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Death Ships - Life & Death at Sea in the 19th Century

The only way to get to the Australian colonies in the nineteenth century was by ship. It was a long journey travelling half way around the the world. Most of those who chose to emigrate came in small sailing ships as steerage passengers located beneath the main deck. Its estimated that some one million people came during the century as assisted passengers travelling steerage class. Most of the emigration vessels carried between 250 and 350 passengers crammed together in damp, smelly, noisy conditions for over 100 days.

When gold was discovered in 1851 new immigrants were ungently needed to keep the colonies operating because so many people had left their jobs and gone to the goldfields. The book: Death Ships tells the story of six very big ships that were commissioned to take large numbers of passengers (800 to 1000 per ship) to the colonies. Unfortunately there were many contagious diseases in Victorian England in the nineteenth century which spread easily and rapidly when people were in close contact (like the conditions experienced by steerage passengers travelling to the colonies).

Death Ships is the story of what took place onboard the six ships (Wanata, Beejapore, Marco Polo, Shackamaxon, Ticonderoga and Bourneuf) on the long voyage to the colonies.

The book continues to get good reviews and was recently nominated for the ACT Book of the Year.


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