On board the S.S. Wadai, en route to Monrovia


Loring Whitman


June 19, 1926 - July 5, 1926


Letter No. 3.                                                  

On board the “S.S.Wadai”.

En route to Monrovia.


Dear Family;-

            Once more we are bounded by blue water, through far to the east we can see the coast of France dimly showing through the haze. But we are in vastly different surroundings from those which graced our passage across the Atlantic.

            First of all the speed – its rather difficult to realize that we are going full speed ahead after the terrific speed of the Mauretania. For a long time we told one another that it was only half speed until we woke up this morning to find our pace unaltered. Still a slow boat is more comfortable and after all what is hurry?

            Secondly the size – compared to the Mauretania with its many layers of decks, its lounges, and sitting rooms, its long corridors and countless staterooms, this boat is but a toy or at best a small lighter. The water seems so close, even when standing on the top deck and one no longer has the sense of towering above the world. And it is necessary to walk twenty times round the deck to cover a mile. Then again instead of “Right you are” or “Righto” we are surrounded with “Ja” and “bitte”, although we don’t have to speak the language to be understood. “Kein Zutritt” or “Boots decken” are the types of signs that we see. And yet it is very clean and comfortable, the food is excellent and the passengers all German except four.

            Yesterday was the busy day – an early breakfast, a trip to the bank to get countless half crowns, florins, shillings, and sixpences. We had packed the night before so that we are comparatively ready to start. Then came tipping to the right and left – upstairs and downstairs – east and west. All the accumulated luggage for eight people was brought out and placed on top of a bus, five dress suit cases, 20 tin trunks, 1 tin hat box, 1 rifle case – all had to be counted several times to make sure that it was all there. Then the usual wait for something lost or still to be got and we were off from the hotel – off from London – off for Africa.

            The trip to Southampton was quiet and beautiful but instead of being the first green fields we had seen, it was the last we were to see for may days. It was interesting to compare the scenery from the train with that from the plane. The fields which had looked so tiny now locked quite large, while the green wool trees were majestic oaks. Gone was the roar but in its place dust and cinders. The constant rising and falling had given way to a steady jiggling and jarring and yet it is pleasant to be able to smell the freshness of the English countryside – a pleasure foreign to flying. We talked of cooks, of sleeping sickness and yellow fever, of travelling in the Orient. But above all, we dreamed of events to come in the future, of black people, of endless tropical forests shimmering in the reflected heat, of the Monrovia officials in silk hats and umbrellas.

            At Southampton we again counted our luggage before taking a taxi to the docks where we met Bequaert, who had stowed the rest of our supplies on board the lighter which was to take us out to the Wadai. We handed over our passports and tickets and once more filled out “Aliens Cards” before we could board the boat. Then came the anxious moment when they lowered the remainder of our supplies about in a net.

            But soon all was on board – a whistle blew – and we backed away from the dock – and England – to slowly glide down the harbor. Theiller, Hal and I sat and watched the white mice and guinea pigs, of which we hope to have plenty. They seemed so out of place there on the deck of a boat, constantly milling around to get as far as possible from the cool wind which blew into their boxes. Dr. Strong gazed wistfully in the meantime over our luggage – 3 ½ months food and a year’s scientific outfit for eight men. Still, he smiled. But we were alongside the Wadai and it was time for us to move once more.

            It was quite exciting watching them swing all our goods and chattles on board in the nets – guns, trunks, chemicals, and dress suit cases were all poured in together to fuse into a soft, jelly-like mass, or, so we felt, as the crane lifted them, hung them for a perilous moment over the water, to finally yank them on board and dump them.into the hold. I tried to turn my eyes away but the horrible fascination of the scene gripped me and I watched the last box being hoisted clear of the lighter to swing at last into the depths of the Wadai. Then up came the anchor – whistles blew for the final time and we swung round and away.

