From Leiv Eriksson to Jumbojet

Leiv Eiriksson, a Viking, sailed to America
some 500 years before Christopher Columbus.

Coming form a Norwegian argarian culture,
he named to thew found land "Vinland",
The Land of Meadows.

However this event did not lead to a wave
of Vikings immigration to the American continent.

But Leiv Eiriksson and his crew were the very
first Europeans ever to set foot on American soil.

Those who journey to and from America leaning comfortably back in their seats on a regular jumbojet flight, listen to stereomusic through earphones or watching a movie, taking a nap after a tasty lunch, might to get bored when the giant bird flies over the American continent after it has been in the air for 6 or 7 hours.

The trip over the Atlantic ocean has been at 10.000 meter and the huge jetplane with its 370 seats floats smoother than a well balanced train on a welded track. Most of the blinds have been drawn dawn because of the movie, and only a few passengers can tear their attention away from the screen in order to catch a glimpse of the Canadian coust wich peeks throug gaps in the clouds.

The story of Norwegian emigration to America began in 1825. That was the year when a 52 foot sloop, "Resturation", set out from Stavanger om the America Independence Day - July 4th - to New York. Like Pilegrim Fathers from England a cuple of centuries before them, the passengers onboard the "Resturation" left their country because of religous oppression.

It took "Resturation" 98 days from Stavanger to New York. The sloop, which was purchased for the trip, was so small, that unrigget, it would be carried inside a jumbojet. It seems unbelivable in our comfor-conscious age that there could have been space for 52 people on board. Just as hard to belive that the first Norwegian emigrants to America, the condition where no obstacle.

They were willing to brave the worst to get to "The New World". There they could worship their God without interference from the authorities, there they would find virgin farmland which they could by cheaply and laborers could become landowning farmers. It was worth taking a risk for a new chanse in America.

In the 100 years that followed the voyage of the "Restuaration", about 800.000 Norwegians emigrated to the New World.

Now there are more people of Norwegian descent in the US than the populaten of Norway which is currently just over four million. Only Ireland with its tiny population of three million, contributed more emigrants than Norway. This became a route that kept more than one Stavanger shipowner busy. The first regular traffic between Norway and America was started by Koehler firm in the 1830s. Not until the sailing ships came up against stiff competition from steam in the 1860s was Stavanger`s importance as Norway`s chief emigrant port challenged.

Imagine how "Restauration`s" trip to America must have been the talk of Stavanger, at that time a town of 3000 souls. Besides a large numbers of relatives and friends who had come to make their farewell to the 52 passengers, a considerable number of people who where simply curious, had made their way to the harbour to watch as the ship sailed out the Stavanger fjord.

For many of those who gathered to watch the ship`s departure, that journey must have seemed like sheer madness. At that time people knew little or nothing about America. That which they did know as based on fanciful rumors. Many thought that emigrants risked being sold into slavery by the Turks, or being killed by the indians even if they reached America. As fare people knew then, the chanses of making it across the ocean were fairly slim.

Before they reached the shores of America lay huge seamonsters which could swallow a ship in one gulp. Even if now we can smile at these notions, we can`t help realizing that it was an incredibly brave venture for those 52 men and women on the "Restauration". Those who followed them in other immigrant ships found out that the voyage held many dangers.

However there is little reliable information about the "Restauration`s" voyage to America. No ship`s log was kept and no one on the ship wrote down their impressions of that meorable and dramatic journey. Descriptions of that trip can be found in purely fictional stories. But one dosen`t need colorful imagination to understand that it could hardly have been a pleasure ride for the pessengers to lie in their makeshift bunks in the hold with the hatches battened down and hear an Atlantic storm raging above.


Michael Holmboe Meyer: Stavanger History Guide.