Pella. October 2l, 1855
To Mr. Swartte Van Loon
Finally I will fulfil my promise to write you a report about our voyage to the United States. I do not think it is necessary to write an introduction, as you are aware of everything, and for that reason I will start immediately with our departure from Rotterdam.
After we spent a few days in Rotterdam and had embarked on the South Carolina with Captain Stewart, we were notified on April 24 at six o'clock in the morning that the ship was about to leave. Immediately all passengers had to come up on deck to be counted and examined. Everything was completed at 9 o'clock and now a steamboat towed us in the Maas to Nieuwesluis. At Nieuwesluis they put sixteen horses on ropes to pull us to Hellevoetsluis. This was very difficult because of a heavy wind that started from the North, and this made it almost impossible to keep the ship away from the riverbank. It also cost the greatest amount of effort to get us through the bridges. Added to this was that the first mate was drunk and started a fight with the captain, while he was not doing his job, as I could see. The captain grabbed the first mate by his collar and threw him against the rails and the big mast. As a result the first mate looked quite bloodied; he was chased to his cabin. Meanwhile the wind increased even more and we remained in front of a bridge about one hour distance from Hellevoetsluis. because it was impossible to get the ship through the bridge. Because of the continuing wind we were obliged to remain in front of it until six o'clock in the evening of the following day, and only then they slowly moved the ship through the bridge. After this we slowly floated on the canal to Hellevoetsluis, and we arrived there during the night. Early in the morning of April 26 we were outside the locks but the anchor was lowered and we had to wait there all day long. The ship was now in salt water and all the passengers were longing for a favorable wind that would get us out to sea. At the same time the Tarlinta was waiting there at Hellevoetsluis, it had been there for three days already, also waiting for a more favorable wind. On that ship there were many Friesian emigrants; we were told that then already they had suffered four dead on that ship. On the following morning the wind was favorable; at nine o'clock the anchors were raised and the sails were hoisted. I went in the cabin to write to my brother T. Heeringa; while I was writing, the wind suddenly shifted to the N.W. The sails were lowered, and so were the anchors, and we stayed in front of Hellevoetsluis for yet another entire day. Although this village is only small, it looks very graceful from the sea. During the previous night a child died on the lower deck. The little corpse was bundled in canvas and placed in a boat at the after-deck, it was hanging alongside the ship and stayed there that day. When we arrived at Hellevoetsluis two sailors who had deserted in Rotterdam, were brought on deck. One of them had stolen a pair of boots from his mates. This morning the one had his shackles removed and was allowed to get to work, and towards the evening the other one received twelve lashes on his back, administered to him by the captain himself. Being an eyewitness, I strongly condemned this action, although I cannot deny that this young man who received the lashings, - he did not seem to be older than twenty or twenty-one - might be deserving more of them during his lifetime. During the entire voyage I have had to see with aversion the roguish face of this American.
Finally, on April 28 it was the day that we went out to sea. At six o'clock in the morning a steamboat from Hellevoetsluis came to tow us out to sea. After the steamboat had towed us a short distance, they also took along a ship for the East Indies behind us, to get out to sea at the same time as us. As soon as we were on the open sea, the steamboat left us and we had hardly started or some passengers became seasick already. Shortly after noon it seemed that we had no women on board anymore. Their lively discussions up to this point had ceased and all of them had disappeared into their berths. The wind blew rather strongly from the North and we traveled quite fast. In the galley where up to this point most of the action had taken place, all work ceased in the afternoon because hardly anybody was thinking about eating.
At five o'clock in the morning of April 29 I woke up and saw land through my little porthole, while I was still lying on my bunk. I got dressed immediately and went on deck, we were between Calais and Dover. The coast of France was hilly, while the coast of England consisted of strong uneven rocks that looked white.
The chalk-cliffs of England look rather pleasant, and although the coasts on both side were clearly visible, hardly anything could be seen of the two cities Calais and Dover. From the sea it seems that Dover is totally hidden behind the cliffs. After we had passed Dover for some time, and when we were just opposite a beautiful lighthouse, built entirely of red bricks, the pilot left us. I gave the pilot a letter addressed to my brother-in-law T. Heeringa. Towards noon the wind died down entirely and we were close to a high and steep chalk-cliff.
It was Sunday. The coast was strewn with smaller vessels, which were doomed to idleness, for the same reason that we were. In the cabin we twice had a preaching service and there were the usual prayers and singing. The first Sunday at sea did not pass in a unconsecrated manner. Late in the evening a strong wind started blowing from the N.O.
On April 30th the wind of the previous evening kept up, and the ship cut through the waves fast like an arrow. Many passengers, and especially the women, were afflicted with seasickness. Although I did not count myself among this number, I did not feel all that well and that was probably caused by the movements of the ship as well. Towards the evening the wind died down and the sea became rather smooth, also because we had come very close to the coast of England. We could clearly see that they were building on the south slopes of the mountains.
