The Dana Point Historical Society, in collaboration with the City of Dana Point, presented the third annual public reading of Richard Henry Dana Jr.’s Two Years Before the Mast as a feature of the 2013 Festival of Whales. It is modeled on the popular annual public reading of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick conducted by the Old Dartmouth Historical Society at the New Bedford Whaling Museum in Massachusetts. Dana’s book is the first to describe in detail the California coast as it existed in the 1830s.
In the book, which takes place between 1834 and 1836, Dana gives a vivid account of the life of a common sailor at sea as it really was, recounting his voyage from Boston to South America, around Cape Horn to California to trade manufactured goods from the United States for cow hides produced by Mexican colonial California missions. While the images in the book of Santa Barbara and San Francisco are of interest, best beloved passages describe Capistrano Bay and San Juan (now Dana Point) as “the most romantic spot on the coast.”
The reading took place at the Nature Interpretive Center, 34558 Scenic Drive, where a spectacular mural of the Dana Point coast as it was in Richard Henry Dana’s time, complete with the ship “Pilgrim” at anchor, provided a perfect background for readers. It was accompanied by a slide presentation noting the location of the Pilgrim as Dana’s journey progresses, and then of the “Alert”, the ship on which Dana returns to Boston. The reading was completed over a three-day period utilizing nearly 100 different readers. Shown above is the committee for this event which includes Elizabeth Bamattre, Marsha LaRusso, Georgelean Olvera and Ann Liebowitz.
Thank you to all our readers:
Mary Lou Siddall