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NORWEGIAN EMIGRATION - THE DEBORA EXPEDITION
A Norwegian Colonisation Undertaking

SUMMARY: The Debora Expedition sailed from Bergen in 1879 to establish a Norwegian colony on an Indian Ocean atoll called Aldabra. The organisers endeavoured to find practical and Christian people to create a settlement based on the teachings of the Norwegian preacher Hans Nielsen Hauge (1771 -1824). The expedition was aborted in Madagascar - a few of the participants remained in Madagascar and the rest settled in the British colony of Port Natal (Durban). They were the first group of Norwegian emigrants to settle in Port Natal.


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SHIP DEBORA AND ATOLL ALDABRA
The Debora Story : SEVEN ACCOUNTS OF THE DEBORA EXPEDITION
The Debora Families: LISTING OF AVAILABLE INFORMATION
Correspondence concerning the three vessels "Debora"
A Sunday Times Description of Aldabra
Map and a Short Description of Aldabra

NORWEGIAN SETTLER FAMILIES IN NATAL
Christadelphians - The Scandinavian Connection (Debora Families)
A Norwegian Family in South Africa by Sofie Norgaard
The Heidalewig Story - Transcribed from a booklet written by Petra Johanson
Durban Parish Register of the Norwegian Seaman's Church
Nielsen and Gorven Family
Nielsen Golden Wedding - January 1907

NORWEGIAN TEXT
GALEASEN  "DEBORA" EXPEDITIONEN
BERETNING om "DEBORA-EKSPEDISJONENS"

NATAL - HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
Early Natal History - Durban (Port Natal)
Port Natal in 1850 - A personal account of the Byrne Settler Scheme
ANNALS OF NATAL (1495 TO 1845) - William Wood, Interpreter to Dingaan
MOLE'S GENEALOGY BLOG - South African Genealogical Information
LINKS TO OTHER PAGES
NORWAY LIST Web Site - Karla Halsan Mattila
About Norway
Emigration and Immigration - Norway / South Africa
Roots to Norway / South Africa
The Digital Archive of Norway: Years 1801 - 1900
Census of Norway : Years 1801 - 1900 English Text
Norway : Genealogy Web Page - Linda K. Schwartz
HOW TO TRACE YOUR ANCESTORS IN NORWAY - Yngve Nedrebø
Census Records and other Historical Sources - Yngve Nedrebø

LINKS TO OTHER DEBORA EXPEDITION PAGES
Michael B. Fisk: Debora Passengers
Seaman James - The life and works of Rasmus Rasmussen (1854 - 1912)
Incidents in the life of Severin Andreas Bang as told to his daughter Inga
A Norwegian settler family's story. By SOLVEIG BANG
Foreningen Norges døvblindes hjemmeside har gleden av å formidle: Om galeasen "Debora"
En norsk Familie i Syd Afrika

PUBLICATIONS
Scandinavians & South Africa by Dr Alan Winquist - publisher A.A.Balkema
Norwegian Missionaries in Natal & Zululand by Dr Frederick Hale - Van Riebeeck Society (Cape)
Norsk utvandring til Sør-Afrika by Per-Ole Reite - Publisher (Norway)
E-MAIL : [email protected]


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HOW THE FIRST NORWEGIAN EMIGRANTS CAME TO NATAL

THE NATAL MERCURY, MONDAY, NOVEMBER 11, 1929

 

A Durban group of survivors of the Norwegians who came to Natal on the Deborah, taken on the 50th anniversary of the schooner's arrival in Port Natal. The names are:- Standing: Mrs Petra Thorvaldsen (nee Larsen), Mr S A Bang, Mrs Wettergren (Wettergreen - nee Johnsen). Sitting: Mrs Iversen, Mr Ellingsen and Mrs Heidalewig.

(Photograph of a schooner of the same class as the "Jagtgaleas Debora" - not included with the Natal Mercury article)

INTERESTING HISTORY OF THE DEBORA(H) EXPEDITION

Armistice Day is an anniversary of double interest to the Norwegian community in Natal, for it was on November 11, 1879, that the first Norwegian emigrants came to Port Natal. They arrived on the Debora(h), a small schooner of 92 tons capacity. It was a vessel of an uncommon type, known as the Galut, and probably many old Colonists remember the sensation created by her arrival at the Point.

Despite her smallness, the gallant ship brought to South Africa an adventurous company of 49 men, women and children. The organisers first sailed to the beautiful Aldabra Islands, near Madagascar, with the intention of colonising them under the Norwegian flag, but subsequently decided that Natal offered better prospects.