It was a beautiful morning on May 1st, and hardly any wind. All morning we had a pleasant time on deck and on the North side we noticed some land still, but this was the last we could see of Europe. Around eleven o'clock in the morning an open boat with two masts came alongside us. The boat crew consisted of eight brave men, probably fishermen. One of them called for our captain and asked him how he felt about the weather and the wind. During the afternoon the sky clouded over and the wind came up. Once in a while some seabirds showed up close to the ship; towards the evening these became more numerous, and one was caught even, because he flew into the cabin. The wind became stronger and stronger and many became seasick again. At eight o'clock we went into our bunks, but we were hardly settled in or the wind came up with an amazing strength and slammed the ship with so much force back and forth that everything in the cabin went upside down and flew back and forth. The canned goods made an awful noise and my wife and I could not sleep, but our children slept as if nothing was amiss. All night long I did not feel well and in the evening I had an headache. I wished I could also be seasick, just like my wife and three of my children.May 2nd. Although I had slept just a little, I felt a bit better this morning. It was still blowing hard and during the night we had lost a piece of the mizzenmast. Seasickness on board was pretty bad; entire families stayed in their bunks all day long, and only a few people were on deck. Nothing going on in the galley, and although I was not on my bunk and I was not seasick, I felt from well and had absolutely no desire to eat; so this was day of fasting. I have often read about waves that were sky high; I have not seen any yet, even though the ship was dancing up and down quite a bit. You have the wrong idea about waves if you think about them as continuous waves. The seawater is whipped up by the wind to a mountain, and this causes very deep troughs in other places of the water. It is hard to estimate the height of the waves; very impressive is the movement of the waters and the strength it has is amazing. Beaten by the wind, the waves just play with the largest ship as if it was a small piece of wood, and more than once the words of the Psalmist came to mind:
Now you see the ship in the sky,
May 3. During the night a child below deck died. Although the wind is somewhat less strong, there is still a heavy case of seasickness. The sea was more even, but the skies are dark and wild. Our Jan, a boy of six, has not been seasick yet, and it appears that he is not bothered by the movements of the ship, he likes his food quite well.
The overall condition of all the passengers is far from pleasant; yes, you may as well call it rather miserable. Those who are not seasick, complain about dizziness and have no appetite at all. This afternoon a three-master passed us on the North side at a great distance. At around three o'clock the wind got up again with amazing strength and towards evening the seas were very hollow. At around nine o'clock when almost all passengers were in their berths, the cook's water vessel fell down on the deck, it broke in pieces and the water streamed along the deck and this caused fright and terror among the passengers; many of them jumped out of their bunks to see what was going on.
May 4. All night long the weather was quite wild. Sleeping was difficult, especially in the second cabin because of the creaking sounds of the main-mast. During the day the wind diminished nicely and towards evening it was almost quiet. Many on board suffer from diarrhea, and during the last two days I have had severe pains in the underbelly, all our children have suffered from this or are still suffering from it.
On May 5th the wind turned towards the South in the morning, and the weather was very quiet. The captain removed all the seasick people from their berth below deck and chased them to the after-deck. Miserable faces appeared; some looked like skeletons and could neither stand nor walk. It cost a lot of energy to get them up on the after-deck. It is remarkable how indifferent and listless the persons are who suffer seriously from seasickness, they are laying where they are laying and will not move themselves from their place unless they are forced to move. it was very difficult to get them all out of their berths, but the captain showed no mercy and even made some persons to be carried upstairs by the sailors. I felt sorry for these people laying on the deck, but the captain did right by forcing the people in this way to get a few hours of fresh air. Many passengers have given up hope and are feeling very down. And no wonder, because for as long as we have been at sea, we have hardly had half a day of nice weather. Almost every day a strong wind and usually even worse at night; and some nights even so severe that almost nobody could sleep. However, the wind was always in our favor, and during a period of eight days we have traveled more than one-third of the distance.
A few times already I have made mention of the death of a child; I indicated that the little corpse was wrapped in canvass and placed in a boat on the after-deck. Up to this point I could not find out how they handled this matter after that, but now I found out that late in the evening or in the night a sailor would throw them overboard without any formality whatsoever. I will come back to this later and for now I will refrain from making any further comments concerning this.
During the night before Sunday May 6, the wind was quite strong again, and many people were seasick. During this day I had a strong pain in my belly and similar to most passengers I was listless and indifferent. MY wife had been quite seasick during the night and there was very little cheerfulness on board. In the beginning it was crowded on deck and lively, but now there is always plenty of room, because half of the passengers are always in their bunks. There are a few people on board on whom the movement of the ship has absolutely no influence.
I was lying on my bunk almost constantly on May 7, 8 and 9 because of worsening illness. I could not imagine ever having been ill like this. During these three days the weather was constantly wild with the wind against us, and it made no difference to me, I did not care if the ship swayed and lurched, or if the mast creaked and the waves bounced against the ship with much force.
Our children Jan and Yeeltje appear to have become completely used to the movements of the ship, as they have not experienced the least bit of seasickness. Our eldest has supported us a lot during these days; it appears that she enjoys the life on the ship and she can look after herself quite well for her years. No matter how the ship sways or bangs, she just looks after her business and stands up like a sailor. To prepare the food for us was completely impossible for my wife for as long as we have been at sea, and at this time I could not do it either. However Tynke was able to arrange everything and that was very important for me. There are families on board of which all the members are sick and had to look after themselves anyway. Selfishness and self-interest come along on board, and this shows here just like it does on shore, might even be more serious. Especially in the galley, because for as long as there are no better rules than at present, the strongest and most brazen one usually receives a double helping while the weak and meek one gets nothing. Everyone looks out for himself and love for your neighbor means very little.
During the night of May 11 the wind was stronger than we have experienced during the whole voyage. Early in the morning a steamship passed us, heading for Europe. I felt considerably better, but still listless all the time. I was up almost the whole day, but towards evening I was so tired that I could hardly sit up. During the day the wind went down and towards the evening the weather was rather quiet and it looked like we would be able to sleep more peacefully than during the previous night.
May 11. We all had a good sleep and the day was beautiful. In the morning a man from the province Groningen and wrapped in a blanket was carried upstairs by two sailors. Although always good and strong, this man was now very ill and could not stand up or walk anywhere. After having been on deck for a few hours he improved somewhat and had a raving hunger. At noon two ships passed us; one of them was heavy laden. It became livelier on deck. I felt considerably better.
May 12. We slept well at night and the wind was a bit stronger and more favorable than since the last few days; we made good progress again and the captain told me that at this point we may have completed about half of the voyage. Below deck another child of six months died. They did the usual thing with the little corpse. During the weeks just past we have had to struggle with wind against us and made only little progress. By the end of last week my watch was two hours ahead of the real time; during this week the difference was not even half an hour.
