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Trade Wind Voyage 1858 - Diary of William Fordham

Publication No. 21   Size: A4   Weight: 215 grams



On 6th November 1857 the immigrant ship 'Trade Wind' sailed from Gravesend, England on its voyage to Van Diemen' s Land. On board were 294 passengers, one of whom was 21 year old William Fordham. William was travelling alone, leaving his family and friends to seek a new life and future in Van Diemen' s Land. After 11 days on board he was appointed as Store-keeper's Assistant.

This diary chronicles the day to day events as witnessed by William, giving an absorbing insight into life aboard an immigrant sailing ship in the 1850s, followed by a short period at the quarantine station at Impression Bay. This young gentleman writes of the discord among the passengers concerning conditions on board, and records the disease and death which struck both young and old.

The Hobart Immigration agent investigated the voyage of the 'Trade Wind' and his report was given to the Colonial Secretary. He criticises the Captain and some of the crew of the 'Trade Wind' and gives graphic detail of the substandard conditions forced upon the passengers.

I became interested in this voyage when researching my husband's family and discovered his ancestors were among the passengers on the 'Trade Wind'. Mr Rex Fordham has kindly allowed me to transcribe William's diary and arrange for its publication so that others may share this part of our history. I would also like to thank Irene Schaffer for her advice and encouragement in publishing this transcript.

Additional reading:

'Trade Wind' Immigrants 1858 by Patricia Quarry.

The Immigration Agent's Report. Archives Office of Tasmania, ref. AOT CB7 /43

9 Nov 1857 Monday
Wind very fair and day fine. Passed a very fine steamer homeward bound. Wrote home today. A woman confined early this morning. Am happy to say she is going on well. 4 in my berth very sick.  Indeed myself very well and free from sea sickness. Mended my great coat; and got in biscuits for the week.

10 Nov Tuesday
Very fine and a fair wind in the Bay of Biscay.  First day of sea sickness with me. A  very heavy swell on today. All in my cabin ill.

11 Nov 1857 Wednesday
Fine and far wind. I am sick again today. The flying jib sail broke loose. A very heavy sea on today. Wind shifted. All very sick today. We saw a great many bottled headed porpoises. Wind increased very much. 

12 Nov Thursday
Wind very strong. Rather cloudy. Very heavy sea running. Saw some more very large fish. Lost a fine lamp overboard early this morning from the bowsprit. The passengers steward thrashed in bed this morning about 5 o'clock. Nearly all sick. I did not eat any dinner which was oatmeal and that very much burned so that we could not eat it. We sighted two vessels this day one of them on our tack, the other homeward bound. Sad complaints against the doctor. Wind very high. The ship rocks and rolls and pitches so much that we could not sleep. A woman died in the night, the name of Abery. She was very weak before she commenced the voyage.

13 Nov Friday
Very fine. The woman thrown overboard this morning at 8 o'clock. I have quite recovered from my sickness. They talk of running to the western islands for a fresh doctor. Some ships in sight at dusk. The nights very fine.  

14 Nov Saturday
Morning dull, very strong wind. A ship close ahead of us. Sea rolling mountains high. Rice for dinner. Myself quite well my messmates very queer. We overtook the said ship. She proved to be the "Addison Gilbert" of Liverpool. Afternoon rain and very stormy, obliged to shorten sail. Main staysail split, running with short sail the whole night. I served out stores this day being lime juice, vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper, sugar, butter.

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