The journey continued...

Life onboard a typical C19th New Zealand emigrant ship
– Life onboard a C19th emigrant ship –
(click on image to enlarge)

So what were conditions like? The inevitable storms and bad weather played their part in making the journey unpleasant, but illness and disease were also big contributors to onboard suffering. Illness and disease were by far the biggest causes of death amongst emigrants, with babies unsurprisingly accounting for most deaths. Seasickness was also an ever present problem on most journeys, and there are records of passengers actually dying as a result of dehydration and exhaustion brought on by prolonged seasickness.

Typically the accommodation was divided by social distinction, and how much you had paid for your ticket. The cheapest tickets and those travelling as assisted emigrants were accommodated in the converted cargo space at the bottom of the ship known as steerage. Here space and privacy was at a premium, with single men sleeping in bunks 2 feet wide, whilst married couple’s bunks were slightly wider at three and a half feet wide, with privacy provided by a curtain. A long communal table down the centre of steerage was used by all to eat, write, and socialise from. A small number of cabins offering more space and privacy were situated higher up the ship on the poop deck, but these quarters were reserved for the first class paying passengers.

Buckets of sea water were used for washing, as the limited amount of fresh water held onboard was reserved for drinking and cooking only. No alcohol was allowed on the ship, and so passengers would frequently organise their own entertainment to alleviate the boredom. There was usually limited upper deck time (fresh air) for the steerage passengers, due to the confinements of space and safety.

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