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Week 13 - tensions reach breaking point

[ 15th of May 1836 to 21st of May 1836 ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 13 Food for Thought ]

This week we catch up with the Cygnet as it approaches the Equator. A bout of bad weather has seen many of the passengers sick and conditions below deck are foul. Boyle Travers Finniss is impatient with what he sees as the ‘apathy’ of the The area of between-decks occupied by steerage passengers, that is, those travelling at the cheapest rate. steerage passengers and decides on a thorough clean up, despite the reluctance of some of the passengers. He also sets out some recommendations for future emigrant ships, a number of which are later implemented.

Tensions meanwhile boil over. Several of the passengers are drunk and aggressive. The crew is mutinous.  Everyone is unhappy with the poor quality of the supplies and Captain Lipson seems unpopular in his efforts to impose some discipline on his fellow-passengers. The Cygnet is not a happy ship!

Sketch of the Cygnet at anchorage, Port Augusta, April 1833.
Sketch of Cygnet at anchorage, Port Augusta 1833. Image courtesy State Library of Western Australia MN 586 ACC 303A/21.

Journals from passengers at sea:

Sunday 15 May 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

Sunday. 15th. Continued rain, occasional squalls, wind foul. Lat. 2. Long. 25.

Wednesday. 11th. Beaufust [?] made some cakes for Mrs. F. In this Lat. Found great comfort in the essence of coffee, which however, none have milk with it. The ship’s ale was good. Bread and honey and ham, the only things we could eat – not that we got ham – the best beverage was some lemon juice and sugar, made to effervesce with tartaric acid and soda. Thermometer generally about About 28 degrees Celsius.83 F in the cabin.

15th. May. Finding the day very close and not having observed any of the 25 of the The area of between-decks occupied by steerage passengers, that is, those travelling at the cheapest rate.steerage passengers on deck since the commencement of the damp weather, and being aware that there were 10 persons on the sick list I advised Kingston to insist upon the whole of the passengers coming up on deck to allow some of the foul air to escape. On examining the state of the berths, Bilge water accumulates in the bilge of a ship. The bilge is the lowest compartment on a ship, where the two sides meet at the keel.bilge water and vegetable matter had accumulated under the lower tier to [?] extent which must have proved highly prejudicial to health. The apathy of the steerage passengers was truly remarkable. This state of things was evidently caused by the want of attention to proper principles in fitting up the The area of between-decks occupied by steerage passengers, that is, those travelling at the cheapest rate.steerage . Previous to leaving the Dock the married persons should have been separated from the single men by An upright partition dividing a ship into compartments and serving to add structural rigidity.bulk heads and not by canvas, and tables should have been provided to enable the passengers to mess at regular hours and in comfort instead of making [t]heir berths a perpetual cook’s shop. Meals going on at all hours must be productive of dirt and disorder. I should certainly in future provide every grown up person with a canvas bag to contain a sufficient quantity of clothing for immediate use, and then prohibit the introduction of any boxes Between decks was the space between any two decks of a ship. It could be used for cargo or passengers but the term was associated with cheap accommodation for third class pasengers or emigrants on subsidised fares. Between decks provided accommodation without access to fresh air or natural light and was often cramped and crowded.between decks.

As an invariable principle the medical man should be provided with preserved meats and medical comforts.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Monday 16 May 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

16th. This day was set apart to scouring the Decks which was superintended by Captain Lipson, every box and bed was brought upon Deck. Adams was very insolent and even mutinous, threatening with death Rogers or anyone who should obey Kingston. He was silenced by Captain Lipson, telling him he would land him at the Cape. James Hoare was drunk and very troublesome. The day before I had made some remarks to him about the want of attention to her duty displayed by his wife, who had now for some days been reported well by the Surgeon, but persisted in keeping below. James Hoare begged me to make another agreement, not including his wife, which I was very glad to accede to.

The whole crew got drunk this day, and were in a state of mutiny, constant complaints were urged by Kingston regarding the The galley or pantry of a small ship.cuddy table, bad sugar, bad tea, scanty supply of meat. Bad management, plates and cups always dirty. Sour A dark-brown, bitter beer brewed from charred or browned malt, thought originally to have been made especially for porters.porter, not ripe. Nothing for breakfast but salt pork. Table too short to hold all the passengers. Constant wrangling with the Captain. The Captain would not permit us to see the log slate or the charts, would not allow the Ships’ mates were either first, second or third officers who came directly under the command of the Captain. Mates were responsible for supervising watches, crew, navigation and safety equipment, and sometimes even served as the ship’s doctorMates to lend any; would not take any altitude to assist in the A ‘lunar distance’ was observed by measuring the angle between the sun and moon. Taken at a time related to the midday as determined by the sun’s passing, the longitude could then be calculated and use of this method was indicated by the symbol ‘À and Å’.lunars, would not allow the Ships’ mates were either first, second or third officers who came directly under the command of the Captain. Mates were responsible for supervising watches, crew, navigation and safety equipment, and sometimes even served as the ship’s doctorMates to do so.

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Monday 16 May 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

…   On Saturday Night, and
last Night, there was a great deal of Lightning, with
a little Thunder, and some Rain, which is the first
we have had since leaving England, but at 5, P,M,
there was a heavy Shower, so that the Passengers got
a quantity to Wash their Clothing with   _________
At 9, A,M, saw a Vessel a long way Astern, for which
we shortend Sail, and at 4, P,M, she came up to us,
and proved to be a fine Dutch Ships were generally classed by the way they were rigged for sail. A bark (also spelt barque) had: three masts, square sails on the front or forward mast square sails on the middle or main mast, and fore-and-aft sails on the back or mizzen mast. They were relatively small sailing ships in the 1830s.Barque, well Arm’d
call’d the Maria, and bound to Batavia, there were
several Soldiers on board of her   _________

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Friday 20 May 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

This 24 hours light winds from the NEd steeri
ng SE by E all sail set AM a Ships were generally classed by the way they were rigged for sail. A bark (also spelt barque) had: three masts, square sails on the front or forward mast square sails on the middle or main mast, and fore-and-aft sails on the back or mizzen mast. They were relatively small sailing ships in the 1830s.bark signerlised
her name the Alfred of Glassco bound to Batavia
the people employd as needfull Lattd Ob 18.23 South
Longd 25.26 West
…                                         I
find thare is a deal of bad feeling between
the The area of between-decks occupied by steerage passengers, that is, those travelling at the cheapest rate. steerage  passengers and the ships crew …

[ Read the full journal extract ]


While things settle down on the Cygnet quarrels break out amongst crew members of the John Pirie. Long sea voyages were trying experiences for everyone!

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