The Elbe was an iron sailing ship, launched in 1887. She was mainly used for transportation of indentured labour to the British colonies and made at least three trips to Fiji, carrying around 600 labourers each trip. On her third trip to Fiji, in 1903, she brought labourers from Madras for the first time.
Most of the migrants were from the poor, uneducated, agricultural castes. Life in India was not easy for the poor and economic conditions forced the desperate to migrate. Many were lured into emigrating by recruitment agents' lies of easy work and high pay. Fiji being described as an island just beyond the Calcutta horizon. Once in Fiji, the immigrants were at the mercy of often cruel and ruthless overseers and Indian sidar (foremen).