Seasickness! from Around the World in Seventy-Two Days by Nellie Bly (1890)

Once aboard the Augusta Victoria, beginning her 1889 around-the-world-trip—becoming the first to complete what was imagined in Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in 80 Days—journalist Nellie Bly experiences the curse of sea travel.

Never having taken a sea voyage before, I could expect nothing else than a lively tussle with the disease of the wave.

“Do you get seasick?” I was asked in an interested, friendly way. That was enough; I flew to the railing.

Sick? I looked blindly down, caring little what the wild waves were saying, and gave vent to my feelings.

People are always unfeeling about seasickness. When I wiped the tears from my eyes and turned around, I saw smiles on the face of every passenger. I have noticed that they are always on the same side of the ship when one is taken suddenly, overcome, as it were, with one’s own emotions.

The smiles did not bother me, but one man said sneeringly: “And she’s going around the world!”

I too joined in the laugh that followed. Silently I marveled at my boldness to attempt such a feat wholly unused, as I was, to sea-voyages. Still I did not entertain one doubt as to the result.

Of course I went to luncheon. Everybody did, and almost everybody left very hurriedly. I joined them, or, I don’t know, probably I made the start. Anyway I never saw as many in the dining room at any one time during the rest of the voyage.

When dinner was served I went in very bravely and took my place on the captain’s left. I had a very strong determination to resist my impulses, but yet, in the bottom of my heart was a little faint feeling that I had found something even stronger than my willpower.

Dinner began very pleasantly. The waiters moved about noiselessly, the band played an overture, Captain Albers, handsome and genial, took his place at the head, and the passengers who were seated at his table began dinner with a relish equaled only by enthusiastic wheelmen when roads are fine. I was the only one at the captain’s table who might be called an amateur sailor. I was bitterly conscious of this fact. So were the others.

I might as well confess it: While soup was being served, I was lost in painful thoughts and filled with a sickening fear. I felt that everything was just as pleasant as an unexpected gift on Christmas, and I endeavored to listen to the enthusiastic remarks about the music made by my companions, but my thoughts were on a topic that would not bear discussion.

I felt cold, I felt warm; I felt that I should not get hungry if I did not see food for seven days; in fact, I had a great, longing desire not to see it, nor to smell it, nor to eat of it, until I could reach land or a better understanding with myself.

Fish was served, and Captain Albers was in the midst of a good story when I felt I had more than I could endure.

“Excuse me,” I whispered faintly, and then rushed, madly, blindly out. I was assisted to a secluded spot where a little reflection and a little unbridling of pent-up emotion restored me to such a courageous state that I determined to take the captain’s advice and return to my unfinished dinner.

“The only way to conquer seasickness is by forcing one’s self to eat,” the captain said, and I thought the remedy harmless enough to test.

They congratulated me on my return. I had a shamed feeling that I was going to misbehave again, but I tried to hide the fact from them. It came soon, and I disappeared at the same rate of speed as before.

Once again I returned. This time my nerves felt a little unsteady and my belief in my determination was weakening. Hardly had I seated myself when I caught an amused gleam of a steward’s eye, which made me bury my face in my handkerchief and choke before I reached the limits of the dining hall.

The bravos with which they kindly greeted my third return to the table almost threatened to make me lose my bearings again. I was glad to know that dinner was just finished and I had the boldness to say that it was very good!

From Around the World in Seventy-Two Days by Nellie Bly*

Follow Classic Travel Tales on Facebook.

Subscribe to Classic Travel Tales.

Read More Classic Travel Tales.