Hooker, Sir Joseph Dalton
HMS 'Erebus', at sea, Lat.S27.40 Long.W25,
JDH/1/2 f.11-13
Hooker, Mary and Elizabeth
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
© Descendants of Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker
Correspondence from Antarctic Expedition
The Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Contemporary MS copy
10 page letter over 3 folios

As it is Christmas day JDH wanted to write to his sisters, Elizabeth 'Bessy' & Mary Harriet Hooker. Recounts the progress of the expedition over the last 3 months. Describes stops at Madeira's Cape Braza & Bay of Funchal & his visits to Mr Muir's house. Plants in the island's gardens incl: Vines, Daturas, Fuchsias, Chinarose, Hibiscus & Heliotrope, many fruits, & on the cliffs chestnut trees. JDH describes a type of small guitar made by the Madeira natives. JDH got rheumatism on a trip to the mountains & Captain [James Clark] Ross tried to keep him on the ship but JDH went ashore to visit Mrs Montgomery Hampton, now married to a Dr Renton, & other acquaintances incl. Mr Halley & a brother of Miss Shortridge. He describes their visit to the Funchal nunneries, Santa Clara & the convent of the Incarnation, where he bought artificial flowers made of duck feathers. Next they went to Tenerife, JDH describes a visit to the Spanish town of Santa Cruz where Lord Nelson lost his arm. At the Cape Verde Islands the 'Erebus' anchored at Porto Praia a Portuguese town on the island of St Jago [Santiago], a very desolate place except for coconut trees & some oases of fruit trees. JDH collected plant specimens in the heat with the help of resident freed black slaves. JDH describes a trip through the mountainous interior of St Jago to St Domingo, during which he saw baobab trees, a beautiful kingfisher, Gallina or Guineafowl, Acacias, Castor Oil Trees, hawks, wild monkeys & tiger cats. At St Domingo sugar cane, maize, oranges, Cassava & other tropical vegetables are cultivated. They are now sailing towards St Helena via the ocean near Pernambuco, Brazil because of the trade winds. En route they have seen St Paul's Rocks & Trindada [Trindade & Martim Vaz] only notable for the birdlife: terns & boobies etc. After St Helena they will visit Tristan d'Acunha, Cape Horn, Kerguelen's Land, Van Diemen's Land [Tasmania], New Zealand & Antarctica. JDH spends the voyage drawing sea animals.


steering South, to spend the winter on the Ice of an Antarctic climate.
Now, my dear sisters, I have nearly said my say. I am very happy & comfortable here & not very idle. As yet I have had "no particular quarrel" with anyone. The Captain is excessively kind & so is the Surgeon; the former has given me a Table on his own cabin where I sit & draw Sea Animals which we fish for everyday. I always read & write in my own cabin. I often lye in my cot & dream of you all at home, my brother [&]*9 sisters I particularly miss, accustomed as I have been to their society it seems strange to me to be isolated from by so many thousand miles from the only seven persons I have known to love. Farewell my dear sisters, you may always think of me as very happy, more than content, I ought to be. Whether we return at the end of three years or six years is known only to our Captain: & he will probably be guided by circumstances. Till then always believe me
Your most affectionate brother | J.D.Hooker
This to be returned to us please as soon as convenient & if desired I shall be very glad to write it out again for you. M.H.*10)