In the evening the passengers had to draw lots for their turn to cook; this was a good step. Now every family would got one hour and fifteen minutes to do their cooking, and this was done from eight in the morning till six in the evening. The ones who did the cooking today from 8 to 9 would do this tomorrow from 9:15 to half past ten.
Sunday, May 13, I woke up at five-thirty and woke our eldest daughter to serve us tea and prepare the breakfast. The weather was beautiful. When she just got dressed, quite a bit of noise came from the other side of the cabin door. Only a few other people beside my daughter were up and she immediately went outside, and then she saw that a passenger was having a disagreement with the first mate. It appeared that the passenger was washing himself at a spot which was not allowed by the first mate; he threw some dirt in his face and if that was not enough, he pushed him against his metal pail, breaking it in pieces. The passenger got very angry, grabbed the first mate, pushed him against the coalbin and then against the deck; the first mate looked rather bloodied. Nothing happened of this incident. The first mate, a Scott, appeared not to like Hollanders all that much. He understood hardly any Dutch and his English was poor. Although he hardly mingled with the passengers, he did like to have a talk with me and he started to really like our children. They will never forget him. When he was on deck and he had some time, he almost always played with Dientje, and she always looked for him too and was happy when the first mate had nothing else to do. If I would come on deck and he did not see any of our children, he would right away ask: "Where is Martje" or "Where is Dientje?" As soon as the fight with the first mate was finished, a rumour spread that during the night a sailor had disappeared. It was a boy of twenty-three, born in Lubeck and came on board in Rotterdam for his very first voyage. They had seen him still at twelve in the night at the door of the second cabin, where he had complained to some of the passengers about the poor treatment he received from the two sailors, who had deserted the ship in Rotterdam and who were accused by him of theft. Some people had the icy thought that maybe those two Sailors had pushed him overboard, and others thought that he might have jumped overboard because of despair. The crew seemed to think: a man overboard, one less mouth to feed, and they did not seem to worry.
Another religious service in the cabin on this day, consisting of reading an explanation of the catechism and the singing of psalms. The meeting was closed with a prayer by elder De Free, in a forthright and sincere manner. When my family and I were in our bunks already, some more psalm verses were sung, and in the stillness this made a solemn impression on me.
The health condition of my wife was not improved and our youngest child was so emaciated because of persistent diarrhea, that we feared that she might not be able to complete the voyage.
May 14. The different kinds of gulls that accompanied us on the ocean at first, have left us since a few days ago. A black little bird, looking like a swallow, only a little larger, now accompanies the ship and floats restlessly over the waves. Below deck a child of two has died.
On the morning of May 15th the missing sailor was found again. He had not gone overboard but had hidden under the cages of the passengers below deck. As is the custom, this morning there had to be some cleaning done, and when he found this out, he quickly appeared. He did not receive any punishment from the captain.
This was a very beautiful day and we saw very many fish, of different size and type. Also a small whale, but he did not come close to the ship. My wife feels considerably better and also our little Ybeltje is improving, and this makes all of us feel better. May God give that all of us will arrive safely!
It rained continuously during the night starting the day of May 16. The captain caught a rare sea animal in the afternoon. The main part of the body of this animal seems nothing but a bladder, bluish of color, and a large number of threads attached to it which the animal could fill and empty as it wanted.
On May 17th, being Ascension Day, we saw three ships in the afternoon at the same time; we had not seen any ships for a few days. Below deck I witnessed the death of a child of half a year, the poor creature was completely emaciated and I witnessed with sorrow. The child died at six o'clock and not even an hour later a sailor came to get it to be placed in the boat. If this voyage takes much longer, several other children will die for sure; almost all children below the age of two look most miserable and as far as I can see they suffer from the same malady, namely diarrhea, and they slowly languish. The bad water and unusual food cause this sad ailment. Our children, and especially the smallest, have all suffered from this. I noticed that the children are more thirsty as they suffer from this ailment, and also know that it is good to boil the water and let it brew on bitter herbs and then let them drink this; camellia is also good.
May 18; nothing special to report. Quite often a sailor, from Amsterdam, comes here in the cabin in the evening, to make some small talk. Many passengers are eager to listen to him when he tells about his travels to the Mediterranean, East Indies, China, Japan, etc. etc. Also about wars at sea, cannibals, mermaids and more of these strange things. He knows the art of keeping the attention of his audience; many of them, not in the least the children, love to hear him. Only too bad that we have so many adult children among us.
May 19. It was a beautiful day today, and the passengers could really enjoy it. Slowly they all recover from the seasickness; they feel healthy, but are still tired. Here on board, the down-hearted feelings of last week are now making place for cheerfulness and happiness. It seemed as if all of us were getting used to living on the ship; our children, except the youngest one, are healthy and happy as ever, and do not show any desire to see the voyage ended. And no wonder: they sleep well at night, have a good appetite and on deck they have room to play and are having fun; the motion of the ship does not bother them in the least. My wife, however, has more difficulty getting used to it, although she is no longer seasick, and she longs for the end of the voyage. She is bothered by a weakness in her back and because of this she cannot walk without assistance. We have made little progress this week, and it looks like we will have a lengthy voyage. As long as we are healthy and the weather is good; then it does not matter too much if the trip lasts a few weeks longer, because we have sufficient food with us. We have not had a more beautiful day yet; it was windstill and actually warm. Thousands of sea animals were around the ship, and most of them were unknown to us. I enjoyed the little animals who inflated a bladder and had it above the water and used it as a sail; the bladder appeared to be white and was totally translucent. Towards evening a school of large fish appeared, at about eight o'clock a passenger from below deck came to sit at the window of the cabin and played some nice pieces on a harmonica and after that he sang a song in a lovely and tasteful manner. After this a few girls from the province of Groningen went to the window and sang a beautiful song; at the request of the captain they repeated this again; this evening was truly a happy one.