            For a while we watched the shores of England drift slowly by, the same shores which seemed so new a week ago but now waved to us as if we were leaving home. Dr. Shattuck and I stood on the top deck and commented on the slowness of the boat and how close to the water we were compared to the big trans-Atlantic boats. I then tried to inveigle (look’s wrong) him into having a cocktail as the sun was just over the yardarm but he confessed to a puritanical feeling at the moment. I then tried to seduce other members of the party – but no – and I refuse to drink alone. Ah, me, it's a lonely world. We had tea and coffee instead. At supper we presented a flag which Hal had had made – and an American flag with a little note to Dr. Strong. We then drank to the health of the absent ones and dinner was on. In the evening I went down to my cabin and played the uke by my lonesome in the dark. It was the first time that I had had it with me since we landed in England and I felt very glad to have it back. After an hour I wandered up to the deck. The sun was just setting behind low jagged clouds which floated above the dark land. There was just a faint line between the ever restless water and the cliffs which formed the end of England and over these faint rays shot down through little holes in the clouds linking the sky with the earth and with these holes, as if framed, more billowy masses stood out each one rimmed with gold. If only I could paint. <Drawing of box with “Harvard African Expedition”> 

            I ran across Mr. and Mrs. Mills. He was vice-consul for the British at Rio de Janeiro for the last three years and is now going to Monrovia to take over the post there. Interesting, but with no humor, he is setting out for a desolate spot with the usual English stoicism. His wife of two weeks is American, born in Chicago, lived in Greenwich – with much vivacity and humor. She has never been in the tropics before and –well, I pity her from the bottom of my heart. She seemed a little starved even in two weeks for news of the U.S.A. and to talk with somebody who was American. And every mile joke had to be explained to her husband.

            We had an awful time with breakfast. Before we went to bed they advanced the clock about one-half hour so we all got up by that time for breakfast, to be told we were only an hour and forty minutes too early. Fortunately, Hal and I had decided to sleep late so that by getting up at nine o’clock we didn’t have long to wait for early breakfast it was another beautiful day – a brisk breeze chasing little white cape over an otherwise calm sea. We walked a couple of miles (2 measured) around the decks before settling down to writing and otherwise occupying our time. Some of us slept – the after effects of London – some wrote letters home – and some just sat in deck chairs. Hal and I resurrected or guns from the hold but did not have time to really unlimber them. After lunch more exercise – deck tennis – shuffle board – mile after mile walks at rapid pace round the decks – even running – until by tea time we were completely worn out. Dr. Allen, Linder, and I spent a large part of our time watching the Jaegers, Shearwaters, and Gannets through field glasses, discussing them. 

            After dinner, Hal and I were standing outside, when the only two frauleins came along. They speak practically no English and we absolutely no German. We had a wonderful time with a German-English and an English-German lexicon. You should have been with us. We danced with them to the pitifully slow music of the boat orchestra. The older one, Ada Fehling, is extremely handsome as well as German-looking with a rather statuesque bearing. The younger one (14) Elisabeth, on the other hand has all the spontaneity of a tomboy and took us in tow. We had a very amusing evening talking with them. We call Harold “Ick” now after his pronunciation of “Ich”. The only trouble was that we couldn’t shake the younger and even her family had no influence over her. Her Mother’s arguments were met by a pair of heels as he disappeared round the corner to meet us later as we headed for our cabin.

