Navigator Emily Brontë’s logbook, on board the Fury Second
18 July 1834. Tierra del Fuego.
We have been here for a month, getting supplies. From here onwards, our route will be an unknown sea. The Beagle overtook us by seven months, but they have not sent news yet about what lies beyond. Our destination is Gondal Island, in the North Pacific, but arriving there will depend on the accuracy of the map that old sailor gave me. He did it to thank me for paying the ale he and Branwell drank at The Black Bull (my brother had promised a round, but he had left his purse at home, as usual). The sailor told me the story of a shipwrecked man they rescued near Tristan da Cunha, who told him about that faraway island surrounded by monsters. He had put the map in his hand before expiring. Branwell had not stopped laughing on the way home.
- If you believe that nonsense, you’re crazier than the old man.
However, my heart knew the map was genuine. At home, I examined it with Papa’s magnifying glass. Then, I sent an urgent message to Parry’s Land Palace.
We left Southampton two months later, just after New Year. Captain Parry had hoped Captain Ross and his nephew would join our expedition, but they were exhausted after their journey to Boothia. So, I am the boatswain.
Our first port was Groyne, near Cape Finisterre. General Sir John Moore lost his life in this land, fighting the French. “We left him along with his glory”, sang poet Wolfe. As if the ground absorbing you cared about your glory.
In the evening, I found Parry on the cliffs, watching how the sun hid into the sea.
- The Romans believed the world ended here, Emily. Now we know the world is limitless. Our journey will prove it.
After leaving Groyne, we crossed the open sea until Tristan da Cunha. We had intended to gather supplies and enquire about the old man’s story, but our plans were ruined. The island was immersed in a bloody civil war. We could only dock for a few hours on the cliffs to refill the water tanks and run away, while watching the capital burning in the distance. Pure madness.
Food was scarce when we reached Tierra de Fuego, but we lacked for nothing there. The natives were friendly when they realised I was not scared of them. They were partial to the tin cans where Captain Parry preserves food. These cans proved more valuable than gold for trading.
28 July 1834. Open sea.
It will be my birthday in two days, but we are not in the mood for celebrations. Another day of water and more water surrounding the ship. It would be better to have a fish tail instead of feet.
What happens? Lookout Gravey is shouting.
I cannot yet believe it. Gravey thought he saw a gigantic bird and cheered, believing shore to be close. When I looked through the spyglass, I was amazed to realise it was no bird. It was a flying machine. I glimpsed the pilot, who smiled sardonically. He felt like an emperor with his sophisticated toy. Was he not worried that we followed him? Captain Parry asked me not to lose sight of him, while he gave the order for steam at full speed. I was the first one who saw the island, but my happiness was short-lived. I shouted tothe captain to stop the ship immediately.
The old sailor had warned us that sea monsters surround Gondal Island, but I had not expected those huge beasts. A blow from one of their tails would be enough to sink us. I saw the flying machine disappearing above the island and I was the one to smile sardonically. The Gondals do not know we came prepared.
30 July 1834 [early morning]
The balloon especially designed for us by Montgolfier Factory waits ready on deck, for the last stretch of our journey. Cabin boy Douglasand I, who weigh the least, will go inside. Meanwhile, the ship will circle the island. If she remained still, she would be too tempting for the sea monsters. I climb to the nacelle and I offer my hand to the child to follow me. Douglas is just nine, but he is a smart boy. He is Captain Parry and Lady Emily’s adopted son. They found him on the streets. As a child, Lord Charles Wellesley called him Eater and hit him just for his expressionless stare. The calmness the child shows today makes me hate Lord Zamorna with a vengeance.
I write these quick lines next to the balloon, for the carrier pigeon to take to Parry. The wind was favourable, and we reached such an altitude that the fierce monsters became small dots. We glimpsed a small beach but, suddenly, everything became fog. How would we know if there was land below? My cabin boy warned me we were going to run out of wood to burn for our return. There was no guaranteeof finding any in the island. Despite not having good visibility, I decided to pull the rope to descend. I was scared while the balloon went down at high speed. Douglas clung to me, searching out my protection, and that gave me strength. I slowed down little by little. Yes! We were on the ground. We landed gently on a plain.
The first thing we saw was a mountain range. Douglas and I could not believe it. Moors, stone houses… It was so similar to home!
Then I saw the warrioress. She held her sword firmly in her hand, although she did not threaten me. It was strange. She looked a little like me.
- I am Augusta Geraldine Almeda, princess of Alcona. Welcome to Gondal.
Comments about the piece
In my previous piece in Terra Two (“The Brontës and science-fiction: Gondal and Angria as virtual worlds”), I linked the Brontës’ juvenilia to science-fiction, concretely the subgenres of virtual worlds and fantastic voyages. The earliest reference to the imaginary world Gondal (Emily and Anne’sDiary Paper 24 November 1834,some months after the date my story is set) is indeed about a journey through uncharted territory (“The Gondals are discovering the interior of Gaaldine”). According to her teacher M. Heger, Emily Brontë should have been “a man – a great navigator” (Barker 392). She named her juvenilia characters after real-life Artic explorers William Parry and James Clarke Ross, whose expeditions had featured in Blackwood’s Magazine (Barker 155). In her imaginary world, where the rules of patriarchal Victorian society did not apply, Emily would have been able to join Parry’s crew and take part in a transoceanic expedition to Gondal.
Through this fictional piece, I also reflect about how the elements we once consider “futuristic” may become conventional with time. It is possible nowadays to reach the North Pacific from England in just a few hours by plane. The canned food in tins (invented around 1819) and the high-tech flying machines of Emily’s fantastic voyage are now everyday features in the lives of travellers around the world.
I will let my readers figure out the characters and events by themselves. I will just say that the tomb of Sir John Moore (subject of Charles Wolfe’s 1816 poem, known to the Brontë children) is one of the landmarks of my hometown A Coruña (the city the English used to call Groyne).
- Alexander, Christine, ed., introduction and notes. The Brontës. Tales of Glass Town, Angria, and Gondal. Selected Writings. Oxford. Oxford’s World Classics. Oxford University Press. 2010.
- Alexander, Christine and Smith, Margaret. The Oxford Companion to the Brontës. Oxford. Oxford University Press. 2003.
- Barker, Juliet. The Brontës. London: Phoenix/ Orion. 1995.
- Brontë, Charlotte. “A Day at Parry’s Palace by Lord Charles Wellesley, Young Men’s Magazine, October 1830”. In Alexander, Christine, ed., introduction and notes. The Brontës. Tales of Glass Town, Angria, and Gondal. Selected Writings. Oxford. Oxford’s World Classics. Oxford University Press. 2010, pp. 40 – 43.
- Brontë, Emily and Anne. “Diary Paper 24 November 1834”. In Alexander, Christine, ed., introduction and notes. The Brontës. Tales of Glass Town, Angria, and Gondal. Selected Writings. Oxford. Oxford’s World Classics. Oxford University Press. 2010, pp. 485 – 487.
- Seijo-Richart, María. 16 April 2019. “The Brontës and science fiction: Gondal and Angria as virtual worlds”. Science Fiction for Survival: An Archive for Mars, Valley Press. https://yorkstjohnterratwo.com/portfolio/the-brontes-and-science-fiction-gondal-and-angria-as-virtual-worlds-by-maria-seijo-richart/
Dr. María Seijo-Richart has an International PhD in English at the University of A Coruña (Spain) and an MA in World Cinema at the University of Leeds, where she currently works. Her science fiction favourites are the two Rays: Bradbury and Harryhausen. María enjoys writing fiction, especially epic stories about female warriors.