Out captain contributes quite a bit to the pleasure of the passengers. All the passengers enjoy the same freedoms: he does not discriminate; we may walk around the entire deck and may even approach the cabin of the captain. He is imperfect in speaking Dutch, but still well enough so that everyone can understand him; he loves to pull an innocent trick on one passenger or another. He stands there talking to someone and focuses his attention to something unimportant or he tells them that he sees a whale or a sea-serpent, and in the meantime he lifts a pipe and tin of tobacco out of his pocket; at another time he smartly lifts the sewing or knitting-work from a girl, or he allows her to remove her toys from his pocket. When the weather is nice he is below deck before day-break and chases the passengers out of their bunks and almost always with a joke. He loves to play with the children on deck, and they are definitely not afraid of him, but like to see him, because he is always the first one and the last one and is the captain, the first mate and the sailor a11 at the same time.
Sunday, May 20, Early in the night the wind came up and this morning it was blowing quite hard. Some of the women became seasick again. Even though the ship was lurching quite a bit, yes even more than when we first got to sea, there were only a few women who were bothered with seasickness, and we were not afflicted with this nasty sickness as much anymore. Except for seeing a ship pass us, nothing unusual happened. As usual, a service was held, but the attendance is slackening a bit.
On May 21 there were two ships that passed us, and one of them came very close to us; it was a French ship from Bordeaux. On that day we saw some gulls that were especially big: we had not seen these birds since we had lost sight of the coast or Europe for two or three days. They must have come from the islands that we passed in the North. Since last night the wind was favorable and we progressed well.
The weather was mild and beautiful on May 22, but it was deathly still, which is not desirable at sea. At around ten o'clock a large number of fish swam alongside the ship and this looked really nice as they jumped out of the water from time to time and then disappeared again. Towards the evening we had a fire in the galley because of frying of bacon in a leaky frypan and the fat dripped on the burning coals. This created some excitement, but it ended well. The cook threw a pail of water on the fire and immediately this caused so much smoke and smother in the galley that those who were working there and were baking pancakes, almost choked to death. The captain appeared at the door of the galley and he laughed out loud. He had closed off the chimney of the galley and with doing that he had immediately killed the fire, but also almost choked to death in the smoke all those who were in the galley. Fortunately this was the end of this episode.
Towards sunset a shark appeared close to the ship. As usual when the water is even, many of the little animals appeared again that blow up their bladder and come above the water level and move along with the wind. The Americans call these animals the Portuguese men of war. The bladder almost has the form of a sheep's kidney, is totally clear and on the top has a stripe of smaller blisters, and as you look at them up close they show beautiful colors.
Of the many ships that passed us on May 23, there was a Dutch ship that steered straight towards us and came very close so it seemed. They wanted to know exactly our position, and our captain gave this information to the captain of the Dutch ship and then they went away again.
On May 24 we had a strong N.N.W. wind, same as the previous day and we made good progress. At about eight o'clock an English ship came very close, so that the captains could call out to each other the name of their ship and their destination. We saw several ships that day. During the previous night, the trunk of one of the sailors had been broken open and fourteen guilders had been stolen as well as some pieces of clothing, towards evening, the one that was robbed was threatened by other sailors with a beating. He complained to the captain and the captain ordered him to bring all his goods to the cabin, and at the same time the captain ordered that all berths and trunks of the sailors were to be searched. The first mate did this, but without having found the perpetrator. The sailors have a poor relationship with each other. This was apparent already in the beginning of the voyage. The English seem to have it in for the Germans; the former appear to be very wretched and rough people who care for god nor religion and they are shunned by all passengers; among the latter one finds several decent people who enjoy being with the passengers and who gladly lend a helpful hand. The Dutch sailors are very friendly with the passengers.
May 25. During the night A. A. beloved spouse of P.P., gave birth to a healthy baby-daughter; mother and child are doing well, (this is notification to family and acquaintances). Nothing else of importance happened this day, except that we had a strong wind against us and that we saw some ships in the distance.
May 26. Until the afternoon there was no wind, or rather, the wind fluttered from all directions; but in the afternoon some wind came up from the southwest and towards evening a cooler wind was strong and we made good progress even though our direction was northerly. It was quite warm this morning. Except for the first few days of our voyage, we have not had complaints about cold weather. During the past week we enjoyed beautiful weather every day, and the passengers were mostly healthy and happy, except for a few who seemed to regret having left their fatherland and who anxiously anticipate their uncertain future. My wife is gradually recovering from the seasickness; during the last few days her strength is improving, and if the movements of the ship were not too strong, she could walk along the deck by herself. Much comfort we derived from the fact that our youngest darling was visibly improving; she started to play and sing again and walk in the cabin and on the deck. Thank God that she was given back to us! As far as I am concerned, I was happy and satisfied and our other four children were as healthy as fish in the water, and showed no desire to end this voyage. Our trip may yet take another two or three weeks if the wind does not improve. And if this is so, then there are several passengers below deck who are running short of food. The small store supplies such as coffee, tea, sugar, syrup, vinegar, etc., are diminishing. We still have enough sugar, tea and coffee, but I wished I had brought a bit more syrup and sugar; as far as all our other provisions go, we could easily stay at sea for another six weeks. We saw many ships and one of them came very close; also many fish showed themselves. On a Saturday I usually review in my notes the week just ended, and then start again on Sunday with a new period.
Today was Saturday again and on the ship as well on shore, this is an extra day. I will briefly describe some of the things.
