Fifteen weeks at sea in a rat-infested ship with poor drinking water: this was the reality for many early immigrants to Victoria.
Infectious diseases flourished aboard ships. In 1840, one in every 51 adults and one in every 10 children died on the journey to the colonies.
The dreaded words ‘typhus’ and ‘yellow fever’ sent fear into the hearts of the colonists.
The Glen Huntly, one of the earliest immigrant ships to Port Phillip, arrived in 1840 carrying typhus fever sufferers. Passengers were put ashore and housed in tents.
A quarantine camp was set up at Point Gellibrand in 1841, near a burial ground for fever victims. The camp housed typhus victims from the ship Agricola.
In 1842 the arrival of the ship Manlius threw the small colony into a frenzy. Sixty-one of the ship’s 243 passengers had died from yellow fever during the journey from Scotland. The ship is known in the Victorian shipping records as the ‘Plague ship’.
Extracts from the various documents relating to the Glen Huntly
… several cases of Scarlatina [scarlet fever] began to make their appearance; also a few cases of small pox, and measles, amongst the emigrants …
Inward Registered Correspondence, PROV, VPRS 19/P0, unit 5>