Life and Death in the Age of Sail: The Passage to Australia
- Usually Ships in 2 to 3 Days
Media: BOOK - paperback, 368 pages
Author: R. Haines
Other: b&w photos, sketches, bibliog, index
Publisher: NSW University Press
Throughout the nineteenth century, about 750,000 government-assisted emigrants crossed the world from the United Kingdom to Australia. They travelled around 15,000 miles, usually without stopping en route, sometime in cramped conditions, and occasionally with over 500 people on board. This evocative book looks at the experience of emigrants in steerage - and those charged with their care - on their passage to Australia.
Vessels bound for Australia were not the 'coffin ships' of popular imagination. Strictly enforced housekeeping, diet and hygiene regimes on board contributed to comfort, health and fewer deaths at sea. The quality and quantity of food on board was often better than then emigrants' diet back home.
By the 1850s, adults were at no more risk of death than those they left behind, although the infectious diseases of childhood wrought havoc at sea, as on land. In spite of the tragic death toll of infants and children, government-chartered ships delivered alive over 98 per cent of their human cargo long before medical initiatives - apart from smallpox vaccinations - had made much difference to the lives of the poor.
This wonderfully rich and moving book focuses on the voyage and, where possible, follows the course of the travellers' lives after disembarkation in Australia. We hear from the migrants' letters and diaries as they write about everyday life on board and their hopes for the future, and as they weep over children buried at sea. Robin Haines' book is a landmark volume about the experience of migration from the United Kingdom to Australia during the nineteenth century.
'I never look at the sea without lamenting out dear children': Sickness, health and the voyage in context
'The mother will be very unpleasantly situated': Life at sea and at home
'Both Doctor and Captain was very kind to me': The 1840s
'I was never will until after my confinement': The 1850s
'Them as are not clean have no dinner till they are': The 1850s
'He never knew one yet that died from seasickness': The 1860s
'What a splendid passage we had': The closing decades
'We put 14,000 miles between us and home and friends': 1900-1950