Description of the Voyage of the S.S. Bell Rock to Hawaii 1883

Description of the Voyage of the S.S. Bell Rock to Hawaii 1883

PLEASE NOTE: Melody is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

This post contains affiliate links. When you click on these links and make a purchase, I earn a percentage of the sale which allows me to keep providing you great content for free on this website.

The S.S. Bell Rock arrived in Hawaii 31 October 1883 with passengers from Sao Miguel Island, Azores.   There were 1,411 passengers.  Almost 1/3 were children.  There were 5 births and 8 deaths.

Interesting Facts about This Voyage

The Use of Ship Tenders

The Daily Bulletin recounted that the Bell Rock was the first voyage where official tenders were employed to transport passengers back and forth from the ship to where they were held for quarantine.  A ship tender is a small boat used to ferry passengers of a ship back and forth.

It appears there was some controversy over how tenders were hired in the past.  Those hired might not have been qualified tenders. Bids submitted and the tenders were hired properly.

There was some concern about how things were handled with the previous ship.  It brought Chinese immigrants to Hawaii and the passengers were made to pay for this service.  The Portuguese on the Bell Rock were not made to pay a fee.

There were calls for an investigation because an official tender was required by law.  Apparently, they were hiring anyone with a boat to perform this service.  (Source:  “Tenders“, The Daily Bulletin, 8 Nov 1883)

A Homicide Investigation

One of the ship’s cooks had a drinking problem.  While drunk he threatened several people with a knife.   Later there was an altercation with the chief officer and the cook was shot and killed.

An investigation started once the ship came into port.  You can read about it on the Chronicling America website: A homicide was investigated upon arrival  I wonder if the passengers knew about the killing?

Testimonials from Passengers

I’ve never seen this in other voyage descriptions.  The immigrants on board the ship signed testimonials stating that the food was good and plentiful.

A snippet reads “…have the pleasure to declare that the food we have received during the voyage was of good quality, and in the necessary quantity…”  You can read the full text in the article below.

It makes me wonder if this was normal procedure but not noted previously.  Or, was there bad publicity from a previous voyage where they had run out of food?

Below is the description that ran in the Pacific Advertiser upon arrival of the ship:

The S.S. Bell Rock

The steamship Bell Rock, with a troop of Portuguese immigrants was reported as off the Coast at 5 o’clock Wednesday afternoon. She arrived at the port at 7 p.m. of the same evening and came to anchor near the bell buoy, and was shortly afterward brought into port. She sailed off St. Michael after taking her living freight. She sailed again on the 30th of August, at 4 p.m. with 1,411 passengers, among whom were 530 children of 12 years and under. She crossed the Equator in longitude 29 degrees W on Sept. 8. There were strong winds from the Platte River to the Straits of Magellan. The Straits was entered on the 24th of September, and cleared it on the 26th. There were strong head winds from the Straits of Lota, Chile. We arrived at Lota, Chile on the 2nd of Oct., and took in coal and proceeded her voyage on the 6th. She crossed the Equator again at 127 degrees W on the 22nd of Oct. Had moderate NE and SE tradewinds. Sighted Honolulu at 10 p.m. on the 30th and anchored in the roadstead of Honolulu at 7 p.m. October 31, and moved into port on Nov. 2, 1883.

There were 5 births and 8 deaths. Seven (7) of the deaths were children and one was an old man. There were few cases of measles, but no deaths from the measles. The Bell Rock was under the command of Captain James Alexander Dumbrick. On Saturday, Oct. 1883, the whole of the immigrants by the steamship Bell Rock were safely and rapidly landed. The work was begun by 7:30 a.m. and finished by 11:00 a.m. This is reported to be the shortest time in which immigrants have been landed in Kakaako. The Contractor did all the work well and all concerned appeared to be highly satisfied with his arrangements. The scene at the Depot during the day was bright and lively. The immigrants looked clean and healthy, and were in the best spirits, delightful, as was natural, to get ashore. Without seeing the little crowd, it is not easy to realize from reading the figures, we have already published how large it is, the swarm of young children added to the population by this arrival. As we stated in a former occasion, the Depot was in first-rate condition to receive them. There is ample room for all, and the change from the necessarily close quarters on shipboard was evidently appreciated by all of them and by none more than the little people. Senor Carnorra, Mr. Hoffrung, Colonel MacFarlance, Messrs. Hassinger and Smithus were busily engaged on board and at the Depot most of the day. His Excellency, the Minister of Interior, also paid a visit to the place, and many other officials and other visitors went down Saturday and Sunday. On Sunday afternoon, by His Majesty’s command, the Royal Hawaiian Band played a selection of music to cheer the new arrivals. At the close of the Bell Rock voyage, the immigrants gave evidence of their satisfaction with the manner in which their comfort had been looked after by all the officers who came more particularly in contact with them, by presenting to Captain Dumbrick, the Medical Officer, Mr. Anaback the purser, Mr. P. Brown the emigrant steward, Mr. B. Podmore the storekeeper, testimonials as to the manner in which they had been treated on board. The following is the translation of one of those documents:

“We the undersigned passengers, immigrants, just arrived in Honolulu on the British steamer, Bell Rock, from St. Michael, have the pleasure to declare that the food we have received during the voyage was of good quality, and in the necessary quantity, and that we feel really thankful for all the good treatment and kind attention we have received from the master of the steamship, Bell Rock, Captain Dumbrick, from Dr. Fritzsman, from purser Mr. Anaback, and from the other officers. We wish this statement to be made known publicly in our Islands of Azores at St. Michaels.”

H. R. Princess Liliuokalani visited the immigrants on Sunday, as also of the Minister of the Interior, Mr. Hoffrung, Captain Dumbrick and quite a crowd of others, natives and foreigners. There was also another visitor, less distinguished, but none the less, interesting, for that of a baby boy was born during the day. Mother and child are doing well. Mr. Smithus and Mr. Marcos were there most of the day, doing all they could to attend to the wants of the people.

Last Monday afternoon, October 1883, 12 couples of the newly arrived Portuguese presented themselves to the Secretary of the Interior Department for the purpose of obtaining the necessary documents prior to this, united in Holy Matrimony. They were all dressed for the occasion, and presented an exciting, interesting scene. Colonel J. H. Boyd furnished the ladies and gentlemen with all they required in usual felicitous manner. The final ceremonies were concluded at the Roman Catholic Church.
(Note: Excerpts taken from the S.S. Bell Rock, published in the Pacific Commercial Advertiser, 3 Nov 1883.)

© 2003-2017 Melody Lassalle

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: