Peter Godeffroy Sailing Ship
Reis Family's journey from Hamburg to Sydney in 1852
The "Peter Godeffroy" was first launched at Hamburg on 7 August 1851. The fully rigged, 3 mast  deep-water sailing ship had been built by Johan Weilbach in Stockholm, Sweden and delivered to its new owner, J C Godeffroy in the summer of 1851. It was a sister ship to the "Caesar Godeffroy" (which sailed to Adelaide and Sydney) and the "Suzzanah Godeffroy".

The ship was 44.3 metres in length, 10.5 metres in width and 6.5 metres in depth.

It carried a crew of 20 including a surgeon, and had capacity for 40 passengers in the upper deck and 250 passengers in the lower deck.

The Reis family boarded the ship in July, 1852. They chose to conserve their savings by travelling 'steerage' class for their journey to Australia. This means, the family of two adults and 3 children shared a single berth, measuring approximately 3 metres in length and 2 metres wide, in a cabin holding 4, 6 or 8 similar berths. Passengers took aboard their bedding and supplementary food for the journey. Each cabin shared a crude toilet  and a table with bench seat for taking meals. Most of the time was spent below deck, talking with other passengers, playing games, preparing meals and sleeping. 

There was little knowledge of personal hygiene, and as a result sickness and infection often spread  quickly. The ship was only twelve days into its journey when the first death occurred on board, and the passenger's body was laid to rest at sea. A further seven passengers including children, would perish during the trip around the tip of South Africa and across the Indian Ocean: all from consumption.

Unsubstantiated family folklore has it that a Reis child also died during the journey. It is possible that Catherine Reis gave birth during the voyage and the baby perished, however no documented evidencence has yet been found to support this story. 

On arrival in Sydney Harbour on 25 October 1852, 2 children and 6 adults had   contracted scurvy and required treatment. 

As soon as the "Peter Godeffroy" had docked in Sydney Harbour and cleared by  the Duty Health Officer, some passengers disembarked and immediately proceeded to the office of the Sydney Morning Herald to complain of conditions during the trip.

J. George Reis disagreed with the views of this troublesome group,  and with several other passengers put his name to a testimonial in support of the Captain which was subsequently recorded in the same paper:

"..During the course of the voyage, Captain Decker was ever ready to meet our wishes with the utmost urbanity, and he endeavoured as much as was in his power to alleviate the wants necessarily attendant on such a long voyage; although it is a difficult task to please everyone among so many passengers, we think it does, nevertheless, Captain Decker much honour to earn the approbation of all the passengers with the exception of a few discontented persons."

During its relatively short life, the "Peter Godeffroy" had two captains: H E Decker (1851-1855) and S Johannsen (1855-1857).

The "Peter Godeffroy" mainly sailed between Europe and Australia, often returning via New Zealand where it would deliver trans-Tasman cargo.

The ship  was sold to the HAPAG line in April 1857 and re-named the "Weser". Its first journey between Hamburg and New York occurred a few weeks later.

In 1858, the ship foundered and was last reported stranded off the West coast of Ireland. It was subsequently lost at sea, with little known of the fate of its passengers and crew.
'steerage class' in 1852
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