This morning even before five o'clock, the second mate who had been below deck and now came in the cabin, called in a happy voice, "Come on people, get up and see to it that everything around you gets cleaned; at five o'clock you will get the opportunity to get your beard shaved and hair cut." People obey as quickly as possible this kind of sailor's order issued in a rough tone of voice. When the scrubbing is finished, the bathing and changing of clothes needs to be done. This activity of the Saturday on the ship is quite peculiar, first of all because this cannot be done other than in public, and also because it costs quite a few people their lives. This is because that along with the many passengers emigrants came on board who have not paid anything and who live now at the expense of the emigrants who have paid. These shameless guests have multiplied among some and were now trying to join all others, regardless of rank and station. However, most of them have to pay for their naughtiness with their lives. Some even dared to infiltrate the cabin, and there as well as in the hold below deck these guests are openly hunted down and killed without any form of justice. On shore one would speak badly about this system, but here on this ship nobody appears to have a problem with it and does not mind to go along with the hunters. Quite often you hear the one ask the other, did you get any? Or: are you catching any? And whenever I take a peek below deck, I can be sure to notice some of the hunters who quickly and without fanfare are doing their work.
Sunday, May 27 (Pentecost). During the night the wind was high and we had rainshowers. Even though at the start of our voyage the weather had been a lot worse, this made quite an impression on many, if not on all passengers. As far as I was concerned, I was not scared and easily taken aback, but it remained an impressive sight with these mountains of water driven by the winds with their foaming tops threatening to attack the ship, to the point when the ship seemed to be inundated. At times the stern would point towards the abyss and the weak of heart would fear that the ship was disappearing into the unfathomable depth, and then suddenly it would rear up and then the stern was in danger of sinking. No matter the lurching and shocks, the frail vessel would raise itself up again in spite of the might of the foaming waves. Although diminishing, the wind remained strong till six in the evening, at which time it started to rain with great force and suddenly the wind was totally gone and the sails were totally slack. As soon as the rain ceased, it became foggy. The strong wind had pushed us ahead with great strength and we had arrived at the banks of New Foundland.
It rained almost all day on May 28, and the wind was unfavorable. It was also very cold and there were hardly any passengers on deck, not even at night when it became dry. The gulls began to show themselves, heralding the coast of America. A child of four died below deck and during the night on May 29 we had lots of rain again with a strong N.N.O. wind. The rain stopped at around nine o'clock, but it remained windy till evening, when it diminished but the direction stayed the same. The water on the banks of New Foundland has a light green color, same as the water in the English Channel. As I have mentioned before, everywhere else the ocean water is of a deep blue. Without a doubt the difference in color is brought about by the difference in depth.
We had a severe wind on May 30 and it was extra cold. Before noon the wind was favorable, the same as on both days previous, but during the afternoon it veered towards the N.W.
The weather was most beautiful on May 31, but there was no wind. The cold weather was much improved, we had passed the banks of New Foundland. At this altitude the weather is very unsteady. While talking with the captain that evening, my forecast was for rain, but he expected strong winds. That day nothing special happened, except for a couple of rats, of which we had multitudes on board, that were caught and thrown in the water amidst loud shouts of agreement from the audience.
June 1. The captain is a better profit than I; we did not get much rain, but the wind blew something fierce during the night and especially this morning. It is not much fun for the passengers, and especially not for those in the second cabin, when the wind grows so strong during the night. Those who are not sleeping deeply can be sure that they will not fall asleep. The one sail had to be lowered and the other had to be taken in. The sailors were flying across the deck and as they were pulling the ropes they were shouting their Ho! Ho!s and some more encouraging sounds and in such terrible harmony that the sound was really loud and you would think that there was a terrible emergency going on. The wilder the weather, the louder the sailors yell, and this night they gave an extra sample of their ability in this art, resulting in the fact that from twelve till two o'clock there was not one passenger that could get some shut-eye. This morning the waves were so high that once in a while a wave came over the railing and soaked the passengers that were within its reach, and this caused us to have a good laugh. Nobody was disturbed about the high winds anymore, our children even enjoyed it and our eldest sure got her part of the water. A ship passed us again this morning; we had not seen any vessels for several days. Towards evening the wind died down and the weather was nice. Because we had not slept much during the previous night, we went in our bunks on time, but this did not give us much rest, because the younger ones of the passengers had absolutely no desire to follow our example, and they were laughing and singing till midnight. This usually happens. Whenever a nice evening follows a stormy day, it seems that they have to make up the lost time.
June 2. Today we had exceptional nice weather, and the heat bothered us even more than the cold weather ever did. It is now exactly five weeks that we are at sea. When it is windstill, like today, some of the passengers are beginning to get impatient and everybody looks forward to the desired port, especially the women and the weak ones. I cannot say that I am getting bored, but I do not like the stillness and the heat the way we had it today. Our children are happy about it and enjoy good health all the time. Our youngest one has improved a lot during the last week; she walks again in the cabin or plays with other children on deck. Our heart is lightened because it has pleased the Lord to take away our fear and cares about that darling child, and this is also contributing to the health of my wife. She can now walk again on deck without assistance, and like me and the children she is cheerful and in a good mood.
This week we had a lot of unsettled weather. At one time the wind blew so hard that everything on the ship creaked and clanged, and at other times it was very still. During the first days after our departure, it was almost unbearably cold, and today it was so warm that everybody is complaining about it. When it is warm like this, it is almost not endurable below deck. We have to feel sorry for the poor people who have to be there. The heat bothers us in the cabin too, especially at night in our bunks; sometimes we perspire so much and sleeping is impossible. On top of this it happens that many passengers do not go to their berths then, but stay on deck and it gets very noisy there.
June 3 (Sunday). We have had a restless night. First we could not sleep because of the heat, and when we finally did fall asleep, the pranks of some young people put an end to this. Because it was so warm, we had decided to lay down on the deck to rest there, but one of them was laying just below the roofwindow of the cabin and he was fast asleep. Some of those rogues who were still up, even though it was midnight, lowered a rope through the window and tied it to one of his legs; they pulled and the person who was attached without his knowledge, found himself in an uncomfortable position. When he noticed this, he started to yell and scream and with this he woke everybody in the cabin. It was a beautiful day and the wind was favorable. Floating seaweed and pieces of wood, as well as swarms of gulls announced that we were approaching the coast of the new world more and more. Generally the passengers were quite healthy and cheerful; depression such as in the beginning of the voyage was no longer on board, but many were starting to long for the port of destination. Some of them are also running short of some supplies: sugar, syrup and vinegar can almost no longer be found on board, and the bread of some passengers is moldy to the point that it cannot be eaten anymore.