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H.M.S. Erebus*2
At Sea, Christmas Day, 1839
Lat[titude] S[.]27.40 Long[itude]W.25
My dear Elizabeth & Mary*2a,
My thoughts this day are so inseparably connected with home & all its comforts, that I feel it a great pleasure to date a letter to you on this occasion, though there is no chance of my putting it into the Post except at St. Helena, where we shall probably arrive in the course of another month. My last letter was written from Madera [Madeira] & though addressed to my Father, was a very hurried one, owing to our having to put to sea at a moment's warning, the Bay of Funchal being very dangerous when particular gales sit in, on which occasions the vessels must all stand out to sea, or run the chance of being cast ashore. As you may probably not see the journal I send home, I shall proceed to give you a short account of the 3 last months of my life. After leaving the Channel, we soon fell into our places on board ship & by the time Madera [Madeira] was made, everything was as comfortable as we could expect. You have always heard of Madera [Madeira] as a most lovely Island: & so it is; although its beauties are much enhanced by being the first land seen after bidding goodbye to home. At the present season it does not look so inviting, the whole Island is composed of high mountains, which were of a crusty brown from the autumnal tints of the leaves, not however, of the lovely rich inset hue which our Heath & Fern assume, and perhaps caused most by the exposure of the red earth of which the soil is composed. We slowly rounded a fine Cape (Braza) when the Bay of Funchal opened upon us. The town is rather large & built along the seaside, the houses are, of course, without chimneys & white-washed, with large windows. At the back of the town are situated the gentlemen's country-houses (Quintas) built up the steep sides of the hill among rocks (like the villas at Row) often having gardens, which are planted with Oranges, Bananas, Figs, besides Apples & other fruit.

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The mountains on all sides are very high; about half way up a broad belt of chestnut trees runs all along. Their peaks are broken & rugged, often covered with clouds. The Vineyards are very numerous & covered with festoons of the Vine.
We lay at anchor in very deep water about half a mile from shore & enjoyed the view beyond anything. Delicious perfumes came often across the water, wafted from the gardens which our noses, whetted by the scent of brine presently detected & enjoyed. Boats soon came off, loaded with fruit of the most inviting appearance & all hands were soon busy with it. Bananas were spread for butter on our bread & Grapes were much more to our taste than Tea: a bunch of Grapes, which cost 6D, was as so big as to serve 3 persons. On the following day I landed alone & wandered about the town, it is considered very clean for a Portuguese place, but I can by no means praise it in this respect. The inhabitants, a dark looking race appeared very idle; I recognised a few English faces as I passed along. The gardens were numerous & beautiful. Vines, Daturas & Fuchsias, Chinaroses, Hibiscus & Heliotrope grow in profusion & hung over the walls. Many were the main attempts I made before I found Mr Muir's house of which I was inquest [in quest]. You surely dear sisters remember this gentleman, who had a warehouse in Ingram Street; he was a great friend of grandpapa's, who had charged me particularly to call upon him. Well, being no Portuguese scholar, I commenced by accosting everybody I met, with the words, "Duomo Señor Muir?", accompanying them with a tone of interrogation, but failing completely in this plan, I adopted another & going up to every respectable looking person asked if he were English; this was invariably answered by a shrug of the shoulders when I would say "ah, you no Inglese" & turn off, giving the individual to understand that had I at all known he was Portuguese I would have addressed him as such. At last fortune favoured me by throwing a fellow countryman in my way, close too, as it happened, to Mr Muir's door. I entered the house & ascending found the gentleman in all the confusion of a mess of cotton goods. I told him who I was &

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apologized for intruding, as I called to acquaint him with the welfare of my grandfather; but this kind gentleman cordially grasped my hand in both his, & welcoming me to Madera [Madeira], invited me to take up my abode with his family, during my stay in the island. I gladly agreed to accompany him home when business should be ran at 4 p.m., & went in the interim to get my hair cut. At 5 o'clock, I accompanied a little German doctor, of whom I had previously some knowledge, to Mr Muir's house Quinta. We proceeded towards the back of the town, & kept ascending very steep streets, through Gardens & Villas, till we reached the banks of a small stream which waters the neighbo[u]rhood, & here the view we obtained of the town, lying at our feet, was truly splendid. After passing a great many Gentlemen's House[s], we came to the gate of Mr. Muir's, which is beautifully situated on a steep bank & so constructed that the windows of the drawing room (on the 2d story) open out into the garden behind, where there is a Verandah & a trellissed[sic] walk, the latter leading to a sort of look out house also festooned by Vines. We went thither by moonlight & the night was so clear that I could distinguish the ships in the Bay, a mile & half distant. I afterwards introduced some of my Brother officers to Mr. Muir, & we spent some several delightful evenings there. Mr. M[uir] has two sons & a daughter, the latter a very nice girl, about your age, dear Eliz[abeth], & when we went there to tea, one or 2 persons were generally asked to come & meet us, for no ceremony seems to be used among the British families who reside at Funchal. Conversation & music made the evening pass away but too quietly & after a supper of fine fine[sic] fruit & the best wines of the island, we returned on board ship, often serenaded by Guitars, of which the Natives make a very small & pretty kind. I fell so much in love with one of these, that I agreed to purchase it, hoping you might like it, but our hurried departure obliged me to leave it behind. These instruments are about the size of a small fiddle, very neatly made, full--toned & not "tricklers". I was also in quest of another Island curiosity which I had destined, if I could procure it, for mamma. It was a gold ring, with two clasped hands in front, on touching a check it opened out into 3 rings, with a heart at the union of one with another. Two days after our arrival we

