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 left for the British colony of Port Natal (Durban). They were the first group of Norwegian emigrants to settle in Natal.
The forty-seven persons who took part in the Debora Expedition were:- Captain Tobiassen and wife, mate Berentsen and wife, mate Oftedal, A Olsen and wife, I Iversen and wife, O Hiedalewig (Høidalsvig) and wife, J Finsen and wife, K Bang and wife with three children (Amanda, Severin and Knut), F Larsen and wife with six children (Angel, Emil, Sigvart, the three sons of the late Sivert Andersen Hordnes, and Petra, Ludvig and Karl), H Johnsen and wife with three children (Sina, Josefine and Karl), A Andreassen and wife with three children (I don't remember their names), R Andersen, R Rasmussen, K Jensen, Hesselberg, Grang, O Fosdal, E Eriksen, P Bang, E Ellingsen, widow Egelandsdal and Miss Serene Larsen. Two children were born on the voyage: a son to Mr and Mrs F Larsen and a son to Mr and Mrs Andreassen. The following articles are interesting accounts of the Debora Expedition that left Norway in 1879 bound for the Indian Ocean atoll Aldabra to establish a Norwegian Colony based on the teachings of the Norwegian preacher Hans Nielsen Hauge (1771 -1824).
Part 1 : Articles from a German Newspaper "Hamburgische Boersenhalle", dated 28th July, 1879 and 27th January, 1880. Translation by Ursula Larsen - photocopies of the original articles courtesy of Mr Kjell Falck of the Bergen Maritime Museum.
Part 2 : A record of the Debora's voyage from Bergen Norway to Durban Natal written by the ships cook Erik Ellingsen. (Erik Ellingsen was the son of Elling Ellingsen. Erik Ellingsen was the great-grandfather of Michael Fisk.)
Part 3 : As recorded by Ludvig Larsen in his book "Life Before Death" written in 1894.
Part 5 : A very detailed account of the Debora expedition by one who called himself "Seaman James", but who seems by deduction to be R. Rasmussen. A photostat of a typed copy of James's story in Norwegian reached Ingeborg Gorven - nee Rödseth (I.G) from Elise Hoyland on l2th September l997. Translation by Ingeborg Gorven. Note: Elise Hoyland is a descendant of O. Høidalsvig and wife - the Høidalsvig South African family is now know as Hiedalewig (see Natal Mercury Photograph).
Part 6 : Summary titled "Colonisation in Madagascar 1865 - 1880 by Kjell Falck"- "During their stay in Madagascar the Norwegians received information from a British man-of-war about the island of Aldabra located north-west of Madagascar. The Debora expedition endeavoured to find practical and Christian people to create a settlement at Aldabra." This is an extract from an English summary of Mr Falck's paper published in the "Norwegian Yearbook of Maritime History 1965"- Bergens Sjørfartsmuseum (J.D. Beyer A/S Boktrykkeri)
Part 7 : News Paper L'Union - "Saturday, 25 August 1931. Mr Christian Bang was born 5th June 1861 at Bergen in Norway, coming to Tamatave in 1876, at the age of 15 . Last Saturday the whole town of Tamatave was in mourning over the death of Mr Christian Bang."
Part 8 : See Alan Winquist's book called "Scandinavians & South Africa" refer to the section on the Debora Expedition - page 96 "Upon arrival in Madagascar, it was decided to dissolve the "Debora Company". The majority of the party elected not to go to the Aldabra Islands but to stake their future in Natal, particularly in and around Port Natal (Durban). This was the first group of Norwegians to arrive in Durban, and they helped to establish the Norwegian Church which is still in existence".
The Debora Expedition Part 1
From a German Newspaper "Hamburgische Boersenhalle", dated 28th July, 1879
In recent days (19th July 1879) in Bergen, Norway, a group of 47 people, including 12 couples and 14 children, boarded a ship to establish a colony on the Aldabra Island, which is located in a north-westerly direction approximately 250 sea miles from the north point of Madagascar approximately 9 degrees in the southern latitude, 45 degrees eastern longitude from Greenwich.
The idea for this undertaking was conceived by some Norwegians who came across information about the island in the course of their duties with an English export company which traded with Madagascar. At Madagascar, they heard from an English war ship which was on a discovery cruise that the Aldabra Islands were ideal for Colonisation and were still unclaimed.
Four of these people returned towards the latter part of last year and began, towards Christmas, to canvas for people for the undertaking.
Many people volunteered to join, whereupon the galeas Debora, a strong new ship, was purchased to undertake the crossing to the new home, under the leadership of Captain Tobiassen who was one of the original people from Madagascar.
In these latter days, they had completed the provisioning for the ship, which was somewhat retarded because some of the volunteers for the trip would not meet their obligations towards the company. Since more people volunteered for the undertaking than could be accommodated, they were selective in that they chose people who were healthy and strong and could use their hands. The size of the boat permitted the accommodation of 47 people, which was the total number on the boat, including the crew, amongst which were even a few Danes. For the rest, the boat, which was fitted out for a six month voyage, came under the jurisdiction of the Norwegian-Swedish Colonisation regulations.
The journey first took them to Nosse Be in Madagascar where they were to pick up the rest of their comrades, the four original people, and the decision had then to be taken whether one should rest first on Madagascar or to immediately proceed to the Aldabra Islands.
The emigrants immediately formed a small Republic and chose three leaders for the trip. This undertaking was similar in concept to the one when some Danish social democrats tried to form a colony in Kansas.
The Africa Pilot of 1878 writes about the islands - Aldabra, the largest of the island group, northwest of Madagascar, consists of a coral rock which has risen out of the sea. It is 19 sea miles from east to west and is 7-1/2 sea miles wide, with a nearly-connected chain of islands on the north.
Aldabra is uninhabited because the surface consists of sharp pointed corals with no sand and is covered with a thick tangle of impregnable bush. Mangroves grow everywhere between the reef and the islands, in some parts so dense that, from a distance, they give the impression of beautiful hills and lovely woods. The surface of the island rises in the middle to approximately 20 feet above sea level with single hills of up to 50 feet.
The island is not inhabited but is visited now and then by people from the Seychelles to catch fish and turtles.
Still to be found on the island, although in small numbers, is the large land turtle.
The north-west monsoon is the best season for catching fish but it is also the mosquito season when this insect appears in enormous swarms.
Water is only to be found in hollows in the rocks gathered from the rain but only in very few places.
The only island on which they could build a house is the one in the centre of the lagoon, a Coconut Island which is approximately 2 000 to 2 500 feet wide and which has a sandy floor with long grass growing and on which you find a coconut group and a few beautiful casuarinas, but this island has no water. Men from the boat "Fawn" which visited the group in 1878 planted 50 coconuts on that island.
This information is not very promising and should cause the Swedish/Norwegian Government to keep an eye on the future of this colony.
From the same German Newspaper "Hamburgische Boersenhalle", dated 27th January, 1880
Under this title we told you how, on the 28th July, a few people, upon returning home from Madagascar, had managed to get some people together to form a colony on the Aldabra Islands. These islands are off the eat coast of Africa about 250 sea miles northwest of Madagascar.
We related how some Norwegians returned from Madagascar and convinced some of their compatriots to form a colony on the Aldabra Islands. They bought a ship called the Debora and 47 people, who had been persuaded to leave their homeland, embarked.
