Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"Fever Ship"

The Ticonderogo was a clipper that became famous for being a "fever ship" in its voyage from Liverpool to Port Phillip in 1852.

It carried 795 passengers. One hundred of those passengers died of typhus during the voyage. The ship was overcrowded, mostly with small children. Sanitary conditions were almost non-existent. Passengers ignored symptoms: red rashes, dysentery, and a strong delirium bordering on madness. The doctors soon became overwhelmed and caught typhus themselves. Bodies were bundled into mattresses and thrown overboard.

When it finally moored, a space of land was converted to a quarantine station (called a lazaretto). Many more people died there, buried in shallow graves.

One child, who had managed to survive the voyage but not the quarantine, was recorded by one of the doctors in his delirius state talking about a man with a beak aboard the Ticonderogo. "He had a funny beak face," the child said. "I asked him. I asked him why he was wearing such a funny mask. He told me that he wasn't wearing no mask."

The child died hours later.

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