The Voyage Begins - Unofficial Log of the Sailing of a Refugee Ship in 1914
Logs of ships voyages are usually terribly exact accounts which state the latitude, longitude, and precise hour of events, their cause, effect, and instructive value, the names of the witnesses, their homes, occupations and favorite flowers, besides many other items of important information; and for the purpose of official record, these logs possess great merit. But this one of the refugee voyage of the Principe di Udine will be marked with little of that desirable nautical precision, and for that reason, I have carefully labeled it "Unofficial".
Probably no one of the refugees will ever forget the scene at the Genoa wharf as the time for departure drew near. Staggering porters and excited passengers bumped into one another on the gang-plank; vendors of gaudy steamer chairs competed with peddlers of cheap binoculars to get the last few centissimi from the slim purses of the departing voyagers. The poor, disappointed fellow-Americans, who had to stay behind, tried to be cheerful and to wish us enthusiastic "God-speeds" while the never-to-be-forgotten Italian band struggled heroically to render the Star Spangled Banner with enthusiasm and eclat. And certainly no one will forget the belated arrival of a large man clad in a light linen suit who jumped aboard just as the captain was about to order the gang-plank pulled in.
After this last refugee had reached the deck, the boat began to move from the dock amidst a final pandemonium of tooting whistles, shrill goodbyes, parting cheers, and more vigorous and more discordant strains of the grand old
national anthem. Passengers crowded to the rails waving their little American flags in final farewell, and shouting last words of encouragement to the brave people whom we had to leave in Genoa. Soon, the whole scene on the dock melted into a confused mass of straw hats, colored umbrellas, and dark suits; finally, even Dr. Jones, clad in a blue coat and white flannels, on his little tug in our wake, became just a speck of black and white against the water, and our refugee trip across the Atlantic was on.
Probably no more unique voyage than this one of the Pincipe di Udine has ever started from Genoa's historic harbor since Columbus first blazed the way to America. Never has a ship's company been made up of four hundred tourists flying from the battle fumes of a general European conflict—unless possibly a few stray colonists rushed from the roar of Napoleon's guns; what is more, probably very few genuine refugees crossing the Atlantic have ever enjoyed all the privileges of a private yacht, as every one on board the Udine did, even the steerage passengers.
This arrangement, whereby no class distinctions were observed other than those absolutely necessary to the good management of the ship, established a feeling of solidarity seldom if ever seen amongst the company of a three-class steamer. Since the passengers felt drawn together by the hardships and privations they had endured in common in Europe, a true spirit of congeniality prevailed on board, a state of affairs which was made even more delightful by the careful attention Captain Tiscornia and his staff and the Committe of Guarantors gave to every refugee's slightest want.
If a person unfamiliar with the circumstances attendant to the sailing of the ship had boarded her in mid-ocean, he would undoubtedly have thought that he had encountered a large private party cruising for the summer.
During the first few days out, the experiences undergone on the Continent formed the principal topic for conversation with young and old alike. The more harrowing adventures went the rounds of the ship with amazing rapidity.
After the languor which an ocean voyage always induces had begun to overcome everybody, however, thoughts of Germany, Switzerland, and Genoa receded before hazy day dreams and plots of fascinating books. Gradually the tenseness which had at first prevailed grew less, and finally this gave way to a general feeling of relief and ease, so that the ship began to bubble over with good spirits.