And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

7 February

1746
Ananda Ranga Pillai,
writer

‘At noon, the Portuguese ship St Louis, . . arrived here from Madras, cast anchor, and fired three guns to salute the vessels in the roads: these were returned by a like number. Seven guns were then fired by the St Louis, in compliment to the fort, which replied with a similar salute. Four English sail came in pursuit of this ship. Having caught sight of her, they hove to at a distance. The captain inquired why they were following him. It appears that when the St Louis was on her way from Chandernagore, the English sailors at Madras seized and detained her in the roads there. When inquiry was made as to her nationality, the reply was she was Portuguese. . .

Those in charge of her were asked to sell all the merchandise that was on board, and to buy goods there in exchange. They agreed to this, pretended to bargain, deceived the English, set sail, and escaped during the night. The St Louis was therefore pursued on the following morning. Such was the explanation given. The three ships and the sloop which chased her arrived in the roads between 3 and half-past 4 in the afternoon, and cast anchor on the north-eastern side of the fort. Two others came from Fort St David, and anchored to the south-east. Of the four vessels which came from the north, one fired a gun, and then started southwards for Fort St David, bearing news to that place. When she arrived abreast of the anchorage, the Governor went to the fort, summoned all the soldiers who were there, distributed them in the batteries on the beach, directed them to load all the guns and mortars that were in these, and to keep ready powder, shot, shells, and grenades; in short, he made all the necessary preparations, and then, at half-past 5, proceeded home.

The inhabitants of the town who went to watch this strange sight numbered 10,000. The Governor noticing all these people, said to them: “You have been looking at this long enough; you now had better go home.” I also went, and saw what was going on. The goods which were brought in the Portuguese ship St Louis were wheat, rice, and candles; it is said that there were also some sundry goods from Chandernagore. This cargo was being unloaded by boats until 2 in the morning.’

18th century India

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1800
Andrew Ellicott,
surveyor

‘This being the season that the Alligators, or American Crocodiles were beginning to crawl out of the mud and bask in the sun, it was a favourable time to take them, both on account of their torpid state, and to examine the truth of the report of their swallowing pine knots in the fall of the year to serve them, (on account of their difficult digestion,) during the term of their torpor, which is probably about three months. For this purpose two Alligators of about eight or nine feet in length were taken and opened, and in the stomach of each was found several pine and other knots, pieces of bark, and in one of them some charcoal; but exclusive of such indigestible matter, the stomachs of both were empty. So far the report appears to be founded in fact: but whether these substances were swallowed on account of their tedious digestion, and therefore proper during the time those animals lay in the mud, or to prevent a collapse of the coats of the stomach, or by accident owing to their voracious manner of devouring their food, is difficult to determine.

The Alligator has been so often, and so well described, and those descriptions so well known, that other attempts have become unnecessary. It may nevertheless be proper to remark, that so far as the human species are concerned, the Alligators appear much less dangerous, than has generally been supposed, particularly by those unacquainted with them. And I do not recollect meeting with but one well authenticated fact of any of the human species being injured by them in that country, (where they are very numerous,) and that was a negro near New Orleans, who while standing in the water sawing a piece of timber, had one of his legs dangerously wounded by one of them. My opinion on this subject is founded on my own experience. I have frequently been a witness to Indians, including men, women and children, bathing in rivers and ponds, where those animals are extremely numerous, without any apparent dread or caution: the same practice was also pursued by myself and people, without caution, and without injury.

Some of the Alligators we killed were very fat, and would doubtless have yielded a considerable quantity of oil, which is probably almost the only use that will ever be made of them; however their tails are frequently eaten by the Indians and negroes, and Mr. Bowles informed me that he thought them one of the greatest of delicacies.

The Alligators appear to abound plentifully in musk, the smell of which is sometimes perceptible to a considerable distance, when they are wounded or killed; but whether the musk is contained in a receptacle for that purpose, and secreted by a particular gland or glands, or generally diffused through the system appears somewhat uncertain: and I confess their appearance was so disagreeable and offensive to me, that I felt no inclination to undertake the dissection of one of them.’

Fat alligators in Florida

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1802
Nicolas Baudin,
sailor and explorer

‘As soon as our sails were furled, two boats were immediately dispatched to go sounding all around the ship and in various directions. On their return, I was informed that the depth of this bay was not sufficient for even a small vessel. At about a mile from the ship there were no more than 5 fathoms of water; half a mile further on, 4, and almost straightaway, 3 and 2. Nearer to the shore there was nothing but shallows and a continuous succession of sand-banks partly visible at low tide.

