The new Jeannette opera house
In the evening we had a minstrel entertainment in the deck-house, somewhat improved over last year… The success of the evening, however, was Sharvell as a young lady, in an after-piece… A feature of the evening was presenting each guest, on entering, with a little button-hole bouquet of colored paper leaves… The jokes were of the usual order, some broad ones being inevitable… The most acceptable occurrence was the issue of a double ration of whiskey, with which, hot water, and sugar, we tried to be cheerful, and make Christmas Eve rather less dreary than many of our days now seem.
By December 1880 Jeannette had been stuck fast in the pack ice for well over a year, but Christmas Day was made as acceptable as possible by a good dinner.
And I think we may refer to our bills of fare with pardonable pride. Our mince pies were a work of art; though they were made from pemmican and flavored by a bottle of brandy, they were as delicate to the taste as if compounded from fresh beef from market. CHRISTMAS DINNER, 1880: the usual Saturday Soup, Roast Seal – Apple Jelly, Tongue, Macaroni, Tomatoes, Mince Pies, Plum Pudding, Figs, Raisins, Dates, Nuts, Candy, Chocolate and Coffee.
Reading these snippets from De Long’s journal from the Jeannette would strike a chord with any sailor. Christmas at sea seems much the same today – people still celebrate as best as they can even though they are far from home and hearth. The banquet remains the highlight of the holiday. But the work must go on, as the ship’s log shows: along with the note about the entertainment there are all the usual weather observations recorded. Considering the perilous journey the Jeannette logbooks endured from the Arctic ice to us, it is a miracle that these data still exist and can be used for science again, in new and powerful ways that De Long and his crew could not have imagined when they sledged these heavy volumes across the sea ice after the wreck of their ship, and then carried them on their backs to the cold Siberian shore.
Old Weather citizen-scientists are making the recovery and analysis of these hard-won data possible, while also getting to read the unedited stories from the Jeannette and many other ships in the new (and growing) Old Weather – Arctic fleet.