Thursday, 24 May 2007


A grim topic to be thinking about on a glorious day in May. The Beausite’s 1866 voyage was considered to be a good trip. According to The Brisbane Courier of August 21, 1866 “although she has made a long passage, reports ‘all well.’” Later the same newspaper reports:

"On the passage there was a good deal of mortality among the passengers, not less than sixteen deaths having occurred. They included five adults and two infants, who died immediately after birth. The others were children of various ages, and of these two died in the bay. There were six births, one of which occurred after the vessel had arrived in the bay."

A later report stated that all of the children who died were under two years of age. A steerage passenger also severely fractured his leg when thrown to deck when the ship was “scudding before a heavy sea.”

On an earlier voyage of the Beausite in 1863, deaths were caused by bronchitis (3), diarrhoea (2), pulmonary disease, pneumonia, meningitis, Bright’s disease (nephritis i.e. kidney disease) and laryngitis. Dysentery was also common.

It’s all a little different from boarding a jetliner and circling the globe. If you were young, old or sick, you were vulnerable. I used to be able to read such reports without a pang. Now, as a parent, my heart clenches to read of the deaths of small children. Is it better to be able to be aloof from emotional complications of history or to be able to empathise and feel the pain? It’s certainly easier to be aloof.

1 comment:

Haddock said...

I think we all take for granted how easy it is to travel today. In the past many journeys were life or death events.