June 4. The young people on board had a lot of fun yesterday; this lasted till deep in the night and was annoying to the many passengers who had gone to their bunks on time. It was so noisy and it seemed as if there was a farmer's fair going on; the deck was shaking because of the dancing and with this there was loud laughing and singing going on. I had gone to my bunk early, but for an hour I was not able to get any sleep. The captain never bothers the passengers when they are enjoying themselves. On the contrary, he likes to contribute to it with some trick he plays. Today the weather was nice again and we had a favorable wind; the heat was not as oppressive as yesterday. Towards the evening we saw four ships.
June 5. This morning there was a strong wind from the south, the sky was dark and once in a while some misty rain came down. At about twelve o'clock the wind suddenly increased with amazing force and rain came down hard. This lasted for only a short time, when the wind turned towards the west and about half an hour later the sky was completely clear. At about three o'clock a child of about one year of age died in the cabin because of continuing diarrhea. Already in Rotterdam this child had become ill, the same as several others. During the last few days the child had become so thin, the likes I had never seen before; it literally looked like a corpse and since last night the people sometimes did not know if the child was still alive or not. As soon as they knew for sure it was dead, they dressed it in night clothes and wrapped it in a white linen cloth that was not sewn but was kept together with pins. At four o'clock the little corpse was taken to the stern of the ship and the following morning it had disappeared into the unfathomable depth of the waters. Between three and four o'clock a Spanish schooner, which came from Halifax, came towards us. The captain asked for the latitude. We were at 62° 50' W.L., and the schooner had 65° 00'. Besides the schooner there was yet another ship close by, and our captain steered towards it, and it became clear that the calculations of the captain of the schooner were wrong. This schooner was a light ship with two masts and it looked beautiful. The vessel was neat and clean, and cut through the water with an amazing speed. At one time it was high above the waves as if it was lifted out of the water and immediately after that it was behind the high waves and you could see nothing of it but the masts and sails. A smaller vessel than this one I had not seen yet during our voyage.
June 6. Today the wind was very variable and changed almost every half hour; a thunderstorm threatened us.
June 7. The crew caught two big dolphins this morning, and all morning the ship was surrounded by fish of different size and type. The first mate tried to catch one with a harpoon, and although he hit the fish, the harpoon did not hold. Around four o'clock a big three-master passed us, with twenty sails. During the morning we had a mild wind from the southeast and the water was level. Towards the afternoon the wind turned towards the southwest, the sky became squally and in the evening we had a strong wind.
June 8. Since I slept very little during the previous night, I fell into a deep sleep last night. At about twelve o'clock I woke up again because of the loud orders from the captain and the yelling of the sailors. It blew very hard and the sea was wild. I could not sleep much more. The wind blew stronger and screamed and screeched through the sides; it was so strong that the masts creaked and shuddered. The topsail of the big mast blew in pieces. At dawn the wind remained very strong and the waves came so high, that at times they were several feet higher than the stern of the ship. In amazement I have watched this scene for some time. Twice in a row the ship came down a high wave with such force that the bowsprit disappeared totally and the lower deck was inundated. At the start of our voyage we had some wild weather, but never as bad as today. I have never seen the sea as hollow yet as now, and involuntary the story came to mind of the storm on the Lake Genazareth; "Lord save us, we perish!" was the prayer of the scared disciples, and the Lord reprimanded the wind and the waves disappeared and it became calm. Who would this be who quieted the wind and the waves? A creature? No, he must have been more than a creature, more than an Angel, more than the son of God, He must be God Himself.
No matter how wildly the ship swayed and rocked, nobody was bothered by seasickness any more, and yet, the passengers were far from feeling at ease. The ship sailed on starboard, and at times it inclined so much to one side that water pails, pots, trunks, yes even passengers rolled to the other side. My wife and children, except for the eldest one, were in their berths, and as good as possible, I was sitting in front of them. My trunk, which I had looked after well and tied up good and strong, flew out of the ropes with such a force and onto my body, that I was thrown with my chair through the boards of the lower bunk; I did not get hurt. The water flowed through the cabin and this made it even more difficult to remain standing. It might seem strange that people could still laugh when one or the other happened to fall, and yet, this happened quite often, and even when an older woman below deck hurt herself quite badly. It was difficult, but it was best to remain in the berths; this was necessary, but not very pleasant and my wife and children only obeyed this with difficulty. Our Jan made fun over this situation and he laughed out loud when someone rolled through the cabin. My wish to experience a storm at sea was fulfilled and I do not want to see a second one. Towards evening the wind went down a bit and the sea became calm. Below deck a child died during the night.
June 9. This morning the wind was strong, but it soon increased in strength and at about ten o'clock it blew very hard. Towards the evening in the southwest a severe thunderstorm was developing and came threateningly towards us. Many passengers were very scared. The wind grew stronger and stronger and the waves became higher and higher. Our direction was northwest and with amazing force we sailed through the waves. The ship inclined very steeply over its side and one could hardly remain standing. As a precaution the one sail after another was taken down, but we lucked out. The thunderstorm boke up even before it reached us. A threatening thunderstorm on land is quite impressive to watch, but at sea it is quite different, especially when the wind rises and the waves grow taller and taller. Like the sky, the waves have a threatening black color and the frail vessel is threatened with doom by water and lightning. For those on the ship there is no way out; he cannot hide from the wrath of the elements, because if lightning strikes the vessel he most certainly is lost. On the one side fire from the heavens threatens him and on the other side the waves of the angry sea. Only then a person feels his insignificance, and even from the lips of an unbeliever escapes the prayer; "Lord save us!" Because of yesterday's storm a lot of passengers have become depressed and impatient, and really this is no surprise. Already for a whole week we were so close to the coast of the new world that with a favorable wind we could have been in New York in two or three days. All week long we have had a strong wind against us and we have made hardly any progress at all. Hoping to arrive in New York sometime this week is now totally unrealistic, and we no longer speak about a successful voyage. In case we experience more adversity. I have reason to believe that this will negatively affect the health of the passengers. All of us are still healthy and especially our little Ybeltje is growing just fine and it is a pleasure to see this.
