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An Ocean Liner's Crew - Working on a Steamship 1906

WORK on an ocean steamship never ends, for no sooner does she reach her moorings in New York, Liverpool or Hamburg than preparations begin for the next voyage.

Her decks are holystoned, sprinkled with sand and made beautifully clean; the outside of her hull, from deck to water line, is repainted and, if it be the end of a round trip or voyage, all the exterior paint work receives a new coat, while her sanitary and plumbing arrangements, her smokestacks, woodwork, spars and rigging. are all carefully examined and overhauled.

All this is done by the sailors under the direction of the boatswain, who reports each day to the officer on duty and receives instruction as to the work to be performed.

Meanwhile an overhauling equally minute and thorough is going on in the engineer's department, which includes not only the engines and boilers, but also the electric-lighting plant of the ship.

The work of this department, however, is so arduous while at sea that officers and men receive liberty for the entire time the ship remains in port, their places being taken by a special shore force which remains aboard until sailing day.

One boiler is left untouched to supply power for the engines that work the electric and refrigerating apparatus, the pumps and the machinery used in shipping cargo, but all the others as soon as they have cooled are entered, examined and, if need be, repaired.

Each tube, combustion chamber and furnace receives careful attention; cylinders, pistons, crankpins and crossheads are gone over one by one, while the engines are generally overhauled and all the arrangements of the fireroom inspected. Nor is the steward's department less busy while in port.

All the bed and table linen used during the voyage, many thousands of pieces, is collected and sent to the company's laundry, after which all the staterooms are cleaned and put in order and the fresh supply of linen made ready for the coming voyage.

During a steamship's stay in port the three chief divisions, sailing, engineer's and steward's, are under the jurisdiction of shore officials whose officers are on the deck. The sailing department is responsible to the marine superintendent, the engineer's to the superintending engineer and the steward's to the port steward.

Thus the vessel while in port has no direct communication with the company's office, the dock superintendents acting as intermediaries. When stores are sent to the ship they are addressed to the department for which they are intended. The port steward controls the direct purchasing of provisions and is supposed to buy in the cheapest and best market.

The marine superintendent and superintending engineer furnish the other materials required. Should provisions be found unsatisfactory when received the chief steward sends them back, and in such action is always upheld by the port steward. The cargo is in charge of the sailing department and is received and stowed under the direction of a boss stevedore selected by the dock superintendent.

Even the fleetest ocean steamships carry considerable cargoes, and to those unfamiliar with it the process of loading a vessel is a sight full of interest. On the wharf assorted merchandise by the carload is being lifted from vans and piled near the ship, and teams by the score are adding their quota to the immense mass, while on the water side lighters laden with more merchandise are either fastened to the vessel's side or anchored close at hand waiting to hoist their contents aboard.

Engines are puffing, ropes are tugging and derricks lifting heavy freight of every kind to the ship's deck, the orders of the stevedore and the answers of his men mingling with the general din.

Large vessels have four or five holds and much skill is required to properly stow the cargo in them, grain, from its compact and dead weight, being mostly reserved for the center of the vessel, while cured provisions are packed as far forward and aft as possible for their better preservation from the heat of the ship's fires.

In many vessels carrying passengers as well as freight the heaviest weight is stowed in the lowest hold; this is to steady the ship and is called in the argot of the stevedore "stiffening" the ship. It requires about 1,500 tons to "stiffen" an ocean steamship of the largest size, and when this is done the hold is battened down and work begun on the next.

An important feature in the loading of a steamship is her coal. It is customary to take as high as 200 tons of a surplus over the actual needs of the voyage, and the bunkers of the vessel are in charge of a special gang of men.

Some vessels load their coal over all, but a majority receive it through openings at the sides. Large V-shaped pockets, running direct to the bunkers, are let down on each side and around them are built stagings on which a couple of men are stationed to dump the coal from huge buckets hoisted by engines from lighters.

On the wharf side the coal is wheeled in barrows up a shelving gangway and turned into the bunkers direct. To load a great vessel requires the services for several days of 125 men, including a boss stevedore and a couple of foremen and with all the appliances of steam and gearing to assist their operations.

The force is divided into half a dozen or more gangs, each having its head, who is in communication with the boss stevedore. As the work is intermittent the men are paid by the hour, and there is a keeper who does nothing else but take down the time each one is employed.

