1771 - The Halsewell Logbook

The Halsewell was one of the East India Company's grand merchant ships. Its logbook reveals fascinating details about life on board the ship: men overboard, repairs and cleaning jobs, deaths and punishments, treacherous weather conditions. One of its pages records an incident in which Captain Nelson forces the ship to anchor, and proceeds to poach the Company's experienced sailors, recruiting them into the Royal Navy.

During its lifetime the East India Company sent its trading ships on thousands of journeys around the world. Crews of hundreds lived on board in cramped and unhygienic conditions. The crew members all slept below deck, and lived on a poor diet. But the greatest danger to the seamen was shipwreck. About one in twenty of the Company's ships was wrecked or lost at sea. Considering the distances they travelled, this is not very surprising. The Cape of Good Hope had very stormy seas indeed and sank many ships.