Shipboard Diaries as Navigational Instruments

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book


Analysing diaries composed by Edward Beck on the Lady Frances (1823) and Margaret MacGillivray on the Torrens (1893-4), this essay examines the ways in which individuals embarking on their first oceanic voyages kept diaries as a means of orienting themselves in their new environments. Beck, who already had experience as a coaster, records in his journal his gradual mastery of the arts of deep-water navigation and, more generally, his efforts to ingest the knowledge and the language of professional seafarers. MacGillivray, a passenger, is not learning the technical arts of navigation, but like Beck she self-consciously records maritime argot in a way that actualises her gradual (and often problematic) immersion in an oceanic environment. After examining the overlaps and the differences between these two documents, the essay concludes with some reflections on the specific value of consulting physical documents written at sea.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationShipboard Literary Cultures: Reading, Writing, and Performing at Sea
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jan 2022

Publication series

NameMaritime Literature and Culture
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan


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