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doc. 12 — 24 December 1836 - 18 July 1837.

Travel Journal of Jean-Baptiste-François Pompallier and his missionaries, written by Pierre Bataillon

Translated by Fr Brian Quin SM, October 2006 + some material from Charles Girard SM

1836. 24 December. After two months waiting at the home of Madame the widow Dodard, at Le Havre, Bishop Pompallier, four priests and three Brothers of his Congregation,[1] with two priests, a sub-deacon and a Brother of the Picpus Congregation put to sea on the ship La Delphine, captain Rouget, at 11 a.m. There are two other businessmen passengers. In less than two hours, all are more or less seriously affected by seasickness.
25 December. A good and strong wind. We are skirting the English coast. We celebrate the Sunday.
26 December. Wind the same. A heavy sea. All are still a bit tired from seasickness. A brig crosses our route quite close to the Delphine’s prow, during the night. It is one of our greatest dangers.
27 Wind and sea the same. Rain.
28 Same. In the evening everyone on the bridge, fairly well recovered.
29 Some heavy showers (or squalls accompanied by rain).
30 Same. Still good progress - two or three leagues [10 to 15 km] per hour.
31 Gusts of winds (what we call a tempest).
1837. 1 January. Heavy sea, gust of wind, a sail carried away. The seamen send New Year's greetings to the Bishop.
2 Serious damage to the rudder is noticed -- alarm, fear. We will have to make port at Tenerife.
3 In the latitude of the Canaries -- same.
4 Calm and head winds (or contrary)
5 Several heavy showers -- an English steamship is seen, the distress flag is raised. No response to the signal.
6 The island of Palma, one of the Canaries, is seen. Little progress.
7 The Peak of Tenerife in sight. A fishing boat gives us a pilot to guide us to safety in Santa Cruz.
8 We get there in the morning. Anchor dropped at 9 a.m. We celebrate the Holy Mass on the ship for the first time. The islanders rush to our ship with fruit. The quarantine service having come and gone, we all went ashore. The Bishop visits the French Consul, the Governor, the Naval Commandant -- every where a warm welcome. In the evening, return on board (ie back to the ship).[2]
9 We all go ashore to celebrate Holy Mass. The Bishop is received in splendoribus [in style] in the main church. In the streets, he is continually surrounded by the islanders. A lot of beggars, people dressed in rags, children, half or entirely naked. Churches wealthy and clean. 15 priests counting the religious. 8,000 or 10,000 souls. The Vénus, a French warship, arrives.
10 Shall we go ashore to celebrate [Mass]? Departure of the above-mentioned Vénus.
11 The sea being very rough, Father Bret alone goes ashore to celebrate Mass. At 10 p.m. the strength of the sea causes our anchor chain to unwind -- great alarm -- everyone rushes to the bridge. The chain is secured at the moment when our ship was about to collide with its neighbour.
12 In the morning the danger of the roadstead convinces us to find lodgings on land. The Consul finds us a big room. We all make our way there. A mat and a miserable mattress are found for his Lordship. The others lie down on the floor. A letter from the [Cathedral] chapter and a visit to the Bishop from the Vicar General.
13 Celebration of Holy Mass as on every day of the break [in the voyage]. The Captain has the main items of food brought to us from the ship -- we add to them some oranges and bananas, very common in this country.
14 The Bishop and some of his group visit the Bishop of Laguna. He could not have been better welcomed.
15 Sunday. The missionaries assist at the high Mass -- church almost deserted -- nothing of the beauty and gravity of French ceremonies. A bourgeois who speaks French a little comes to find the Bishop to go to confession. The seamen from La Delphine come and visit us.
16 After holy Mass, rest -- study.
17 A Picpus missionary falls into the sea while getting into the rowboat; fortunately he grasps it and then he is helped out of the water.
18 The Bishop and two of his priests go and make a tour of the ship. When he comes back two canons from Laguna pay him a visit.
19 The casting of the bronze[3] needed for our repairs begins. News from Spain and France. We visit an exhibition room of natural history belonging to a former Rear Admiral de Plais[4] who happened to know the King of New Zealand.[5] He offered us letters for him and lent us a grammar of the language of that country.
20 Letter from the Bishop of Laguna to Bishop Pompallier.
21 The first workers do not succeed in casting the bronze. Others take the matter in hand, and instead of the furnace, they use a big crucible.
