Ocean Crossing “Tween-Deck”

Referring back to the January 4 post and our ancestors crossing the Atlantic in steerage class…. If you want to learn more about the what Elias and Kari Borresen may have experienced coming to America aboard the Britainnia, I encourage you to check out the great descriptions on the Norway Heritage site: daily life on board, food, illness, passing the time and more. Here’s just a sampling.

The “steerage”, or between-deck, often shortened to “tween-deck”, was originally the deck immediately below the main deck of a sailing ship. (Norw: Mellomdekk or Mellemdekk)

In the early days of emigration the (sailing) ships used to convey the emigrants were originally built for carrying cargo. In reality the passengers were placed in the cargo hold. Temporary partitions were usually erected and used for the steerage accommodation. To get down to the between-deck the passengers often had to use ladders, and the passageway down between the hatches could be both narrow and steep.

The ceiling height of the between-deck was usually 6 to 8 feet. The bunks, made of rough boards, were set up along both sides of the ship. The bunks were ordinarily positioned so the passengers lay in the direction of the ship, from fore to aft, but on a few ships the bunks were placed transversely or thwartships. The latter caused passengers greater discomfort in rough seas. The larger ships might also have an additional row of bunks in the middle.

 The Adriatic, launched in 1872, could accommodate about 800 steerage passengers. (My note: The Adriatic must have been very large; the Britainnia on which Elias and Kari Borresen immigrated held 300 passengers in steerage.) In addition she had accommodations for 50 1st class and 50 2nd class passengers…. [The passengers on these] ships were divided in 3 different categories and accommodated in 3 separate compartments. This was quite common, and as on the Adriatic, the front compartment was usually reserved for single men, the middle for married couples and families, while the single women were in a compartment further aft (as far away from the single men as possible). Note that there were no separate dining saloons, the meals were brought from the galley and served in the common space allotted to the passengers in each compartment where long tables were located.

This is just an interesting bit about what “steerage” means. The site is rich with more information.

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