The boat which had had orders to head North-West gave us a moment of joy and satisfaction when it told us that it had discovered a fine port into which four rivers flowed, and that in the one it had entered, there were 4 fathoms of water and 3 inside. As a matter of fact the water in it was salty, but it would probably finish by becoming fresh as one went further up it. This was particularly pleasant, as it compensated for our regret at having found nothing on this coast so far that could repay us for our efforts and be of use to navigators.

The little boat had been sent off likewise to the island opposite which we were at anchor, and Citizen Guichenot, our gardener, had gone in it to reconnoitre the territory and discover what it produced. The boat did not return until during the night, having been stranded at low tide more than 2 miles off shore.

According to the gardener’s report, this island consists merely of sand, in which various low, shrubby trees grow. He only brought back some plants that were gone to seed, having been unable to find any in flower. Amongst them, there is one that has absolutely the bearing of an olive-tree. Its fruit resembles the olive in miniature, although the seed inside is very different. A big fire was lit on this island to serve as a beacon for the Casuarina, should she happen to enter this region.

As there was a very strong breeze all day and we had only 30 fathoms of cable down, we paid out 20 more, and in spite of the heavy South-South-easterly gusts, held firm on our anchor - proof that the bottom was not foul and that the holding was good.’

Baudin’s voyage to Australia

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1879
Wilford Woodruff,
priest

‘For the first time in my life I have had to flee away from the enemies for the gospel’s sake or from any other cause. They are now trying to arrest me on polygamy. And as I had to leave St. George at 7 o’clock, I got into a wagon from the temple with David H. Cannon and drove all night.’

Oh how weak is man

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1908
Lady Minto,
philanthropist

‘Visited the Presidency General Hospital, and saw all the improvements they have made owing to our donation of Rs. 20,000 given from the Minto Fete Fund. The nurses in Calcutta are not up to date, and it is almost impossible to get a satisfactory nurse under Rs. 10 a day, and very often there is not one to be had for love or money. This makes me hope that Bengal will join my Nursing Scheme, but Calcutta is a difficult place to tackle, so many different people and interests have to be considered. Drove with Mrs. Forbes to the Tollygunge Steeplechases; crowds of people there. Captain Holden won two races: one on Lord Harry, the other on his new horse Jasper.’

Lady Minto’s Indian diary

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1937
Zorina Gray,
actress

‘Sunday. Slept and slept. Wrote letters - read reviews - all good. Someone rang and asked me for an interview. “It doesn’t suit me very well today, but maybe tomorrow?” - that’s Zorina! Then I went to church, where I felt overwhelmed by happiness, joy, gratitude for all that God has given me.’

My knees felt like macaroni

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1941
Wilhelm Reich,
doctor

‘I am actually a decent, self-critical fellow and people who call me a charlatan ought to be ashamed of themselves. Just reviewed my journals on the orgone from two years ago. How precisely I felt mv way through all that!! I feel somewhat moved by my own actions. How easy it is for someone to criticize from his high horse, but how difficult it is to overcome the worry, doubt, hesitation, the sleepless nights, the feelings of worthlessness, because one's thoughts are so “verboten.”

The existence of orgonity

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1962
Ned Rorem,
composer

‘For seventeen years I’ve been intermittently keeping these diaries. What will I ultimately do with them. The earliest ones are doubtless more - well - engrossing for their reportage, but the rest are mere self-exposing massacre when au fond I am (as Maggy says) a hardworking mensch. (Hardworking? At least this journal is not concerned with my work. And today I say that work means balance without pleasure; my collaboration with Kessler and our opera for next season I anticipate with only boredom - yet what masterpieces have not sprung from even less!). The other night at one of the biweekly domestic evenings chez moi I read the “Cocteau Visit” extract to Morris and Virgil, and everyone was impressed and said: print it! But where? Oh, the energy I had for the observative journalizing in those early fifties!. But as I wrote then, we spend most of our lives repeating ourselves so now I save time by notating telegram-style. Well, if tomorrow I died, I suppose there’d remain a sizable and varied catalogue. (Am I advancing? Yes, but the scenery’s stationary.) And die perhaps I will, though, astrologically it should have happened to our whole world three days ago, February 4.’

Self-exposing massacre

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In general, these diary extracts are quoted as given in the published (book or online) source referred to in the reference articles. Each extract may be all, a large part of, or a small part of the complete entry for that day. I have tried to indicate where text has been removed from within a quote by the use of trailing dots in square bracket.

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