Journey of the Frozen Tears
The Journey of the Frozen Tears, otherwise simply known as 'the Journey was an 1500-1501 voyage of the Nova English ship the SS. Endeavour. The result of the journey was the arrival of the Endeavour's passengers on what is now known as Trinity Island and the establishment of the Commonwealth of the South Sea Islands.
The journey lasted from December 26th 1500 to May 31st 1501.
Following the downfall of the Britannic the home islands (otherwise known as Madison Isle) changed hands several times, with successive waves of Batavian and Nova English occupation, amongst others. For the population of the islands the political uncertainty and economic hardship that resulted from this led to considerable discord, and in mid-1500 a former merchant sailor named Sir Nigel James Hunt began agitating for a revolt on Madison Isle.
While Hunt found considerable sympathy from parts of the islands population, there was little appetite for further political upheaval, and the dwindling population were accurately aware of their technological and numerical disadvantage when compared to the islands' occupiers.
For that reason, Hunt changed his position and began to campaign for the relocation of the islands' Britannic inhabitants to a new homeland, with the promise of enhanced political, religious and economic freedoms. While the majority of the islands' residents chose to remain, a group of around 600 islanders pledged to support Hunt's expedition.
Crucially, very few of the volunteers had any seafaring experience.
Having gained support for his proposal, Sir Nigel James Hunt appealed to the Britannic Empire's longstanding friend and ally, Nova England, for support. Having initially declined to provide direct assistance, the Nova English government later confirmed that they would provide Hunt with material support in return for a cessation of his campaign.
The SS. Endeavour
The SS. Endeavour began life as a third rate ship of the line in the Nova English navy, launched as HMNS Desire. Destined to be broken up upon retirement in 1500 after an unremarkable career, the ship was ultimately decommissioned and gifted by King Josephus I to Sir Nigel James Hunt for the purpose of evacuated beleaguered civilians from the former Britannic home islands.
Measuring 56 meters in length and with a displacement of 3,000 tonnes, the Desire's 74 canons were removed prior to decommissioning, and the ship was renamed as SS. Endeavour for civilian use.
Key events of the journey
The SS. Endeavour left Madison Isle with 600 passengers (300 men, 250 women and 50 children) on December 26th 1500, and sailed due south with the aim of establishing contact with the former Britannic residents of the Captive Sea Islands. In part due to strong winds and in part due to the crew's inexperience, the Endeavour failed to make sufficient progressive eastward, and therefore failed to reach the coast of Keltia before the route become blocked by North Island.
Knowing North Island to be home to a state hostile to Britannic populations, the Endeavour continued south before becoming ensnared in the windless doldrums doldrums. It is not recorded how long the ship was stranded by windless weather conditions, however estimates range from three to five weeks, during which time the ships' passengers improvised fishing lines and convex mirrors to desalinate seawater by evaporation and condensation. Despite these efforts, several passengers died of malnutrition and dehydration during this period.
When the wind returned the ship continued on its southward journey, however the period of stasis and the arrival of cloudy weather made navigation difficult, and the exact position of the ship was not known. When the weather cleared and navigation by the stars become possible once more, it was clear that the ship was much further south than initially thought.
The appearance of distant sea ice on the horizon confirmed this, however a number of uninhabited rocky islets in the vicinity of the sea ice convinced Hunt to continue their southward course. By this period, it was around the middle of March (southern hemisphere summer), and the isles were host to large flocks of seabirds and their young. Short on food, the Endeavour drew close to the largest nearby islet, and the passengers engaged in capturing birds and their eggs, as well as what little vegetation could be found on the rocky terrain.
Relieved at the availability of food on the islet, the Endeavour remained anchored alongside it for a number of weeks, even when the flocks of migrating birds began to depart northwards. The sudden appearance one morning of icebergs around the ship alerted Hunt to danger, but with the prevailing wind continuing to push the ship southwards and the icebergs obscuring the path northwards, the Endeavour gradually become more and more ensnared by the sea ice.
Progressively the ship became almost completely trapped by the surrounding ice, and westward progress was almost completely halted. While the arrival of winter snows provided a source of fresh water for the Endeavour's passengers, the extreme cold soon took its toll and up to one third of the ship's passengers departed of hunger and hypothermia. Those aboard the ship resorted to tearing away pieces of timber from the structure of the ship to burn for fuel to stay warm and melt snow, and the largely redundant sails were almost entirely destroyed for kindling.