22 Sunday. We are not leaving. The French Consul, the Governor and the [Naval] Commander visit the Bishop.
23 Heavy sea.
24 The new process for casting is not successful.
25 A ball which was going to deprive us of our room does not take place.
26 The bronze cast in the crucible bubbles[6] and escapes when it is poured into the moulds. The workers get discouraged -- they are paid off. The Bishop takes up again the talks on the Rule that we had begun at Le Havre.
27 New attempts at casting, but a new accident; the crucible breaks. A walk up a high peak. We find a little shepherd there, who deserves a medal for knowing his prayers so well.
28 The bronze is cast in a new crucible. A bit more successful -- great hope.
29 Sunday. The Consul gives us some food items grown in the country.
30 A new accident. The crucible chain breaks and scatters the metal.
31 In line with new advice, a new type of furnace is made for the casting.
1 February. The work on the furnace goes on.
2 Candlemas. The bronze is cast and flows again without success. The Consul and a Canon visit the Bishop.
3 The crucible breaks again.
4 The work is entrusted to other workers who are confident they can do the work in two days, for 200 piastres (1000 francs) [£40].
5 Sunday. The Bishop and Father Chanel go and sleep on board. Arrival of a big English warship.
6 The Bishop cannot celebrate Mass because of a bad toothache. Father Bataillon is sent on board to gradually make the seamen ready to perform their Easter duty, beginning by teaching them to read.
7 Mardi Gras -a great multitude of masques -- everyone including the women, daubed with flour or plaster. The Bishop still cannot celebrate Mass.
8 All celebrate Mass. Few people at the Ashes ceremony.
9 All the Fathers make a copy of a spiritual rule for the mission, written by his Lordship.
10/11 We are forced to give up our lodgings for a ball. The Bishop and part of his group go and stay in a barn.[7] He then receives a fine letter from the Bishop of the Gran Canaria, with his own ring and another ceremony.
12 The new workers fail to complete the work.
13 Father Servant and Brother Joseph fall ill.
14 Arrival of the French frigate L’Artemise whose commanding officer visits the Bishop and offers him all services he can. A doctor is called to the sick, who were getting worse.
15 The workers fail again. A talk. Father Servant is getting better, Brother Joseph worse.
16 All the efforts of Darkness are exhausted. At last the first hinge of our rudder is successfully made.
17 The sick – same. The second hinge is made.
18 Saturday. The third and last hinge is made. We spend the day on shore to be present at the little sermon[8] which is usually given on Saturdays and the vigils of feastdays. The sick -- same.
19 Second Sunday of Lent. Sick -- the same.
20 The hinges are filed down. The sick -- same.
21 Our Captain, who had accumulated nearly 12,000 francs [£500] in expenses during the stay over, borrows 100 ounces [8500 francs -- £350] from the Bishop. The hinges are pierced. The sick are doing better.
22 The hinges start to be put in place.
23 The work is finished. The rudder, so much delayed[9] is taken to the shore, escorted by a multitude of curious people.
24 In the morning the rudder taken off 48 days before was put back on the Delphine.
25 People are busy settling accounts and getting provisions.
26 Third Sunday of Lent. Everyone, even Father Servant, celebrates Holy Mass. Brother Joseph is recovered enough to go on board with all the others.
27 In the morning the anchors are raised, but the currents, in the absence of a breeze, carry the ship towards the coast. The anchors have to be dropped again, and we have to wait till the following day.
28 At 9 a.m. the three anchors which were in the sea are raised again. At midday we already have lost sight of Santa Cruz, which we had seen for 52 days. Seasickness for some.
1 March. Good wind. Father Bret, who has been suffering from a bad headache for several days, is worse.
2 Wind good and strong. Medals of the Blessed Virgin put around the necks of all the sailors. Father Bret is getting worse. Evening -- head wind.
3 Head wind. — Father Bret definitely has a high fever.
4 Head wind. — The sick one, the same. Father Chanel has special responsibility for him.
5 Fourth Sunday of Lent. Wind same. The Tropic of Cancer is crossed. Father Bret takes a potion of sulphate of quinine. Father Servant falls ill again.