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we[sic] formed a party to go & visit a very beautiful spot, in the island situated high up the mountains. We procured Ponies which took us over the most dangerous roads & up the steeped hills, accompanied by our guide, who when we came to a particularly steep place, held on by the horses tails, & no exertions on our part could make the faithful & sure footed animals kick them off. After a hard ride of 12 miles, we came to the brink of a tremendous valley with precipitous sides, covered with a deep green foliage. After overheating myself, I incautiously lay down on some damp grass to take my luncheon & thus contracted a rheumatic fever not uncommon in hot climates, which laid me up for more than a week. Even when I got well, Capt[ain] Ross' anxiety for me was so great that he would not let me leave the ship. Mr. Muir & his family came off several times to see me, urging me to spend my first day on shore with them & being determined to see those kind friends once more, I took a boat the day before our sailing & while the Captain had himself gone ashore, & being afraid of encountering him desired my men to pull hard, when lo! just as we were rounding a steep rock, what should appear full in view but the cocked hat & epauletter of our captain! Escape was impossible & I did not like the idea of hiding myself from him, so I put on a bold face & when he rowed alongside, I stood up & saluted him; still as he did not hail me. I passed on, expecting every moment a recall. But this did not take place & the matter was overlooked, though I heard on my return that the First Lieutenant was reprimanded for allowing me to go. I felt very weak when first landed, but having sent for a horse, I soon recovered & first paid a visit to a lady you may remember as Mrs. Montgomery Hamilton: she has married a Dr. Renton here, one of the first gentlemen of the island & lives in very good style. I had diner at Dr. Renton's house once before & met two or three Glasgow people, among others a brother of Miss Shortridge with whom I had a dispute concerning Mr. Almond & Mr. Montgomery. Afterwards I proceeded to Mr. Muir's, & escorted by Miss Montgomery & 2 other young ladies, I visited the nunneries at Funchal: there are two of these edifices, much alike gloomylooking buildings with emblems of the crucifixion on many parts of them, & generally one or two shaven & well fed looking Friars

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standing near them. On entering the courtyard, you come to a piazza with a grating beneath it, behind which the Nuns stand & speak to strangers; but not relishing the idea of remaining in the open air, particularly with too young ladies under my care I signified that if not admitted with inside the building, I should depart. The Nuns reluctantly consented & gave me a key with which we gained entrance to a room upstairs, furnished with chairs &c. There was a broad grating between us & the nuns & a small turning box in which the money was deposited for our little purchases of sweetmeats & artificial flowers; the conversation being carried on in broken French. I took was glad to praise whatever there was that could be praised & thus gained the hearts of the poor Nuns, old & unromantic looking beings they were, & who salivated most shockingly, but they invited us to return on one of the public days, when strangers are occasionally, as a special favo[u]r, permitted to inspect the buildings, & positively refused to accept any payment for all the preserved citrons, Peaches, Plums & pears which we had eaten. The artificial flowers which I purchased are made of Duck's feathers, stained of the suitable colo[u]rs. One of these convents is that of S[ant]a Clara, whence you may remember that a nun, called Clementina, was carried off by the Captain of a British Frigate; the other is called the convent of the Incarnacion [Encarnacion]. The only other objects worthy of attention in Funchal are the Cathedral, an ugly building, full of plate & the English Burying ground, a very pretty plantation, where so many of my consumptive country people lie interred. Among other persons whom I saw in Made[i]ra, was my poor tutor, Mr. Halley, who is dying fast of a decline: he received me most affectionately & sent me on board some Books & a long letter, as his dying gift. You may easily suppose that I regretted quitting Made[i]ra, where I had seen the only friends since leaving Campden House: and then the lovely climate, with enough of foreign manners & appearance to supply novelty & a counterbalancing mixture of English people to make me think myself at home. I felt as if I could have lived always in that beautiful island. As you may see, I staid[sic] there already too long & was too well treated, for the voyage on which