            Friday June 25th. I suppose I had better start putting in dates, otherwise, I will soon be lost. My day has been spent playing with Elisabeth, or “Fox” as she is called, meaning for-terrior. It is a very good name for her as she is never still for a moment. We started by tossing rubber discs until Theiller came along. Then we played shuffle board, Hal having joined us, for hours. Fox and I stood Theiller and Hal but T. was too good for us. Also we got into the minus ten square three times running towards the end of the game. But finally the game was over so that Hal and I could take our walk. We ended up with a half mile run which made us appreciate the cold shower all the more. After lunch I went up on deck to sleep in the sun. Unfortunately I picked a popular spot for soon the frauleins dragged chairs across and with them came their friends. My siesta was ruined. We lay around and talked until “Fox” kicked the foot-piece from under her next door neighbor’s feet or untied his shoes or otherwise made herself agreeable. I don’t think she sat down for more than five seconds at a stretch. Finally I got restless too and reverted to my arboreal ancestors, I climbed and clambered over whatever scaffolding I could find. It was excellent exercise. Fox joined me in this sport while Ada followed more majestically. But after a couple of hours of this harmless sport, I tired and went below to the peace and quietude of my cabin where Hal soon joined me. We wrote a few letters and cleaned up odds and ends before taking out our rifles for our daily practices. Theiller joined us so the three of us stalked game, fired rapidly, and generally made damn fools of ourselves as far as the audience (mostly crew) was concerned. But supper is ready and we must get dressed.

            As we sat at table looking out over the rolling water, the moon peeked over the horizon -  a large red disc slowly rising thru a golden haze from out a purple sea – as it rose it gradually changed to a brilliant yellow, casting a mellowness over the water – foreign to its usual lustre – a harvest moon. I went up to the top deck alone and just sat drinking in the sight. I don’t remember even trying to think – no, I just sat and absorbed the softness and peacefulness. Later Mr. and Mrs. Mills joined me. We sat there for hours it seemed, just talking. Mr. Mills had vanished in the meantime. We talked of America, of Liberia, of Paris and Algiers. But even the glory of the evening was not sufficient to keep the cold creeping in upon us so we were forced at last to wander below. I took the opportunity and went to bed early.

            Saturday – June 26th. I am afraid that these letters of sea life may prove a little boring. Still we must be complete and I am trying o make them as palatable as possible altho I will not guarantee their worth at the end of this two weeks’ trip. Today, for me, has been one of pursuit – I acting as the pursued. It is a very novel experience for me but it has its drawbacks especially when conversation is largely curtailed through limited vocabularies. Another unfortunate circumstances is that my pursuer is but 14 years old and although I am not immune to the cradle, still I do not believe – it’s the principle I mean – in flirting with the young. I made the very foolish mistake of showing her a photo of Donia and me which Hal too on the Mauretania and she practically tore off the picture of me to keep. I had to take it away by brute force saying that I was going to send it to my fiancée, etc. No dice and now I am pursued for a picture. It really is very funny though, she has taken to retaliation or better, revenge, which means that we must keep our cabin locked at all times. Today there was soap on the tooth brushes, coat hangers in the bed, pajamas in the wash basin, etc. However, many others on board have suffered in like manner. The ship’s doctor had perfume and powder sprinkled thru his blankets.

            But before all this complication arose, I had a very pleasant time talking to Fox and playing with the little half German, half Japanese kid. I resurrected my knowledge of past toys and built block houses out of shuffle board discs.

            In the evening I played bridge with two old men and Mrs. Mills. It was rather a sleepy game, in which she occasionally trumped my ace. Still we had a good time and I was spared the frauleins for a moment.

            Sunday – June 27th. A day of rest for most of us, though Dr. Strong paced the decks with streaming brow. It is a dull, hot day, practically no breeze – the sea is oily and dull – the sky a smooth, creamy gray – and yet it is hot. In the morning I did my best to write but it was only with the greatest concentration that I could keep my mind on the subject. I gave up finally to make a few more “dampfers” or “schiffs” for Anita – the little half caste with oriental eyes and black hair. Then to the top deck with the “Diary of a Young Lady of Fashion” for a few hours quiet. After awhile Anita joined me again – sat down in a deck chair beside me and asked for more. Luckily the Doctor had some paper in his pocket. Then I took her down to lunch.

            In the afternoon I took my customary siesta in the company of “Luti” or “Fox”, on the top deck where the breezes blow and the sun shines. It’s very pleasant just to be able to sit in the sun and dream – no effort, no time – just sit – and the next thing you know its four o’clock and time for coffee. I tried to walk with the chief but Ada stopped us to take his picture. And then I must needs see some negative of me, and retaliate by taking a picture of Ada – so the afternoon ended with my talking to the two girls.

