It is difficult to imagine what it must have been like to leave not only the town you grew up in, but the country, to sail to a foreign country, with only hope in their hearts. There is no doubt that the trip was harsh, and full of peril. You would have thought that traveling such a long distance away from families and loved ones, would have made most migrants have second thoughts, However, from the stories I have read most migrants saw travelling to Australia as a chance at starting a new and better life for their family, especially after the discovery of gold.

The main, and often discussed topic was the irregularity of communication, and this was mainly of concern to the mercantile community rather than the ordinary settler. In those days a letter took many months to reach its destination.

Picture of Sailing ShipOn the left is an example of the type of ship used to carry passengers to Australia. The journey to Australia was long and hazardous. During the nineteenth century, at least 26 ships were lost, with the route covering 13,000 nautical miles. From the start of passenger ships to Australia, there were of course regulations covering the amount of space to be made available to each migrant, basic rations, and water allowances. Generally this was worked out by the Captain, who literally ruled the roost.

Some passengers often charged the Captain with alleged complaints upon arrival, but that did nothing to alleviate the conditions under which they had been forced to exist.

During my research I managed to obtain a list of the regulations that generally applied to the passengers. They are as follows;

  1. The Captains are required to avoid all preference or partiality in any respect in favor of one passenger over another on both the company's ships.

  2. No passenger booking for a double cabin berth, in first or second class, is to be accommodated in a cabin by himself, so long as he can be placed in a cabin of the same class with another passenger.

  3. Whenever there may be more passengers than can be accommodated with first cabin berths, and who may in consequence, be obliged to sleep in the cots, or otherwise not in any cabin, an abatement of £5 from the lowest first cabin rates will be made upon such occasions, but no passenger will be allowed this abatement so long as there is a cabin bed berth unoccupied.

  4. Although ladies may have sleeping berths allotted to them in the ladies saloon, yet it is to be open for the use of all the ladies in the first cabin between 9 a.m., and 9 p.m. every day.

  5. Children of cabin passengers, under two years of age, carried free of charge; above two years, and under eight years, to pay one-fourth the cabin passenger rate paid by their parents; above eight years, and under twelve years, to pay one-half ditto, but not entitled to a separate cabin.

  6. Passengers' female servants will be charged one-half of the first cabin fare, and no abatement to be made on account of age. Men servants will be berthed in the fore part of the ship.

  7. An abatement of one-sixth of the established rate is to be made in favor of families in the first and second cabins, but only in cases where the amount of passage-money (if charged in full for the whole party) would be equal to the full charge for four adult passengers. The term family is only to comprehend parents, their children, and their servants.

  8. Passengers not proceeding after taking their passage, to forfeit half the passage money.

  9. Merchandise cannot be carried under the name of luggage. All specie, bullion, or other treasure, must be declared by passengers previously to embarkation, and any sum above £150 will be charged for at the established rates of freight.

  10. The company does not hold itself liable for any loss passengers may sustain by detention on the voyage, or delays arising from accidents.

  11. Passengers to or from Australia are always to have priority of choice of cabins over passengers to intermediate places, whether previously booked or not. This is not, however, to extend to the displacing of any passenger to an intermediate place, while any other cabin berth of similar description is vacant.

  12. Should any OUTWARD or HOMEWARD-BOUND Passenger, who was originally booked for a fore cabin, shift to an after cabin, or from a double to a single, he is to be charged the superior fare throughout.

  13. Passengers are not allowed to take on board wines, spirits, or other liquors, for use during the voyage, an ample stock thereof being provided on board at moderate prices.

  14. All baggage, except carpet-bags and hat-boxes, must be shipped the day previous to sailing, after which no heavy baggage will be received on board.

  15. Passengers in the first cabin will be allowed to take thirty cubic feet luggage, or 10cwt; second cabin, twenty feet, or 7cwt; third cabin, ten feet, or 5cwt; any additional will be charged at the rate of three shillings per cubic foot.

