The (further) logbooks of Andrew Cheyne

Captain Andrew Cheyne (1817-1866), from a photo facsimile at the Tangwick Haa Museum, Tangwick, Shetland UK.

Nothing will ever beat the adrenaline rush of finding new (to me) pages of Andrew Cheyne’s logbook one afternoon on an hour-long break at the second Saint Magnus Conference in the Shetlands (in 2015, I think). In the limited time I had, the archivists were kind enough to make some copies of the first thirty pages of these logbooks. The logbooks continue a description of the voyage of the brig Naiad. The first part of the voyage was published in 1971 as part of The Trading Voyages of Andrew Cheyne and edited by Dorothy Shineberg. For convoluted reasons, she did not receive the rest of Cheyne’s logbooks which are now at the archives. (Read more in my introduction to the logbook.)

That little taste of this voyage was not enough! In 2018 I got the chance to spend about a month in Shetland transcribing the logbooks as part of my dissertation. Truly a magical time — days spend sussing out Cheyne’s 19th-century cursive and long evenings hiking and enjoying Shetland.

Tangwick Haa in Northmavine, Shetland, where Andrew Cheyne was born.

The point being — the logbooks don’t end with the published account; further accounts of later voyages are housed in the Shetland Museum and Archives. Having perused them, I can say that Cheyne wrote less description on the later voyages (after he had actually trained as a navigator). The schooner Starling logbook, which was his next voyage after the Naiad, is very interesting. (He is stranded on an atoll for nearly a year! Boy, does it get dire.) If I ever get back to the archives, I’ll make a proper transcription of that one. (Or you should, if you are among the very small number of people who are excited by this!)

It was such a thrill to transcribe these words and I can’t thank the archivists enough for their assistance. (I didn’t “discover” anything, I merely plucked the fruit that the archivists had tended, and the family preserved, for years.) I also got to meet Cheyne’s descendants and stay near his son’s house on the island of Fetlar. Another thrill that felt made for precisely me — a person who lived in Micronesia for 11 years and is also fascinated with Shetland. Nobody better to study than Andrew Cheyne!

Sir William Watson’s house on the island of Fetlar in Shetland. (He was Cheyne’s son.)

For the time-being, this is the internet-home of the transcription of the logbook Naiad. Read more about the provenance of the logbooks and the whole logbook by clicking “download” below. This work was done in 2018 and revised very slightly in 2021.

The recent revisions were due to further research into Burn, Macvicar, and Company, the firm Cheyne was working for as a trading captain in this ill-fated voyage. It seems pretty obvious they were using Cheyne’s sea-cucumber trading voyage as a cover for their real business: smuggling opium. (Which explains why he was outfitted so poorly.) I wrote a fictionalized account of Cheyne’s time in Hong Kong preparing the Naiad that was recently published in Sundial Magazine.

Fetlar Church, in Shetland.