Certain gangs of longshoremen stick to certain lines, and many of them have worked nearly all their lives for the same company. When the loading of a ship is completed a detailed inspection of cargo is made by one of the officers, and for this reason the boss stevedore is always careful to prevent slovenly methods on the part of his men, being aware that in the end he will be the one held responsible for haste or error.

While the cargo is being received and loaded stores for the coming voyage are also being taken aboard. The supplies for the physical comfort and necessities of 1,500 persons on a ship can he measured only by the ton, 30,000 pounds of beef, for instance, being often used on a single voyage.

About 150 tons of water are required for cooking and drinking, an additional fifty tons being made daily on board by the evaporators from sea water and used for cleaning purposes. When it comes to food and drink the ingenuity of the port and ship's stewards is put fairly to the test.

A day or two before the ship leaves port the number of passengers who will probably sail on it is figured up and the ship's steward makes up and hands to the port steward a tabulated list of the supplies needed for the trip, nearly 1,000 articles being named in the requisition, which includes food and drink in every conceivable form.

The port steward sends his orders to the firms that supply the line and arranges for the delivery of the goods at certain hours, care heing taken that they shall arrive when the pier is not blocked with wagons unloading freight.

The meats come at a certain hour, the groceries at another and the spices and so on at another, everything being weighed on scales at the pier and counted as it goes on board.

The variety of the food supplies required for one of these huge floating hotels is bewildering. For example, no less than fifteen kinds of cheese are used, while fish in fully a hundred grades and forms is stowed away. In the list of fruits, fresh, dried and canned, there are at least 125 varieties, and the same is true of vegetables.

The list of supplies, moreover, must he scanned by the steward again and again, for it will not do to overlook a single article that may be needed.

Here is part of what is required in the way of supplies when a ship like the Carmania is crowded :

The departure of an ocean liner from port is a critical moment for each member of the ship's company. All leaves of absence expire twenty-four hours before the time for sailing, and this precaution makes it certain that every man shall be at his post. At 8 o'clock on the morning of leaving the sea-watches are formally set. The lower fires in the many-lunged furnaces have been started at 10 o'clock on the previous night; six hours later the top fires are lighted, and at 6 A. M.

the operation of getting up steam begins, it heing always necessary to have a full pressure of steam at least one hour before sailing time: As the moment of departure draws nearer, an air of suppressed excitement pervades the waiting throng, but there is no confusion among those charged with the ship's conduct and safety.

Each officer is at his post, and knows his duty. The chief officer is stationed on the forward deck in full view of the captain on the bridge, where the latter with a wave of his hand indicates just what he wants done. The senior and junior second officers are on the after deck; the extra second with the captain on the bridge, and the third and fourth officers at the forward and after gangways.

Meanwhile, as the minutes wax and wane, winches chatter noisily ; windlasses clink musically; capstans rattle with slacking cables; and the shrill chanty songs of the docking gang working the warps, answer the cheery "Yo-heave-oho" of the sailors on the deck. On the bridge with the silent yet impatient captain lingers a representative of the company.

By and by, after the final instructions have been given, this person departs, and as he goes over the side the captain, saluting him with a wave of the hand, gives a quiet order to the first officer. The wheel is shifted, the capstan reels noisily, and link by link the chain comes home. At last, after a vicious tug or two on the cable, the ground is broken, and, dripping with cleansing water from the hose, the anchor, ring and stock, appears above the foam-streams rippling at the bow.

When the catfall is hooked, the ship swings easily around the jutting pier, the engines increase their speed, the ensign dips in answer to salutes, and a long blast from the whistle claims the right of the channel. Slowly and carefully she picks her way through the shipping that crowds the harbor, drops her pilot and heads for the open. The voyage has begun.

With the dropping of the pilot, sea routine is promptly taken up, and thereafter on the shoulders of the commander rests the preservation of the ship and the safety of the passengers and crew. Every captain of an Atlantic liner embodies in his person a shining example of the law of the survival of the fittest, for there is no short cut to the bridge, and none but a master seaman ever reaches it.

The man who would he captain cannot crawl through the cabin window. He must fight his way over the bows, and struggle out of the ruck and smother of the forecastle, by sturdy buffeting and hard knocks, by the persistent edging of stout shoulders backed by a strong heart and an active brain.

