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Death Ships - An Incredible Story

The Australian gold rush started in 1851 and had an incredible and almost immediate impact on the colonies. Hundreds moved to the goldfields with plans to make their fortune. As a result industry ground to a halt. The wool needed in the British mills was left on the sheep. Large numbers of replacement labour was ungently needed.

Willing emigrants were found and six very large vessels were commissioned to provide transport to the colonies. The emigrants were located beneath the main deck at two levels crammed together in very large numbers. The conditions on board were unfortunately ideal for the spread of the many epidemic and endemic diseases of Victorian England. Many of the emigrants died on the long voyage to the colonies. The death rate was particularly high among the children.

This story is told in my book Death Ships. The voyage in each of the six ships (Marco Polo. Beejapore, Wanata, Shackamaxon, Ticonderoga and Bourneuf) is contained in the book.

The book was nominated for three awards last year and its now been nominated for an Australian Association for Maritime History award.


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