Forgotten tales

stories of my family

Dover to Tenerife

     Towards morning I had fallen into a peaceful slumber, when the Captain called into the cabin, “Come up, Doctor – Calais and Dover.” I rubbed my eyes; the dawn light shone through the little window. As I was half dressed, I threw a dressing gown over and climbed onto the deck. One could recognise shimmering strips of land and the beacons, which winked out of the fog. They were friendly stars that showed us that we were in safety. We now travelled past the white chalk cliffs of Dover and ever towards the English coast, near to the land. It was still blowing strongly and the sea was high, but the shipping lane was safe. There were many ships with us, but only a Dutch East Indiaman sailed faster. Little by little a few of the passengers came up and looked anxiously overboard; most were below seasick.

Our journey in these days was a very fast one. At the end of the fourth day we had the Channel behind us and came “off the bottom” i.e. into the Atlantic Ocean. The water was no longer light green, but blue-black, the waves were long, the weather already milder. The wind became gradually weaker and we moved under full sail. In the course of the next few days, the seasickness subsided. The passengers were much on deck and stood or sat in motley groups. The days were mostly clear and one already felt that we neared a warmer climate. On the 25th of November, after a voyage of 9 days, we saw the Island of Madeira. The evening was glorious, the cloud formation and the colouring on the horizon was of a rare beauty, over us hung a fine gauze-like mist in the transparent air, the sea was deep blue from the reflection of the heavens. Around the mountain heights of Madeira light haze clouds stretched out; the wind was mild and cooling, like a German June evening. We had our first southern night. The moon broke through the light cloud and threw a silver spotlight on the gently moving water. Our people danced noisily to the music of a flute, while we came nearer to the island, whose mountainous coast lay before us in the glimmering light.

On the following day Teneriffe came into view, the peak shrouded in clouds.

(AAZ no.73 17 Sep 1855, p.291)

How well I remember our many landfalls at Tenerife, the last stop in Europe before our “outreaches” in Africa on the Anastasis, and then the first stop on the way back every year at the beginning of the northern summer. Tenerife is a special place, a strange blend of Europe and Africa, of Spain and Senegal, an island well known to European seafarers since time immemorial. The Anastasis has now gone the way of all ships, scrapped on a beach in India somewhere. The Caesar and the Steinwärder, wooden ships of the fabled age of sail, have also long gone, after much shorter life spans than the fifty odd years the Anastasis plied the seas. But as the Anastasis was our home for two wonderful years, so were the sailing ships their whole world for our ancestors as they made the long slow journey from Europe to the colony of New South Wales. And as we welcomed the sight of the island of Tenerife rising out of the sea, so too must have the Fischer family welcomed this landfall after their stormy baptism into seafaring life on the wild waters of the English Cannel and the Bay of Biscay.

DSCN0730

Approaching Tenerife on “our ship”, the Anastasis. 2003.

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