In 1888 the "Nederlandsch - Amerikaansche Stoomvaart Maatschappij" (NASM) introduced a regular passage to Argentina for which they used five ships: "Pieter Caland" - "Schiedam" - "Zaandam" - "Edam" and "Leerdam". The Argentinian government offered free passage in order to stimulate emigrants to choose for their country rather than North America. This proved to be successful because in 1889 more than 4000 Dutch emigrated to Argentina, quite a lot of whom came from the clay area of northern Friesland such as Ferwerderadeel.
The sea-voyage took abt. 5 - 7 weeks including stops at Dover, Boulogne, La Coruna, Lisbon, Madeira and Las Palmas. From Las Palmas the ships crossed the Atlantic Ocean and headed for Montevideo. From there on to Buenos Aires which took another 3 days. For some emigrants the voyage was disasterous: "The journey took seven weeks which was seven weeks too long for Grandma. She has been sick all the way, the poor soul". Furthermore the voyage did not always end the way emigrants were hoping for: on Monday December 16, 1889 at 02.00 am the ss "Leerdam" collided with the steamer "Gaw Quan Sia". Newspapers reported that the "Leerdam" left Amsterdam on December 15 with 600 persons on board, 426 of them being emigrants. Amongst these emigrants were abt. 50 people from Ferwerderadeel including the Regnerus family.

It is known that the Argentina adventure turned out to be a desillusion for many of the emigrants. They were taken right to the middle of nowhere to farm the land in the most dreadful circumstances as a consequence of which many of the emigrants died, often from hunger. In 1890 hundreds returned to their home country. That same year the NASM  stopped this so-called "La Plata passage" because there was not much interest in emigration to Argentina anymore, presumably due to bad news from the emigrants to their relatives back home and, of course, the horror stories of those who had returned. Some succeeded to move on to the USA such as the family of Leendert Tieles Berkenpas. Their call for help was not in vain: a minister in Grand Rapids raised funds to have them come over. According to a number of letters which Jan Cornelis Koornstra from Koudum sent to the folks back home, things worked out better for him and his family. These letters give a fascinating impression of the passage,the arrival and their attempts to make a living in Argentina. Both the Koornstra and Berkenpas families were on board the "Schiedam" which set out for Argentina on september 25, 1889 from Amsterdam

Further you will find a study by Dr. Robert P. Swierenga about Dutch immigrants in Argentina in which he also makes comparisons with the situation in North America at the time. We are most grateful to Dr. Swierenga for granting us permission to put his article on our website.

A paradise that never was
Frisian emigrants
A long journey
Home for Christmas
 The Koornstra letters
A call for help