The 1,400 participants from 17 countries who signed up for at least one leg of Denmark-to-America voyage are reliving history, in so many ways, but all know that there are major differences between the tall ships and conditions of today and those of the 19th century.

"There really is no comparison between our experience and those of the early converts who took the sea voyages," said Richard Hayden of Pagosa Springs, Colo., who was aboard the Europa, a 182-foot long three-master built in 1911.

The Europa is the oldest of the Sea Trek tall ships and more nearly resembles the near 170-foot long sturdy packet ships on which sailed most of the19th century emigrants.

Some differences and similarities between the voyages of yesteryear and today are:

Food. Early 19th century voyagers often had to bring their food in the early 1840s. Later, ships provided rations of beef, pork, beans and potatoes.

"But we had three nutritious meals a day, desert, cookies, eggs and meat, and some days almost gourmet cooking. We had all we could eat," said Ted Christensen of Walnut Creek, Calif.

Water shortage or foul water marked many early Atlantic crossings.

Today, the modernized tall ships can convert sea water to satisfactory fresh water.

Sanitation facilities in the early days were often buckets and chamber pots. Modern flush toilets and showers are standard equipment today.

Over-crowded, dark, stenchy sleeping quarters were the norm in much of the 19th century.

"Aboard our ship we had a nice bunk, pillow, quilt, and a bathroom for four of us," said Chrystine Reynolds of Minneapolis, Minn. "We were confined somewhat, but it was nothing to the crammed conditions of the 19th century."

The biggest differences between yesteryear and today on deaths at sea due to disease — severe illnesses, cholera, measles, chickenpox and dysentery — and loss of ships at sea in violent storms.

"At least 50 percent of Latter-day Saint groups reported one or more deaths, and in one group 28 persons were buried at sea," said William Hartley, professor at Brigham Young University aboard the ship Europa.

Today, each Sea Trek 2001 ship has one or more medical doctors on board with caches of modern medications and pharmaceuticals.

Another major difference focuses on the dangers of the sometime stormy seas. "Between 1847 and 1853, 59 emigrant ships were lost at sea," Hartley said. "None were Latter-day Saint emigrant ships. In fact, during a 50-year period not one LDS emigrant ship was lost in the Atlantic Ocean — but fear of such an outcome was a dominant factor of their voyages of 150 years," he said.

Today, all Sea Trek 2001 ships have auxiliary motor capacity and modern navigational and communication systems. "Fear — sometimes hardly controllable fear—that one would die at sea from disease or sinking ship—is not with us today," Hartley said.

No modern retracing of their journey can really recreate the experience of the 19th century emigrants.

But one factor is the same — seasickness. And because each leg of Sea Trek 2001 takes on new modern-day sailors, many of them experience anew several days of the age-old curse of the sea.

"This really is a big deal for us to go on Sea Trek," said Kent Layton of Mesa, Ariz. "But we understand there is no real comparison between our voyage and those early converts. What courage, what faith it took to leave family, nation and safety and risk it all on the wild ocean."


Jay M. Todd is a resident of Holladay aboard the Europa.