This newspaper made at that time the point that these Aldabra Islands were completely unsuitable for habitation or cultivation. We pointed out the uncertainty of this undertaking for the above reasons.
There have been items of news which have filtered through to Norway which have completely underlined our doubts. A private letter arrives in Bergen according to which the undertaking developed as follows:
The Debora, which left Bergen on the 19th July, 1879, arrived after a pleasant trip, in the harbour of Nosse Be in Madagascar on the 17th October, where they were joined by the few remaining members of the undertaking with the intention of continuing to the Aldabra Islands but, at Nosse Be, the travellers received the unexpected and unwelcome information that the expected paradise had already been claimed by the French and so was unobtainable for them.
Since they were not able to stay in Madagascar, they decided, on the advice of those who founded the undertaking, to continue to Port Natal, the harbour which belonged to the English possession of the same named colony in South Africa, where they arrived after the 13 day trip in good spirits. When the latter left, all the able-bodied members of the trip had already, through the help of the Swedish/Norwegian Consulates, found employment as labourers, whereby it was possible to provide for themselves and their families.
This is a temporary conclusion to an undertaking which had initially been presented in glowing colours to these unfortunate people. Thus these people who, in the old homeland, had a certain high standard of living (since all those who participated had contributed fairly high sums of money) had now to be grateful for a labourer's wage in a strange country where their language was not spoken. They have to live among people of darker hue and be satisfied with a labourer's wage. What plan the originators of the undertaking have for these poor people is not yet clear. Some light might be shed upon this in the future.
The Debora Expedition Part 2
This record of the Debora's voyage from Bergen Norway to Durban Natal was written by the ships cook Erik Ellingsen
A Record of the Ship Debora's Voyage
"The Norse Folk have an urge to wander and to carry strengths to others" - These beautiful words by Bjornson clothed in Greig's pompous music like a victory fanfare - and also a full-toned expression of the longing by generations to cross the high mountains.
In actuality, the emigrant's saga is both heavy and dark. It is the descendants who reap the golden fruit of the emigrant's longing and imagination, his will to work and his striving in the foreign country, be it America or Australia, Asia or Africa. The Debora Expedition, which is de scribed below, plays such a large role in the Norwegian-South African migration history that it should be known by the younger and growing generation out here.
During the winter of 1879, K O Bang, Capt Tobiassen, A Olsen and others
who had been in Madagascar for several years communicated with H Johnsen,
G Heildalsvig (Høidalsvig) and several others who joined them and agreed to form a company,
buy a ship and sail to Madagascar and, together with a partner, Haugervik,
there establish a colony and thus take occupation of the Aldabra Islands
which, up to then, were not populated. These is lands lie at 10 degrees
South latitude, approximately 80 miles (translator's note: presumably Norwegian
miles) West of the North coast of Madagascar.
The leading men held several meetings where future plans were discussed,
but without results, and the meetings were postponed until Madagascar was
In the hold it was continually warm, and the bread mildewed, the butter
melted and the fish became moist.
16th September. A Norwegian full rigger passed us towards north-west.
Of all ships we meet, Debora is the smallest. The sailors wonder, no doubt,
what adventurers it is that have put out to sea in such a small ship. Debora
managed well and sailed past most of them.
A couple of Cape doves settled in the rigging - the first greeting from
The 16th October, at 3 p. m. , 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 p. m. , 1879.
"Debora Company" was dissolved in Tulear where K Bang with family, A Andreassen and family, A Olsen and wife, widow Egelandsdal, Miss Serene Larsen, O Fosdal and C Bang disembarked. The rest of us sailed Debora to Port Natal, where we arrived on the 12th November, 1879.
The forty-seven persons who took part in the Debora expedition were:-
Two children were born on the voyage, as mentioned, namely: a son to Mr and Mrs F Larsen and a son to Mr and Mrs Andreassen.
This ends the account of the journey and I send these lines as a small greeting to those of "Debora Company's" members who are still wandering here below with the hope that they will continue their journey so that we may all meet in God's Paradise.Erik Ellingsen (B1854-09-12)
Erik Ellingsen was born on the 12th of September 1854 and wrote this record of the Debora's voyage in Norwegian on the 12th of November 1925 at Red Hill Durban. The translation was done by Mr Fred Rödseth. Copy sent to David Larsen by Mr D Bang of Pietermaritzburg.
A list of the "Larsen" descendants
of the Debora Expedition is available at this site.
The Debora Expedition Part 3
A Norwegian Colonisation Undertaking
After the Expedition was abandoned in Madagascar, the Debora went to Durban in January 1881 for painting before being sent to Cape Town to be sold.
As recorded by Ludvig Larsen in his book "Life Before Death" written in 1894
On page 349, he states that, on July 29th, 1879, the Debora left Bergen. Larsen was astonished when he heard about it. Debora came to Tulear. Larsen met some of the people at Tulear on Debora, who had been with him to Agnes. He gave them advice on how they could obtain goods. They were without money and, in Tulear, nobody else could help.
He had money. On page 350 he explained conditions on the islands and gave other possibilities. He promised to lend them money if his son could go with them to be responsible for the money. The alter native was that he could buy Debora. He could then go with them to trade. The colonists could not agree among themselves. He then withdrew his offer to invest.
The Debora then went to Natal; some stayed in Madagascar. Bang and Rasmussen stayed in Tulear; the rest went to Natal. A reference to Bang and Rasmussen is on page 349.
From Ludvig Larsen's book "Life Before Death", it was recorded that; on the 3rd February, 1881, the ship Debora was sold in South Africa to foreign ship-owners. In January 1881, the Debora came to Durban for painting prior to being sold but a buyer could not be found. Advertisements were placed in the Durban papers at the end of January and auctions undertaken but the ship was not sold as the highest bid was only half the value of the ship. The ship was sent to Cape Town with hopes of getting a better price. It sailed with a cargo of corn from Durban to Port Elizabeth, with no economic results, and probably came to Cape Town.
The Debora Expedition Part 4
As recorded by David Larsen after a brief meeting with Mr Kjell Falck of the Bergen Maritime Museum - circa 1976.
A Norwegian Colonisation Undertaking
After meeting with Ludvig Larsen in Madagascar, Ekland Tobiassen, Knut Bang and Jensen organised the Debora expedition.
Three men organised the Debora expedition - Ekland Tobiassen, Knut Bang
and Jensen. All three had been to Madagascar and Ludvig Larsen had told
them of the island. These three men had been told of the possibilities
of the island. It was also agreed that the people of the Agnes expedition
would prepare for the future colonisation of the Aldabra Islands. Ludvig
Larsen had neglected to prepare for the proposed colonisation due to poor
conditions on Madagascar. The Debora expedition endeavoured to find practical
and Christian people to create a settlement at Aldabra. The records indicate
that the Debora was first sold for 20 000 crowns and was later bought by
the expedition for 11 600 crowns. Qualifications required for members of
the Debora expedition: Hans Nielsen Hauge laid down the principles for
a religious order; Christian/industrial philosophy and to create new activities. (1771 -1824 Hauge, Hans Nielsen preacher- Norway)
1. All had the right to preach
2. Had to follow the Bible
3. They were against official formalities
4. Any place was a church
5. Practical aspects. To create new economic activities.
This was the basis of Hans Hauge's new religious philosophy. (1771 -1824 Hauge, Hans Nielsen preacher - Norway)
Mr Falck would like the following:-
(a) Additional information from A S Larsen on what happened
(b) All information about members of Debora
(c) All information on descendants, name and place of residence
(d) Names and persons who were on the Debora
(e) Perhaps the descendants will know more about the Debora
(f) He would like the "Atlanta story"
(g) He would like to know as much as possible from Aunt Marie
Shipping archives have no knowledge of who was on the ship.