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I am embarked. The next place at which we touched was Teneriffe [Tenerife]; its Peak was recognized by the old hands 60 miles off appearing like a triangular spot among the clouds; its height is said to be 13,000 feet or thereabouts. We lay a day off the island. There was hardly any opportunity of going ashore, but embracing the only one that occurred I afterwards heard that I had missed the means of writing home by so doing. The Island is very bare & rugged. We lay to off S[an]ta Cruz, & having rowed to the land about 3 miles distant we walked thither. It is a Spanish town the houses flattopped[sic]; the only thing that struck me as interesting was their Moorish construction, being built round an open court, in the centre of which were little fountains of water & Bananas planted among them. Upstairs, an open Verandah looks on the court. We sat in one of these, in an Inn & regaled ourselves with Teneriffe [Tenerife] Wine & Grapes &c. It was at this town that Lord Nelson lost his arm, when making an unsuccessful attack with Capt[ain] Trowbridge. Two English Flags (they are only Jacks) are still kept in the Parochia[sic]*3 church as Trophies; but another having been carried off by a party of young Midshipmen, they are now suspended high out of reach. We entered the town at noon & were heartily laughed at: only Englishmen & Dogs being seen abroad at this hour when all honest Spaniards are taking their siesta. Immediately after my return on board the Erebus set sail & we stood away for the Cape de Verde islands, which some of my companions dreaded as they are notorious for coast Fever: however I was very glad of the opportunity of visiting them. We now entered the Tropics & soon came among this groupe[sic] of islands, which are generally flat, with high mountains towards the centre: they are all Volcanic. One is called "Sal" from the immense quantity of natural salt it produces; another "Fogo" contains a very lofty Volcano which is sometimes in activity & like those in Peru, Italy & Sicily, serves a sort of safety valve to the internal fires of these Islands. We anchored at St. Jago [Santiago] in the roads of Porto Praya [Praia], a Portuguese Town of the most wretched description. For as the eye could reach, desolation seemed to reign. A few Cocoa nuts Trees grow near the town; all else was withered grass neither Tree nor Shrub; a

