Doctors at Sea pp 104-117 | Cite as

‘The people suffered greatly in consequence’: Discomfort, weather, and Great Circle sailing

  • Robin Haines

Abstract

Extreme Great Circle sailing seriously affected the health of emigrants. This time-saving route, which took ships far south and west, was introduced in the 1840s, following recommendations by an examiner of masters and mates at Liverpool. Vessels following this course steered close to the coast of Brazil before sailing in a further south-westerly direction to pick up the westerly winds and currents which would carry them to the southern coast of Australia. This route shortened the voyage considerably, both in time, and in nautical miles owing to the close proximity of the high southern latitudes to the polar axis. Previously, emigrant ships had hugged the coast of Africa. They called at the Cape of Good Hope to purchase fresh water and food, and undoubtedly picked up pathogens during the stopover. Ships following this course missed the time and distance-saving strong westerlies and currents of the roaring forties.

Keywords

Zinc Sugar Burning Fermentation Pneumonia 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Earl Grey, 5 July 1851, in ‘Correspondence relating to emigration to South Australia (on Great Circle Sailing as applicable to emigrant ships)’, BPP 1851 (347–11) vol. XL, 11, 57, 98.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    F.J.A. Broeze, ‘The Cost of Distance: Shipping and the Early Australian Economy, 1788–1850’, Economic History Review, 28, 1975, 582–97.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Earl Grey, 5 July 1851, in ‘Correspondence relating to emigration to South Australia (on Great Circle Sailing as applicable to emigrant ships)’, BPP 1851 (347–11) vol. XL, 11, 57, 98.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    For a concise picture of the diet, condition, way of life, and the household economy in mid-nineteenth century Ireland, see L. Kennedy, P. S. Ell, E.M. Crawford and L.A. Clarkson, Mapping the Great Irish Famine: a survey of the Famine decades, Four Courts Press, Dublin, 1999.Google Scholar
  5. 30.
    The Governor’s stern letters to the two senior officials are quoted in full in Philip Woodruff, Two Million South Australians, Peacock Publications, Adelaide, 1984, 16–17.Google Scholar
  6. 34.
    See also E.P. Hennock, ‘Vaccination policy against smallpox, 1835–1914: a comparison of England with Prussia and Imperial Germany’, Social History of Medicine, 11:1, April 1998, 49–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 35.
    J.D. Foley, In Quarantine: A History of Sydney’s Quarantine Station 1838–1984, Sydney, 1995.Google Scholar
  8. For Queensland, see P. Ludlow, ‘Quarantine as incarceration’, in J. Pearn and P. Carter (eds), Islands of Incarceration, Brisbane, 1995, 93–109.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Robin Haines 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robin Haines

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