Argonauts Ariving at San Francisco Bay in 1849
(Source: Library of Congress)
There were two water main
routes to California. A 17,000 mile route around the
South America and Cape Horn took 5 to 7 months. Travelers had to deal with fierce storms, and lots of
sickness due poor living conditions and limited fruit and
vegetables causing scurvy.
The second route was by
steamship via Panama. This route was much quicker, but
very expensive. These ships also had very crowded living
quarters and lots of sickness.
At one time there were more than 500 ships in the San
Francisco harbor. Most were abandoned, and left to decay,
by crews headed in search of gold.
Many people arriving by sea expected to find gold
right off the boat. They didn't know that the gold was
150 miles inland. They had spent all their money and were
very tired and hungry upon reaching San Francisco. Many
were not prepared for this extra part of the journey.