School Time at Sea

 

The voyages from England to New Zealand usually took three or four months. Children could not play on the decks because they would be in the way of crewman who were attending to their duties. Instead, children were confined to the 'tween decks in dark and dank areas so crowded with other passengers they could not run around freely.

 

Children gathered in small groups to learn crafts, reading, writing and arithmetic. They were taught by passengers who volunteered to communicate what they knew with their young charges. On off duty times, crewmen probably offered to share their knowledge about seamanship or some art they had learned at sea.

 

Would you like to attend school on a sailing ship?

 

Most children aboard ship welcomed "school time" because it was a diversion for them and they learned something that would be useful for their future life in New Zealand. Think of all the advantages you have in your school which children on the Euterpe did not have. Electricity for one thing! Oil lamps were the only source of light. Despite their lack of freedom or necessities, children did have fun aboard ship. When you read some of the journals, you will find children had fun together, and made good use of their time.

 

In 1874, twelve year old Mary Jane Payton Thompson boarded Euterpe for New Zealand. Her great grandson Murry Moorhead tells us a story about her trip.

 

"Of her stories of the voyage, the only one I can recall in any detail concerned the demarcation boundaries that were placed on passengers. One day Mary Jane and some other children were playing on the deck when they heard music coming from down below. In their eagerness to see where it came from they completely forgot the strict instructions about where they were and were not allowed to go. Not only did they stray well over the strict demarcation line but also they committed the even more heinous crime of wandering off down a gangway. None other than Captain Phillips apprehended them at the bottom. He proved to be not the vengeful ogre they expected, but a smiling and kindly man who treated the youngsters to cake in his cabin before quietly escorting them back onto their right and proper territory. Nobody but the Captain ever knew about the terrible crime they had committed, and in telling the story even 70 years later Mary Jane left no doubt that she still had a crush on the man that was born on that day in 1874."

 


Activity


 


Voices from the Past

 

All ships' officers kept a daily diary, which in nautical terms was called a Log. The captain and his watch officers entered their daily reports in this book. Every sighting and event of the 24-hour day was reported and logged. Logs give us a history of the ship. Some of the crewmembers and passengers kept personal accounts of their adventures on the voyages.

 

The trips were long, and sometimes quite dull, so the passengers entertained themselves by writing and "publishing" newspapers, which were distributed among their fellow passengers. The news tended to bring together the large, diverse group of people who were gathered aboard a small floating city. We can learn much about our adventuresome ancestors by studying their writings.

 
-A sample of a handwritten newspaper from Euterpe.

 



The Sports news included results of a three-legged race and other competitions
held as part of the celebration of "Crossing The Line (the Equator)."

 

 

This edition also had this item:

"LOST a Brown blanket. The finder will much oblige by bringing same to the Editor."

 


Activity

 


If you wish to pursue the study of education at sea, there are many books available.

 

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