Report of the Surgeon Superintendent
From London to Wellington. N.Z
To the Immigration Commissioners.
I have the honour to forward for your information a report of the voyage of the ship Collingwood from London to Wellington..
The Emigrants were embarked on board the steamer
from the Blackwall Depot on the morning of 8th April, the weather being particularly fine
The Emigrants and the whole of the luggage were on board by 2 p.m. We had a fair passage to Gravesend where we had scarcely arrived before the weather changed and the rain came down continuously making the transhipment a process of great discomfort, wetting all the Emigrants and their luggage.
In addition to this we found the iron sides of the ship streaming with moisture and water dropping freely from the rivets of the deck plates, this occurred Throughout the voyage whenever the sides of the ship were cooled down below the temperatures within.
To obviate this inconvenience I offered sawdust to be strewn on each side of the tween decks to absorb the water and also lighted the charcoal stoves.
The sand usually provided for such an emergency was nowhere to be found and up to our arrival in Wellington was still to be discovered.
We were detained six days at Gravesend during very bad and inclement weather, in the first place owing to the condenser breaking down after having been passed by the Board of Trade Surveyors, and secondly because on the third day Charles Dixon was seized with an attack of Diphtheria and died on the morning of the 13th immediately after this we sailed. There was another case of this same kind which was sent to shore before the symptoms were fully developed.
In consequence of these two cases Dr Humphries and Capt Harris refused to clear the ship unless Capt Black undertook to call at Plymouth in case any infectious diseases broke out in the interval. No illness of the kind specified having occurred on arriving off Plymouth. I gave Capt Black a certificate to that effect and we proceeded on our voyage.
The first case of fever broke out the morning we sighted Madeira (24 April) and terminated fatally on the 26th April. A few days afterwards Scarlatina broke out and became epidemic. This was accompanied with Typhoid and Ship fever, which continued throughout the voyage more or less filling our limited Hospital accommodation to over flowing so; that very many cases had to be treated between decks where they occurred to the great disadvantage of the whole community.
On the 5th May a temporary convalescent Hospital was set up, int he shape of a tent over boat derricks between the two boats. In this way we accommodated 5 or 6 Scarlatina patients who were recovering. On the 8th of May a bad case of Cholera occurred in the main hold which shortly recovered. On the whole about 40 cases of Scarlatina occurred from first to last, three of which cases proved fatal. Typhoid case were more fatal than Scarlatina. Chest and throat diseases filling up the remainder.
Approaching the cause of all this sickness, I think there cannot be a doubt but that the circumstances attending the transhipment had a considerable share in its production - at the same time I cannot conceal my belief (supported by hearsay evidence from neighbours) that one of the Lincolnshire families had had Scarlatina in their home shortly previous to their embarkation.. With regard to the berthing of the Emigrants I would observe that a considerable number of children were placed in the darkest and worst ventilated part of the ship.
The ventilation of the ship was materially impaired by the after hatch being taken from the married people thereby preventing that free communication of air between the main and after hatch so essential to thorough ventilation..
The cattle pens were placed too far aft, so much so a to become a great nuisance at a part of the deck required for air and exercise for the married people. The wind sails require a more careful application being generally thrust down any aperture however unfit, thus nullifying there use altogether. I should recommend a round hole of the proper size cut through the top of each booby hatch to be fitted with a proper cover when not in use.
Drawing coals and pumping water through the fore hatch is also a nuisance interfering with the comfort and cleanliness of the single men.
The extra dietary for the use of the children was a great boon as well as the abundant supply of preserved milk.
The bad stowage of the medical comforts gave rise to some inconvenience. For a week or fortnight the arrowroot or sago could be found.
The ship was only halfpoop which caused our hospitals to be frequently swamped with water which washed down the poop staircase, giving the nurses in charge a vast amount of trouble and no little hurt to the patients.
The ship was not supplied with side lights tween decks with these exception she proved a very able ship passing everything, and had we been favoured with more favourable wind we might have arrived ten days earlier.
I ought to mention the want of a single mens Hospital on deck was very much felt.
AP Hamilton MD