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Book: Death Ships

In 1851, the discovery of gold in Australia had a huge and almost immediate impact on the colonies, as many went to seek their fortune. Shiploads of gold seekers sailed in from the United Kingdom and from around the world. Melbourne was inundated and thus became the world's busiest port…

In the colonies, industry and commerce came to a halt. The mills in Lancashire were forced to close due to a lack of Australian wool. And a desperate call was made to Britain for replacement labour…

British authorities located suitable emigrants, but normal transport ships were no longer available. Many ships were engaged in making money transporting gold seekers to Australia, while others lay abandoned in Port Phillip following desertion by the crew. 

Out of Liverpool, the solution emerged.

Six very large North American-built ships became accessible; Wanata, Beejapore, Marco Polo, Shackamaxon, Ticonderoga and Bourneuf.

They were quickly commissioned and departed in 1852 with nearly 5000 passengers on board. This is the account of what took place on each vessel during the journey to the colonies…


As an author it's always so good to have the book in your your hands for the first time. It looks great, Shawline Publishing Group did a wonderful job. Order a copy from the publisher ( or from me ( - $25.00 including postage).

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Death Ships by Doug Limbrick

Shawline, $22.95

Canberra author Doug Limbrick provides a fascinaring glimpse into a little-known aspect of Australian history with his account of the tragic voyage of six large, disease-ridden ships in the 1850s. The discovery of gold in 1851 had a huge effect on the local economy with most of the available workforce seeking their fortune on the goldfields. The wool industry was particularly badly hit, forcing the closure of mills in England. In Death Shlps, Limbrick provides a compelling account of the disastrous attempt to send nearly 5,0O0 emigrants to Australia to overcome the worker shortage. Well researched and very interesting.

Jeff Popple, CanberraWeekly, 21 October 2021

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The ship: Marco Polo. One of the six ships featured in Death Ships. The other 5 are: Ticonderoga, Beejapore, Bourneuf, Shackamaxon and Wanata. There are 52 illustrations in the book.

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