6 March. Wind -- same. Father Bret is not being struck by fever. [10] The Bishop hears a sailor's confession.
7 March. Wind -- same. The sick seem to be getting better.
8 March. Favourable wind. A whale is seen. The sick – same.
9 March. Morning almost calm -- good breeze in the evening. The sick -- same.
10 Favourable wind. — Father Servant experiences a crisis and a kind of suffocation.
11 March. Favourable wind. San Antonio, one of the Cape Verde Islands, is seen.
12 March. Passion Sunday. Favourable wind. The Bishop and Father Chanel celebrate Holy Mass. All the others communicate. The sick are getting better.
13 March. Favourable wind. The sick seem to be getting worse.
14 March. Favourable wind. The sick – same.
15 March. Favourable wind -- on 7º north latitude. An emetic relieves Father Servant whose illness had shown itself to be an esquinancie.[11] Father Bataillon hears the confession of a sailor preparing for his first Communion.
13 Favourable wind. — The sick seem to get worse.
14 Favourable wind. — The sick, the same.
15 Favourable wind. — At 7° latitude north. — An agent to induce vomiting gives relief to Father Servant whose illness had been diagnosed as an inflammation of the throat and tonsillitis.
16 Favourable wind -- Father Bret still very ill. Father Bataillon hears another sailor's confession.
17 The Compassion of the Blessed Virgin. [12] We celebrate the sacred mysteries. The invalid -- the same.
18 Calm. The invalid -- same. Father Bataillon hears the confession of the little ship's boy.
19 Palm Sunday -- we celebrate the sacred mysteries, after which we take holy Viaticum to Father Bret. One of the Picpus missionaries drops his breviary into the sea. In the evening the Bishop gives a little instruction to the sailors and tells them there will be others on every day of Holy Week. Father Bataillon hears another sailor's confession.
20 Father Bret suddenly gets worse. — New leeches and mustard poultices are applied, but in vain; he looses consciousness and falls into a death agony. — The bishop administers Extreme Unction, and around 7:30 in the evening, we have a new protector in heaven. ... The great heat of the equator forces us to bring his remains up on the bridge without delay, next to which we spend the night in prayer, 2 by 2, in turn.
21 We celebrate the holy mysteries for the repose of the soul of our dear friend and, because of the heat, the bishop does not delay in conducting the burial ceremony. — He addresses us in a few very moving words. — All day long the flag of mourning remains hoisted.

In the evening -- a talk to the sailors. Father Bataillon hears the confession of another sailor. The line is crossed.

22 Favourable wind. Because of our bereavement, the sailors do not want to have the ceremony for crossing the line. The Bishop gives them the customary gift -- instruction -- a ship in sight. Father Bataillon hears two sailors’ confession.
23 March. Holy Thursday. The Bishop and Father Bataillon say Holy Mass. Favourable wind. In the evening -- instruction -- always by the Bishop. A Picpus confesses one sailor and Father Bataillon another. The heat of the line less uncomfortable than we had imagined.
24 Favourable wind. Father Bataillon gives an instruction (on the Passion) to the sailors.
25 Favourable wind. One of the Picpus missionaries gives the ordinary instruction.
26 Holy day of Easter. Favourable wind. We celebrate three Masses. Two sailors make their Easter duty. The officers are, alas, very far from imitating them. In the evening -- instruction given by the Bishop. The sailors are avid for the word of God.
27 Favourable wind. A ship in sight.
28 Favourable wind. At 13º south latitude, 22º west longitude.
29 Favourable wind. Usual instruction by the Bishop.
30 Favourable wind. A French ship in sight. We exchange greetings at a distance. The Captain suggests doing the “baptism” ceremony [involved in crossing the equator -- translator’s note] which had been omitted. The sailors give up the opportunity so as not to bring us sorrow. Instruction as usual.
31 Favourable wind. A ship in sight. Instruction still given by the Bishop.
1 April. Favourable wind. Instruction by Father Chanel.
2 Sunday -- two Masses -- two sailors making their Easter duty. Ship in sight. Instruction by Father Chanel.
3 Still a favourable wind -- two sailors are ill. Ship in sight.
4 Favourable wind. Same ship in sight. The Tropic of Capricorn is crossed.
5 Favourable wind -- heavy sea -- at 24º south latitude.
6 Strong breeze -- heavy sea.
7 Fairly good progress -- 30º40’ south latitude. A gilt-head[13] is caught.
8 Morning, head wind. We are near finishing preparing[14] the sailor who has to make his first Communion [tomorrow] or the day after.
