The crossing – 1880

December 1880

A special train of the North German Lloyd took me to Bremerhaven on Sunday, 5th of December, at 7:30 in the morning, where I soon embarked on the “Donau” with my luggage. The steamship departed on time at one o clock and went on the Weser seawards. Very soon, however, already during lunch time, the ship stopped and let the anchor down. We had to stay there until the next morning at eight o clock due to heavy fog and low water levels. We went into the North Sea with half-speed due to the foggy weather. The heavy and damp fog surrounded us and took any sight, even on short distance. The ride went on very slowly, and the steam sirene blew its warning signals continuously towards other ships. It took two full days to reach Southampton, where we arrived on December 7th at night. In the morning hours we went for a walk through the English harbor city, which evoked new impressions in us with its narrow streets and curious buildings.

The anchors were hoisted at four o’clock in the afternoon, earlier we had the last chance to mail the last greetings to Germany. Soon we saw the Island Wight pass by our eyes on the left, covered by woody hills. Queen Victoria tends to spend parts of her summer holidays here, and newlyweds visit the beautiful and peacefully quiet island to enjoy their honeymoon. On the western edge of the island high rocks appear which extend far into the sea, the so called “Needles”, which bear many dangers for ships. Many ships are buried here and at the rocky cliffs of the islands further west in the canal. On the next day, December 9th, we entered the Atlantik Ocean at dreary weather but calm sea. Soon we noticed groups of fish who were about 2 meters long and quiet thick and swam by the ship for a while, jumping out of the waves – probably dolphins or tumbler.
The largest part of the day I spent on deck with the other passengers despite the humid, often foggy athmosphere, where we tried to protect ourselves from sea sickness. Also on the 10th, the weather was quiet misty, on the 11th we the weather cleared and at night we had a wonderful sunset, which was followed by a moonshine night at a little bit rougher sea. I stayed on deck until midnight and had a good conversation with the officer on duty. He explained some of of the equipment of the ship, he did not think highly of the life saver boats, they would not be useful during a strong storm, however, the “Donau” would withstand any storm under a good guidance. The biggest danger is during foggy weather, where the smallest inattention of the officer and team on duty could mean the doom of the ship. The ships are especially endangered in the Canal and the busy North Sea during fog, which is why he gave me the advice to take the ship on the return only to Southampton and then continue via Dover and Ostende or Calais.

When I finally returned to my bed after midight, I told my sleepcompanion – a jew by the name of Samuel Engel, about the dangers ahead of us. I told him the life safer boats were useless during storm, which is why one should never go to bed without wearing the saferbelt. I got mine from beneath the pillow to put it on, and the scared young boy followed this example quickly. During the meantime, I had put back mine to its original place while Mr. Engel did not find any sleep in his uncomfortable position. In addition, I had told him about the “hell’s machines”, who let ships explode in the middle of the ocean, like it was tried by the mass murderer Thomas some time ago, but who’s crime was detected in Bremerhaven because a barrel exploded earlier and prior to departure of the ship – it had been the “Mosel”. These stories did not seem to have a very calming effect on him.

On sunday the 12th the weather was misty again and the swells became stronger, so that a small wave came over board from time to time. Today I took a seabath, this means in the bathroom, where you pumped the water up directly from the sea. The next day we had a “high sea”, it stormed, the Ship wobbled to all sides and began to roll, one could not come on deck anymore. All loose parts hade been tied or screwed on deck by now and heavy waves came over the front deck. I tried to hold myself with both hands on the railing when I was on the rear deck during the evening, when the officer on duty – who was tied with a thick rope, recommended to go to the protective cabin, which I quickly followed. Shortly after, one wave after another plunged on deck with thundering roaring, while the ship in crunched in all joints. My bed was the upper one – just under deck, and I heard the ushing of the waves, which hit just half to one meter above me – scaring close.
The 14th of  december was clear and cold, but the sea continued to be rough and became calmer only towards the evening. During these two days it was really hard to eat the meals. With a half-full plate of soup in one hand, one had to look for the balance, and the funniest scenes resulted from this. Nearly all women were seasick in their cabins. During the next two days, nothing special happened, once in a while we saw other ships. On the 17th we spotted wales in some distance, who appeared on the surface and who splashed water. The weather was somewhat foggy again since a few days, on the 18th it cleared.

During the afternoon, a pilot came aboard who would guide us into the port of New York. We entered on Sunday, 19th of december, in the early morning during clear moonshine. We stayed until 8 o clock in the water mouth of the Hudson on anchor. So we had the chance to take a look at the great harbour and sourroundings. Long Island was to our right, to our left we saw Staten Island, while New York was visible in the distance. The day was clear and cold, and most of the passengers were on deck to enjoy the nice scenery, when we finally entered the Hudson with hoisted flags around 9 o clock next to other German and English ships and docked at the piers in Hoboken, on the other side of New York. I quickly said goodbye to everyone who had been nice or not so nice company during the 14 days of the sea journey and went to the recommended Hotel Busch in Hoboken with two other travellers.

One thought on “The crossing – 1880

  1. Thomas Höfling says:

    Haben Sie schon etwas Genaueres über das Schiff herausgefunden?

    1869 Donau (I) 2896 BRT Caird & Co. Ltd., Greenock Bremerhaven-New York,
    1895 bei Fastnet (Ärmelkanal) ausgebrannt und aufgegeben
    (Wikipedia, Liste der Passagierdampfer des Norddeutschen Lloyd)

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