Debora's Captain Ekland left his son and the "Debora papers" His so was living in Bergen at the time. The papers cannot be seen without the consent of the family. A letter was written to Mr Falck which states, "A package of papers on the Debora Expedition and the Ekland diaries are with the son of Ekland. " There is a brother, Karl Willem Ekland at 2206 Calleulimo, Fullerton, California, and another brother, Torstein Ekland, Vollebakken 8, 4600 Christiaanstad. The papers of Captain Ekland of the Debora are marked "Ttendagbokur and Deboraekspedzonen".
The Debora Expedition Part 5
SEAMAN JAMES'S ACCOUNT OF THE DEBORA EXPEDITION OF 1879
The story of the Debora Expedition of l879 was told by Erik Ellingsen
and I.G. has typed it from his manuscript and saved it under the title
Debora 1, and the English translation under the title Debora 2.
REPORT on The "Debora Expedition"'s Journey to South Africa as Seaman James experienced it.
The Debora Expedition came about in the following manner: There were some men from Bergen who earlier had been on Madagascar and had there been engaged by a firm, which made attempts to carry on trade with the natives, by selling their goods to them and obtaining theirs in turn by barter. After the passage of a few years this firm was dissolved, but some of the participants remained on Madagascar and started business on their own account, others went back to Norway. The latter in association with some of them, who remained out there, considered taking possession of the uninhabited islands, which lie off Madagascar, sail there and settle there. The fact is that it had been said, that there were minerals, such as gold and silver ore as well as a lot of timber forests of cedar and mahogany, besides a lot of precious moss and other valuable things. Those of the participants, who had property, sold everything, which they owned and invested everything, which they had in a vessel and the rest of the expenses of an expedition; but James had no property (wealth). For this reason he was to go with them as a steward without remuneration, he was to receive it from the profit.
As soon as James arrived on board, he took delivery of the provisions, and when he had finished this, the rigging had to be attended to. In the mean time the enterprise came to a standstill; for a couple of the participants, who had undertaken to subscribe a contribution of ca 2000 kroner, withdrew and wouldn't go; so the expedition had a deficit. The participants were people of the most diverse occupations - engineers, masons (bricklayers), carpenters, cobblers (shoemakers), tanners, seamen etc.. On account of the financial shortfall the Debora remained in the Bergen harbour for several weeks, before the departure could take place. On the l9th July l879 one had at last got so far, that the participants - 47 persons in all - could board the little galut to depart from their beloved Norway. A tug arrived to tow it from the shore, a few parting shots were fired from the ship which were returned by the Bergenhus fortress, and thereupon the tug steamed off with the little nutshell, which wished to set out on a long, perilous and adventurous journey. Soon the town was out of sight and the steamer left the Debora at Stangen, one mile from the town. (One Norwegian mile is lO km. I.G.) Each of those on board now took up his duties, some remained on the deck, and the rest spread out here and there below deck. For those who had no work to do on the deck, a large hut was built astern over the cabin, which accommodated l6 persons. There were ten families on board, and among the single persons there was a midwife. James was in a melancholy mood, when when he on the first morning after the departure fell asleep in his berth out in the Kors Fjord after the pilot left the ship.
The course was now set for the English Channel, but when the wind towards
evening was contrary, they decided to stand off and sail north of the Shetland
Islands in the hope that the wind would ease off, which it did; for after
a few watches (a watch = 4 hours) they passed the islands with a speed
of l0 miles per watch.
On board there were many who were seasick both among the women and the
men who were not accustomed to the sea. In the case of some of them the
seasickness lasted for a long time, those affected lay there like living
corpses, indifferent to everything, and it was pitiful to see them.
James made them expressly aware of this, but there were some who wouldn't
hear of it. They claimed (asserted) that James should stand in the same
relationship to the expedition as the rest of them for in this way to make
sure, that James wouldn't leave them, when they reached the other side.
This was something to which James couldn't agree, as he had been hired as a sailor at one shilling per month in wages. By the proposed arrangement James would have to pay 400 kr. for his shares without the least remuneration for his troublesome work. Besides this it was a difficult task to satisfy even the most reasonable demands, there where everyone was of the opinion that he had a right to give orders.
There were several of those on board, who were on James's side, and
thus nothing was done about the case concerning James, nor could he promise
anything definite, before they reached their destination, and he had there
acquainted himself with the conditions - and so that's where the matter
Thus days, weeks yes months passed; many a ship was signalled underway: mutual conversation with one another during the sailing past with the help of flags; many a sailing-ship was left behind by the Debora this yacht-built hull - to the great amazement of those, who followed. Several times James and others had letters lying ready, which they thought they would be able to give to be delivered, when they met anyone; but always something or other got in the way, though twice there had been good opportunities. This caused James much pain. It was a happy day for him, when the captain came into the galley and asked, if he would come on deck to sew the studdingsails, which had been cut out in Bergen. Now they could be used, it was just a question of getting them ready, and no one else but James knew anything about this sort of work. They had now reached the trade winds, and thus the desired sails would be of great use, James carried out this request with pleasure, but with the remark, that someone else would then have to take over his current position, before he could do so. "I am tired of my position as steward: for one person wants it sour, another sweet, a third salty, a fourth fresh etc. and it is impossible to please everyone." "You're right", said the captain; "for the time being Johnsen and one other, who has been a chef in Bergen, will change places with you and you will have to support him with help and advice.- James thought it was wonderful to be free, as his work was particularly tiring, and it made matters worse, that many wanted to give orders, and there wasn't much available for use - even as far as cooking utensils were concerned.
Happy as a bird, which had been in a cage and again been freed, James accepted this offer, and immediately he got hold of his tool-bag, sail glove on his hand and the sail cloths on the deck; now the old tar was in his element. Not many days thereafter he could rejoice over the fact that the studdingsails were ready and aloft. Because of that, the Debora heeled rather much so there was plenty of work aloft for him; there was a lot which had to be done. Many a time the women shouted in fear when they saw from the deck, where he hung and swung up there; for it was always James's work, when anything up in the mast or the yard had to be fixed. James was always fearless, and at times he would shout down to the ones on deck: "Fear not! for I am with you always, our king has said." Then they were comforted and at times would smile at him, but it helped him to praise the Lord more for everything.
There was a considerable amount to undergo on this adventurous journey,
and if all the happenings had to be written, it would be a large book.
Then there came a day, when they got one more soul on board, when brother Larsen's wife gave birth into the world to a lovely baby boy, who was given the name Atlanter, because his birthplace was the Atlantic Ocean. All went well and within a short time Madam Larsen was well again. (This must surely be the father of Nancy, who became Mrs. Peter Lind. I.G.) (Atlanter was the uncle of Nancy Larsen who became Mrs. Peter Lind. David Larsen)
In this way time passed, in the evenings they had discussions and sang on board - talked about home and their experiences, the Lord's dispensation to them, and usually closed with prayer.