9 Sunday. Better wind -- the Bishop says the Mass. Two sailors and the ship's boy receive Communion at it. He[15] says a few paternal words encouraging the one who was making his first Holy Communion, when he asked him to renew his baptismal promises and blessed him.
10 Head wind. We tack.
11 Head wind. We begin to see Cape pigeons,[16] birds the size of a pigeon, and albatrosses, birds bigger than geese.
12 Head wind -- same.
13 Head wind -- same.
14 Calm, or head wind. An albatross whose wings are at least 5 feet in length, is caught with a hook. The sailors make a good meal of it.
15 Morning – tail wind (the best). Evening -- head wind.
16 Sunday. Head wind. The Bishop celebrates Mass with great difficulty because of the rolling.
17 Wind same – â la cappe [laying to] -- ie with only one sail up because of the strength of the wind.
18 and 19 Wind same -- sea still heavy.
20 Wind same -- total eclipse of the moon visible and is seen at 6.40 in the evening, being roughly at 40º latitude and 45º longitude.
21 At first -- flat calm, then head wind.
22 Saturday. Favourable wind. At this time people are studying more keenly.
23 Sunday. Favourable wind. Heavy sea which prevents us from saying Mass.
24 During the day, head wind. Evening -- favourable wind. A ship in sight.
25 Favourable and very strong winds. Evening -- laying to.
26 Head wind -- laying to -- (the days of laying to are days of torment).
27 Wind same. A most frightful tempest. At each moment the ship seemed to want to capsize.
28 and 29 Head wind -- laying to.
30 Sunday -- same -- no Mass. We are preparing a little chapel for the month of Mary, during which we must do all our [spiritual] exercises in common.
1 and 2 May. Head wind. Laying to -- at 50º latitude.
3 Head wind -- a little talk by the Bishop.
4 Ascension Day. Wind same. The Bishop says Mass. Easter season and the heat having finished, the spiritual conferences, the catechism lessons for the Brothers, the little council meetings[17] take place more regularly.
5 and 6 Violent wind -- laying to -- water rationing begins.
7 Sunday -- wind same -- no Mass.
8 Morning -- favourable wind. In the evening -- head wind -- tempest.
9 Wind same -- evening favourable wind. On the 10th, in the evening, head wind.
11 Wind little by little becomes favourable and strong. Snow. Cold.
12 Morning, calm -- evening, tempest.
13 At first, calm -- evening, favourable wind.
14 Holy Day of Pentecost -- favourable wind. No Mass. We have a gathering.
15 At first, favourable wind, then head wind, at 54º latitude.
16 At first, then head wind -- we were all served ship’s biscuit because, we were told, the cold was preventing the bread from rising. It was very good.
17 and 18 Head wind -- snow, some is collected so as to have water.
19 Head wind -- abreast of Cape Horn -- cold not very harsh.
20 Saturday. Favourable wind -- a short talk as usual.
21 Trinity Sunday. Favourable wind -- no Mass because of the sea.
22 and 23 Favourable wind. 57º latitude. We are only aiming at gaining longitude.
24 Head wind, then favourable. A little talk.
25 Favourable wind. (Feast of) The Body of Christ. Head wind or calm. The Bishop says holy Mass.
26 and 27 Favourable wind. The sun not appearing, we cannot discover our longitude.
28, 29, 30 Head wind -- laying to.
31 Favourable wind. The exercises of the month of May come to an end.
1 June. Favourable wind. Novena in honour of the Sacred Heart.
2 Feast of the Sacred Heart – tail wind – two Masses -- 59º latitude.
3 Saturday. Very favourable wind -- still to the east of the Cape.
4 Sunday. Head wind -- no Mass -- laying to.
5 Wind same -- laying to -- evening, a tempest.
6 Head wind -- 74º longitude -- consequently the Cape has been rounded.
7 and 8 Head wind -- laying to -- water ration cut.
9 and 10 In the mornings, favourable wind; evenings, head wind.
11 Wind very favourable -- rain -- no Mass -- at 78º west longitude.
12 and 13 Wind very favourable -- heading north on 85º longitude.
