Page:The Pathfinder of the Seas.djvu/92

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60
MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY

lar trade, with the object of making the voyage as short as possible. It was, therefore, a splendid opportunity for putting Maury's charts to the test, and the practical results of his new sailing directions soon displayed themselves.

Before his charts came to be used, the average passage from New York to San Francisco was about 180 days, but by the year 1855 the average passage between those ports for the year round had been reduced to 133 days. Moreover, there were dozens of clipper ships which, under Maury's directions, made the voyage in 110 days or even less. The record was made in 1851 by the Flying Cloud, which fairly flew over the passage in 89 days and 21 hours, during one day making the extraordinary distance of 433½ statute miles or sailing at the rate of 18 statute miles per hour. This exploit was celebrated with great rejoicing in San Francisco, because the inhabitants felt that they had been brought so much nearer to their old homes in the East.

Under the circumstances it was but natural that there should be races among the clipper ships. The route from New York to San Francisco became the great racecourse of the ocean, fifteen thousand miles in length. As Maury wrote, "Some of the most glorious trials of speed and prowess that the world ever witnessed, among ships that 'walk the waters', have taken place over it. Here the modern clipper ship—the noblest work that has ever come from the hands of man—has been sent, guided by the lights of science, to contend with the elements, to outstrip steam, and astonish the world".[1]

There was the great race in 1851 of the Raven, the Typhoon, and the Sea Witch, which was won by the first

  1. "Physical Geography of the Sea", 1855, p. 263.