            After supper Mrs. Mills and I continued our game of bridge but set a time limit on the game. Of course, we lost again. Then came dancing once more to ghostly music – so slow that you almost stick to the floor you stay in one spot so long. But just before we started dancing a big yellow moon rose majestically from out the ocean to hang for a moment over the sea, before climbing up behind the clouds to disappear for the night. Ada asked Dr. Strong to dance with her. It was distinctly amusing to hear the chief’s suave excuses. We sat, Dr. Strong, Hal, Dr. Shattuck, Dave, and I escorted by Ada, Luti, Frau Fehling, the Captain, for about an hour before going to bed, kidding one another along. Then I got my ukulele and the two girls,  Hal, and I made much music on the top deck.

            Monday – June 28th. The laziest day I have spent so far – no exercise at all. Still I did accomplish something by developing some of the pictures I had already taken. One of them, which I will include in this letter, is rather good – a picture of Ada. It was good fun to get back into the old dark room again, even thought I was working with unknown chemicals. I then went up on deck where I found Luti and sat for a couple of hours in the sun with her.

            After lunch, Hal, Dr. Shattuck, Ada, Luti, and I sat three-quarters asleep on the boat deck. It must be quite amusing to see give peoples’ eyes shut, slumped down in deck chairs, “jus’ settin’” without saying a word. Hours pass and rarely a movement on anyone’s part. But the sun crept in under our awning when I wasn’t looking and – oh, arms are very, very burnt. Later in the day – after coffee – I printed some pictures for Ada – not very good – which she then gave me. It seems to a custom among Germans to exchange the countless photos which they are taking without end.

            After supper I happened to hear Dr. Strong playing his violin in his cabin. I listened for a while, then getting my uke I sneaked up to the boat deck, lay down in a hammock beneath the stars and just enjoyed myself alone. However, after about half an hour Herr Bobzien and Fran ----- (?) came along and stopped. So did I. A minute later Frau Fehling came to listen. And when Hal came we moved to more quiet regions. Mrs. Mills joined us later so we serenaded her with all the songs we could think of. But we must join the ladies. Later in the evening I fetched once more my uke – by request – and played for an audience of about ten. But, so ends the day.

            Tuesday – June 29th. Land Ho! The same calm sunny weather is still with us, only each day is hotter than the one before. And each day I get more and more crimson. Early in the morning we could see the peak of Teneriffe rising out of the water to the south, 100 miles away – a sharp pointed peak about which clouds slumbered in the morning sun.

            I developed some more of my own pictures and a roll of film for Ada. It’s hot in the dark room – especially with two in it.

            But when I finished and popped up again into fresh air and daylight, there was an island – close by now – towering sheer out of the water. No trees, no green of any sort – just ragged, red and brown cliffs rising directly out of the water, to end in irregular spikes and pinnacles. And behind all this rose the central peak, 1,000 feet high, its head now shrouded by clouds – the guardian of the Islands. We slipped along the shore to find occasional villages snuggling into some little pocket in the cliffs at the very water’s edge, while behind rose tier on tier of irrigation terraces – a mute testimony to the dryness of the country. Two little sail boats came bobbing across to waves to look us over, with a dusky crew of youths singing lustily in Spanish. But we were entering the harbor now – to be sure a mere curve in the shore line with a mole along which freighters lay with much clanking of machinery, as bale after bale of merchandise was swung up from the docks to hang for a moment before diving forever into the bowels of the ship. And along the mole were lines of people who had come to see the boat dock – mostly Spanish in overalls or other dilapidated clothing, though a few Europeans in white suits mingled with the crowd. No one was in a hurry – no one moved any more than was actually required – they just stood in one spot talking – gesticulating – and, as we finally drifted alongside, begging. The minute the gangplank was lowered we were boarded by a villainous-looking crew who swarmed the decks in countless numbers. We locked our cabin doors hastily. They were the longshoremen who were to unload what freight we had. Still a more formidable lot of cutthroats I have rarely seen.