Early on the morning of the 76th day after the departure when James came on deck, he was told, that now they were expecting to see land, the headlands of Cape the Good Hope. Everyone looked forward to this sight, not least the women and the children, who had never been at sea before, and now had seen nothing but sky and sea for so long. One by one they had been in the rigging on the lookout, but they got tired and came down again without any result. When James was off-watch, he went aloft, and all who were on the deck, stared towards land.
James strained his eyes to the uttermost, and when he had stared for a while, he seemed to see a strange cloud - that's what it looked like at first at any rate; though it became more and more clear to him that it couldn't possibly be a cloud; he was on the point of shouting: "Land", when it seemed that a voice whispered to him, "Just look very carefully first so you don't disappoint everybody." He delayed and now it could be seen clearly from the rigging, that the high flat Table Mountain was in view. He delayed no longer, but shouted as loudly as he could: "High land to leeward, friends!" At once there was life on deck; everyone who could walk, came on deck, even those who had remained below deck the whole time on account of seasickness. There were in fact some who never got over this sickness until they reached their destination. O, what joy! They shouted with joy and clapped their hands; tears of joy rolled down the cheeks of those who were ill.
All day we sailed along the coastline with a fair wind. In the late afternoon we met a German schooner, which came from Cape Town and was going to Port Elizabeth. It was taking the same course as the Debora and was more beautiful to look at than she. We soon overtook our fellow sailing-ship, and the Debora kept alongside it. We now learned that the Zulu War was over. The people on board the schooner stood amazed at the speed this yacht-built vessel made and the large crowd, who were on board.
A few days later another prince (an Andreassen I.G.) came into the world; all went well, and so now there were 49 souls in all on board.
The following day something happened, which gave everyone reason to praise the Lord. They ran before the wind downwards toward Natal with a speed of ca. l0 miles; in spite of this the Debora didn't take a single drop of water in on deck. The children went about on deck and played. James had just been relieved and had got into his bunk, when he heard a dreadful noise so the whole of the Debora shuddered in her joints, and the sea tumbled over her. He jumped up immediately, as he thought of the children playing on deck. Oh, what a sight. Men and women lay randomly in the water, which rolled over the deck of the Debora. The boat and the stanchions which had been lashed securely, had broken loose and were crushing the quarterdeck awning and the spars. Everyone was terrorstruck and perplexed. James had several times had a wave break over him, and when he now saw who was at the helm, he understood what had happened. He shouted that someone else must take over the helm, while he ran to rescue those in the water. After that he opened the cover of the quarterdeck outlet, and when this was done the boat and the stanchions had to be lashed fast again. He assured himself that no one was missing, and when another man came to the helm and could keep the rudder in the water, the Debora fared as well as before. When the people had changed out of their clothes, they joined in praising the Lord for their own salvation and because the Lord had directed matters in such a way, that, before the huge waves broke all the children had reached safety to the great joy of the parents and everybody.
This freak wave was a warning to take precautions; because the wind increased in strength, so the sails had to be taken in, when evening approached. The night was stormy - though without danger, and when morning came, the sea was tumultuous, but the people had to praise the Lord for the deliverance, while the bluster of the storm could be heard around them still, and the darkness hid the waves of the sea from their eyes. The storm was still raging, none of the women came on deck, and by midday some of the people started to lash the hut securely in case there should occur a freak wave. This made the women in the shelter afraid - even more so when they saw the captain clear everything out of his cabin, so that not even an old shoe remained. James pointed out to him how wrong this was in respect of the weak women, who were fearful enough as it was. "You can see", said he, "that she lies like a gull on the water; we who have been at sea before must show that we are sailors".
At this time one of the brethren came and asked James to let his bunk which was forward below deck, be taken over by his wife and his children, which James did gladly. Before dark the sailors discussed whether they should run before the wind, keep under the weather, or remain hove to. James was of the opinion that it was unwise not to utilise the favourable wind. They had seen how well the vessel ran before the wind, and that it remained almost dry between the high seas; he also believed that it would be difficult to hove to, as they could hardly hoist any sails. In the mean time the majority were in favour of not running before the wind; this was also the captain's opinion, and thus they hove to, all night, and there were few on board, who were allowed to take the helm.
After midnight James went into the hut to rest a bit but just fallen asleep he was awakened at about two o'clock by a mighty roar, and the Debora shuddered, as though she would split into pieces. The fact is that a freak wave came, which covered the whole deck with water, and it looked as though everything would be lost. In a great hurry James came on deck and looked about him; all were irresolute. "We'll have to hold off", said he; "had my advice been followed, we would have been spared this."
The night was pitch black, and everyone was afraid to start running before the wind, only James and the second mate wanted to try, and so we had to leave it. The Debora lay on the wind, almost until daybreak, when James began his watch and ran before the wind and hoisted sail. Now it was a charming sight to see, how the Debora rocked on the heavy seas, which showed themselves like mountains on both sides, and one could walk on deck almost dry. A large fullrigged ship (a Hollander) of several thousand tons lay hove to on account of the storm; some of her people lay on the topsail-yard in order to fasten the fore stump ("forestumpen"). The ship took so much water that all the people got wet, because the sea stood over them, where they lay, while the Debora lay like a gull on the water. Towards the following night the wind lightened, and now the going was easy all the way to Madagascar.
Eight days after the storm they made land-fall; it was the west coast of Madagascar, Tulliar (modern-day Toliari). The weather was fine, and a number of the natives came sailing towards them in their canoes. When they drew nearer, and the women saw the naked black figures sitting in the boats, their bodies black all over, they and their children, who had never before seen a negro, began to cry. This caused those in the canoes to start to cry too. As we steered in towards land, a whole lot of canoes surrounded us.
The Debora reached the anchorage in Tulliar harbour and dropped anchor for the first time in 90 days from the time, they left Bergen. It was an excellent journey, and it could have gone even more quickly if the captain's wife hadn't been so dreadfully afraid at sea. She trusted no one but her husband, and many times she pestered him so much, that he came out angry and furled the sails of the vessel, so the Debora drifted rather than sailed. Thereupon he went to bed again, and after a while the watch had their work cut out setting them again; but this had to be done surreptitiously and often on James's watch.
The next day the majority of the people went ashore to look around and gaze at the Malagasian town of Tulliar. When they reached the stretch of beach, a strange sight met them: some children, slaves and some of their masters. There was only one European house, which belonged to Captain Larsen, formerly master of the mission ship "Elieser". He was now managing a business for a big wholesale merchant in Natal. The house looked grand, as there in that singular Sakalava town there were only very small and low huts, except for the church and the dwelling of the missionary Röstvig as well as the trading station on Tulliar. All the other houses were anything but inviting. Larsen's son had received a riding-horse from Natal, and it was the only horse, which was to be found there. When one rode on it at a gallop, as is always the case in Natal, it made a queer impression on the natives - especially the younger ones.
When the people went ashore from the Debora, and the natives saw all the women and children, they began to cry and make a noise and the young people began to run towards the smooth beach, like a lot of horses galloping away. The dreadful howls, which the natives set up, made the women and the children afraid. The natives noticed this and set up a worse noise than before. The big boys took the smaller ones on their shoulders, and like this they ran back and forth along the beachfront, while the children from the Debora shook with fear.
The first thoughts which streamed through James were that here he couldn't possibly thrive. Having passed the beachfront they saw the masters or chiefs lying snoring on their mats outside their huts - totally naked in the burning heat of the sun. Beside them some slaves lay or sat crushing rice, which was for food, while other slaves were dancing, howling and crying so that the perspiration ran down their naked bodies, as if they had been pulled up out of the water. When they reached the missionary, they asked the meaning of this, and they received the reply that their wild gesticulations were an outburst of joy, because they thought that the white people had come to purchase their liberty.