This morning I have been below deck to get water. I don't understand how people can stand it, for me it would have been impossible to live there, but it seems that they have gotten used to the unhealthy air that surrounds them. We have no real sick people on board, but many look very poor; especially the women and small children, and I watched them with pity.
Now a few words about getting the water and about the first mate.
At the start of my diary I reported that the first mate was punished by the captain, and rightly so, because he neglected his duties because of drunkenness. For as long as we have been at sea, he looks after his business quite well and proves himself to be a good man; as long as he cannot get any strong spirits. Although he deals very little with the passengers, towards me he is always very friendly, and he likes to play with our chidren. Already in Rotterdam he spent time with our children, and all through the voyage he always protected them and tried to please them. When we were at anchor in Hellevoetsluis he entered the cabin to take note of the families in order to know how much water each family would receive. The children were counted for half a portion. When he came to me, he did not ask how many children I had, but he said, "Pelmulder, wife and five children, six and a half persons," and all during the voyage we received a daily allowance of 6½ portions of water. In the morning when he was handing out the water, and I came to him, he would greet me politely and he would like to talk to me about other things. In the meantime I would get an even larger portion of water and others who noticed this became very jealous.
June 10 (Sunday). As soon as the thunderstorm had blown over, the wind died down and soon turned towards the N.E. This morning the wind was east, and we floated along with a soft cool breeze. Eventually the wind turned towards the south and became stronger and stronger so that in the afternoon we had a strong wind again. Very quickly the ship made headway through the waves, and the passengers were happy. "It's going good now, and if we keep this up, we'll soon be there! What do you think, will we be able to see land tomorrow? When will the pilot come on board?" Those were the general remarks and questions of the passengers. Except for a few small clouds, the sky was very clear all day long and during the whole voyage we had hardly had a day such as this. At times the surface of the sea was covered with seaweed. Towards sunset the wind rose again to the point that some sails had to be taken in. Since early morning we had a ship in front of us, going in the same direction, and we also saw a ship that sailed away from us in southerly direction.
June 11. When I went to sleep yesterday, the wind was strong and the sky was clear except for in the north where a dark stripe showed up. I soon fell asleep, but at midnight I woke up again, rather startled because of the loud sound of gushing water across the deck; it seemed like one wave after another came over the railing and dumped on deck. After thinking about this for a moment, I decided that these could not be waves, since the wind had died down and the ship was almost at a standtill. The water that was gushing across the deck was not seawater, but rainwater, which came down with such strength that it seemed the floodgates of the heavens had opened. I had never heard it rain so hard and all the passengers said so too. This happened from midnight until about four in the morning, and along with it there was thunder and lightning. The lightning was severe, but the thunder we could hardly hear.
During the day it was foggy and already before noon the wind turned towards the southwest, all passengers were very disappointed and so was the crew.
As the first mate told me, we are now along the coast of the new world, sixty miles east of Long-Island, and provided we have a favorable wind, we can be at anchor in the bay of New York within a few hours; however, if the wind remains against us, it might yet be a few days before our wish gets fulfilled. I cannot say that the voyage up to this point has bored me, but still I long for the finish. The constant movement of the ship, which we are not used to, is beginning to bother me, and I really look forward to stepping on solid ground again. I won't deny it, but since that storm of June 8th, I really did get scared and I am no longer a seaman. The knowledge that we are close to the coast and in the vicinity of dangerous banks, adds to the anxiety. When we were on the open sea, I slept well as long as the movements of the ship allowed this, and I felt calm even when the wind shrieked and the waves were boiling. Our children still sleep very well as they are not worried at all, and this is lucky for me.
June 12. The wind is against us again. We saw several ships that were going in the same direction, but they did not make progress either. It rained a bit in the afternoon and it was for me especially a poor day, because I felt poorly. I've been feeling poorly since the cold days at Easter, my clothing has been too light since we did not realize that the weather here at the coast is very changeable.
June 13. When almost all the passengers here in the cabin were in their bunks, the passengers below deck started to sing a happy song. I had a bad night as I was quite ill, and this morning I stayed in my bunk. I had a headache and since several days I hardly had any appetite. The latter is because I am beginning to dislike the normal daily food. It is always beans, peas, grits or meal-pap with bacon, without any other delicacies or anything to put some spices in the food. We still have about three weeks food on board, but it is the food that really makes me wish we were on land. We don't have any sugar, syrup or butter left, and only tea and coffee beans for three or four days. Nobody is very interested in these last two articles, since the tea is weak and tastes bad because of the bad water, and for the coffee we don't have milk or sugar which are so necessary to make the coffee tasty. Hardly anybody on board has these things still available, and several other have serious need of the necessary food items. Twice already this week a piece of bacon was stolen. It is very desirable that we soon reach the end of the voyage, but today we did not make any progress; the weather was still and the wind was against us.
Below deck the vermin are getting more and more numerous; in the cabin it is quite good with this, but it takes a lot to stay on top of the situation. It is funny to watch the attempts of people who are trying to catch the vermin, and for most people the way this is being done would look quite strange.