While the ship was moving slowly, and not moving at all on certain days, it did continue to move westward through the icy wasteland, slowly breaking the early winter's ice.
By the moonlight early in the morning of May 31st 1501, the dark silhouette of a landmass was sighted north of the Endeavour, and the remnants of the sails were hoisted in the hope of making it towards it. The residual heat retained in the biomass of the island in early winter meant that the ice had not yet reached its shores (although it would in the weeks that followed) and the combination of wind power and manual labour by the ship's passengers allowed the Endeavour to make landfall.
The island in question became known as Trinity Island (named after Trinity Sunday, the day it was reached) and, while the island itself proved to be a challenging environment, the crew were able to survive there and establish a settlement.
The resulting settlement, Port Egmont, would become the first capital city of the South Sea Islands.
Captain Sir Nigel James Hunt kept a journal prior to and during the Endeavour's voyage. While the personal diary was considered too personal to publish in its entirety, key extracts from it were made available to the public soon after the establishment of the South Sea Islands in 1501.
September 17th 1500- We have a ship
There we have it at least! After months of writing letters, giving speeches, begging and pleading, at least we have our ship. Asking a good friend who's acquainted with such things, he informed me that the ship has good bones. I'm given to understand that, for those familiar with ship building, this is the equivalent of noting that a potential love interest has a "good sense of humour".
Though she's ragged on the outside, there's good on the inside, and this ship named "Endeavour" should prove sturdy enough to take us forth from this place. Although I had rather hoped that the Nova English would come and take us directly, perhaps this is just as well- we have received the gift of being masters of our own fate.
Put simply, I cannot wait to be off!
December 25th 1500- All is in order
Never have I spent the day of our dear saviour's birth more engaged with business of all sorts. Since receiving the Endeavour we have worked most tirelessly to prepare it for the journey ahead, building bunks, loading supplies and plotting our course. The ignorance of many of my would-be companions on this journey has become clear to me, as has the burden that I alone will shoulder during our journey. Enthusiastic though they doubtlessly are, few of my fellows have ever been far from the shore, and their education in the proper functioning of such a large ship comes much too late.
Though that may be the case, tomorrow we will set off towards the warmer climate of the south. Although i shall miss this place that I once recognised as my home, i recognise it no more. All is in order now, and I can only hope that the good Lord shines a bright star for us this Christmas to show us the way.
December 26th 1500- Taste of the ocean spray
What joy! Though I, like many of my companions, shed some tears as we cast off from the Home Islands at first light and watched them recede into nothingness behind us, the joy of being at sea simply cannot be matched. The creaking of the rigging, the whip of the sails as they billow, the endless peaks and troughs of waves stretching out before us towards infinity!
With the aid of the best trained of my fellows we got the ship underway with much muttering and cursing but with few major obstacles, all before the sun had fully risen above the distant horizon.
When all was set in order I stood upon the bow of the Endeavour and whooped for joy, even when the crashing of the waves gave me a sudden taste of the ocean spray. Never has a ship been more well named, and never since I began this course have I been more confident in our success.
January 10th 1501- Shan't blame the crew
After so much plain sailing, we come to our first trial at last. Though I had rather hoped that we wouldn't face too many obstacles upon this journey, it was perhaps only a matter of time until we hit upon some issue or another. Although I did my utmost to train some of my companions in the best ways to navigate by sun, stars and charts, they are perhaps ill-prepared for the challenges that this journey represents. Though I take upon myself the chief burden of charting our course, during the hours of my sleeping inevitably I must share the challenge, and inaccurate charting has led us awry.
All is not lost, and I don't doubt that we shall make it to the Captive Sea and whatever awaits us there. Though I shan't blame the crew, our failure to properly navigate to the coast of Keltia means a significantly longer trip than any of us had dared imagine. The wind won't allow us to retrace our steps, and the hostile inhabitants of North and South Island present a greater threat than even the roughest seas, so we'll endeavour on.
February 15th 1501- Not a breath of wind
Though I hardly believe it myself, my own senses can attest that we have no had the slightest wind for a fortnight or more. Every day the sea remains perfectly flat, unmoved even by a breeze, and our sails hang slack, our once defiant flag hangs limp upon the stern. How much longer can we go with not a breath of wind?