There is probably not a commander of an ocean liner who has not been around the world as a common sailor, a mate, and finally a master of a ship. In fact, it would be difficult if not impossible to get the command of a transatlantic ship without having first been the captain of a large sailing vessel.

Some of the companies like the Cunard, have a rule requiring that a candidate for a captaincy shall have served as a captain somewhere ; and only a few years ago a sailor on one of the largest steamships plying between New York and Liverpool, who had climbed from the bottom to the high rank of first officer, left the company with which he had made his progress solely that he might take a place as captain on a smaller and less important vessel.

If he succeeds in his new berth—and his old employers will watch his course—it is more than likely that he will be called back in a few years and have a command given him.

It is the man who knows his business who makes his way to the bridge. No matter how gruff or. unpopular he may be, or what are any of his personal peculiarities, if he understands his business and knows how to get smoothly over the sea, he is pretty sure of promotion.

The Captain of an Ocean Liner

The Captain of an Ocean Liner

A captain, however, does not obtain on shipboard all the education which makes him capable of commanding a Lucania or a Paris. There must be much study of books as well. He must know something of the art of shipbuilding, of engineering; he must he familiar with the science of meteorology; he must be a master of the moods of the ocean, the currents and lanes as discovery has set them forth; he must have the mathematics of navigation completely under control, and he must have a general knowledge of the politics and laws of the high seas.

Most important of all, he must be a man of courage and good judgment, for he must govern his crew more wisely, shrewdly and sternly than a general controls his army, and be prepared to withstand the attacks of nature's forces with as much skill and alertness as the leader of an army must show against a surrounding enemy.

His responsibility never ends, not even when he is asleep. Sometimes the dangers which beset him forhid any attempt at sleep, and hour after hour the captain must stand upon his high bridge, exposed to all manner of storms. Often does a commander come into port from a perilous voyage, during which for two days and nights he has not left his bridge, except four or five times, and then only for a few minutes at a time.

There was a time when the captain was a prominent social figure on all ocean steamships, but this is no longer the case. He may be seen at his table in the saloon, when the +weather is fine, or may be met on. deck occasionally when he is looking over the ship, but at other times he is generally out of sight, except when he may appear on the bridge.

The chief officer is seen most of all by the passengers. His principal duty is to look after the daily work of the crew, and he is about the deck constantly when not inspecting various parts of the ship. He takes an observation on the bridge with the other officers every day at twenty minutes before noon, but with that exception is seldom seen there.

The other officers are in sight only when one looks up at the bridge. Indeed, on some of the newer ships they sleep and mess in quarters of their own on the shade deck, and, thus are rarely if ever brought in contact with the passengers.

On all the largest steamships there are besides a captain and chief officer, three second officers, one third and one fourth officer. The second officers are known as senior second, junior second and extra second, and each, like the chief officer, is a duly qualified master, capable of taking the ship around the world if need be.

The general duty of the second officer is the navigation of the ship under the captain's directions. Each of these officers stands a four hours' watch on the bridge, and each during his tour of duty has, as the captain's representative, direct charge of the ship. The third and fourth officers stand a watch of six hours, alternating with each other, and, there are, therefore, always a second and third or fourth officer on watch at the same time.

Although in rough weather it is work that tests the strength and tries the nerves of the strongest man, no officer can leave the bridge while on watch, and should he violate this rule, he would be dismissed at once. In addition to his watch the third officer has charge of all the flags and signals by night and day, and he also keeps the compass book, while the fourth officer, besides his work on the bridge, has charge of the condition of the boats.

Observations are taken every two hours, as on an ocean greyhound, rushing over the course hetween America and Europe at the rate of twenty miles an hoar, it is of the first importance that the ship's position should be known at all times. Fog may come down at any moment, and observations not to be obtainable for several hours.

The positions of more than one hundred stars are known, and by observing any of these the ship's whereabouts can be ascertained in a few minutes. Of course, the "road" becomes more or less familiar to a man who crosses the ocean along the same route year after year, yet this familiarity never breeds contempt or carelessness, for no man knows all the influences that affect the currents of the ocean, and while you will find the current in a given place the same forty times in succession, on the forty-first trip it may be entirely changed.

