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Posted 27 Aug 2001   For week ended August 10, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 08Aug01

By Kent Larsen

SeaTrek Sails; Commemoration Gets International Attention

ESBJERG, DENMARK -- After more than a year of news reports and advance publicity, eight tall ships sailed out of Esbjerg harbor this morning on the first leg of a 59-day, 3,000-mile voyage. The publicity persuaded some 2,000 people to pay as much as $12,000 to participate in the re-enactment of the emigration of more than 90,000 European members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the United States and Utah. Like the re-enactment of the Mormon pioneer trek across the US four years ago, SeaTrek is also getting international attention, as news reports of the voyage have appeared in the Associated Press and Reuters news services as well as news sources with international reach like the New York Times and the BBC.

News stories ahead of the voyage have focused on the stories of both the Mormons that first sailed from Europe to the US in the latter half of the 1800s and on the stories of their descendants, who are trying to re-enact the voyage of their ancestors. The stories included that of Doug Hardekopf, reported in the Ottawa, Illinois Daily Times, who bought a $25 savings bond each week for 25 years as a way of saving money, and decided to use those savings to join the trek. The Daily Times plans to publish journal entries from Hardekopf recounting his experiences on the voyage.

The Dallas Morning News told the story of LDS Bishop Bill Benac and his family, which will have a kind of family reunion on the voyage. Benac will bring his wife and nine children, aged 11 to 28 on the voyage, gathering the family together from around the world for the trip. Benac's wife, Barbara, says at least a dozen of her ancestors were among those early Mormon pioneers.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported on Steven Johnson and his wife, who will travel with SeaTrek following the steps of Steven's great-grandfather, Gustaf Johnson, who emigrated to the US in 1884 from Sweden. Gustaf Johnson witnessed seasickness in the turbulent Atlantic on his voyage, leading Steven and his wife to hope that modern medicine will help them avoid seasickness themselves.

Becky Wright, editor of "Newspaper in Education" for the Ogden Standard-Examiner is taking the trip with her two sisters and will report on the trip in that newspaper. Her great-great-great-grandfather, Lens Moller Christensen sailed from Copenhagen on June 16, 1867. Wright says her ancestor was in the very last handcart company to cross the plains, and worries that she will be claustrophobic in the ship's tight quarters, "I about lost it once when I was stuck in the Joseph Smith building (in Salt Lake City) and couldn't get my car out," says Wright.

The musical group Enoch Train will also be part of the trip, wedding their folk music to the unique sea journey. Their participation is fitting, given that the group's name comes from the name of one ship that brought Mormon pioneers to the US. Eight members of the group will not only travel on the ships during August, but also perform in nine port cities in Europe as part of the trip. Mormon News will carry the group's reports of their trip, starting today.

Even those that won't travel on the ships will participate. At each port, (including Esbjerg and Copenhagen, Denmark; Oslo, Norway; Gothenburg, Sweden; Hamburg, Germany; Grennock, Scotland; Hull, Liverpool and Portsmouth, England; Las Palmas, Canary Islands and New York City) SeaTrek has organized events to bring the voyage to those on land. The events include a series of concerts dubbed "Rock the Dock," ship tours, education forums, concerts and fireworks displays. On board the ships, participants will work the ship, putting-in daily four-hour shifts doing everything from keeping a lookout to piloting from the helm. A group of church history experts will also give lectures along the way. The foundation estimates that total participation in the event will be some 250,000 people.

But even those that aren't participating in the voyage have used the event for their own celebrations. The Thomas Bailey family, whose ancestor traveled on the Enoch Train to the US, brought the group Enoch Train to their family reunion as a result of SeaTrek.

William Sadleir, founder of SeaTrek, says that the response from the European ports has been phenomenal, bigger than he dreamed it would be, "Hull, England is shutting down the city for us," Sadleir said. And he adds that the media has sought to tie the event to the 2002 Winter Olympics, as a way of educating the public about Utah, six months ahead of the Games. But Sadleir does admit one problem with the publicity, "No matter how I make a distinction between the church and SeaTrek, I can't do it," he said. "The church is a direct beneficiary." However, he still tries to make it clear to media that SeaTrek is a private foundation, and the re-enactment isn't an official church event. But the foundation does say it has the church's blessing.

