Richard H. Peterson, Book Review Editor
A Gold Rush Voyage on the Bark Orion. Edited by Robert W. Wienpahl. Glendale: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 1978. Bibliography. Illustrations. Index. 298 pages. $18.25.
Reviewed by Brad Luckingham, Associate Professor of History, Arizona State University, Ternpe.
Robert W. Wienpahl, a Professor of Music History at California State University, Northridge, and a sailing enthusiast, has edited four separate journals of the same voyage around the Horn in 1848-49. The four journalists sailed aboard the bark Orion, and it was a good ship. Bound for San Francisco from Boston, it contained a competent master, no mutinous crew members, and contented passengers. For the most part, it was a pleasant trip with interesting stops at Rio de Janeiro and Juan Fernandez Island, the latter made famous by the story of Robinson Crusoe.
As the editor notes, there are inaccuracies in the journals, and “the lesson to be learned from the collation of these various accounts is that it is folly to rely upon a single journal and that the greater the lapse of time between the events and the publication of them, the greater the unreliability.” Wienpahl’s introduction and annotation help clarify matters, and provide as well a proper historical setting. He also includes a passenger and crew list, together with biographical sketches of the journalists and the captain.
The four journals, kept by Foster H. Jenldns, Henry S. Bradley, Seth Draper and Ezekial Barra, all at times read too much like weather reports, but they also include detailed descriptions of an eventful week in Rio, shipboard problems and amusements, holidays at sea, a deranged surgeon of the ship, a fascinating four days on Juan Fernandez Island, former residence of Robinson Crusoe or Alexander Selkirk, and the anticipation of arriving in San Francisco following a long voyage.
A number of illustrations, notably charts, along with informative appendices and a brief bibliography add to the appeal of the book.