Friends of the Restauration reach out to schools

Ninety-eight days at sea? All the way to America? In a boat like that?


All photos by Jarle Aasland
Thomas Angel, Erlend Eek, Sara Achim from class 7A at Kampen school on board the Restauration in the nearly windless Vågen in Stavanger’s harbor. It was much worse when 52 people set out from the same spot 198 years ago.

Tarald Aano
Stavanger Aftenblad

Nearly 200 years ago, 52 Norwegians traveled to North America in a wooden boat, which might be hard to imagine. According to enthusiasts behind the replica ship Restauration, this makes it all the more important to share this story of war and persecution—and of some rather ordinary people from Stavanger who changed history.

Would you travel to America in a boat like this?

“No, I would take a plane.”

And if there were no flights? 

“Then I would take a cruise ship.”

The students in class 7a at Kampen School in Stavanger stood on the pier, waiting to board the Restauration. Half the class had already been there and heard the story of the first organized emigration from Norway to North America, the account of the 52 people who set out from Stavanger in the summer of 1825 and arrived in New York 98 days later.

Kjell-Sigve Lervik from the Friends of the Restauration Association put together a lesson filled with drama, connecting the lives of individuals to international events and major issues. The Norwegian emigration to North America was not just about a sense of adventure or escape from poverty—there were also ties to the Napoleonic Wars.

The Restauration was originally a freight schooner, built in Hardanger in 1801. First called Emmanuel, it was reconstructed as a sloop in Egersund in 1820 and renamed Restauration. 

In 1825, the 53-foot-long ship left Stavanger for North America. This departure is often regarded as the start of Norwegian emigration to the United States.

Today’s Restauration is a replica that was built on Finnøy in 2010 and was purchased by Cato Østerhus in 2020. He owns half of the housing construction group Øster Hus, and his younger brother, Njål, owns the rest.

In the summer of 2025, the Restauration will repeat the voyage from Stavanger to New York City.


There is usable space for Maren Lea Håland and Helga Frost Pihl in the lower berth, Ahmed Mohammed Shareef in the upper berth and William Hovland (right) of today’s Restoration. But when the voyage from Stavanger to New York was completed in 1825, there were 53 people on board.

War—and hope 

Lars Larsen Geilane did not want to take over the family farm, located near Stavanger’s bus terminal today. He wanted to travel the open seas, and he went to Spain, says Lervik.

But then there was the Napoleonic War: Lars’ ship was taken into custody by the British, and Lars was put on a prison ship in London, where he joined two others from Stavanger who had suffered the same fate. They came into contact with the Quakers, members of a Christian pacifist movement that aided prisoners of war, and they converted.

When they were finally able to return home to Stavanger, the men formed their own Quaker community. They soon got into trouble with the Church of Norway, and thus the dream of traveling to a free America grew.

War and peace, persecution, religious freedom, and the dream of a better future are all tied together in the story of the 52 who left their homeland to try their luck in a country they knew almost nothing about.

The students from Kampen might have known a lot about the United States today, but it is difficult to imagine Norway and North America 200 years ago.

“I don’t want to go to America,” said one student. “But I could totally climb the mast.”

Even if the waves were high? 

“Then it would be even more fun!”


Kjell-Sigve Lervik tells the dramatic story of why 52 Norwegians chose to leave Norway almost 200 years ago and about what happened during the 98 days their voyage took.

A small boat—and a big sea 

The sloop they were on is 59 feet long — a replica of the one that crossed the Atlantic in 1825. With 15 people below deck, there was still a reasonable amount of space.

But more than three times as many? Then it would have been cramped! Fifty-two people. Women and men, children and young adults. And there were 53 when they arrived.

How do you think that happened? 

“A stowaway?”

No … 

“A child?”


“A birth!”


The captain and his wife had a daughter on the crossing. Thus, the 52 people who left Norway were 53 when they arrived at New York City harbor, where Cleng Peerson, one of the main characters in Norwegian emigrant history, was waiting for them. He had already traveled to the United States in 1821 on behalf of the Quakers to prepare for emigration. Four years later, everything was ready, and the first group boarded the sloop Restauration.

Those in the group are considered to be pioneers, as they were responsible for the first organized Norwegian emigration to North America.

Admittedly, it took some time before the next group departed. Only well into the 1830s did new, larger groups follow — and grew to be many: Today, believe it or not, more people of Norwegian descent live outside Norway’s borders than in Norway.

Do any of you have relatives in the United States?

“Yes, one of my ancestors traveled to America to dig for gold.”

Many did. Have his descendants visited Norway?

“No, I don’t even know their names.”

Maybe you can visit them? 

“I have no idea where they live.”

Nor did Lars Geilane and the 52 others know where they were going to live; they had to rely on Cleng. He first took the Norwegians to Lake Ontario and then to Illinois a few years later.

The rest is history, and that history must continually be told to new students. Starting next school year, student teachers will be responsible for sharing this story. And in the summer of 2025, the trip to North America will be repeated.

This article originally appeared in the September 2023 issue of The Norwegian American.