Francis Daniel Pastorius Describes his Ocean Voyage, 1684

Francis Daniel Pastorius Describes his Ocean Voyage, 1684

The journey across the Atlantic was difficult at best and deadly at worst. Francis Pastorius left his home in Germany to create a new life in Pennsylvania. This account shows the discomforts and dangers of oceanic travel in the seventeenth century.


Accordingly I will begin with the voyage, which is certainly on the one hand dangerous on account of the terror of shipwreck, and on the other hand very unpleasant on account of the bad and hard fare; so that I now from my own experience understand in a measure what David says in the 107th Psalm, that on the sea one may observe and perceive not only the wonderful works of God, but also the spirit of the storm. As to my voyage hither, I sailed from Deal on the tenth of June with four menservants, two maidservants, two children, and one young boy. We had the whole way over, for the most part, contrary winds, and never favorable for twelve hours together; many tempests and thunderstorms. Also the foremast broke twice, so that it was ten weeks before we arrived here… considering that it seldom happens that any persons arrive here much more quickly. The Crefelders, who arrived here on October 6, were also ten weeks upon the ocean, and the ship that set out with ours from Deal was fourteen days longer on the voyage, and several people died in it. The Crefelders lost a grown girl between Rotterdam and England, whose loss however was replaced between England and Pennsylvania by the birth of two children. On our ship, on the other hand, no one died and no one was born.

Almost all the passengers were seasick for some days, I however for not more than four hours. On the other hand I underwent other accidents, namely, that the two carved lugs over the ship’s bell fell right upon my back, and on the 9th of July during a storm in the night I fell so severely upon my left side that for some days I had to keep to my bed. These two falls reminded me forcibly of the first fall of our original parents in Paradise, which has come down upon all their posterity, and also of many of those falls which I have undergone in this vale of misery of my exile. Per varios casus, etc [Latin for through many difficulties]. But praised be the fatherly hand of the divine mercy which lifts us up again so many times and holds us back that we fall not entirely into the abyss of the evil one. George Wertmuller also fell down extremely hard, Thomas Gasper had an eruption of the body, the English maid had the erysipelas [skin infection], and Isaac Dilbeck, who according to outward appearance was the strongest, succumbed for the greatest length of time. So I had a small ship hospital, although I alone of the Germans had taken my berth among the English. That one of the boatmen became insane and that our ship was shaken by the repeated assaults of a whale, I set forth at length in my last letter.

The rations upon the ship were very bad... Every ten persons received three pounds of butter a week, four cans of beer and two cans of water a day, two platters full of peas every noon, meat four dinners in the week and fish three, and these we were obliged to prepare with our own butter. Also we must every noon save up enough so that we might get our supper from it. The worst of all was that both the meat and the fish were salted to such an extent and had become so rancid that we could hardly eat half of them. And had I not by the advice of good friends in England provided myself with various kinds of refreshment, it might perhaps have gone very badly for me. Therefore all those who hereafter intend to make the voyage hither should take good heed that they either, if there are many of them, procure their own provisions, or else agree distinctly with the captain as to both quantity and quality, how much food and of what sort they are to receive each day; and to hold him down the more completely to this agreement, one should reserve some small part of the passage money, to be paid on this side. Also when possible one should arrange with a ship which sails up to this city of Philadelphia, since in the case of the others which end their voyage at Upland, one is subjected to many inconveniences.


Albert Cook Myers, ed., Narratives of Early Pennsylvania, West New Jersey, and Delaware (New York: 1912), 392-395.

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