On Larsen's trading-station all were received with joy, both by himself and his people, of whom some had been present at the Debora's arrival. The first day was spent on the station to the great joy of all.
Among those, who should have taken part in the Debora Expedition there were two, who had remained on Madagascar; one of them was located, the other was away on a business trip for Larsen. They had taken service with him, unbeknown to the Debora company, until they came to Tulliar; this put them out in their reckoning, as they had expected help from these two with regard to financial means of which they were now devoid.
The two on whom the company had depended on Madagascar, had no capital
either; they had lost their money in the following way:
Eventually they returned to Madagascar - denuded of everything. There was nothing else they could do but work for Larsen, and all three were then working for him. These circumstances foiled their original plan: because it would be impossible to begin to colonize the Aldabra Islands without means. Larsen promised to send word to Hangervig (the one who was on a trip for him) that he must come to Tulliar; but no Hangervig arrived in the l4 days, the Debora lay at Madagascar - for what reason is not known. So the question arose about what one should do. Larsen offered to help them with means, provided he be allowed to send his eldest son as leader; in which case he wouldn't be able to employ all, who were on board; he suggested, that some should journey to Natal to settle there. Not everyone would agree to this, and so disagreement arose. Add to this that they had - among other things - heard, that there was no water to be found on the islands. The male participants were at Larsen's on several consecutive days to talk to him about future arrangements, without coming to any conclusion. James was also present but as he had no shares in the vessel, he just listened to the discussions. When the majority either wouldn't or couldn't accept Larsen's proposal, and since Hangervig didn't return, Larsen took some of the Debora's men into his employment, and with that the company was dissolved.
Larsen also offered James the chance to remain there and command a schooner there on the coast. This ship Larsen had bought after it had been damaged, and some of the Debora men, who were carpenters, were to repair it. In the mean time James declined the offer; he had not journeyed all this long way and worked without pay in order to go to sea here, it would first have to be proved impossible to find anything to do ashore, before he would decide on anything like that. There was no lack of good promises, but he was immovable in his decision. "And", said he to Larsen, "I have obligations with regard to those, who are on board the Debora. Several of the men used to the sea have taken employment ashore, and she is sailing to Natal. There have to be capable seamen on board." Larsen said that he could have the Debora's mate, but he'd rather have James, still he was immovable.
The mate then took the position. Thus there were 3 families and 3 individuals left behind in Tulliar, among them the midwife; the rest decided to journey to Natal. James and several others asked the captain if they could sail down to the Aldabra Islands to see them, so one would be able to say, that one had reached the destination of one's journey; but as the company had been dissolved, the opinions were divergent; besides so long a time had passed, that it couldn't be done, and so one put into effect the decision to travel to Natal. Thus the Debora Expedition ended without the desired result, and without the participants' seeing, much less stepping on the uninhabited islands, which were the goal of the trip, and where there was to be found much gold, huge forests, precious coloured materials and many animals useful to humans. Still, this was the Lord's will - in any case He permitted, that it turn out this way.
On one of the Sundays several of the company went to a communion service at the dear brother Röstvig's place, among these James too, who together with Findsen and some others slept on his station the following night. It was a wonderful day for James to be able to go to communion after three months from the time they left Bergen. It was amazing to him to see heathen sitting on the floor listening to the message of the Lord to lost sinners. From that he received an impression of our dear missionaries' position which he'll never forget: The next day there came a whole crowd of wild warriors to Röstvig and demanded brandy; among these there were one of the queens and some princes, and all of them were drunk. Oh, what a sight it was to see their wild eyes, tawdry as they were with feather decorations and different other objects of bone and horn, which they wore like bead necklaces around their throats. Some of them were armed with spears and fowling-pieces with bayonets attached. Yes, they looked truly murderous. While threatening him with death, they demanded that he provide them with brandy - otherwise they would kill him. Here it showed that God's power is perfected in our weakness. Even James, who was always undismayed, was compelled to admire with joy the coolheadedness and boldness of Röstvig towards these raw and brutal people. When he spoke to them with a loving and firm mien, James saw that it made an impression on them; but after a time had elapsed it looked as though the Evil One would gain the upper hand, they rushed at Röstvig with dreadful gestures, so one would think he stood in fear of his life. Nevertheless he stood there just as unmoved, and in the end he gained the victory, as they removed themselves - though not before they had been given something - some cloth as far as James can remember. It was clearly seen by looking at Röstvig, that this wasn't the first time, they had treated him thus, which he in fact told us himself later. On one occasion they wanted his gold ring, and since he was not prepared to give it to them voluntarily, he finally said: "If you want the ring, you'll have to chop off the finger. I received it from my wife and can't give it away." He was allowed to keep both the ring and the finger.
But back to the Debora. When they finished at Tulliar, they sailed down
to Augustin to fill up with water. Here they were knocked up by mosquitoes,
so that they, when they had finished taking water and were to continue
the journey, looked like lepers. On the way to Augustin the Debora, on
account of the strong current, was on the point of being driven ashore
on some shoals; but with mighty effort they with God's help managed to
keep her clear by turning her past.
THE JOURNEY FROM MADAGASCAR TO PORT NATAL AND THE STAY THERE.
After they had moored the vessel, they went ashore to speak to the consul,
and James accompanied them, as he had mastered English, and the consul
couldn't speak Norwegian. Thus he had to be their interpreter. At the consul's
many proposals were made. The opinions were divergent - some wanted this,
others that. The result was that they parted company, as some travelled
inland, and the rest remained in the town. One day James came to
the consul, he met a Swede who had bought an English barque, which had
been wrecked; it had been driven ashore from the roadstead, which is a
very dangerous anchorage. Now it had come off and lay in the harbour, bought
by the Swede, who commanded a large schooner, called "Freya" and was from
Gefle. The consul said to him: "You need seamen aboard the 'Panda Chyff'
(sic); here's one who has come here on the Debora; he'll rig your vessel".
"That's good," said the captain, "ask him to come on board." James
made his appearance and was engaged by the captain for 2 pounds per week.
The captain thought that the matter was now settled; but to his amazement
he hears James say: "Mr. Captain, I have a comrade, whom I've promised
to take care of; he can't find work, and true to my promise I won't part
from him here; we would then rather as agreed travel together to New Zealand."
"Is he a seaman?" asked the captain. To this James replied that he
was a tanner. "Can I use tanners to rig my vessel?" asked the captain amazed.
"I certainly know that tanners alone would be useless in this work, but
I am a seaman, and when I'm present, we'll definitely manage, he is a clever
and willing man; what he can't do, I can, be sure of it. I started at the
age of 13 to handle my marline-spike." "Let him come then,
he can get one pound per week and board, and you will get 2". "Can't
we share Mr. Captain," asked James, "then we'll get one pound and 10 shillings
each?"-"You are an amazing person," answered the captain, "but certainly
as far as I'm concerned, can you start early to-morrow morning?"
"Yes", he replied. The same afternoon they brought their gear on board
the Panda, the next morning they began the work. A young Norseman who was
to be the master, had come on board from another ship, and besides him
a couple of men, who were to make the vessel seaworthy; now it was an advantage
that James had learnt all sorts of things.
