In September 1914, 52 year-old William Brinton (W. B.) Harvey (1862-1947), the Superintendent of Westtown Boarding School, Pennsylvania and an elder in the Society of Friends (Quakers) set off with two companions William Charles Allen (1857-1938) and his wife, Elizabeth C.B. Allen, on a journey to the Far East to visit Japan, Korea, China and the Philippines.[i]

[On 5 March 1915 they arrived in Brisbane, via Townsville and Thursday Island aboard the Japanese steamer Hitachi Maru before continuing to Sydney before sailing for New Zealand. In the Dominion they…

Nippon Yuson Kaisha (NYK) S.S. HITACHI MARU
Postcard. Author's Collection.
Nippon Yuson Kaisha (NYK) S.S. HITACHI MARU
Postcard. Author’s Collection.

Letters of his journey and activities by W.B. Harvey were published in The Friend[ii], including the following written aboard and about the SS Wimmera:

NB: Harvey records his days and dates in a manner traditional to the Society of Friends, whereby the names of the common months and days are substituted by their number – Sunday being First Day.

“S.S. Wimmera, Fifth Month 2nd.

I will try again to write, though the muscles have too much to do in adjusting the body for that pursuit. We have had three days and more in the trackless deep through the “roaring forties.” I had just a little desire to see old ocean in a fury: my wants in that direction have been fully satisfied, though I am thankful to state that I have not really suffered much. We left Dunedin at about two P.M. last Fourth-day after our brief though I trust profitable visit, Friends being very kind in assisting us in every way. The ride to Bluff, which is the south point of the South Island, was without particular incident, and the one hundred and thirty-two miles were covered in about twelve hours; this tour is the most southerly railroad point in the world I was told and I am inclined to believe it. It is a small place, though it has a large export trade; two freight ships, one a huge one, were just docking as we left about two P.M on Fourth-day. Our trouble commenced soon. Storms, high winds and seas have been much with us all the way. It is now seven-twenty P. M. and the Tasman light is happily in sight. Wm. And Elizabeth Allen had a room assigned them in the stern on upper deck, the former has been very sick all the voyage and E. C. B. A. has kept her bed practically all the time too; they have eaten very little and are weak. The driven foam of the waves has been much of the time on this upper deck and we often have had to look up to see the crest of the might waves, but our buried bow has always righted itself and I trust we may be favored to reach Hobart by midnight ; the distance from Bluff to Hobart is nine hundred and thirty-one miles. Many of the good ships have been taken off; the Wimmera is far from the highest type, she has surely saved on the food problem on this trip.

It seems strange to us that no provision is made for warmth somewhere in the available part of the ship; however, overcoats and rugs make life not so uncomfortable as it might be. I have had several talks with a woman (Rachel Nalder), who has devoted some twenty-two years of her life in working for Ramabai’s great mission in India; she has been in New Zealand for over a year, raising funds and now goes to Tasmania.

Some of the sixty saloon passengers have taken the trip frequently, one man over sixty round trips on business. He told me this morning of one trip in a smaller vessel than this, when there were over two hundred passengers, the voyage was supposed to occupy six days and food and coal were provided for that period; head winds so baffled them that at the expiration of that time they were only half way. I was glad that said Providence helped them in changing the wind so that in ten days they drifted north to Australia before starving.

Another ship baffled with the elements all night and next morning was not out of sight of the lighthouse passed the evening before. On Sixth-day morning I made a start at rising before eight and finished dressing near two P. M., and my costume was not elaborate either. Much of the time was spent with elbows set as braces, awaiting the rolling and pitching of the vessel. I have not been sick, though I do not want to boast in the least. Among the strange experiences of the trip is to have a birthday in the fall. I shall be glad to get things settled a la America if I am favored once more to be with you again.

Hadley's Orient Hotel, Hobart
Postcard. Author's Collection.
Hadley’s Orient Hotel, Hobart
Postcard. Author’s Collection.


Fifth Month 4, Four-twenty-five P.M.

My “refrigerator” is all right for apple storage, but I dare not undertake to use it as an office, so have hunted a place where I can light a fire on the hearth. We docked at this city about eleven P. M. First-day night; how thankful we were once more to find tranquil waters…”

W.B. Harvey


[i] A Quaker diary in the Orient / William C. Allen San Jose, California, 1915, page 11

[ii] The Friend: a religious and literary journal, v89 no3, Fifth-day, Seventh Month 15, 1915, page 29

NB: The Hitachi Maru also became a victim of the Wolf

© Ralph L. Sanderson 2004-2021