14 Wind quite favourable -- The Bishop has an inflammation.[18] - 15 Wind very good.
16 Wind sometimes ahead, sometimes favourable.
17 Saturday. Favourable wind -- novena in honour of St John the Baptist. A short talk.
18 Sunday. Head wind or calm -- heavy sea -- no Mass.
19 Calm, then a favourable wind. The sailors, following the custom, regain their strength -- Cape pigeons.[19]
20 At first, wind favourable. Evening -- head wind.
21 Head wind -- laying to -- great tempest.
22 and 23 Wind favourable -- 40º latitude -- consequently 140 leagues [700 km] from Valparaiso.
24 St John [the Baptist]’s day -- favourable wind -- a bottle of champagne in honour of the Bishop.
25 Sunday -- wind favourable -- two Masses -- 100 leagues from harbour. - 26 June. Wind same.
27 Wind favourable. At 11 a.m. land is seen. A French ship in sight. Father Bataillon hears the confession of the only one of the ordinary sailors who had not yet done it.
28 We drop anchor one hour after midday in the Valparaiso roadstead. News of the war between Chile and Peru. The Picpus religious come on board looking for us -- they lead the Bishop, formally dressed, to their little chapel. We sing there, wholeheartedly, a Te Deum -- we stay with the aforementioned religious.
29 Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. All celebrate. The Bishop officiates at the high Mass. We sing it in the Lyons way. The only parish priest of the town (35,000 souls) comes and pays a visit to his Lordship. Good news from the Gambier Islands.
30 Difficulties in unloading the parcels containing our supplies for the sole reason that they had been shown on the captain’s manifest as merchandise. We visit the Fathers [and] M du Haut-Cilly, provisional commanding officer of the French naval station on this coast. A very good welcome. He arranges a time to visit his Lordship the day after.
1 July. The Bishop visits the French Consul and the Governor.
2 The Bishop receives several visits. A letter from the Bishop of Santiago (30 leagues [150 km] from Valparaiso), giving him full powers.
3 The Bishop has a solemn service offered for Fr Bret. Active and passive visits.
4 Departure of the Bishop for Santiago with Father Chanel and two Picpus priests. Eight men convicted of rebellion, and who had as assassinated one of the leaders of the country a few days before our arrival, are executed. [20] Three earthquakes -- they are very frequent here.
5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 In the absence of the Bishop we fill our time by working and going over the information already gathered for the journey from here to the islands. [21]
13 The Bishop comes back from Santiago, quite edified by the virtues of the worthy prelate whom he had just visited, and the spirit of faith he had noticed in the people of that town.
14 We make an agreement with an English captain for the journey to the islands. He is to take us to the Sandwich Islands via Gambier and Tahiti for 150 piastres each [750 francs -- £30], without counting the freight.
15 Four sailors come and make their confessions in order to repeat their Communion or to be confirmed the following day.
16 Sunday. The Bishop administers confirmation in the morning and in the evening.
17 An American man who had lived 17 months on Ascension Island[22]comes and gives details to the Bishop.
18 The Bishop approves the contract with the English captain. [23]


  1. the Society of Mary - translator’s note
  2. Bataillon’s explanations seem to indicate he had publication of the diary in mind -- translator’s note
  3. cuivre -- I thought ‘bronze’ more likely than 'copper' -- translator’s note
  4. Major de Plais
  5. the title 'Baron' Charles de Thierry gave himself -- translator’s note
  6. pétille
  7. un grenier
  8. au petit mot
  9. si déféré
  10. ne prend pas la fièvre
  11.  ? not in dictionary
  12. This was a feast celebrated on the Friday after Passion Sunday -- translator’s note
  13. une dorade
  14. nous préparons prochainement
  15. the Bishop -- translator’s note
  16. damiers? Cape pigeons?
  17. les petits conseils
  18. could be a gum boil - translator’s note
  19. ?damiers
  20. this was Diego Portales, Prime Minister of Chile since 1830, assassinated 6 June 1837 -- translator’s note
  21. à entret enir les données qui déjâ avaient été faites
  22. Ponape in the North Pacific, not the Ascension Island in South Atlantic -- translator’s note
  23. Captain Shaw was commander of the Europa which originally was to take the group to the Sandwich Islands (now Hawaiian Islands). But on the way to Tahiti, Pompallier changed his plans and chartered another ship there -- translator’s note

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