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The sailing vessels were not built for the transport of emigrants, and conditions were often rather bad. In many years it was easy to make money on the emigrant-trade, and the vessels were filled. In most cases the result was OK, but in some it ended in catastrophe.
"Restaurationen" was the first of the Norwegian emigrant vessels, bringing 52 passengers from Stavanger in 1825. They had become 53 before entering New York harbor, and the vessel really made the head-lines. The vessel was most likely the smallest ever to cross the Atlantic with emigrants, and was confiscated by the New York authorities.
Valkyrien was built in Bergen, and made two trips with emigrants from Bergen. The trip in 1873 is well documented, as it was one of the worst trips ever with Norwegian emigrants. The vessel did almost sink in the North sea, and only managed to come to England. The vessel was repaired, but before the emigrants had reached Canada, they had been in greatest danger several times. The tragic trip marked the end of the sailing vessel era in Norwegian emigrant trade.
Norwegian ship-owners did make the change from sailing vessels to steamships rather late. And the same was also the case in the emigrant trade. A Scandinavian American emigrant line was established in Bergen, but it came to late. The number of emigrants fell heavily, and as the company had several losses, they had to give in in the mid 1870s, and that meant the end of Norwegian emigrant companies, and most Norwegian emigrants had to go abroad to find the ships to bring them to America.
|The steamship "Haakon Adelsten" in 1873 in the Bergen harbour, on her way to New York.|
One of the greatest tragedies in the Norwegian shipping history is the accident when the steamer "Norge" runs aground and sinks in 1904. More than six hundred persons died. Afterwards there was a huge criminal case, and the whole population of Norway was marked by the tragedy.
At last a new Norwegian American line was established in 1912, and soon became the first choice among Norwegian emigrants. But they sailed their first trips in 1913, and the WW1 and other problems caused a decline in the emigrant trade, creating new problems. But for those who wanted to emigrate the establishing of the NAL meant they no longer had to go to Denmark, Sweden, Germany, France or England to make the cross-Atlantic trip.
The conditions in the sailing vessels were not the best.North- American authorities tried to intervene to make conditions better, but it was not until they could cooperate with the Norwegian/Swedish authorities they could solve the problems.
The seamen should also be registered in special enrollment lists by the captain of the boat they entered. But the seamen ran away also when they arrived in ports abroad, especially America. There was no punishment for the deserted seamen who returned to Norway, so it was a quite inexpensive ticket to enroll oneself to a ship and abandon it when one reached the destination. If they were fed up, homesick or broke, they could always return to Norway and continue working as seamen. The protocols indicate that half of these men had had enough after a short while and returned. But for others, this was a way to emigrate or seek foreign ships to sail with.