Now and then a big storm that has ended four or five hours before a liner passes a certain point may give the surface current a strong set in one direction, and there is no means of telling when these influences may have been at work save by taking the ship's position at frequent intervals.

The ship's crew stand watch and watch, and in each watch there are three quartermasters who have charge of the wheel. Steering in the old days before the introduction of steam gear, was an arduous and too often perilous duty, hut to-day, even in the roughest weather, a lad of twelve can easily manage the wheel, which is merely the purchasing end of a mechanical system that opens and shuts the valve governing the steam admitted to the steering cylinders.

First-class ships number from twelve to fifteen men in each watch. A certain number of these must be able seamen, and none are allowed many idle moments. In the middle watches the decks are scrubbed; in the morning watches the paint work is overhauled and cleaned; and finally, when the weather permits, the brass work is polished until it is made as radiant as the midday sun.

This scrubbing, burnishing and cleansing runs through every department, and in no perfunctory way, for each day the ship is inspected thoroughly, and upon the result hangs the possible promotion of the suhordinates.

Once in every twenty-four hours the captain receives a written report from the first officer, the chief engineer and the chief steward, and at eleven o'clock in the forenoon of each day, accompanied by the doctor, he inspects all parts of the ship.

Let us follow him, if he is gracious enough to give permission, in this daily visit to the underground realm ruled over by the chief engineer and steward. In the fleetest of the liners the engineer force numbers nearly two hundred men, divided, as a rule, into three crews, with a double allowance of officers for duty.

An engineer keeps watch in each fire-room, and two are stationed on each engine-room platform. Watches depend upon the weather. In most cases, the force, officers and men, serve four out of twelve hours, but in foggy or stormy weather officers stand at the throttles with peremptory orders to do no other work.

In relieving each other great care is taken; those going on the platforms feeling the warmth of the bearings, examining the condition of the pins and shafting, testing the valves, locating the position of the throttle, counting the revolutions, and by every technical trial satisfying themselves before assuming charge that all is right.

Distressing at all times is the lot of the poor fellows who man the stoke hole. On the Furst Bismarck, for instance, there are twenty-four furnaces, manned by thirty-six brawny and half-naked stokers. Suddenly from somewhere in the darkness comes three shrill calls upon a whistle, and instantly each furnace door flies open, and out dart hungry tongues of fire.

With averted heads and steaming bodies, four stokers begin to shovel furiously, while two others thrust their slice-bars through each door and into the mass of fire and flame. Burying their lances deep in the coals, they throw their weights full upon
the ends as levers, and lift the whole bank of fire several inches.

Then they draw out the lances, leaving a black hole through the fire into which the draft is sucked with an increasing roar. Three times they thrust and withdraw the lances, pausing after each charge to plunge their heads in buckets of water, and take deep draughts from bottles of red wine. But this cooling respite lasts only a moment at best, for their taskmasters watch and drive them, and each furnace must do its stint. It is fair, however, to say that everything that can be done to lessen the hardships of the stokehole has been done by the steamship companies.

The best quality of food is given the stokers, and they are allowed double rations of wine and kummel four times a day, practically all they care to drink.

The chief engineer of an ocean steamship is fairly well paid, and he deserves to be, for fidelity and merit lead to the engine-room as they do to the bridge, and mastery of the former presupposes long years of exacting service in subordinate positions. Indeed, many of these officers have given their best years to one employ, and, like the hardy McAndrews sung by Kipling, deserve much of it in every way.

Some of the old chiefs are the greatest travelers in the world, so far as miles may count. One of whom I was told has traversed in the service of one company more than 900,000 shore miles, a distance four times that between the earth and the moon; and still higher is the record of another, who completed before his retirement 154 round trips, making in distance over 1,000,000 statute miles.

The captain in his daily tour scrutinizes every nook and corner of the engineer's department, and not less scrupulous is his inspection of the domain in which the chief steward holds sway. There is good reason for this, since, as far as the comfort of the passengers is concerned, the chief steward is the most important person on board a liner, having charge of the staterooms, dining-room, storerooms and kitchen. Like the engine-room the ship's kitchen, located amidships, is an unknown world to most of the passengers.

