Book: Death Ships Five Star Review ☆☆☆☆☆

My book Death Ships, released in July 2021, has received another great review. This time a long review by reviewer Helen Huini.

During the colonial era, colonies thrived on raw materials and human labour, especially for the rural industries. The main export was wool which went in enormous quantities to the wooden mills in Lancashire England. Hence the most important sector before the gold discovery was the rural sector, with sheep raising the main occupation followed by wheat. Both needed large numbers of agricultural labour. However, the discovery of Gold in the Australian Colonies led to mass emigration to the colonies, aboard the: Bourneuf, Wanata, Marco Polo, Ticonderoga, Beejapore, and the Shackamaxon. The navy's technology was relatively in-advanced compared to modern standards as captains still relied on wind sails and hourglasses for directions and time respectively. The unreliable pattern of the wind made the voyages take longer days and even weeks because the ships had to anchor and wait for the wind before resuming the voyage.

The discovery of gold resulted in a massive exodus of people to the goldfields, who quit their jobs and walked many miles to the goldfields, bringing industries, particularly the rural sector, to a halt. The finding of gold necessitated the hiring of a large number of replacement workers, which caused some employers to panic. They needed to locate ships to transfer the immigrants who had been identified as replacement labour. However, ship owners were making a lot of money conveying paying people to the goldfields and, therefore, none of them were willing to transport the emigrants who would serve as replacement labour. This, therefore, is what necessitated the use of the six large ships. They were built recently in North America (four in Canada and two in the United States) and were intended to convey merchandise between England and North America. They were based in Liverpool and the Emigration Commission, in charge of finding people who wanted to emigrate and sourcing suitable ships, was able to work out a deal with the ship owners to carry the emigrants to the colonies. They could transport more than twice as many people as ordinary ships because they were so large. As a result, they had 800 to 1000 emigrants on board, jammed into two decks beneath the main deck (the ideal conditions for contagious diseases to spread). Such overcrowding led to mass deaths from the almost 5000 emigrants that boarded the ships.

During the voyages, the passengers had to contend with several problems, and it was not unusual for others to die en route, where sea burials were conducted. The situation was so dire that it was not unusual for one to spot sharks following the ships all through the voyage, anticipating the corpses that would be thrown to the sea. The emigrants succumbed to common diseases, especially since medical knowledge and understanding about the causes of diseases were inadequate when compared to what we know today. Not understanding the causes of the diseases meant that they could not work on developing treatments. Moreover, the overcrowding that characterised the decks made it hard to quarantine ailing patients to curb contagious illnesses.

The pages are numbered using Roman figures, which I found quite aesthetic; deviating from the normal numerical digits gave the book a unique appeal. I equally loved the references provided by the author, which enabled me to verify the data that he provided. The citations also enabled me to read more about the claims he made, for example, on the reports made about the dire situations of the ships. This aspect demonstrates the extensive research made in the production of this book.

I benefitted from the testimonials provided by the emigrants. These not only complimented the author's discussions but reading from the emigrants gave me a first-hand perspective of the conditions that the emigrants travelled in. The author also included poetic stanzas from reputable poets, which broke the monotony of narration and gave the book an inter-textual touch. The author has included several pictures in subsequent pages, which graphically presented the author's descriptions. Coupled with the vivid descriptions, I could not help creating mental pictures of the ships' size and shape, their passengers, the different compartments for either luggage and passengers, the maps for the different routes to the colonies, and even the sea weather among others.

There is nothing that I liked least about this book that is professionally edited. I recommend it to lovers of History; Australians will also understand the origin of the native occupants of their country and getting a clear perspective will enable them to empathise with the Aboriginals. This excellent text merits the maximum rating of five out of five stars" for its excellent organisation that will give the reader comprehensive information about the voyages of each ship.

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