Genealogical Data

Shipboard life
1844 style

This was part of a report given before a Parliamentary Committee, London in 1844 when conditions had, unbelievably, improved from the days of the first of the Swan River emigrants.

"It was scarcely possible to induce the passengers to sweep the decks after their meals or to be decent in respect to the common wants of nature; in many cases, in bad weather, they would not go on deck. Their health suffered so much that their strength was gone, and they had not the power to help themselves.

Hence the between decks were like a loathsome dungeon. When hatchways were opened under which people were stowed the steam rose and the stench was like that from a pen of pigs. The few beds they had were in a dreadful state, for the straw, once wet from the sea water, soon rotted, besides which they used the between decks for all sorts of filthy purposes.

Whenever vessels put back from distress, all these miseries and sufferings were exhibited in the most aggravated form. In one case it appeared that the vessel, having experienced rough weather, the people were unable to go on deck and cook their provisions: the strongest maintained the upper hand over the weakest, and it was even said that there were women who died of starvation. At that time the passengers were expected to cook for themselves and from their not being able to do this the greatest suffering arose. It was naturally at the commencement of the voyage that this system produced its worst effects, for the first days were those in which the people suffered most with sea-sickness…"



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