Already our supplies are running short, and it grieves me to say that a number of our passengers have departed their mortal lives whilst we linger here upon this desert made of useless water. I say useless, because that it is, for our nourishment and for our transport. Beating metal cooking pans into rough bowls and employing glass lids made from porthole covers, we have been able to evaporate and condense water from the sea. Thusly we produce some meagre, brackish water to drink, but not enough. Though those who have departed this world were weakened when our journey began, i nevertheless bear a heavy burden of responsibility for what has befallen since I led them away from home.
Too tired, thirsty and hungry to eat, my body aches all over, and i don't doubt that i already smell worse than those whose mortal remains we must give over to the sea's eternal embrace
March 1501- Life and hope
Embarrassed though I am to say it, I no longer even know one day from another, and therefore cannot accurately even estimate the date. Today is, however, nevertheless one of the most delightful days of my life.
Today the wind has returned, and brings life and hope with it, because finally we can move once more, and we may make landfall before any further fellows fall ill beyond recovery.
My fear of the island still weighs heavy on me, and therefore we shall continue further south before making for friendlier shores westward of South Island. I know not how far we drifted these past days or weeks, nor in which direction, but with the wind once more filling our sails, i cannot help but be filled with the burning heat of hope once more.
March/April 1501- Facing the white wall
In the early hours of this morning I was awoken abruptly by much yelling and clamouring. Though the nights have doubtlessly been colder, a misfortune we ascribed to the thick blanket of cloud that his been covering the sky these past days, I noted immediately upon my awaking that i was so cold that I was scarcely sure that I still lived.
But live I did, and brought back to painful consciousness by the yells of my companions and their hurried footsteps, i achingly hauled myself to my feet and left the bed I had made upon the hard planks of the deck. Moving to the bow as quickly as my stiffened limbs would allow, i quickly saw the cause of the commotion. Before us upon the horizon a great wall stretched, but it was no construction of man.
It seems that our stay in the dead calm of the sea has not been as fruitless I had thought, but it is a revelation that I now bitterly lament. While i fretted that we scarcely moved at all, it seems we moved a great deal further southward, though I for one never saw even the slightest indication of it. With thick cloud to obscure the stars by night, I knew not how far we had yet travelled, until before me I saw the unmistakable sight of sea ice filling every inch of the horizon from East to West.
My heart sank to see it. Without the sun to assist in our removal of salt from the sea water we can create nothing more to drink, and already our supplies have run short. It is unsurprising therefore that, upon seeing the mighty ice sheet blocking our path, fear of our mortality has returned to us. Looking westward with the rising sun behind me I observed something minuscule but unmistakably solid rising from the ocean.
It may be scarce be more than a rock, but now we're facing the white wall before us, even as a headstone for this vessel it may serve us better than anything else.
April 1501- Delivered from certain death
More by good fortune and the Grace of God than by my skill or intellect, we have been delivered from certain death. Beyond all hope, the rock we sighted some weeks ago proved to be home to mighty colonies of seabirds, with puffins and gannets to be found in rich abundance. Though the sides of the rocky islet are steep and difficult, they are possible to climb by those nimble enough, and we have thus been delivered a rich supply of eggs and water, which can be found pooled half frozen in the crags of the rocky summit. Using improvised nets, we are also able to catch birds, though we lack enough fuel to cook as much as we would like. Already we have burned the frames of the bunks we constructed before our journey, and all now sleep upon the hard decks, but the wood is better employed as fuel in our current predicament.
We have anchored the Endeavour alongside this rocky island and will rest here while our good fortune lasts, before heading back north.
Early May 1501- The folly of comfort
In our comfort recovering from great hardships, I fear we have flung ourselves into the jaws of an even greater peril. We bided our time beside the islet, enjoying the comparatively abundant resources it offered. After some time we noticed the birds began to leave, heading northward to escape the southern winter which I fear may not be so far away. We thought to do the same, but even as the birds became less abundant, we wished to rest a little while longer.
The folly of comfort has proven to be our undoing- yesterday's dawn brought the sight of towering bergs of ice in the waters around us, indeed the new day showed already great masses to the north of us. They stand as great white pillars reaching from the depths towards the sky, higher than the Endeavour's highest mast, indeed higher than the mast of any ship that I have ever seen.
