England, Liverpool, April 28th, 1851.

The leaden skies, the chilly rain, the general out-door aspect and
prospect of discomfort prevailing in New York when our good steamship
BALTIC cast loose from her dock at noon on the 16th inst., were not
particularly calculated to inspire and exhilarate the goodly number who
were then bidding adieu, for months at least, to home, country, and
friends. The most sanguine of the inexperienced, however, appealed for
solace to the wind, which they, so long as the City completely sheltered
us on the east, insisted was blowing from “a point _West_ of
North”–whence they very logically deduced that the north-east storm,
now some thirty-six to forty-eight hours old, had spent its force, and
would soon give place to a serene and lucid atmosphere. I believe the
Barometer at no time countenanced this augury, which a brief experience
sufficed most signally to confute. Before we had passed Coney Island, it
was abundantly certain that our freshening breeze hailed directly from
Labrador and the icebergs beyond, and had no idea of changing its
quarters.

By the time we were fairly outside of Sandy Hook, we were
struggling with as uncomfortable and damaging a cross-sea as had ever
enlarged _my_ slender nautical experience; and in the course of the next
hour the high resolves, the valorous defiances, of the scores who had
embarked in the settled determination that they _would not_ be sea-sick,
had been exchanged for pallid faces and heaving bosoms. Of our two
hundred passengers, possibly one-half were able to face the dinner-table
at 4 P. M.; less than one-fourth mustered to supper at 7; while a stern
but scanty remnant–perhaps twenty in all–answered the summons to
breakfast next morning.

I was not in any one of these categories. So long as I was able, I
walked the deck, and sought to occupy my eyes, my limbs, my brain, with
something else than the sea and its perturbations. The attempt, however,
proved a signal failure. By the time we were five miles off the Hook, I
was a decided case; another hour laid me prostrate, though I refused to
leave the deck; at six o’clock a friend, finding me recumbent and
hopeless in the smokers’ room, persuaded and helped me to go below.
There I unbooted and swayed into my berth, which endured me, perforce,
for the next twenty-four hours. I then summoned strength to crawl on
deck, because, while I remained below, my sufferings were barely less
than while walking above, and my recovery hopeless.

I shall not harrow up the souls nor the stomachs of landsmen, as yet
reveling in blissful ignorance of its tortures, with any description of
sea-sickness. They will know all in ample season; or if not, so much the
better. But naked honesty requires a correction of the prevalent error
that this malady is necessarily transient and easily overcome. Thousands
who imagine they have been sea-sick on some River or Lake steamboat, or
even during a brief sleigh-ride, are annually putting to sea with as
little necessity or urgency as suffices to send them on a jaunt to
Niagara or the White Mountains.

They suppose they may very probably be
“qualmish” for a few hours, but that (they fancy) will but highten the
general enjoyment of the voyage. Now it is quite true that any green
sea-goer _may_ be sick for a few hours only; he may even not be sick at
all. But the _probability_ is very far from this, especially when the
voyage is undertaken in any other than one of the four sunniest,
blandest months in the year. Of every hundred who cross the Atlantic for
the first time, I am confident that two-thirds endure more than they had
done in all the five years preceding–more than they would do during two
months’ hard labor as convicts in a State Prison. Of _our_ two hundred,
I think fifty did not see a healthy or really happy hour during the
passage; while as many more were sufferers for at least half the time.
The other hundred were mainly Ocean’s old acquaintances, and on that
account treated more kindly; but many of these had some trying hours.

Utter indifference to life and all its belongings is one of the
characteristics of a genuine case of sea-sickness No. 1. I enjoyed some
opportunities of observing this during our voyage. For instance: One
evening I was standing by a sick gentleman who had dragged himself or
been carried on deck and laid down on a water-proof mattress which
raised him two or three inches from the floor. Suddenly a great wave
broke square over the bow of the ship and rushed aft in a river through
either gangway–the two streams reuniting beyond the purser’s and
doctor’s offices, just where the sick man lay. Any live man would have
jumped to his feet as suddenly as if a rattlesnake were whizzing in his
blanket; but the sufferer never moved, and the languid coolness of eye
wherewith he regarded the rushing flood which made an island of him was
most expressive. Happily, the wave had nearly spent its force and was
now so rapidly diffused that his refuge was not quite overflowed.

Of course, those who have voyaged and not suffered will pronounce my
general picture grossly exaggerated; wherein they will be faithful to
their own experience, as I am to mine. I write for the benefit of the
uninitiated, to warn them, not against braving the ocean when they must
or ought, but against resorting to it for pastime. Voyaging cannot be
enjoyment to most of them; it must be suffering. The sonorous rhymesters
in praise of “A Life on the Ocean Wave,” “The Sea! the Sea! the Open
Sea!” &c. were probably never out of sight of land in a gale in their
lives. If they were ever “half seas over,” the liquid which buoyed them
up was not brine, but wine, which is quite another affair. And, as they
are continually luring people out of soundings who might far better have
remained on terra firma, I lift up my voice in warning against them.