Some days passed in this way, while he called on the Lord, that
he might get the place, which God had chosen for him. After 4 days
he was offered positions in 2 places. One of the offers was as master of
the barges, which carry cargo from the vessels and bring them into the
harbour from the roadstead - large vessels can in fact not get over some
sandbanks, which lie at the entrance to Natal's harbour. Accordingly he
was to have command of one of these little vessels. The second offer consisted
of being storeman at Mr. Chubbein's, the same wholesaler, whose mercantile
establishment Larsen had managed on Madagascar. The pay was less there,
but he took this work all the same, as he was tired of life at sea.
The pay was to be £6 per month, but at the end of the month he received
£7 and after 3 months £8.
By now the time for the payment of the few hundred kroner outstanding
on the purchase price in Norway had elapsed. The captain therefore wrote
to those concerned, that if they were prepared to sell for £400,
they would still be able to repay their debt, otherwise not.
Those, who stayed behind in Durban and got work there, agreed to meet around the Word of God in their homes every Sunday, but it soon appeared that, their rooms were too small to accommodate everyone, besides the heat in the tightly-packed room became intolerable. They decided then to hire a former church building, which belonged to the Wesleyan Church denomination. The building was used as a school since the Methodist congregation had built a large new church, the most splendid in the colony of Natal.
This house was hired by the Scandinavians for l9 pounds and 10 shillings
or kr. 35l per annum.
Until then James had believed, that that should be possible, but he now learned how impossible it is to work together, when there isn't agreement on doctrine and confession. It was agreed that, each party should have communion on its own as often as the opportunity arose, and there was a need. In this way one thought to avoid all offence.
All went well the first time the Lutherans celebrated communion; God's children among them longed for this very much, and the first time they were served by one of the dear missionaries - later likewise - there on the spot. The most difficult thing was to get the bread. (Wafers.) One of the friends went to the Catholic Church's superintendent to ask for bread, as the missionary hadn't brought any with him; but that Catholic Church superintendent turned the messenger away in great wrath and obduracy and said, that it would be a great blasphemy to give the accursed heretics any of the holy things. But the need was so great among them, that they made some unleavened bread themselves so they were able to partake of the Lord's meal of grace. The missionary, who officiated that time, used the practical method of approach of talking to each individual, as he recorded them; and only to those, who according to his conviction were worthy, did he administer the sacrament; the unfit of our own and those from divergent confessions were denied. There was a considerable number of the latter, who demanded admission to the Lord's table; but they were turned away; he found it conflicted with his conscience to administer to those who as far as the sacraments were concerned held a doctrine differing from Luther's teaching. This occasioned disagreement.
There were different ones of them, who either preached the Word of God or read a sermon. They took it in turns to do this work: James and some of the same confession and some Baptists.
The first Sunday after they had been to communion, it was one of the Baptists, who was to lead the divine service. When he was to begin his address he started by running down infant baptism and the Lutheran doctrine, in a way that was grievous to hear. After the address James with some others went to him, pointed out how wrong this was, and reminded him of their agreement but he refused to listen. He was of the opinion that since the Lutherans held to their confession, he must do the same too, and it was impossible to convince him of the wrongness of this approach.
The next time the turn had come to the Lutherans. These had agreed not to retaliate, but to keep away from all matters of dispute in order to demonstrate in this way, that they desired unity. The next time it was one of the other confessions, which was to lead the devotions, and it went as it did with that first Baptist.
From this James learned, that it is impossible to work for the Kingdom of God with success and blessing without a fixed confession, and without maintaining it in every way, things would never go well. Now those, who had a different confession from ours, were given the rent-free use of a little chapel, which was situated closer to the harbour than the Lutherans', and down at the docks one of the Baptists had his business; thus he had the opportunity to speak to the sailors on board the Scandinavian ships and invite them to the meetings, which were held twice every Sunday.
With the expedition from Umzimkulu (Marburg), which came here to colonize, there were many, who came up to Durban to seek work, as things were very bad for the colonists down there especially in the beginning.
Among those who came to Durban, there was also a woman who played the guitar, and as she was a Baptist, this contributed to the fact, that not only the sailors, but also the majority of the church-going people gathered at the Baptists'. In the end just a few people were left with a venue costing them a high rental. It was a time of trial for them - but nevertheless a blessed time. They cried to the Lord in this need more than before, and He heard their prayer and helped them in their plans. They experienced that it is a good thing to hold fast to the invisible. They continued to gather as before around the Word on the basis of the confession, and whenever any of the dear missionaries came down, they got them to preach to them; otherwise it was mostly James, who had to lead, since he was the chairman of the little newly-formed congregation. He was assisted by a dear brother by the name of Larsen, who was also one of those who arrived with the Debora. (Atlanter's father)
In the mean time James was struck by misfortune; he had sunstroke and developed Natal fever and had to move inland for the sake of his health. He accompanied two ox-wagons, which were going to Newcastle - 225 English miles inland. Ox-wagons went as far as this place with their loads. It was in the days of the (First?) Boer War, you see, and a lot of transporting of goods to Newcastle was done, the last town in the colony of Natal. Half a Norwegian mile (i.e. 5 km) from there lay the English army which was fighting the Hollander Boers.
After an absence of 5 months he returned to the business. For this period
he was allowed to keep his full wages by the manager, who besides this
permitted him to absent himself from work even longer both in order to
rest more after the journey and at the same time to look around for a better-paid
position. The same day, as James reached home from seeing the manager,
there had already been someone from the railway station asking if he would
go there to sew tarpaulins at a set price each. This was four
times as much pay, as James had had before. He was of course used to using
the glove and the sail-needle. He started work there, and before he had
finished this work, his former employer sent for him to carry out some
work; in this case the pay was also for piece-work. It was in this way
that James began as a sail-maker. Now he got a lot of work to do at the
Point or harbour; he rigged a sloopmast as a flagpole at the end of the
roof of his house, and hoisted on it the lovely Norwegian flag. By
day, when he went to town, which happened not so seldom, and returned home
again, there often sat one or more captains at home talking to some of
his family. The flag, which was both large and high up, could be
seen a long way off; it had aroused the strangers' notice, and there were
always people at home, who could receive the visitors (strangers). Besides
his mother, who lived with him, and his brother, he had established a family
himself, in that he had married that sister (nursing sister?) in Gerren,
to whom he was engaged at home, when he sailed with the Debora. She
came out two years after he did.
Now a better time began for the Lutheran friends. The congregations grew, and time and again they had meetings on board at the believing captains' in the harbour. Not long after this the others gave up their work in the chapel, and the old company joined forces again, but there was and remained a separation with regard to the confession.
Now the Lutherans began to think of a church building of their own, as they saw that the rented one was too expensive in the long run. A little women's meeting (kvinneforening) was founded, and the men helped, and then a successful sale of work was held with a fête, which brought in a good £30 nearly kr. 600, which sum was set aside as the basic fund for a Lutheran Church in Durban. The friends went ahead with composing regulations in accordance with our confession. The money was deposited in the bank or lent to businesses. After 4 years they bought an attractive, friendly, little church, which was standing empty and for sale, because its former owners, on account of bad times, had mostly left the colony of Natal.
After a stay of 5 years in Durban James with his wife and a son went
home to Norway.
