In her book Väntansväg (1985, 42–50), Wawa Stürmer writes about a delicate little girl with a disability, who is sitting on a rock in the old harbour, waiting for her father to return from the sea. The harbour men pass by the girl and listen to her beautiful singing. Day after day, the girl goes on waiting and watching the sea even though she knows her father’s ship will never arrive. Nevertheless, someone needs to receive the souls of drowned seamen.


The trade journeys of sailing ships to distant seas were sometimes arduous, even fatal. For example, the frigate Concordia left its home port Pietarsaari with a cargo of tar, pitch and timber in the early 1780s, skippered by Claes Breitholz. Jan Kronholm (JT 19.4.1984, 7) describes the sea voyage as follows:


Concordia’s travel plan was rather open because in those days captains were free to unload and load at the ports where they got the best deals. The ship was eventually sailing via Cape Town to Batavia, which is located on the island of Java in the East Indies. However, the crew from Pietarsaari had no experience of sailing south of the equator. Soon after having passed the equator, the ship was becalmed for so long that drinking water started to become scarce.  The crew’s distress was so strong that they vowed to give monetary aid to the poor of their hometown if they only got fresh drinking water. In the nick of time, drinking water was received from an island in the Gulf of Guinea, but the worst difficulties still lay ahead.


At the harbour of Cape Town, a young deckhand escaped. At the final destination Batavia, which was an important trade and maritime city, many of Concordia’s crew members caught tropical illnesses and most of them died. Two members had to remain at the hospital in Batavia, and one escaped. More men died of diseases later on the journey. The deceased French ship doctor was replaced by the Swedish doctor and naturalist Clas Hornstedt, who was staying in Java. In addition to coffee, spices and saltpetre, the ship’s cargo finally also included animals collected by Hornstedt: insects, small animals preserved in spirits and live wild animals – the rarest of them probably the orang-utan captured in Borneo. None of the animals survived the long and exhausting sea journey. Concordia experienced heavy storms and dangerous situations during the journey. Hornstedt got off in Amsterdam with his collections.


After more than three years at sea, in September 1785, Concordia returned to its home port of Pietarsaari. Only five of the original twenty or so crew members returned home, the others having either died or fled. The joint owners of the unfortunate ship threatened not to pay some of the crew’s salaries, which led to a trial. The dispute was probably solved and the salaries paid later. The registry office thanked the crew and captain for their generosity: they kept their promise to help the poor of the hometown – the sum was 34 Swedish riksdaler. In any case, Concordia had undertaken a pioneering trade mission as far as the East Indies.