Doctors at Sea pp 170-179 | Cite as

‘The passengers are falling sick every day’: Epidemics and quarantine

  • Robin Haines


In the opening pages of this book we saw the voyage and subsequent quarantine in Sydney of the ill-fated double-decked ship Beejapore through the eyes of an emigrant diarist, William Usherwood. From his description, and that of the immigration officials in Sydney, we saw that quarantine was crucial for the recovery of immigrants who had suffered the ravages of epidemic disease at sea. It also became tragically apparent that the death toll in those first few weeks’ incarceration could also be traumatic. We saw, too, that the health of colonial residents was also vitally dependent on the isolation of infection imported by ships carrying fatal pathogens from British ports. Having begun with the narrative of a keen observer of shipboard life, we can enliven the official commentary on the more disastrous voyages upon which this book has focused, by ending with the observations of another immigrant diarist whose story broadens the bureaucratic perspective on these exceptional but appalling episodes. Before turning to William Fordham’s account of his journey on the Tradewind to Hobart in 1858, a glance at this ship and another voyage terminating in Tasmania at about the same time, will help us place his account into perspective.


Immigration Official Private Ship Immigration Agent Opening Page Keen Observer 
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Copyright information

© Robin Haines 2005

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  • Robin Haines

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