The sea is not quite so rough, but the weather is squally and the rain comes in frequent gusts.

'June 25.

'To-day about 1 o'clock we hooked the three-wire cable, buoyed the long sea end, and picked up the short [or shore] end. Now it is dark and we must wait for morning before lifting the buoy we lowered to-day and proceeding seawards. - The depth of water here is about 600 feet, the height of a respectable English hill; our fishing line was about a quarter of a mile long. It blows pretty fresh, and there is a great deal of sea.


'This morning it came on to blow so heavily that it was impossible to take up our buoy. The ELBA recommenced rolling in true Baltic style and towards noon we ran for land.

'27th, Sunday.

'This morning was a beautiful calm. We reached the buoys at about 4.30 and commenced picking up at 6.30. Shortly a new cause of anxiety arose. Kinks came up in great quantities, about thirty in the hour. To have a true conception of a kink, you must see one: it is a loop drawn tight, all the wires get twisted and the gutta- percha inside pushed out. These much diminish the value of the cable, as they must all be cut out, the gutta-percha made good, and the cable spliced. They arise from the cable having been badly laid down so that it forms folds and tails at the bottom of the sea. These kinks have another disadvantage: they weaken the cable very much. - At about six o'clock [P.M.] we had some twelve miles lifted, when I went to the bows; the kinks were exceedingly tight and were giving way in a most alarming manner. I got a cage rigged up to prevent the end (if it broke) from hurting anyone, and sat down on the bowsprit, thinking I should describe kinks to Annie:- suddenly I saw a great many coils and kinks altogether at the surface. I jumped to the gutta-percha pipe, by blowing through which the signal is given to stop the engine. I blow, but the engine does not stop; again - no answer: the coils and kinks jam in the bows and I rush aft shouting stop. Too late: the cable had parted and must lie in peace at the bottom. Someone had pulled the gutta-percha tube across a bare part of the steam pipe and melted it. It had been used hundreds of times in the last few days and gave no symptoms of failing. I believe the cable must have gone at any rate; however, since it went in my watch and since I might have secured the tubing more strongly, I feel rather sad. . . .

'June 28.

'Since I could not go to Annie I took down Shakespeare, and by the time I had finished ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA, read the second half of TROILUS and got some way in CORIOLANUS, I felt it was childish to regret the accident had happened in my watch, and moreover I felt myself not much to blame in the tubing matter - it had been torn down, it had not fallen down; so I went to bed, and slept without fretting, and woke this morning in the same good mood - for which thank you and our friend Shakespeare. I am happy to say Mr. Liddell said the loss of the cable did not much matter; though this would have been no consolation had I felt myself to blame. - This morning we have grappled for and found another length of small cable which Mr. - dropped in 100 fathoms of water. If this also gets full of kinks, we shall probably have to cut it after 10 miles or so, or more probably still it will part of its own free will or weight.

'10 P.M. - This second length of three-wire cable soon got into the same condition as its fellow - i.e. came up twenty kinks an hour - and after seven miles were in, parted on the pulley over the bows at one of the said kinks; during my watch again, but this time no earthly power could have saved it. I had taken all manner of precautions to prevent the end doing any damage when the smash came, for come I knew it must. We now return to the six-wire cable. As I sat watching the cable to-night, large phosphorescent globes kept rolling from it and fading in the black water.


'To-day we returned to the buoy we had left at the end of the six- wire cable, and after much trouble from a series of tangles, got a fair start at noon.

Memoir of Fleeming Jenkin Page 44

Robert Louis Stevenson

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book