Digital Tradition Mirror

Harbo and Samuelson

Harbo and Samuelson
(Jerry Bryant)

In Brooklyn, New York at the turn of the century
Lived two young Norwegians so brave and so bold
Frank Samuelson only half way through his twenties
George Harbo had just become thirty years old.

Now Harbo had spent all his life on the water
He shipped in square riggers when only a lad
His partner likewise was no stranger to workin'
No matter the task he gave all that he had.

That year a rich publisher offered a challenge
That men in a vessel no matter the size
Couldn't cross the Atlantic without steam or canvas
Ten thousand dollars he named as a prize

Now dredgin' up oysters by hand is no picnic
And these two Norwegians were tough as a whip.
Says Frank "If we row only four miles an hour
in fifty-four days we could finish the trip."

cho: "We'll see you in France or we'll see you in Heaven!"
     Cried Harbo and Samuelson out on the bay
     Two hardy young oystermen after adventure
     And no one believed they could row all the way.

Obtaining a sponsor they started their training
They ordered a dorry of cedar and oak
Just eighteen feet long with a draft of eight inches
And Fox was the name of their cockle-shell boat.

On the sixth day of June eighteen ninety and six
Messers Harbo and Samuelson started to row
They took food and water to last until August
And the newspapers said they were foolish to go


From the slips of Manhattan they rowed through The Narrows
Out onto the gulf stream and over the deep
Each day they would row eighteen hours together
At night they took turns gettin' three hours sleep

Their stove wouldn't light so they ate cold provisions
Their arms and their legs became swollen and cramped
The odd passing vessel that took them on board
Was their only relief from the cold and the damp.

Then out on the Grand Banks the weather attacked them
The wind humped the water into mountainous waves
They lashed down their oars and tied on their lifelines
And prayed they were not goin' straight to their graves.


Then out of the dark came a monstrous wave
Capsizin' the Fox and her terrified crew
Their lifelines held fast but they lost half their water
And most of their food it was swept away too.

They carefully rationed the little remaining
Praying for help as they rowed o'er the brine
Then out in the distance they spied a tall ship
With the colors of Norway a-floatin' behind.

The captain could not be convinced they weren't crazy
But he gave them supplies and they went on their way.
By the lines on the charts they were half way to Eurpore
But now they must row sixty miles every day.


The weather held fair and the two men kept pullin'
All through each long day and far into each night
Then early one morning before the sun rose
Out on the horizon they spotted a light.

On August the first they made land off St Mary's
On the south coast of England just by Bishop's Rock
In amazement the townsfolk gathered down by the water
Where Harbo and Samuelson barely could walk.

Most men would have stopped then and basked in the glory
After having been sun-beaten, capsized and starved
But they were both back in the boat the next morning
And in less than a week they arrived at La Havre


So those of you listening who yearn for adventure
Like Harbo and Samuelson so long ago
Like them be prepared for the task you are facing
They were not only brave but, by God!, they could row!

   "We'll see you in France or we'll see you in Heaven!"
   Cried Harbo and Samuelson out on the bay.
   Two hardy young oystermen after adventure
   And no one believed they could row all the way.

copyright Jerry Bryant
recorded by William Pint and Felicia Dale on PORT OF DREAMS
note: A true story. For a followup, see the Ballad of Lewis Mills

Thanks to Mudcat for the Digital Tradition!

Contents: ? A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z Main Page