Remember our visit to the Bergen Maritime Museum in mid July? Life has been a full, busy, and ever-evolving adventure since then, including a quick vacation in Spain, a trip on the Statsraad Lehmkuhl, another adventure I’m getting thoughts together to share this weekend (hint: it involves a visit to the view outside my front windows), and family time … but I thought it was time to share another important exhibit from the museum about the initial purpose of the Statsraad Lehmkuhl as a training ship.
Discipline – Independence – Cooperation
Training ships under sail
First, a couple images and background from the museum’s website and brochure:
I took a few photos of the exhibit’s photographic display, thinking it wouldn’t be captured well through a camera lens. Are they enough to help you visualize the exhibit?
But what really personalized this exhibit for me was listening to my husband’s thoughts. He recognized one of the young boys pictured as an acquaintance from his early 1950’s Bergen neighborhood, and also remembers his parents and grandparents sharing the stories of their part of this living history. His words:
Using Statsraad Lemkuhl as a training ship for young boys to become sailors is to institutionalize an age old tradition in Bergen, and other sea faring cities along the West Coast of Norway.
But Bergen was by far the biggest city and for hundreds of years the most important and busy harbor in Northern Europe.
So, Bergen, already a melting pot of Norwegians, Germans, Dutch, English and other Scandinavians, attracted sailors from all over Europe to find a ship.
The “Immigrant sailors” were mostly grown men, but locally, boys from Bergen and the area around it, were sent on board a ship at the age between 12 to 15 years. They started as “Førstereisgutt”, which means “First Trip Boy”, and they sailed throughout the world; Asia, the Americas, Africa and Europe.
The other part of this tradition we can date back to the Viking age. Up until the late fifties, sailors were gone for three to four years. In the old days, when the men folk went “a viking”, they were gone for years and many did not come back, either lost at sea or settled somewhere else.
The main point is that either as vikings or sailors, when they were gone, the women had to take care of everything. Housing, food, children, protecting their family; it was the responsibility of the women.
That is an important part of the Norwegian culture.
I come from such a family. Both on my mother’s and father’s side, I am the first man NOT to be a sailor. For hundreds of years all the men in my family, both sides, have been sent to sea at a very young age. My father was 12 when he sailed to Asia, my mother was married when she was 17 and a widow at the age of 18 and my grandmother was alone with four children for five years …
That really expands on the exhibit, doesn’t it?
That was then. And now? As I shared before, the Statsraad Lehmkuhl is still introducing civilians to sailing. But she’s also giving cadets and school children specific opportunities to learn. Visit her Facebook page to see her most recent “sailors”!