            We disembarked and for the first time in six days set foot on shore. We were immediately surrounded by a loquacious group of beggars, hotel agents and guides, who jabbered at us in a mixture of all languages, of which Spanish made up the greater part. We were first pushed into a small Chevrolet, but five of us and a driver in a car really designed for four was more than we could stand. We therefore climbed out and demanded a new vehicle – pointing to a Fiat next us. We had been told it was a private car but they changed their minds when they saw we were resolute. Then the guide wanted to come along but we turned him down. More voluble Spanish and still more. Nobody seemed to want to go. However, by verbally prodding the driver into activity we at last got underway to the incessant tune of a squawking French horn. I promise here and now that if even I meet the inventor of that devilish instrument face to face, one of us will die. 

            After leaving the dock we passed up through the town of Santa Cruz – typically Spanish (so I am told) with narrow streets paved with cobble stones and always balconies. Everything was closed even though it was only 4:30 but from every window and doorway peered the famous Spanish beauties. The shutters all are suspended from above so that you can put your head out and still be protected form the sun and I must admit that they make the best of these opportunities. The houses were plain, smooth plastered walls painted in pink, blues, whites, etc. presenting a rather a formidable exterior to the traveller outside. And always somebody looking out.

            But soon we left the town behind, to climb in snakelike fashion up, up, up – until we could look down onto the very rooftops onto the harbor with its toy boats, out onto the deep blue sea dotted by an occasional sail – out across to other jagged islands looming dimly thru the distant haze. We were in an arid land now – cactuses flaking the road while terraces of straw colored wheat or dusty corn stretched away on either side, and always the torn and jagged horizon around us. We passed person after person trudging alongside, the women carrying water, or sticks, or other sundries perilously perched on their heads. Men usually rose already overburdened, diminutive donkeys. Quite a change from the bustle of London. An occasional ox team passed and once two camels trudged slowly by, their noses in the air in haughty disdain. As we reached the top we found more extensive fields on each side of us while the road was shaded by tall eucalyptus trees – a relief from the hot sun which bores through everything. And then we plunged down to the other side to again return to the vari-colored terraces. It was just like a crazy quilt only done in yellows, greens, and browns, all in little patches, on the steep volcanic slopes which plunge into the sea. And way down below us, where there was an amphitheatre, lay the little town of Oratava, surrounded by endless fields of banana trees – really a forest of them. We skirted the edge of the island, coming round corners to gaze over the bright, arid slopes, occasionally we could look down on harvesters winnowing the wheat on some exposed knoll. A little wall would surround the bright yellow amphitheatre in which some six or more people diligently worked, tossing up yellow clouds which drifted slowly down with the wind. While the background rose the peak now bathed in mist, now towering above the clouds, which always nestled along its slopes.

            We stopped at the botanical gardens, a jungle of assorted tropical flowers, or rather trees, half of which are not labeled. Still it was beautiful. At one end was a little pool with black swans in it, while a dark blue, green tree, (like cedar) leaned over the water. This was all surrounded by ivy-grown walls. Our next port of call was the bathing beach – it consists of black lava pebbles and jagged rocks. One could hardly call it a beach – the swimming it more ducking up and down in shallow pools. Everywhere were Spanish families – the youngsters naked – sitting around a spotless tablecloth on which was spread wine and milk for the baby. The little ones were beautifully browned from the constant exposure to the tropical sun. But we had no bathing suits!

            On our way back we passed regular canons, now dry but which in the rainy season must be torrents as they plunge down the almost vertical slopes of the island. And across them are tall arched bridges. But I am afraid that I am unable to give you a picture of the place.

            We returned to Santa Cruz where we had supper. Then Theiller and I returned to the boat. On our way we decided to get some cigarettes and as neither of us knew any Spanish, we hoped to have a good time. But, of course, the first thing we saw was Camels and the man behind the counter spoke very good English. Oh well, such is life. 

