At Kingston (Jamaica). Left Port Royal early this morning and anchored off the above place shortly afterwards. Our divers have been trying to find a gun mounting which fell in the water some time ago whilst being taken out of a liner. The vessel has returned here for the gun to be mounted again before proceeding to England. Our divers have not been able to find the mounting yet, being handicapped by the mud (2 feet in depth) and the attentions of sharks and octopi.
As a consequence of 7 stokers leaving the ship at Port Royal yesterday and going to a Public House, the Captain had all the ship’s company on the Quarter Deck after dinner. He said a bad start had been made by the escapade of these men. He said he wanted to treat the ship’s company as men and expected them to “play the game”. Plenty of opportunity would no doubt offer itself for men to break out like these stokers, but he was not going to place sentries to stop it. He hoped the men would act honest, otherwise they would be severely dealt with. He also warned the men against the bad liquor and women here, both being in the opinion of the Naval and Military Authorities in a very bad and dangerous condition. He could recommend two Public Houses where English refreshments could be obtained, also good food. There are some so-called Temperance Bars here, but they are to be left alone as the liquor is drugged, and the result is one takes a sleep shortly after drinking it, and in due course wakes up in some out of the way spot minus their money.
With regards to Xmas Day he said he did not know whether we should be in harbour or not, and messes requiring Xmas gear should obtain it as soon as possible in case we left. We are under 4 hours notice all the time.
Some fun was caused today by a little native boy coming out to the ship in a little “dug-out” just big enough for him to sit in. He propelled himself along by using his hands as paddles. The sea was a bit choppy and he got swamped repeatedly. This, however, did not trouble him, for when the boat got full, he just dived overboard, turned the canoe over and emptied the water out. The hardest job was for him to get back in the little craft again. His actions caused considerable amusement, which the fellows on deck thought worthy of some money. The native-boy had quite a busy time diving for the coppers thrown him.
Leave was given from 4-30 p.m. to 7-30 p.m. so I went ashore with my photography partner to get some plates and cards. We could not get much, however, the two shops that deal in this kind of thing having sold practically all they had. Their stock for the coming summer had been delayed through the Xmas stocks coming in.
We had a good walk around. There is only one good big street (King St), but even this is one of the poorest kept main streets I have been in. There are some big shops here, mostly run by Yanks, but in some cases by Britishers. A peculiarity in the shops is the number of grocery and druggist stores combined. Most of the articles sold are of English production, Fry’s cocoa etc being, as usual, a most prominent sign. These shops also have an iced-drink counter. These drinks are jolly fine and I fancy such a thing would be most popular in England in the summertime. The “drink” is sucked up through straws a la American. “Some” swank, but very nice. I had an iced lime juice and kola, and felt quite refreshed and filled after imbibing it.
This place is slightly cosmopolitan and during our wanderings tonight we noticed in one street English folk (in such a nice neat wooden house), Japs, Chinese, Spaniards and West Indians. One can most times spot the English dwellings – their appearance being quite a credit. The other dwellings are rather poor. There are numerous small hotels and bars,bazaars and miscellaneous businesses. Signs of the 1907 earthquake can still be seen in the ruins of houses. There are some nice parks I am told but time only permitted of our visiting one. A nice shady spot, outside of which is a statue of Queen Victoria. Tropical plants, flowers and trees abound. Opposite the Park is the Parish Church, which is almost screened from the public gaze by a profusion of trees and palms. I thought this looked rather a nice setting for a church in the tropics, it looked so stately yet quiet and peaceful.
Electric cars, as I have before noted, run to various parts of the city and suburbs.
I did not see a great number of white folk during our walk. The prices of food and articles of clothing are about the same as at home. The shops are decorated for Xmas as at home, with the usual Xmassy appearance about the windows. The light restrictions are in force to some degree and most of the shops close from 5 p.m, those that remain open having subdued lights.
The streets are full of fruit-sellers, the wares being carried on the heads of the negresses. Their appearance in a lot of cases is rather against their sale of goods, cleanliness not being “second nature”. The streets are neglected and the place seems to have a dusty appearance wherever one looks. The police are very severe in the way they treat the natives, their batons being ever ready for a hit across the head of any native transgressing the street laws.
We should have caught the boat from the Mrket Pier at 7-30 p.m. but on arrival at the Pier at 7-10 p.m. we found a rather riotous crowd so decided with 3 other fellows to go aboard in a private boat. Two negroes took us back to the ship for 1/6 for the 5. I rather enjoyed the stroll and felt quite ready for supper on arrival aboard. The return of the liberty men brought three helpless drunken men who were put under the sentry’s charge. Later one of these men’s condition caused a medical officer to be brought to see him. The surgeon, after seeing him, decided to take steps to get the intoxicant out of him. The man was accordingly brought to the Sick Bay, and by the introduction of a tube through his mouth into his stomach, several pints of warm water were conveyed to the stomach and so the rum which had rendered him unconscious washed out. This operation took about 1½ hours, so you see I had a black side to my short spell of liberty. It seems so hard that in spite of the Captain’s warnings, men will go on shore and drink the horrible spirits sold by the low cast bar owners.
I went up on the foc’sle about 10-15 p.m. to see the sharks swimming about in chase of small fish quite near the ship. The phosphorescence shew up the fish wonderful, and one could follow the sharks’ movements by the light for quite a long distance off. Numerous fish were darting about near the surface and the patch of phosphorescence denoting their presence was quite a beautiful sight to witness. The coral at the bottom reflects the light on the water’s surface, and gives the appearance of a light shining on the water. These parts seem full of wonders, but there are more wonderful spots than this in the tropics.