It’s common knowledge that William Hope Hodgson spent many years of his young life at sea. What you may not know is that one of the ships WHH sailed upon still exists and can be visited by people today!
In November, 1897, Hodgson signed aboard the Euterpe which was appropriately named after the Greek muse of music and poetry. According to Jane Frank, Hodgson signed on in Glasgow as an ordinary seaman and left the ship at Dunedin, New Zealand on April 12, 1898. Frank quotes that his total wages for the five months of brutal work was about “$1.50 ($35 today)” because, like indentured servants, their food and berths were deducted from their pay leaving a pitiful balance.
Hodgson’s time on the Euterpe would be included in his essay “Ten Months at Sea” which he often delivered as a lecture with his photographs as highlights. Hodgson’s return journey, which took place on the Canterbury, made up the rest of the details of the essay and are also the subject of his “Ship’s Log” which Jane Frank reprinted in The Wandering Soul.
Frank provides this handy summary of the history of the Euterpe:
“The Euterpe, named after the Greek goddess of music, was built at Ramsey Shipyard on the Isle of Man in 1863—a fully rigged iron ship, with royal sails and double topsails—and sold in 1871 to Shaw, Savill & Co., London. She was intended for passengers and freight on the New Zealand trade, and in those days would have been a rarity, since most ships were still built of wood. While this shipping company specialized in the carriage of emigrants out to New Zealand, on this particular voyage the cargo was dynamite and explosives—which Hodgson detailed in his slide lecture. The Euterpe made many a round trip from London/Glasgow to New Zealand for its owners, before it was sold to American owners J.J. Moore, Honolulu in 1898. Hodgson also reported this newsworthy event in the lecture, and in his diary.” (Frank, 21)
Even before Hodgson came aboard, the Euterpe had suffered calamities. During her maiden voyage to India in 1863, she suffered a collision which later led her crew to mutiny. On the second trip, she was caught in a cyclone in the Bay of Bengal, barely making port. It was on this return journey that her captain, William John Storry, died and was buried at sea.
The Euterpe was later sold to the Alaska Packer’s Association in San Francisco which renamed her Star of India. She was also trimmed down from a full-rigged ship into a barque. In 1923, she was retired and put out of service. Eventually, the Star of India was restored and is an attraction at the San Diego Maritime Museum where it is displayed as “the world’s oldest active sailing ship.”
If you want to get a taste of what Hodgson’s life at sea was like, make sure you take a trip to San Diego where you can walk the same deck that WHH strode over 100 years ago!
The website for the San Diego Maritime Museum is: http://www.sdmaritime.org/star-of-india/
(The pictures in this post are courtesy of Hodgsonian Darrell Schweitzer who also works to keep WHH’s legacy alive. Thanks, Darrell!)
Frank, Jane. The Wandering Soul: Glimpses of a Life. A Compendium of Rare and Unpublished Works by William Hope Hodgson. Tartarus Press: N. Yorkshire, UK. 2005.