In Denmark, stake president Erik Ryttersgaard says "We haven't seen the fruits of the publicity yet. Until now the church has been the country's best-kept secret, but it feels like now the Lord is pouring out his spirit on Denmark." He hopes that the voyage will help tell the Mormon story to modern-day Danish, who either have little knowledge about the church or a negative perception. But LDS church member Hans-Henrik Grabe also gains an appreciation for the 12,000 Danish members that sailed to the US, and wonders what might have been, "If they hadn't left, Denmark would have been a Mormon mecca." The country currently has two stakes and 4,500 members among a population of 5.2 million.

A report by Peggy Fletcher Stack in the Salt Lake Tribune this morning said that the sea voyage started with a bit more water than desired as a downpour drenched the docks, putting many visitors in the tents of nearby merchants. The foundation had a genealogy exhibit that offered free access to online genealogy sites that seemed especially appealing to Russian crews in port, who stayed for hours working the computers.

Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Seventy gave the traditional blessing of the ships in an 11th-century cathedral in Ribe, Denmark, 30 minutes away from the port. At the ceremony Enoch Train performed hymns in styles reminiscent of different countries and speakers told stories of the suffering, sacrifice and even death of Mormon pioneers.

SeaTrek is the brainchild of William Sadleir, a Salt Lake venture capitalist who got the idea after the re-enactment of the Mormon pioneer trek four years ago. The eight ships involved in the voyage will first travel from port-to-port in Europe, voyages that are nearly sold-out. However, the final leg of the voyage, from Portsmouth, England to New York City is only about half-full, leading the foundation to cut the cost of that leg of the voyage for those under 30 to just $3,800. The foundation says that 80 percent of the participants in the voyage are LDS, including those aged 9 to 90 representing some fourteen countries. And for those that aren't making the voyage, both the BBC and a crew hired by the foundation will film it; Sadleir hopes for a PBS documentary in addition to the BBC coverage. KSL-TV in Salt Lake City is also producing a one-hour documentary that will air during General Conference on October 7th.

For those that can't make the voyage, two history books can help give an idea of what the voyage was like for the Mormon pioneers. The oldest, "Saints on the Seas" by Conway Sonne, is now considered a classic of Mormon history and was re-issued recently. And historian Susan Arrington Madsen has made the voyage accessible to youth with her book, "I Sailed to Zion: True Stories of Young Pioneers Who Crossed the Oceans."


Danes Gawk at Ships On the Eve of SeaTrek
Salt Lake Tribune 7Aug01 N6
By Peggy Fletcher Stack: Salt Lake Tribune

Mormons Start Voyage in Tall Ships
New York Times (AP) 7Aug01 N6
By Associated Press

Local band tours with SeaTrek 2001
BYU NewsNet 6Aug01 A2
By Jared Johnson: NewsNet Staff Writer

Sea Trek sets sail for Europe
BYU NewsNet 6Aug01 N6
By Diana Lee: NewsNet Staff Writer

Travelers trace ancestors' journeys
Ogden UT Standard-Examiner 6Aug01 N6
By Cheryl Buchta: Standard-Examiner staff
SeaTrek 2001 allows descendants to relive emigration

Mormons to relive New World voyage
Burlington IA Hawk Eye 6Aug01 N6

Mormons to Re-Enact Ancestors' Ocean Journey
Salt Lake Tribune 5Aug01 N6
By Peggy Fletcher Stack: Salt Lake Tribune

Latter-day Saints to mark ancestors' Atlantic voyage
Dallas Morning News 4Aug01 N6
By Susan Hogan/Albach: The Dallas Morning News
Dallas family among those ready to relive chapter of Mormon history

Trek to trace immigrant route
Deseret News 1Aug01 N6
By Lynn Arave: Deseret News staff writer
Voyage follows path of European LDS pioneers

Following his ancestors' footsteps
Ottawa IL Daily Times 30Jul01 P2
By Sharon Woods Harris: Staff Writer

See also:

I Sailed to Zion
More about "I Sailed to Zion: True Stories of Young Pioneers Who Crossed the Ocean" by Susan Arrington Madsen and Fred E. Woods at

Saints on the Seas
More about "Saints on the Seas: A Maritime History of Mormon Migration, 1830-1890" by Conway B. Sonne at


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