59 School Street, Box 1310, Edgartown MA 02539 - 508.627.4441
Martha's Vineyard Museum MV Museum



Laura Jernegan (1862–1947)

Kept at sea

Laura Jernegan was six years old in 1868 when she went to sea with her family aboard the whaleship Roman. She spent the next three years aboard the ship and in Hawaii with her mother and brother while her father, Captain Jared Jernegan, took the ship to the Arctic in search of more whales. She kept this diary as part of her schooling. It is a unique record of whaling and shipboard life from the point of view of a child.

Tuesday. 21th. 1871
It is quite pleasant today. the men are cuting in the whales. they smel dredfully. we got a whale that made 75 barrels. the whales head made 20 barrels of oil. the whales head is as big as 4 whole rooms and his boddy is as long as one ship. the men have got 5 whales cut in they have throne some of the whale over board. it is fun to see them cut the whales in.

After the voyage, Laura returned to Edgartown by rail from San Francisco with her mother and brother. She finished her schooling on Martha's Vineyard in the more conventional setting of a classroom. She went on to study at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. When she was thirty-two, she married Herbert Spear and moved with him to Baltimore, returning once again to Edgartown after his death in 1912.

With thanks to the following individuals who have adopted this object for one year: John and Maureen Fuller