Children of the ocean - life and death on the Atlantic
In honor of the ship he was named.....
(By BÝrge Solem)
The transatlantic crossing was hard for the infants and small children. In spite of this it was not uncommon for women to give birth on the voyage. This could be dangerous to both the mother and child, due to the rough conditions on the between-decks aboard the ships. Many women died in labor, and even more of the children did not live to ever see land. The majority of those who died on the sailing ships were infants and small children.
An emigrant crossing on the Anna Delius witnessed both life and death during the voyage:
"A boy did on the Atlantic, and another was born. I will never forget the funeral. The ships carpenter made a coffin of rough planks,
and filled it with sand in the bottom. Then he bored holes in the side to make it sink faster. But
it did not sink fast, and as the wood in the coffin had a pale color we could watch it for a long time as it was slowly sinking."
There was a custom of often naming children born onboard ships after the ship, captain or the ocean. On the Olaf in 1866 a woman gave birth to a boy child and right afterwards the Captain and the Doctor asked that he be named Olaf in honor of the ship. On the Colonist departing from Drammen in 1870 the daughter of Peder A. Mjör was given the name Atlanta Pedersdatter. A child that was born on the Juno in 1849 was baptized on July the 12th. The Captain had demanded that the child was to be called after the ship, and he was named Lars Juno Nilsen. On the Marie in 1864 the daughter of Mads Knudsen Fauske was named Atlanthea Norgea Madsdatter. An other girl born on the Balder in 1865 was named Laura Attelanta. On the Moss in 1869 a child was born and named Martin Atlantus Olsen. He was born on June 20th, but sadly he died on July 3rd, shortly after the ship had arrived to the quarantine station at Grosse Île.
On the Victoria sailing in 1861 there were many deaths, and a ships carpenter was busy building coffins for the many children who died. A passenger later told how sad it was to see the little coffins out on the seas as they sailed away. On that voyage a girl was born at sea and given the name Anna Victoria after the ship. On the Heros sailing in 1868, the father of a child that died took his food chest for the coffin. The child of a relative had also died, and the two little bodies were laid together and buried in the ocean. The Ske family sailing on the Refondo in 1867 lost 4 children from pneumonia in one week. There were a lot of deaths on that voyage.
The emigrant vessel Laurdal cleared for departure from Porsgrunn. The Laurdal made a total of ten voyages with emigrants from Porsgrunn to Quebec between 1863 and 1872, carrying a total of about 3000 emigrants across the Atlantic. A girl who was born during a crossing in 1868 was named Laura Atlanta after both the ship and the ocean. It was not uncommon to name children born on the voyage after the ship, captain, or the ocean it self. The Laurdal was built in Maine in 1850 with a tonnage of about 630 register tons, she could carry about 350 steerage passengers at most and had space for some cabin passengers. The captain on all these voyages was J. L. Petersen. The ship had a crew of 16.
The Transatlantic Crossing - read more >>
- Chapter 1: Early Norwegian Emigrants
- Chapter 2: Steerage Passengers - Emigrants Between Decks
- Chapter 3: By sail across the ocean - daily life aboard
- Chapter 4: Children of the ocean - life and death on the Atlantic
- Chapter 5: Sailing ship provisions - Food and drink
- Chapter 6: Sanitary conditions on board - health and sickness on emigrant ships
- Chapter 7: From sail to steam
- Chapter 8: The largest, the fastest and most comfortable ships - by steamship across the ocean
- Chapter 9: The giant express steamers - The transatlantic crossing following 1900