THOSE WHO WERE ON THE DEBORA:
The following, a total of 17 persons, disembarked and remained at
The following, a total of 32 persons, went on to Port Natal:
The Debora Expedition Part 6
Colonisation in Madagascar 1865 - 1880
Extracted from an English summary of a paper titled "Norwegian Trade, Shipping and Colonisation in Madagascar 1865 - 1880 by Kjell Falck"
During their stay in Madagascar the Norwegians received in formation from a British man-of-war about the Aldabra is lands north-west of Madagascar.
Until the middle of the last century, Madagascar was practically unknown to the Norwegian population. As far as we know no Norwegian had settled in the island before this period. But in the years between 1866 and 1880 a great Norwegian activity took place in Madagascar. A Norwegian ship started an almost regular liner service between Madagascar and Norway and two different parties of emigrants tried to get foothold on the island.
The background of this activity is to be found in the increasing interest in mission work in Norway in the 1860-ties. The Norwegian Missionary Society started its work in Madagascar in 1866, and the re ports from this new missionfield gave new information about and interest in this far-away island, especially among the population in Western Norway where the interest in mission work was greatest.
A great part in the development was played by the mission ship Elieser which was launched in Bergen in 1864. It was financed by collected contributions with the ultimate aim of bringing missionaries to South Africa and Madagascar. The ship should be the link between these territories and the friends of the mission in Norway. It should also trade as an ordinary merchant ship and preferably seek its freight to and from places not far from the missionary stations.
It was assumed that the ship should be economically independent of the Norwegian Missionary Society, and it appeared through its 20 years of sailing that it gave such a great profit that a bigger ship, Paulus could be acquired in 1885.
In 1867 Elieser first visited Madagascar with Ludvig Larsen as Captain. Larsen later played a distinctive part in Norwegian trade and shipping in Madagascar in the period here dealt with. In his very peculiar autobiography "Life Before Death" he tells about his adventurous life in Madagascar and in South Africa and gives a lot of details about the events that took place. In 1869 he took part in the preparations resulting in the establishment of a Norwegian/Swedish consulate in Madagascar a few years later. Next year he sailed Elieser to West-Madagascar together with two missionaries in order to investigate the possibilities of establishing a Norwegian mission among the Sakakaves. The stay was very short and the observations made were too optimistic and not in accordance with the facts. On this journey Larsen got the impression that there were possibilities of a lucrative trade with the natives and he got the idea to establish along the coast a series of factories managed by pious Norwegians. During a stay in London in the spring 1872 he got the firm Porter, Muir & Long interested in the plan. Larsen was engaged as super-cargo and charged with the task of finding a sufficient number of Norwegians as merchant functionaries and crew in coastal trade.
The large Norwegian emigration, especially to America, took place during these years and it was evidently not hard to find people interested in such an enterprise. In June 1879 Larsen and all the participants went from Norway to London where the expedition should be equipped. In December they came to Tamatave on the east coast of Madagascar with the schooner Agnes which was bought for the purpose. Shortly after 8 factories were established on the west coast from Diego Suarez to Ranopasy. For nearly two years trade was carried on at these places in spite of many difficulties. The Norwegians were badly prepared for both the unhealthy climate and the special conditions under which they were supposed to work. Some of them died shortly afterwards and the rest had continuous conflicts with Arabian slave traders and hostile Sakakaves. In the 1870-ties most of West-Madagascar was beyond control of the Tananarive government and the country was ruled by several independent Sakakave kings.
Quite unexpected the Norwegians in the autumn 1874 received a message from London that the firm had decided to close down the activities in Madagascar. Most of the participants returned to Norway whereas a few preferred to stay on in Madagascar to carry on trade on their own account or employed by European merchants.
During their stay in Madagascar the Norwegians had got information from a British man-of-war about the Aldabra islands north-west of Madagascar. From what was told these islands were uninhabited and very suitable for colonisation. Before the expedition was disorganised it was decided that the participants returning home should work for a new expedition which should said out, claim the islands and found a Norwegian colony in Aldabra. Those who were left should on their part make further investigations and prepare everything for the coming expedition.
After a short stay in Norway, Larsen returned to Madagascar in 1876 employed by a South African firm. But the following years were hard both for Larsen and for the Norwegian missionaries. The missionaries had just started their work in West-Madagascar and counted on support from the Norwegian trade factories. Conditions on the West-Coast were very unstable, among other things because of the slave-trade. Larsen was in permanent conflict with the Sakakave kings who were very interested in the slave-trade themselves. He also acted very unsuccessfully when he tried to get help from British warships against the kings, and in the autumn 1879 conditions were unbearable for Europeans in West-Madagascar.
In the spring 1879 preparations in Bergen for a new expedition of emigrants came to reality. A galeas Debora had been bought and equipped. There had been some difficulties gathering sufficient number of participants because certain conditions had been asked for in the be ginning: The participants should have a certain amount of money, be physically fit for colonisation and be interested in religious matters. Especially the two first conditions were hard to fulfill, but in July 1879 47 persons left Bergen with Debora. After a journey of 89 days the expedition reached Tulear on its way to Aldabra. Here the participants were greatly disappointed to find that no preparations had been made. On the contrary they learned that conditions in Aldabra made settling there impossible. Captain Larsen who stayed in Tulear made several proposals to solve the crisis, but the disagreement and disappointment among the participants were so great that the expedition was disorganised in Tulear. Some of the participants accepted Larsen's offer to work for him, but the rest sailed to South Africa with Debora. Most of them settled there. Those who were left in Madagascar ran into great difficulties. Captain Larsen's conflict with the king resulted in an expulsion order which he ignored. In the beginning of 1880 all the trade factories in Tulear were attached and plundered by the Sakakaves and practically all Europeans left the town. Some settled temporarily on the little island of Nosy Ve in St Augustin Bay, but for a long period it was impossible to revive trade in the Tulear district. The remaining Norwegians therefore spread to other parts of Madagascar or they settled in South Africa.
A remarkable feature concerning the Debora expedition is the interest shown in it by the German paper Boersenhalle. In two articles with an interval of half a year it gave an accurate report on the preparations and the progress of the expedition, and there is reason to believe that the report indicated German political interest of Sakakaves in The Indian Ocean at that time.
Like the rest of the Europeans Larsen had to leave Tulear. In 1881 he was offered the appointment as Captain of the barge Antananarivo which had been bought by the Malagasy government. The ship was intended to be the first in a Malagasy navy and its first job should be to bring troops to West-Madagascar in a punitive expedition against the Sakakaves. It was, however, engaged in cattle trade between Madagascar and South Africa. The next year the Tananarive government was hard pressed by the great powers of Europe, especially France, and found it self compelled to start a campaign against the Sakakaves. Captain Larsen was appointed commander and preparations were made, but as the conflict between France and Madagascar was aggravated, French warships stopped the embarkation of troops and the campaign had to be called off. A few months later Antananarivo was allowed to leave Tamatave and the ship made a journey to Ceylon and India. On its re turn the ship called at Mauritius and here Larsen learned that France was at war with Madagascar and Antananarivo was sold at Mauritius.
The two emigration experiments with Agnes and Debora is an interesting, although insignificant element in the history of Norwegian emigration in the last century. They were both unsuccessful as none of them gave lasting results. In common they had an almost unbelievable lack of preparation and understanding of the local situation. But illusions about happy conditions and possibilities in faraway countries were some thing the emigrants to Madagascar had in common with the rest of the emigrants at the time.
