Sunday, 9 September 2007

Brief Autobiography of A. Hyatt Verrill

From Adventure Magazine 1951 May, Letters. Digital capture by Doug Frizzle, 2007 September.

The story, in brief, of a long and adventurous life—the colorful career of A. Hyatt Verrill, who cut and piled the "Chips from the Whale-ships' Logs" on page 25 in this issue. Mr. Verrill writes—

I was born in 1871, and my youth was spent in the era when sailing ships reigned supreme and bluff-bowed greasy whaleships of New England ports cruised the five oceans. I might say I was reared aboard ship for when five months old I went to sea on a U.S. Fish Commission vessel. My father, who was Professor of Zoology at Yale, was in charge of the Fish Commission work and our summers were passed wherever the annual headquarters happened to be. One summer we were at Noank, Connecticut and boarded at the home of a whaling captain whose ship was moored at a nearby dock. With Cap'n Potter's boys, my brother and I made the big square-rigger our playground and from that time on my intense interest in sailing ships and whalers never lagged. A leather-faced old bos'n taught me every knot and splice known to sailors. I became thoroughly familiar with every detail of a ship's rigging and handling. Then a voyage to the West Indies and return aboard a bark rounded out my nautical education and at 26 I obtained a Master's ticket.

In later years, when I became an author, I wrote "The Real Story of the Whalers," which was considered a classic by the few surviving old whalemen. In the meantime I had led a varied and often adventurous life. At the age of 17 I made my first scientific expedition to the West Indies and subsequently spent over forty years exploring the jungles of South and Central America, visiting many little known and often reputedly hostile tribes for the purpose of collecting ethnological specimens and making paintings of the Indians from life, for the Museum of the American Indian in New York City.

At one time I joined Colonel Cody's (Buffalo Bill's) Wild West Show, and as an expert rifle shot I demonstrated Winchester ammunition. Between jungle trips I found time to write over one hundred published books and contributed innumerable articles and stories to periodicals in the United States and England. A number of my books and magazine stories were of the sea and several dealt with the pirates and buccaneers. My interest in these free-booters was first aroused when I read the diary of that famous and unique character—Red Legs, the moral pirate. Other books were on the Indians, such as 'The American Indian,"—"Old Civilizations of the New World" and "Our Indians." I was made a blood brother of a Carib chief in South America, a Medicine Chief of the Guaymis of Panama, and an honorary member of the Bear Clan of the Ogallala Sioux. I believe I am the only living white man to have seen the ruins of the almost legendary lost Tsingal Mine. I speak Spanish, West Indian Creole patois and several Indian dialects.

Twice married, my second wife is five-eighths Indian and an archaeologist. I have three living daughters and a number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. One of my granddaughters is Conchita Cintron, the world-famous woman bullfighter. It is hard to believe that I am now in my eightieth year for, like the famous centenarian, I don't feel old but merely have been here a long time. My life has been a full one and I truthfully can say that I never have known a dull moment.

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As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.