            But back abroad the Wadai there was still activity. Box after box was being swung clear of the dock in the blaze of electricity, while overhead the bright tropical stars gleamed and the water lapped against the breakwater. We sat on the rail watching the men working – bright highlights and deep shadows, till off in the east a yellow moon rose out of the sea.

             Wednesday – June 30th. We awoke to find ourselves again drifting over the water – a hot, leaden sun was pouring through a morning haze, while a sort of breathlessness enveloped us. But as we were eating breakfast we entered the harbor of Las Palmas – a real harbor in which many boats were busily engaged in loading or unloading their cargoes. As soon as we dropped anchor – we did not dock – we were again boarded, this time by Indians who were selling every conceivable kind of trinket at outrageously high prices, although they were perfectly willing to accept one quarter of the original price. Bracelets, rings, ebony elephants, cigaret holders, lace, shawls, etc., all strewn over the deck.

            Dr. Allen, Bequaert, and I stayed on board while the rest of the party went sight-seeing ashore. I said good-bye to the frauleins, who are leaving us here, and then spent most of the time looking over the motley crew. One man rowed alongside with a cargo of assorted fruit, puppies and canaries for sale. Another had fish, still others offered cigarets while a few just begged. They looked so picturesque, floating on the brilliant blue water in the bright sun. And always the constant rattle of four sets of machinery as the four holds were emptied into huge barges. A water boat came alongside to pump endlessly. In the afternoon some boys came alongside to dive for coins in the clear water. It was fascinating to watch them swimming about under water for the flashing silver.

            But at last we finished loading – the anchor slowly clanked up and we were off again – for five more days before we arrived at Freetown in Sierra Leone.

            In the evening I developed some more pictures and nearly spoiled them the water was so hot. 

            Thursday – July 1st. Still another day at sea – a fresh following wind but rather dull. Hal and I took our first walk round the deck in two days. I am afraid that we were getting very lazy. I think disappeared into my dark room to make prints which lasted until lunch time. I spent most of the afternoon talking to Mr. and Mrs. Mills and walking with the chief. Really a thrilling day to write about. And in the evening I disappeared for nearly two hours to the top deck where I played music to myself – alone. Then bed –

            Friday – July 2nd. The dampness is getting more and more oppressive every day, altho the actual temperature is still low -75. And as it gets muggier we, in turn, slowly lose our activity. I spent the morning doing just two things – one was writing my diary which I had ignored for over a week – the other was playing with Anita. She sat on my lap for over an hour while I made vain attempts to draw pictures for her. My imagination was excellent even though my execution was poor. Then we hit upon the happy idea of tracing one another’s hands on one sheet of paper over and over again until there was practically no white left. She is really a fascinating child – black hair and dark brown, inquiring eyes, half oriental, and a roguish grin. She is absolutely self-contained and goes around by herself, singing and paying no attention to theirs. Her Mother is a mixture of Japanese and Polynesian – very oriental but with the charm of both races in her face – while her Father is German. In some ways she is going to lead a hellish life – with all the emotions of the occident and orient clashing one with the other and always a half-caste. I pity her although she will be very interesting. But now “she has my hear, my love an’ all, just as sure as stars done shine”. I suppose she is 4 years old.

            There is another child aboard – about 2 – with a round baby face and almost white hair, she is so blonde. Her name is Emeline Frauendorf. Her Mother is typical of the ultra blonde, healthy, outdoor Bavarian woman – about 25 – while her Father is a big, stocky, very pleasant looking, brown-haired German. Emeline and Anita form complete antitheses altho they enjoy one another’s society.

            I spent the afternoon in utter boredom. I was too lazy to read and too restless to sit down – altho I was not energetic enough to walk. So I spent most of the time wandering from one chair to another in search of entertainment. But it evaded me and I returned to my cabin to pick up Les Miserables – in French – and was soon engrossed. But at 4:30 I hove myself up on deck to walk 5 or 6 miles with Dr. Strong, as per usual. In some ways it is extremely uninteresting when one trip around the deck is only about 100 yards. Still it must be done both for my health and the chief’s pleasure, (we hope). And, too, it makes a shower and a cocktail all the more agreeable.