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a[sic] worthy continuation of the great Sahara Desert. I made several excursions in the country for 12 miles around Porto Praya [Praia]: there is hardly a Tree to be seen, except in some few luxuriant vallies[sic], & little these were filled with Tropical fruits: little oases in the surrounding desolation. Grass & herbage were totally withered & dry, the very stones black & scorching from the heat of the sun. The Thermometer generally rises to 86º or even higher, in the shade. I often walked about botanizing the whole day, unable to get a draught of water to shake my parching thirst, except from the poor negroes (for the population consists of free negroes & a few Portuguese) & theyll were invariably hospitable & kind, often following me with their offers of aid in collecting specimens & pressing me to accept oranges, & Agua ardiente*4, or helping me to pull out the sharp spines & thorns which stuck through my stockings & tronzed [trounced] into my flesh. These beings live in a state of wretched poverty, yet are invariably happy minded & good natured. The only curiosity I have to tell you about Porto Praya [Praia] is the Baobab, a solitary tree of the kind: about 60 feet high & with a trunk 38 feet in diameter. A very beautiful Kingfisher which feeds upon insects is common: there are few other Birds, except the Gallina or Guineafowl which is seen here & there & is extremely wild: it is about the size of a small Turkey & very good eating. To make amends for the general barrenness of this island where fruits do grow they are very splendid. Oranges are thrice as large as those of St. Michael & full of the richest juices, 2 of them weigh a lb & they are purchased at the rate of 1/2 a dollar (2s/2d) a hundred: you have no idea how we used to luxuriate upon them. Lemons, Limes, Bananas, Cocoa nuts & Dates are all good & cheap. One day, accompanied by two of the officers, I penetrated to the mountainous interior of the island, about 12 miles off the coast, we passed over desert prairies of dried grass, with here & there a negro's hut, the few Trees we saw were leafless Acacias, all whose branches pointed one way from the continued force of the Trade winds blowing in that direction; & a small kind of Castor oil Tree, from whose seeds the natives express an oil which they use in their lamps. Some of the Cliffs we passed were tenanted by Hawks & Wild Monkies[sic]. The Sun beat upon us with intense heat. One if a little Herb

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bore a prickly seed, which stuck to our stockings in quantities & made our feet look like a pincushion & irritated them excessively. After ascending many barren slopes we came at length upon a small valley, full of Castor oil Bushes, descending which we entered a much longer & more beautiful one. We were now in the heart of the island & all round us the Mountains reared their peaked summits, which ended in the clouds. The scene was magnificent: to form an idea of it you must imagine yourself in a valley about twice as broad & three times as long as Glen Massan; the mountains far loftier & their tops split into all sorts of fantastic pyramids, cones & needles; the whole bottom of the valley to half way up the mountain clad in the most refreshing vegetation & a burn of water running at the bottom. It was evening when we reached this spot & the air was deliciously cool. Beautiful flowers carpeted the ground, the Kingfisher was darting from tree to tree & one little bird imitated the robin so delightfully, that we all called out we were at home in England! We hardly knew which to admire most; the stupendous cliffs on which sat jibbering monkies[sic] & Tiger cats, the mountain Peaks, gilded by the setting sun; or the refreshing luxuriance of the valley. We descended the hollow for a long way to the town of St. Domingo [São Domingo]. Here we saw water & rushed to it, like so many Camels from a caravan. A cultivated tract extended for some distance around the town, which is only a wretched village of about 50 Negro huts, built on a steep wooded bank. The bottom of the valley is planted with Sugar Cane, maize, Oranges, Cassavas and other tropical vegetables. On enquiry we found there was no Venda or Inn, but were invited by a Frenchman to partake of his hospitality. He had just recovered from fever & had built a house here for the purpose of recruiting[?] his health; the mountains here, as in every other unwholesome climate, being considered the most salubrious part. He set before us a nice dinner of cold Turkey, bread, Cassavas, Bananas & other fruits & gave us a great deal of information about the island telling us among other things, that it had only rained twice for a whole year, which was in September last, & that there would be no more rain till Sept[ember] again. During dinner 4 little Slaves, black as jet, stood behind our chairs: they were girls, very neat & clean & who obeyed the