  16. All packages of baggage to be marked with the name of the passenger, and also with the words 'Wanted on the Voyage', or ' Not wanted on the Voyage', and must be in the dock, ready for shipment, at least two days prior to sailing.

    The Company does not hold itself responsible from any loss, damage, or detention of luggage, under any circumstances.

    I mentioned before that there were rules also covering basic rations. I have in my possession a copy of the actual rules handed to passengers, outlining what rations were allowed. It also lists the prices of the trip to Australia.

    The trip itself usually commenced from Britain early in the year, when the weather was severe, and to people crowded into dank, airless quarters below deck, unused to the motion of the sea, the discomfort would be hard to imagine. Ventilation was poor especially when the hatches were battened down during heavy seas.

    In those days a ship seldom touched port until she reached her destination. If things got really bad a call was sometimes made at Rio or Cape Town, but such visits were generally avoided if possible, owing to the very great dangers including desertion by some of the crew, and even some of the passengers - not to mention the high rate of port charges.

    The arduous nature of the voyage was worsened by poor standard of accomodation on the ships. Assisted migrants were housed in the lower decks with only paying passengers living in the upper decks. Married couples and children under 14 were in the centre of the lower decks, with the single women and girls in the ‘after-berths’, and the single males and boys in the ‘fore part’ of the ship.

    The assisted cabins were crapmed with only six feet and four inches of headroom. A meal ran the length of the ship. Married couples would have an upper bunk, and up to four of the children in the bunk below. The 18 inches allowed for each person was identical to that which had been used in the convict ships. As you can imagine there was little or no privacy. Men were able to have slatwater showers on the upper deck, but many women did not bathe during the whole journey.

    These cramped, unhygenic quarters encouraged the speard of infection. It was not until the 1830s that strict regulations were introduced to reduce death rates. Many passengers died from diseases such as scarlet fever, typhus and cholera. It was also about this time that surgeons were appointed to travel with each ship. A surgeon in those days was akin to our present day practitioner . However, the pay was lousy and many appointees seem to be on the 'run' from the authorities. Many were reputedly drunkards. The medicine that they carried was minimal, and consisted of a few bottles of laudanum (a tincture of opium), some porter or stout brandy and occasionally a few 'luxuries' like oatmeal or arrowroot.

    With these medicines, the surgeon had to treat bowel upsets brought about by the sudden change of conditions, aggravated by a complete change of diet - fresh food vanished completely after a week at sea, if it was provided at all. Boils ,almost invariably appeared in large numbers on almost everyone, and in a jerky cramped sailing ship, a broken bone was almost a common place; and although most information supplied to intending migrants stressed that it was not a wise decision for a woman to begin a trip pregnant, the surgeon was called upon to assist in the delivery of quite a few children.

    Many of the children did not survive the voyage, indeed it was a matter of congratulation at the end of the voyage if there had been no deaths during the voyage, a feat very rarely achieved. Death at sea from what were, to all intents and purposes, unknown causes, was so common that it usually did not rate a mention, unless there were unusual circumstances. Not all the Captains were scoundrels and many made valiant efforts to ensure the comfort and safety of the travelers. The proof that some Captains were thoughtful efficient and did their best, is best demonstrated by the number of return visits they made. Bad ones seldom put in another appearance.

    I mentioned before about the amount of rations a passenger could take on their trip with them, well these were usually eaten in their cabins, or some where in their section of the ship. Fire was a terrible risk in a wooden hulled sailing ship, therefore fire was to be used as little as possible. A galley to prepare food was frequently housed on deck with the cooking fire enclosed in brick.

    It was almost the invariable practice for the mother or an elected member of a group, to draw rations weekly or twice weekly, whenever they were issued, and prepare a pudding dish, tie it in a cloth and dispatch it to the galley, at certain times, where it was boiled until supposedly cooked. Most ships were also equipped with a cook, who only cooked for the Captain and the crew, however if he was willing and able, he might oblige by baking some of the flour into bread - at a price - or even a cake, but this was the exception, not the rule.