            By the way, the cocktails on this boat are vile  - no other word for it. I asked for a Manhattan – ugh -. The next day I tried a Martini, to find it exactly the same. So, on the third day I ordered a Bronx to have still the same identical mixture shoved at me. So now we have a gin and vermouth (there are only two of us who practice this evil custom.)

            After supper I was summoned from the coolness and quietness of the boat deck to bridge below – of course, we lost some more – but we couldn’t get out of it. However, I said that I must top early to do some printing – and then I had to do it. But after perspiring for about an hour in the dunkle kammer (dark room), dressed only in sox, I re-clothed myself and went out on deck where I ran into Herr Feltmann – a very nice young chap (24?), who is going down to work on a plantation in Victoria for two  years’ experience. We talked about planting and then switched to guitars and ukes. He has a flute with him.

             But while I remember it – as the chief and I were going round, round, and round the decks we sighted a school of porpoises which stretched in a band from one horizon to the other, all jumping. I have never seen so many before nor have any of our well travelled members. Miles of them leaping clear of the water to splash back. And as we passed thru the cordon, the nearest of them converged upon us to disport themselves in the waves about us, then off again to fill the ranks as they slowly drifted north.

            Saturday – July 3rd. Hot weather is coming now – in fact, we had a rise of 7 degrees last night and 4 more during the day – a really hot, muggy day when the last drop of energy oozes out thru the pores of the skin. I spent a very pleasant morning reading “Hangman’s House” – charming book – I hated to lay it aside for lunch and immediately returned to it after the meal. It was very comfortable sitting in the light breeze without moving. 

            The ship’s doctor joined us for lunch – a very pleasant young chap about 30, who has this job as a vacation. He is a research laboratory man in Hamburg – quite good-looking and very agreeable – and he speaks English quite well. We took turns sitting next him. “Come on, Allen, sit next him and tell him about Zoology” or “Tell him about insects, Bequaert”. Rather a hard bill to fill.

            This afternoon I wrote and helped Hal write his article on Admiralty Island until tea time. As we were having tea we looked out over the water to see flying fish skimming around – silver flashes with black wings which reflected the afternoon sun – and framed by the dark blue rolling waves. Yesterday the flying fish had silver wings but these have the black to make more brilliant their silver bodies.

            And in the evening came my last dark room work. The water is now too warm to use even when ice is used to cool the developer.

            Sunday – July 4th. HOORAY – and yet no celebration. The morning was spent in literary pursuit. Letters must be written in preparation for arriving in Freetown – diaries must be bought up to date, etc. The afternoon also passed in a similar manner, altho I did have a chance to play with Anita for an hour or so. But at supper we had the real festival. Mr. and Mrs. Mills joined us and we had a cocktail all around. Then into the dining-room. There we found an elaborate scaffolding on our table with snap crackers and American flags, ‘n’ everything. We really had a very pleasant dinner. The American flag had been made by the boatswain out of a bit of white tablecloth with red and blue crayons. It must have been quite a task and he did it very well indeed.

            In the evening we sat around in the breeze and talked.

            Monday – July 5th. More letter writing by all hands. They say that there will be an English boat at Freetown, Sierra Leone, which will take over our mail. Hence the feverish rush. 

            And so I will bring this letter to a close. We will be in Monrovia tomorrow and will settle down for two weeks’ activity before disappearing into the bush. I will write again before that time comes. 

            Give my best to all the family and write my occasionally.

            Your loving son



Historical Documents



Original Format


Mr. and Mrs. Whitman Jr.


Loring Whitman, “On board the S.S. Wadai, en route to Monrovia ,” A Liberian Journey: History, Memory, and the Making of a Nation, accessed November 20, 2017, http://liberianhistory.org/items/show/3624.