”When I leaf through my diary I meet many different hands”
A blank diary is nothing but paper and a cover. When it is filled with the thoughts, reflections and notes of a person, it becomes filled with their essence, and becomes invaluable. A time capsule allowing us a glimpse into a by-gone era. Perhaps they were not so different from us.
This particular diary belonged to Harry Eriksson, an orphaned 17-yearold from Åttböle in Finström, who signed on Pommern as deckhand in 1933. The voyage took him around the globe – to Port Victoria in South Australia and back. Like most sailor diaries it is filled with comments on wind and weather, daily tasks, accidents, fun, sadness, boredom, and not least, what is served up from the galley each day. As the meals were generally quite measly on the sailing vessels it was not unusual for conflicts to arise between the crew and the ship’s steward.
Monday 22nd January 1933
Got stewed beef and potatoes for breakfast and fish patties for dinner. For this reason, we go on strike […]. Soon after First Mate comes and asks if we are serious when we say we intend to strike. This query was answered affirmatively by us. For what reason? exclaims First Mate. For bad food, is the answer.
A diary is direct channel of communication with someone from the past. In content but also in the ink, the blots, the stains, the rips… Ordinary seaman Sven-Erik Bjerking was a fellow crew member of Harry Eriksson’s on Pommern’s 1933 voyage. He writes the following in the introduction to his diary as it was published in the magazine Longitude:
When I leaf through my diary, I meet many different hands, even though I’m the only one who’s written in it. If it is a choppy and uneven hand, I have jotted down letters with ice-cold hands when it’s been cold and frosty. Where the pages are crumpled and the letters blurry, the sea has washed over the ship and found its way into the far-from watertight fo’c’sle and soaked me as well as my diary.
Written by: Harry Eriksson
Where: on board Pommern. Eriksson worked as deckhand.