There are, as a matter of fact, three kitchens, besides a serving-room. The soups, fish, meats and vegetables are prepared and cooked in one room and the bread and pastry in another, while the steerage has a kitchen to itself in which all the cooking is done by steam. Space being valuable, all these rooms are small, and meals for 500 or 1,000 people are cooked in an apartment no larger than the kitchen in a low-priced flat, or the pantry in a country house.

This makes it necessary to keep everything in its place, and it amazes one to see how compactly the ship's supplies can be arranged. Nothing is left down on shelves or in drawers which may be hung on hooks, and even the platters and serving dishes are made to hang, there being a loophole at one end for this purpose.

Moreover, what the ship's kitchen loses in size is made up in the number of storerooms. Far aft is the main storeroom, which, with its bins reaching from floor to ceiling, and its racks overhead, looks like a wholesale grocery store.

Close at hand is the wine locker, a long place, lined with narrow shelves, which have an upward tilt and are crowded with all sorts and kinds of bottled liquors. Down deeper, most often where the stern rolls in from the counter, is a big compartment, where are stored barrels of flour, potatoes, vinegar and beer, which when needed are hoisted up under the direction of the storekeeper.

Pretty well forward is the refrigerating plant, a zinc-lined chamber, where the choicest sides of beef, joints of mutton, chickens and turkeys are kept frozen. All the liners, it may be noted in passing, carry a butcher, whose duty it is to cut the steaks and chops, and to see that no good material goes to waste through unskillful hacking.

Adjoining the kitchen is the serving-room or pantry, frescoed with silver coffee-pots and cream-mugs and lined with shelves filled with crockery, while the hook-dotted ceiling glitters with an hundred other pieces of silverware which swing and scintillate with every motion of the ship.

The shelves are really wooden pockets, faced with strips of wood, which keep the dishes from rolling out, and stowed away there are cups and plates by the hundred. Along the side of the room is a big hot press, having on its top all manner of indentations for the trenchers, saucepans and soup pots which are sent in from the kitchen laden with food at mealtime. This is flanked hy a line of glistening tea and coffee urns, while in a convenient corner is a roomy icebox for the cold meats and butter.

To the kitchen and the pantry the storeroom is always sending tribute, and they send it to the glass-doored dining-room which, with its long tables, its dazzling white cloths, and its glittering array of silver and glass, looks at night like an enchanted realm. Seats at table are assigned by the steward or the purser, who gives out the seats to those who ask for them first.

Each seat is numbered and the passenger receives a billet with his seat number on it when he goes to his first meal on board. Formerly there was a struggle for seats at the captain's table, but now the wise and wary ones rally about the purser and the doctor, for the commander's duties seldom permit him to go below save at dinnertime.

Still, wherever his place at table may be fixed, the cabin passenger finds that no opportunity is neglected to serve his comfort and lighten the tedium of the voyage. On the German lines a band accompanies every vessel, and plays through the long first-cabin dinner, and again on deck in the evening.

All German and American holidays are observed on these boats, and when Christmas comes to the travelers at sea, they find themselves in the midst of a Fatherland festival, the chief feature of which is a brightly adorned and illuminated tree. Nor are the steerage passengers forgotten on these occasions, amusements, and a special feast being provided for them.

On the boats of the Compagnie Generale Transatlantique French festivals and American holidays are celehrated by concerts, balls, dinner parties and extra luxuries at the regular meals. Entertainment is provided for the steerage passengers and a special menu is furnished for the festal days. On such occasions, too, the ships are gayly decorated with bunting from stem to stern.

The "captain's dinner" is another pleasant feature of the voyage on a French liner. This takes place just before the end of the voyage and is regarded as a token of good will between the passengers and the ship's company. Champagne is furnished without extra charge at this dinner and toasts and speechmaking follow.

On a British liner on Sunday morning the captain, in full uniform, supported by his officers, reads the Church of England service, to which all are invited, while American and British holidays are observed in a fitting manner, the ship being always "dressed" for the occasion. The boats of the British lines have also a concert for the exploitation of the talent on board and a parting dinner given an evening or two before arrival in port.

Meantime how do the steerage folk get on when voyaging over the western ocean?

Here there is another and different story to tell. In a ship like the Britannic of the White Star line, picture to yourself a barn-like apartment some seventy feet long and thirty feet wide, but tapering almost to a point at the forward end. It is dimly lighted and badly ventilated by means of a shaft, through which the mainmast enters, and by portholes which are too near the water ever to be opened except in harbor and are well nigh submerged when the vessel lies over or rolls.

