaling industry, but documentation and letters of this period are scarce and highly desirable. Whitaker writes that he left New Orleans for Panama with several others who agreed to go to the mines as a Company. The Norman with Master John Gardner left Nantucket Aug. 8, 1848 on a whaling voyage. She arrived in Panama from whence she left on May 13th, 1850 with 130 passengers bound for San Francisco, arriving there on July 21, 1850. The log of this voyage is at the Nantucket Historical Association.