Without comparing the experiments with trade and shipping in Madagascar in the last century with Norwegian efforts in the island today, it is interesting to note that a Norwegian shipping company now has established an extensive coastal trade on Madagascar. It covers the districts where the members of the Agnes expedition wore themselves out quite in vain. Although the first experiments failed they must be regarded as daring enterprises with the aim of finding new openings in a period when conditions in Norway seemed like barriers to initiative and adventure.
The Debora Expedition Part 7
L'Union - Saturday, 25 August 1931
Mr Christian Bang was born 5th June 1861 at Bergen in Norway, coming to Tamatave in 1876, at the age of 15.
Last Saturday the whole town of Tamatave was in mourning over the death of Mr Christian Bang.
This unsuspected news brought stupefaction to the whole population. It was known that up till Saturday morning Mr Bang, with his usual energy, was attending to his usual business. The immediate future of our existence does not belong to us, and in this instance one may meditate on the frailty of human existence. Mr Bang was directing operations in front of his sawmill, the off-loading of logs, when one of them struck him and brought to an end an active life of 2/3rds of a century.
Mr Christian Bang was born 5th June 1861 at Bergen in Norway, coming to Tamatave in 1876, at the age of 15. He began as clerk at Messrs Portea, and soon became director (Manager) and partner. For many years he was consul for Norway and Sweden, and for 20 years British Consul. His valuable services were recognised by His Majesty Haaken VII, King of Norway, who conferred on him the Royal Order of Gustav-Vasa and of St. Olaf.
He played a prominent part in the economic life of Tamatave, long be fore the impetus given by the French occupation. He was an early pioneer, overcame immense difficulties and gave generous support to French Sakakaves, and the Administrator Thomas found in him a loyal colleague who at his obsequies will give homage to the eminent services of the deceased.Obituary
(1) One of the eldest members of the European colony of Tamatave, Mr Christian Bang, the well known Industrialist, Consul of Sweden and Norway, and British Vice-Consul at Tamatave during 20 years, wearer of the Insignia of the Royal Order of Gustav Vasa and also of the Order of Saint Olaf, died at Tamatave on the 8th August, 1931, victim of an accident in his own factory. Deceased was 70 years of age. He arrived in this colony in 1876.
(2) A large part of the population attended the funeral. Orations were delivered at the graveside by Messrs Baren in the name of the Commune and of the Colony, and Mr Pont, Chief of the Region, represented the Governor General. To members of his family we tender our heartfelt sympathy.
The Debora Expedition Part 8
Refer to Alan Winquist's book called "Scandinavians & South Africa" published by A.A.Balkema - see the section on the Debora Expedition - page 96.
Upon arrival in Madagascar, it was decided to dissolve the "Debora Company". The majority of the party elected not to go to the Aldabra Islands but to stake their future in Natal, particularly in and around Port Natal (Durban). This was the first group of Norwegians to arrive in Durban, and they helped to establish the Norwegian Church which is still in existence.
Many of the twenty-four men brought to Madagascar by Larsen had noticed the uninhabited Aldabra Islands northwest of Madagascar, and several had thought of the possibilities of settling there. A number of them returned to Norway to fetch their families. Men such as Knud Bang (the leader) and Zakarias Tobiassen communicated with others in Norway. The result was the formation of a company, and the purchase of a ship which was to take the group back to Madagascar and settle the off-shore islands. On 19 July 1879, a party of forty-seven men, women, and children left Bergen on board the Debora and landed in Tulear, Madagascar, on 17 October (see appendix E for a complete list).
Upon arrival in Madagascar, it was decided to dissolve the "Debora Company". The majority of the party elected not to go to the Aldabra Islands but to stake their future in Natal, particularly in and around Port Natal (Durban). They had been influenced by the news they learned in Cape Town from the crew of a German ship that the Zulu War had been concluded. Only sixteen of the party stayed in Madagascar, some working for L. Larsen, others for the NMS.
This was the first group of Norwegians to arrive in Durban, and they helped to establish the Norwegian Church which is still in existence. Several became successful - Ragnvald Andersen became a noted builder in Durban, I Iversen worked for Schreuder, and O Heidalsvig (Heidalsvik - Høidalsvig) did considerable building for the NMS and purchased a large farm, in 1889, near Stanger, north of Durban (see p 109 for other Norwegians in Stanger). The latter died in 1899, leaving a wife and eight children.
Anton Andreassen remained in Madagascar. He joined the NMS as a carpenter. He helped the mission open several stations before his pre mature death at the age of thirty-five in 1881. Knud Bang's son, Christian (Kristian), became an important businessman in Tamatave. He was in charge of a sawmill, was for many years the Consul for Norway and Sweden, and for twenty years was the British Consul until his death in 1931. The Bang family can be found in Natal; another of Knud Bang's sons, Severin, became involved with the Salvation Army and later a pioneer in Zululand with the Scandinavian Alliance Mission of North America. He married Bina Hagemann who had been raised on her family farm "Bethany" near Stanger. (see p 109)Norwegians aboard Debora (1879)
Captain Tobiassen and wife, Coxswain Berentsen and wife, (Berentsen second in command), Coxswain Oftedal, Anders Olsen and wife, I Iversen and wife - from Bergen - later they joined St Olav Church, Durban , O. Heidalsvig (Høidalsvig) and wife - worked for NMS, bought farm near Stanger, Natal, J Finsen and wife - became prosperous in Natal, *Knut Ole Bang, wife, and three children (Amanda, Severin, Knut), F Larsen, wife and six children (Angel, Sigvart, Emil, Petra, Ludvig , Karl, Atlanter), H. Johnsen, wife, and three children (Sine, Josefine, and Karl), *A Andreassen, wife, and three children, Ragnvald Andersen - became prosperous builder in Durban and joined St Olav Church, R Rasmussen, K Jensen, Hesselberg, Grong, *O Fosdal, E Eriksen, *P Bang, E Ellingsen, *the widow Egelandsdal, *Miss Serene Larsen, (two children born on voyage - one was the son of A Andreassen and wife), other was Fynn Atlanter, son of F Larsen and wife, Marie Elizabeth. [Marie Elisabeth was the widow of Sivert Andersen Hordnes]
*Those people who stayed in Madagascar (K Bang became a prominent citizen of Tamatave and died there in 1931); the remainder went on to Port Natal (Durban).Sources of information
(Sources: E Hallen, "Nordisk Kirkeliv under Syddorset", "Nordmands-Forbundet" 1926; interview, Daniel Bang, Pietermaritzburg, April 1974), 4. 117 - The book (L Larsen "Life Before Death) is presently being translated into English by Miss Birgit Eckhoff, Durban, 4. 118 - The Aldabra Islands were reputed to be rich in minerals and timber. Some of the Norwegians remained in Madagascar - John Nilsen became a merchant in Tulear, Nils Haugervig (Haugervik) worked for the NMS ("Normands-Forbundet", 1926. pp 133, 134). ; 4. 119 - Two children were born on the voyage. Daniel Bang of Pietermaritzburg has a brief summary of the voyage in which is described the initial becalming, the poor provisions, the two births on the high seas, religious services held every Sunday, meeting several ships (including Scandinavians), and a bad storm along the South African coast. The Debora was a small boat and it seemed to the passengers that every ship they saw was larger. For further sources of information see Dr Alan Winquist's letter to DVL.
Debora Expedition: How the First Norwegian Emigrants came to Natal.
Debora Expedition: South African descendants of Nygaardsvig, Hordnes and Salbu families.
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