Life on a long voyage: Sailing to the Nambucca

Many stories of our pioneers usually start with their arrival from a large port like Sydney and go on to describe the arduous journey to the Nambucca.

For example the bullock driven journey of Marmaduke England and his family from the Liverpool Plains took three months and was described by the usually stoic Marmaduke as a "tedious and wearisome pilgrimage".

However our plucky pioneers often came from much further away than Sydney.

Frank's Wharf. Photo courtesy of Janice Wilson.

Frank's Wharf. Photo courtesy of Janice Wilson.

In a previous article on Catherine Frank, nee Koenig, it is noted that her family of seven sailed from Hamburg on the Whilhelmsburg in 1855.

Of the 630 passengers, 30 died on the way including Catherine's sister Joan. Catherine's future husband Carl Frank also set sail to Australia. He travelled on the 'Susanne Godeffroy', which was built to bring emigrants from Hamburg to Moreton Bay in Queensland.

The Queensland government stipulated requirements for emigrants, the ship owners and the shipping agents. The ship was owned by the Godeffroy family as part of their fleet of 27 sailing ships, which sailed under the family flag of the "White Falcon".

The passenger ship 'Susanne Godeffroy.' Photo courtesy of Andrea Bentschneider.

The passenger ship 'Susanne Godeffroy.' Photo courtesy of Andrea Bentschneider.

The ship which brought out Frank was not designed for passenger amenity or, at least, was not designed as modern-day luxury travel. The book "The Passage of Time" by Noel and Delwyn Bergman, a heavy volume on the 1865 voyage of the Susanne Godeffroy on which Frank travelled, describes passenger ships' layouts as having bunks of two laid out along the inside of the ship.

The bunks were generally six feet by six feet and the two were designed for four adults or a married couple and four children. There was no privacy for dressing.

Benches were attached to the bunk ends for daytime seating and plank tables and benches were built down the middle lengthways for eating. Groups or families were issued rations, which they prepared for cooking in the ship's galley.

Dorothea Gottschalk, on a later voyage, sent letters home describing the voyage.

"We were sometimes afraid when the sea rose like a mountain and all the boxes toppled over and we couldn't find a footing, so the children had to stay in bed the whole day," she wrote.

She also advised, "you should put a note on your suitcase saying between decks, otherwise it will be put into the lower decks and everything will rot."

As the sea journey took from four to six months the discomfort, lack of privacy and the hazards of sea travel show our pioneers to be of formidable constitutions that would stand them well in their futures.

Frank arrived at Moreton Bay in September 1865. At the time Queensland was in a financial depression which led him to venture to Sydney, then to the Macleay district.

Frank's sister Margaret had married William Schaible and had taken up land at Taylor's Arm. This, no doubt, led Frank to the area and he selected land at Utungun and Congarinni. His farm was known as Franks Wharf.

Catherine Koenig was part of the German community on the Nambucca and married Frank in 1873. Catherine and Charles Frank's union brought about ten children and they were known as an industrious and hardworking couple. The ship he arrived on, the Susanne Godeffroy, was wrecked off Newcastle in 1880.

Frank died in 1927 at the age of 81 years and is buried in the Macksville cemetery.

Sources: Thanks to Noel and Delwyn Berman, Janice Wilson and Nambucca Headland Museum

  • Rachel Burns is a museum volunteer at Nambucca Headland Museum and radio presenter on 2NVR in the Nambucca Valley.

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