Until the late twentieth century, Norwegian seamen were a familiar presence in all major ports. From 1864 the Norwegian Seamen's Mission sent seamen's pastors to provide spiritual and cultural support for seamen, and to protect them from exploitation and other dangers while in port. In this study, a story unfolds of the work of these pastors, with case studies from Antwerp and Amsterdam/Rotterdam from 1864-1920. For the first time thorough research is undertaken to explore the reports of the pastors to the central office. The support from the 'home front' forms another strand in the narrative. The accounts of the pastors reflect a process of emancipation in the Norwegian society and developing national sentiments. These form an underlying theme within the broader narrative, with the break with Sweden in 1905 as a distinct turning point. They also give an outsider's perspective on life in the ports.