    Most groups of passengers also elected, from amongst themselves, people to perform the menial tasks of cleaning quarters and drawing water. It was usually done on a roster basis and changed regularly so that most took a turn. The bunks on the ships were not very big. Depending on the width of the ship there would be two or three rows of bunks constructed along the length of the vessel, in tiers two or three high. These were no more than upright pieces of timber between deck and deck head, with box like containers fixed in them. These open boxes were about 5' to 5'6" long and between 2' and 2'6" wide. Sometimes each tier was separated by a space, but some ships referred to place two tiers together alongside each other. This system permitted the inclusion of a few more bunks in the same space. In the middle, if there was room, mess tables were fitted, offering the passengers the only public area below deck.

    Sanitary arrangements were elementary . Water closets were sometimes fitted in the larger ships, and consisted of a hole cut in the side of the ship where it overhung the sea, usually in the square stern, or perhaps in the bluff bow, but more often than not, a bucket was used. Washing facilities were also extremely limited. Most passengers would have to make do with salt water drawn from over the side, and wash the clothes in a bucket.

    Most of the men travelling were expected to assist with hoisting the sails, pumping the bilges, or filling the already used water tanks, and this at least provided some exercise. On special occasions the quarter deck would have been thrown open for a dance (depending on the weather of course), and on a fine Sunday, it was normally used for the obligatory church service, while on some fortunate ships a concert or two was arranged.

    If there was a fair run it would have been three weeks or so before the weather allowed the general use of the decks, as the ship was passing down the Atlantic in the vicinity of the Equator. This part of the journey, was not the most enjoyable and comfortable. Once the ship got down to the latitudes below Cape Town the high winds and towering seas once more forced lengthy stays below decks, although most, by now had become accustomed to the motion and were not liable to sea sickness. After this, passengers could enjoy weeks of reasonable weather, until they arrived at Port Phillip Bay.

    Photo of Station PierTo the right is a copy of a photo of Station Pier in Port Philip Bay.

    Following extensive research I have been able to trace the ship that John Jewell and his wife Elizabeth came to Australia on was the "Caduceus". Unfortunately there is little information about the Caduceus; I can tell you that she was a roomy ship of over one thousand tons, and was one of the first vessels charted by the Shaw, Savill Co. Unfortunately I have not been able to locate any photographs of the Caduceus.

    Nothing of an eventful nature occurred on any of her voyages, with the exception that she experienced a very severe gale in the English Channel and had to put into Spithead for three days, on a trip to New Zealand.

    Despite the fact that I know the Caduceus sailed to Australia, I can find no information about any of her trips, except that it is recorded that she sailed 5 times to New Zealand, twice under Captain Cass, once under Captain Holten, and twice under Captain Roberts.

    During my research I did discover a copy of the original log which lists certain information about the trip, including a log of all passengers. According to the log, the Caduceus left Plymouth on the 16th of October 1869 bound for Melbourne, and arrived on the 8th of January 1870. On board the ship were a total of 328 males, 73 children, and 9 infants (less than 1 year old). They had enough provisions to last 140 days. I had hoped to include a copy of the log here, unfortunately it is not 100% and therefore was not able to be scanned clearly. I can however send you a copy. Simply e-mail me at is worth noting that all the people listed in the log came to Australia as unassisted passengers, which means they paid their own way.

    I have also discovered that the Caduceus, was also carrying assisted passengers. Their names appear on a separate log. It seems they were servants, or relatives of people already living in Australia, as their fares were paid for by people in Australia.

    I mentioned before that according to information on the Caduceus it made 5 trips to New Zealand. Not only did it make the trip as shown in the log, but during my research I came across a copy of a log, listing passengers that travelled on the Caduceus, from Plymouth to Melbourne, arriving on 1st July 1863.

    Finally, whilst I can not accurately describe what the trip for John Jewell and Elizabeth was like, hopefully the story I have related above will give you some idea of what it was like for them to sail to Australia.

    If you would like more information, have a look at "The Tide of Emigration to The United States and to The British Colonies"

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    © Jewell Family History Centre
    Last Updated 18th August 1996