June 14. This morning I felt a little better than yesterday and during the course of the day I was feeling quite well. My wife and children are so healthy that there is nothing to be desired on that score. The wind is from the west and we have to sail into the wind. At around two o'clock we saw a boat in the distance, and the captain said that this was a pilot boat. This proved to be true and at half past four the pilot came on board to the great gladness of the passengers who showed their happiness in a loud manner. The deck was full of people and the pilot could hardly get through; even elderly and weak people who had hardly ever been on deck so far, had to get out now to see the man whom they had longed for. An old woman who had been ill during the entire voyage, but had not given up eating, was suddenly healthy and appeared on deck in her Sunday clothes. The pilot was brought on deck by way of a small open vessel with two masts. We have not seen land yet, but the arrival of the pilot is a sure sign that we can count on this very shortly. The pilot handed the captain the most recent newspapers printed in New York. From this we heard that the French and English have not yet conquered Sebastopol and that the Tarlenta, which left from Rotterdam two days ahead of us, had arrived in New York on the twelfth of this month, and that four persons had perished of those who had been on board for that voyage.
June 15. Last night we could see the light of the high tower on Long Island. That was a happy sight greeted with joy by all the passengers, because this was the first object our eyes could see on the shores of America, it was certain proof that we were close to shore. The wind remained westerly and we had to tack all the time. Amazing how many ships were to be seen, and among them were many pilot boats. This night another child died below deck. Towards noon a sailor brought it up and he went into a boat with it. He tied a few large pieces of coal to the little corpse and threw it into the waves with the utmost indifference. At noon today, exactly at twelve o'clock, the coast of the new world rose up. I do not have to say that there was much happiness on board. Starting May 1st, so for forty-five days, we had seen nothing but water and sky, except for the few ships we passed on the ocean. Sandyhood was the first point rising out of the sea and now visible to us; eventually the coast towards the south became visible and at four o'clock we saw land from south to north, as far as the eye could see. A steamboat came along and took us in tow, but only after having negotiated with the captain. I cannot describe the joy of the passengers when the captain ordered the sails to be stowed away. Sailors and passengers put their hands at work and during the entire voyage not one order was acted upon faster than this one. At sunset the anchor was lowered in a narrow channel between Long Island and Staten Island. We had to remain there until the passengers were examined as to their health. My pen is not capable to describe the ecstasy that filled us when we saw land for the first time again. The evening was beautiful and from Staten Island a balsam scent blew towards us. Beautiful, deliciously beautiful is the view of the island; it rises out of the sea and is covered with magnificent gardens and pleasure-houses, the latter being mostly white. Long Island offers no less in lovely nature scenes. Our eldest daughter called out in delight: "This view alone is worth the voyage across the ocean." Even after sunset we still had not had enough of looking at the houses that showed in between the green trees; it was late before we turned into our bunks.
However, at this point I put down my pen, and see here! my esteemed friend! this is the diary which I have kept during the voyage, for your information. I now still owe you a description of the trip through the larger part of the United States, to the State of Iowa. I cannot give the trip to you in the way of a diary, but I will try to give you a condensed but clear description.
A few remarks, however, before I start on this.
I have received your letter of March 1, 1856 and will attempt to answer the few questions you asked.
The manner of living on the ship was very irregular. The stove on which the food for the passengers was made ready, was not large enough so that everybody could do this at the same time. Sometimes we had to cook our food in the moning at nine o'clock, the following day at a quater of an hour later and when we had the last turn, only at five in the evening. During the first days after we left, there was rule nor order. I think I mentioned this already in my diary. Concerning the religious services on board, these consisted of the reading of a fairly orthodox sermon, and the singing of psalms; however, this was done in the usual manner of the gereformeerde churches in the Netherlands. I have been able to do very little with my children as a schoolteacher, because during the first four weeks the trip was very stormy and I was not able to read anything in a fruitful manner. Also, no matter how hard you try, you cannot do anything with your children on a ship that is chock-full of emigrants. During the first days of the voyage the situation with all of them is rather sad, because so many suffer from seasickness. When this is finally over, one falls into the opposite situation where it seems like a country fair on board, with no end to the yelling, singing, fighting and swearing. In one word, a sea voyage in the presence of so many emigrants is very well suited to really mix up the kids. I tried as much as possible to keep my children under some rules and especially in the evening I saw to it that they were in their bunks on time to avoid them being witness to scenes that could not stand the test of morality and which would influence them in a destructive way.
I think I wrote sufficiently about the first mate in the final part of my diary to clear up some questions. You ask about the cost of this voyage. This can differ greatly and are stipulated by the offices according to the time and the circumstances. Anyone who has plans to move to the United States can find this out at the office or an agent. I advise my fellow-countrymen who are planning to move to America, however, to add to the cost of freight and the price of groceries a good sum of money to the budget for unforseen expenses. Sometimes the emigrant still has to remain several days in the place from where the ship will leave, and this does not happen without cost. The quantity of foodstuffs that are required by the offices is sufficient, but I advise everyone to purchase them yourself. As long as he has the required number of pounds (in weight). The hard baked white bread is better than the foul-tasting ship biscuits, and smoked meat is better than bacon. I also advise all emigrants to take along on board sufficient quantities of sugar, syrup, vinegar, pepper, etc. This is important because the food has to be boiled in water, and oftentimes bad water and this leaves the food tasteless and unsavory. Those who are not seasick during the first few days are bothered by cravings. It really bothered me, especially in the morning when I got up. I was able to buy a bottle of gin from the steward and had a small glass in the morning, and this helped me a lot and also helped my wife to overcome her seasickness.
And with this I think I ahve said enough about the sea voyage, also for the benefit of other emigrants. And you, my friend, will understand after reading the things I have written, what it means for a emigrant-family to travel to the United States. Do not think about it as being too awful; I have reported everything carefully and have even paid attention to smaller things which I could not have foreseen before our departure. I hope, however, that the ones who have plans to look for another Fatherland, have not been scared off by reading this report. They should think: The time passes quickly and if the voyage has unpleasant incidents, there are also pleasures that weigh up against them. Whenever my wife and I now happen to be talking about somethings, we sometimes have a hearty laugh, and our children would gladly do the voyage all over again.
You can expect shortly the promised story about the trip over land from
Your Brother J. Pelmulder
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