Lined along the three sides of this rude triangle are large skeleton frames, each upholding two tiers of coffin-like bunks, one above the other, the beds being placed side to side in rows of eight and end to end two deep.

Thus each of these structures holds thirty-two bunks, whose sides and bottoms are of rough boards. A narrow passageway runs across ship between the pens, of which there are seven in all, making a total of 224 souls who are crowded into these sordid quarters. Picture this to yourself and you have before you the men's cabin of the steerage of the Britannic.

The room being lighted at night hy gasoline lamps, smoking is forbidden, while all relaxation must be taken on that small portion of the lower deck beyond which no steerage passenger is allowed to roam, for there is no means of amusement or recreation in the cabin.

Still there is a brighter side to the picture. All the companies provide ample and wholesome fare for their steerage passengers. No captain ever fails to include in his daily tour a personal and painstaking inspection of this department and he is always approachable in the event of complaints arising on the part of the humhlest and poorest traveler.

It is related of one old-time commander, Captain John Mirehouse, that in order to assure himself of the proper quality and preparation of the steerage food he invariably had his lunch served from the steerage galley at the dinner hour; and he used to declare that his lunches were as wholesome and palatable as he could desire.

Nor is it to be supposed that steerage passengers are all immigrants, for, odd as it may seem, there are many world wanderers who cross and recross in the steerage, who travel over great parts of the world and who in their class are as independent as the men and women lodged in the first cabin.

Besides these curious characters there are Scottish carpenters and other mechanics who come to America for a few months at a time to take advantage of higher wages and who return as they came when the Christmas holidays draw nigh. Often a liner leaving New York in the early days of December carries more than 1,000 passengers in the steerage.

Whether you travel in the cabin or the steerage, the closing days of a voyage are always sure to be the shortest and the pleasantest ones. The routine of marine life ceases to he a burden, and with the disappearance of the last lingering cases of sea sickness life on the fleet greyhound of the waters becomes a source of joy. Newly found friends and glimpses of passing vessels cheer and break the solitude, while the tonic of the sea air courses like an elixir in the blood.

Young couples flirt demurely in shady corners of the deck, whence issue now and again sudden bursts of rippling laughter; nor is there lack of jollity in the smoking room, whence eddy the flotsam and jetsam of the ship and cards rule the hour from early forenoon until the lights are turned out at night.

If it be summer and the passage a westward one you may count, as a rule, upon skirting the Grand Banks without mishap and upon rounding the Georges in the same lucky manner. Then, after long and eager waiting, comes the happy hour when there is a cry of "Sail, ho," and a few minutes later a yawl emerges from the gathering darkness and a bluff, black-garbed pilot climbs to the ship's deck, bringing news from the outer world and the glad assurance that land and home are just beyond the horizon line.

Soon comes the welcome cry, "There she is, Fire Island light, right over the starboard bow." The watcher in the lighthouse telegraphs the steamer's arrival to the quarantine station and the ship news office, and long before noon the vessel reaches quarantine.

Here the health officer boards her, and if it is found that she has no case of contagious disease on board she is permitted to proceed to her dock, which she reaches in about one hour and a half, including the time of examination. Meanwhile she has been met down the bay by a revenue cutter having a squad of customs officers on board and declarations have been made and signed by the cabin passengers as to the contents of their trunks, which are searched as soon as the vessel arrives at her dock.

Here, also, an officer of the Immigration Bureau takes charge of the steerage passengers and has folk and baggage conveyed to the Barge Office for the examination which will impel their return to the place from which they came or end in the granting of permission for them to enter the land of mystery and promise.
Within the hour in which the liner reaches her moorings on the New York or Jersey shore the last passenger has taken his departare, shore leave has been granted to the majority of the ship's company and waiting hands have promptly taken in hand the task of making ready for the leviathan's next ocean pilgrimage, since, as I said at the outset, one voyage is no sooner ended than preparations for another are begun.

THE SEA ROVERS By RUFUS ROCKWELL WILSON
Author of "Rambles in Colonial Byways," etc.
ILLUSTRATED BY MAY PLATY
NEW YORK
B. W. DODGE AND COMPANY
1906

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