The day's wind would do nothing but push us southward still, but in our haste to be away we hoisted the sails nevertheless as soon as all was prepared. Sailing south west, following the wind and trying to get clear of the icy mountains that dotted our path to the north. As the hours went by, we seemed only to get deeper into the field of icebergs, and the wind continued to push us nowhere but south and a degree or two to the west.
As i now write, the Endeavour stands like a great hall in a field of snow, no water can be seen about her bow. Last night was clear and brought temperatures as cold as any that I have ever felt, beneath a sky full of unfamiliar stars I felt the cold seep through every piece of my clothing, until it almost seemed to stab into my flesh.
The water around us turned to an icy slush as the hours wore on, our progress slowed, and now I can only conclude that we're utterly trapped, and I fear that I may have no choice but to give in to despair.
Mid May 1501- There's no way out
There's no way out. In my heart I have no room for optimism or hope, for it is surely filled to overflowing with grief. Though progress has been made, and even now the Endeavour crawls slowly, painfully, imperceivably forward, there is nevertheless no possible outcome other than our deaths. We have water enough thanks to the flurries of snow that fall regularly upon the deck of the ship and the surrounding ice, but the cold will prove to be our ruin.
Even planks of the deck have been torn and hacked to provide fuel for fire, and the sails have been reduced to rags by our need for kindling, but still every day we leave corpses upon the ice. A trail of sad emaciated bodies leading to where I now stand, I am scarcely more than skin and bones for want of food, but still I remain in better condition than many of my companions. Our food ran out in the days past, and none of us can be long for this world.
I would weep for our misfortune and doomed fate, but to cry is to simply have the tears freeze to ice upon your face.
May 31st 1501- Trinity Sunday
Though I stand now safe upon the sweetest, most beautiful ground that I have ever beheld, I still have no strength to be too joyous, or to record in detail how we came to be here.
In the dark of the night, out beyond the endless sea of white, we beheld something black in the moonlight. Though the first to sight it (a poor chap named Charles Egmont) believed himself to be delirious and hallucinating, eventually too many people beheld it to possibly all be deceived. Before long all who could still stand stood at the rail, too weak to cheer and too defeated to dare hope, but determined nevertheless. We beheld land. No more than a mile of ice stood between us and the narrow band of open water that surrounded the rocky landmass, and none amongst us dare say a word though we all knew what we must do.
Hoisting the ragged remains of the sail with great effort, we took all the tools at our disposal down onto the ice and began to hack at the ice. The tattered sail strained feebly in the shallow breeze, while with all our might we struck at the ice before the bow of the ship, straining every emaciated muscle of our bodies to crack the white prison that had trapped our vessel.
Had it been the depth of winter, there is no doubt that we would have failed and met our deaths there upon the ice. But being only autumn in this southern place, the thin ice cracked and broke beneath under our fury. I know not how many hours we laboured, the low sun giving poor indication of the passing of time, but with animal-like howls, unimaginable cursing and splintering tools, we chipped away at the ice, aided by the wind in the ruined sails, bringing the Endeavour closer and closer to the open water.
For a sailor, the sound of the bottom of the boat scraping upon rocks is more often a cause for dread. But today, it was the most beautiful noise I have ever heard, the very music of heaven. When finally I fell upon my hands and knees on this cold, rocky place, I felt as if I had arrived in a promised land flowing with milk and honey.
Knowing not whether I will wake, I will nevertheless now lay down to sleep, and be satisfied. I think only of the words of Mr Valiant-for-truth when he came to the end of his own great journey, "though with great difficulty I am got hither, yet now I do not repent me of all the trouble I have been at to arrive where I am. My sword I give to him that shall succeed me in my pilgrimage, and my courage and skill to him that can get it. My marks and scars I carry with me, to be a witness for me that I have fought His battles who now will be my rewarder".
The island discovered following the Journey of Frozen tears would become known as Trinity Island, and it would form the first territory of the Commonwealth of the South Sea Islands. The scarce resources the island offered were sufficient to see the survivors through the winter, with many shelters also being constructed from the timber of SS.Endeavour. The settlement was named Port Egmont in honour of the sailor who first sighted the island on the morning of Trinity Sunday 1501.
Sir Nigel James Hunt survived and went on to become the first Lieutenant Governor of the South Sea Islands.