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signs of the mistress of the house, they were from 6 to 8 years of age. After dinner, each received an embrace from the mistress & then came to us for the same, which I assure you was not withheld because of the swarthiness of their complexions, & was accompanied with a donation of fruit. Our hospitable Frenchman would accept of no compensation so I gave him my powder flask, Shot, powder & Caps; with which he was highly delighted. Mr. Hallett, the Purser of the Erebus, had to procure a horse to convey him home & our host gave us a guide. The night was as beautiful as the day had been & the moonlight so clear as to enable us to read a small printed book: we returned late to Porto Praya [Praia] & went on board highly delighted with the day's excursion.
Two days afterwards I went again to the valley of St. Domingo [São Domingo], & then we sailed away to the southward. Our course was now for St. Helena & nearly a 3 months' voyage lay before us: to account for this, I must tell you that in the Tropics to the North of the Line, a N[orth] E[asterly] trade wind regularly blows. South of the Line, an equally steady S[outh] E[asterly] trade wind prevails, so that to get to St. Helena, one must cross the Ocean near Pernambuco then go South making as much Easting as the wind will allow, to the latitude of Rio: and when out of the Tropics take the chance of a West Wind which will blow us to the longitude of St. Helena, & run up to that island on the Trade wind. A glance at the map will show you what an out of the way cruize[sic] this is. On the Line we visited St. Paul's Rocks, a wretched cluster, about as big as all the houses in the Crescent put together, inhabited by nothing but Wild Fowl, Boobies, Noddies &c. In Lat[itude] 20º S[outh] we visited the little island of Trindada*5, off the coast of Brazil; it is about 6 miles long & very barren. Our lovely white Tern was very abundant & so tame as to fly about our heads within arm's length, fixing its black eyes upon us, with a look of curiosity.
We have now been for some time to the Southward of the Tropic & out of the Trade wind, looking out for one that will blow us so far East as that the Tradewind [sic] will take us up straight to St. Helena. We shall spend a fortnight there, thence visit Tristan d'Acunha, then the Cape*6 & Kerguelen's Land*7, Van Dieman's Land*8 & New Zealand. By October we shall be

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steering South, to spend the winter on the Ice of an Antarctic climate.
Now, my dear sisters, I have nearly said my say. I am very happy & comfortable here & not very idle. As yet I have had "no particular quarrel" with anyone. The Captain is excessively kind & so is the Surgeon; the former has given me a Table on his own cabin where I sit & draw Sea Animals which we fish for everyday. I always read & write in my own cabin. I often lye in my cot & dream of you all at home, my brother [&]*9 sisters I particularly miss, accustomed as I have been to their society it seems strange to me to be isolated from by so many thousand miles from the only seven persons I have known to love. Farewell my dear sisters, you may always think of me as very happy, more than content, I ought to be. Whether we return at the end of three years or six years is known only to our Captain: & he will probably be guided by circumstances. Till then always believe me
Your most affectionate brother | J.D.Hooker
This to be returned to us please as soon as convenient & if desired I shall be very glad to write it out again for you. M.H.*10)


1. This letter is a 19th century copy written in a hand not that of the original author, Joseph Dalton Hooker. The copy was probably made by Hooker's mother or sister so that a version could be circulated amongst family and friends.
2. HMS 'Erebus' was one of two ships, the other one was HMS Terror, that sailed on an expedition to the Antarctic in 1839. Hooker was the youngest of the 128 man crew and assistant to Robert McCormick, the ship's Surgeon. The expedition was a great success as it confirmed the existence of the southern continent and charted much of its coastline. It returned safely to England in 1843.
2a. Letter is addresses to Joseph Hooker's younger sisters Elizabeth 'Bessy' Hooker and Mary Harriet Hooker.
3. Hooker seems to have made an attempt to use the Spanish word Parroquia as meaning parish church.
4. The term 'Agua ardiente' or aguardiente refers to a strongly alcoholic beverage obtained by fermentation and later distillation of various ingredients. Its consumption is widespread in Spain, Portugal and many South American countries.
5. This is the archaic name for Trindade and Martim Vaz, an archipelago located about 1,200 kilometres east off the coast of Brazil.
6. In this context the Cape refers to Cape Horn, named after the city of Hoorn in the Netherlands. It is the southernmost headland of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago of southern Chile, and is located on the small Hornos Island.
7. Kerguelen's Land refers to the Kerguelen Islands, also known as the Desolation Islands, which is a group of islands in the southern Indian Ocean.
8. Van Diemen's Land was the original name used by most Europeans for the island of Tasmania.
9. The manuscript is blotted.
10. The initials could refer to Mary Harriet Hooker or Maria Hooker who were Joseph Dalton Hooker's sisters.

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