The origin of the expedition was curious. In 1870, the late Captain Ludwig Larsen, who will still be remembered by many old Durbanites, was commissioned by a Liverpool firm to engage 28 men from Norway and take them over to Liverpool, where two small sailing vessels were fitted out ready to take them to Madagascar for the purpose of establishing a trading company. The men were engaged for three years, during which time some of them sailed a good deal round the Madagascar coast establishing trading stations. In their voyage, they had noticed the beautiful Aldabra Islands, then uninhabited and unclaimed.

On returning to their comrades, they related what they had seen and there was an unanimous desire to organise an expedition to take possession of these islands.

When their contract had expired, some of the men remained in Madagascar to make further investigations about the islands, while others sailed home to Norway to prepare an emigration expedition, buy a vessel, fit it up, and take their wives and children with them, and as many others as they could induce to join them.

It was not, however, until July 19, 1879, that the little schooner Debora(h) left Bergen, Norway with 47 souls on board. There was no hired crew, but everyone did his share of the work and although some of the emigrants had never been to sea before, it did not take long for them to prove that a Norwegian very quickly becomes a capable sailor.

The voyage was a wonderful one and the little ship did some very good sailing, arriving at Tulear, Madagascar, on October 17, 1879.

It could well be understood that on such a small vessel space and comfort were limited. Nevertheless happiness and harmony prevailed throughout the voyage, and all went well. With the addition of two babies born during the voyage, there were 49 in all who landed at Tulear, where they were given a happy reception by Captain Larsen and some of their former comrades.

Up to that time, Mr K O Bang senior had been the leader of the expedition, but the understanding was that Captain Larsen was to take the lead from then onwards. This responsibility he was at first quite prepared to take. Later on, however, he declined, as he felt the responsibility too great, one reason being that a Mr Hangervig, who had gone to Aldabra Islands to make investigations, had not yet returned, and did not do so until after the ship's departure.

In the meantime, the younger members of the expedition had heard of the good times then prevailing in Natal, so they proposed taking a ship there. A few remained in Madagascar, and the remainder arrived in Durban on November 11, 1879.

Thus ended the Debora(h) Expedition, and the descendants of those who formed it are scattered throughout South Africa and Rhodesia.

The Debora left Bergen on 19th July 1879 and sailed non-stop to Madagascar

A member of the Debora party wrote: "We left Bergen, Norway on 19th July 1879, a group of 47 people, including 12 couples and 14 children. On 20th July we were West of Ireland and a fresh breeze from the North cleared the air - the sun shone and gave us all new life. On 11th August - at 40 degrees 15 minutes a son was born to Mr and Mrs F Larsen, so the Debora Company was increased to forty-eight. On 3rd October a dark and foggy bank rose out of the sea in the East. Rasmussen suddenly cried out; "Land fore on the lee side!" Everyone came on deck and viewed the dark outline of Table Mountain and other mountains about Cape Town; it was then 9. 30 am. On 4th October we rounded the Cape of Good Hope in the finest weather. A small German brig which had come out from Cape Town showed us the way, but at 4 pm we passed it. When we left Bergen, the Zulu War had started. The Captain took a hatch and K Jensen wrote with chalk in German: "Is the Zulu War at an end?" The Germans answered on a hatch "Ended". At 8 pm Cape Agulhas lighthouse was passed. On 16th October, at 3 pm, we saw Madagascar's West coast but, as the wind had quietened off, we only lay and drifted with the stream. In the afternoon the next day we had wind from the sea. Two Sakakaves in a canoe with a straw mat as a sail met us and went beside us along the three mile long coral reef which, like a tremendous mole, makes a port outside Tulear, where we, in lee of the coral reef, cast anchor the 17th October, 4 pm."

Note: There were two, almost identical, ships called Debora. The model shown in the these two photograph stands in a glass case in the glass case in the Maritime Museum in Bergen. This is a model of the first Debora and not the Debora that set sail for Aldabra.



Model of the Debora - In a glass case in the Maritime Museum in Bergen - Photograph courtesy of Harald Hagenes.

CLASSIC SAILING VESSELS - Galease (Ketch)
"Ketch - The forward mast, mainmast, is slightly higher than the aft, Mizzen."



Galeasen Svanhild  - Click Here for more information

"Svanhild was built as the Hardanger hunting Nordvik in Surnadal in Nordmøre in 1889. The boat is 76 feet long and 21 feet wide. The ship went into service to carry trade, mainly with fish and salt between Kristiansund and Lofoten."

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