170 years ago today - Dec 28, 1852. Tuesday.

[William Clayton]
This day the atmosphere looks very stormy. Heavy, black clouds gathering in the North West, and white vapors flying into their surface with rapid speed. The Captain says we are going to have a terrific gale. The mate says he never knew the Barometer so low as it is today. He does not understand the meaning of it, but apprehends a dreadful time. The wind has been blowing fresh from the S.W. all day, till between 3 and 4 o'clock P.M. when it shifted to the N.W. All the sails were close secured, except just sufficient to give her headway to steer with. At 4 o'clock the gale commenced, and increased in force for several hours. We united in prayer, and nearly all of us put up our petitions to him who controls the elements by the word of his power. 6 o'clock P.M. I was standing at the cabin doorway, reflecting that it was time to make the door fast, as the wind was blowing exceeding strong, and the ship flying before it over the mountain waves, at a rapid speed. While standing here a vast wave dashed over the bulwarks, burying me for an instant in the briny element. The force of the water broke the door from its hinges, and dashing it on the deck, also broke about half of one side of the frame off. The cabin was then about a foot deep in water. The mate immediately sent the carpenter and some of the hands down to nail the door fast, which was done, and a lot of pieces of boards were nailed over it to strengthen it.

I felt very uncomfortable, being thoroughly drenched with water and chilled with cold. The brethren who occupied the upper births went to bed, but the one in which Brother Glover and myself slept being the lower one, and running parallel with the side of the ship, the water washed up into it, every time the ship rolled, wetting it so that we felt no disposition to go to bed.

10 o'clock the gale seemed to be at the heighth of its fury. The moon once in a while be visible showed that the clouds were hurled past with fearful rapidity, and everything betokened the most awful danger. The Captain governed the helm himself, and mates and all hands were obliged to screen themselves from the fury of the tempest by taking shelter in the wheel House. It was impossible to stand on deck as the waves were continually sweeping over the vessel, and nothing could be done but to keep her fair before the wind, and steer her so as to'ride over the foaming, mountain waves, and keep her out of the trough of the sea. About this time most of the passengers were gone to bed and I was standing along near the cabin door. A heavy sea, more furious than usual, dashed over the bulwarks, and again dashed down the door, pouring its flood into the cabin and again burying me completely over. It was sometime before I could get any help to fasten up the doorway. None of the passengers seemed disposed to come to my assistance, and it appeared that the Carpenter and hands did not feel disposed to risk coming to our assistance. However after half an hours delay, they came down and again secured the part of the door that was left, in its places and nailed pieces of board across more firmly than before. I also put two strong props against it on the inside to support it.

The births and cabin now looked awful indeed, the water for sometime being near two feet deep, and the scuttle holes, by some means, being nearly choked up it lessened very slowly. Our bottom chests of provisions were deep in the water, which sometimes washed completely over them saturating our crackers &c. with the sea salt water. The passengers in the after part of the cabin, most of whom were Irish, were very much frightened and instead of the vulgar oaths and blasphemy which in ordinary times constantly saluted our ears, we could frequently hear their groans and petitions to God for mercy.

For ourselves, we felt to trust in the promises of God, and altho' I realized we were in the greatest possible danger, I never felt calmer in my life, nor a greater asssurance in the mercies of our heavenly father that he would bring us through safe and unhurt. Being the only person now up in the cabin, I sat me down on a bail of cotton to watch the door and keep my feet out of the water.

[George D. Smith, An Intimate Chronicle; The Journals of William Clayton, Signature Books in association with Smith Research Associates, Salt Lake City, 1995, http://bit.ly/WilliamClayton]

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