The voyage

Student activities

Task no. 1

The Voyage

Most passengers were poor and could only afford to bunk in communal quarters with many others. This is a description of the accommodation and effects of seasickness upon the passengers.


The ship had been fitted up to carry as many passengers as could possibly be stowed away; and, therefore, every portion of the lower deck from front to back was occupied. The steerage[1] passengers were forward, then the needlewomen - who had the best and most roomy place of all - next came the second cabin passengers; and lastly the first class passengers. Between the needlewomen and the Steerage, was a partition - a fixed bulkhead -  but dividing them from the second cabin passengers was only a sort of open grating all round the main hatch.

This as will be afterwards seen was almost as bad as nothing at all; and to myself and wife and other married persons, unfortunately near this hatchway, it proved to be most unpleasant and before the voyage was out quite disgusting.

At present let me turn to the state of things below, among the passengers. This, however, though bad, was not so much so, as on board of general emigrant ships; and to give a better idea of such a scene, I will describe one I was on board of some years before.

Like the present ship I also visited the lower deck and found husbands and wives, mothers and children, all lying about in most helpless confusion. At every motion of the ship, at every fresh gust of wind, or sea striking against the vessels side or upon her deck, an exclamation for mercy, for help; of regret at having left home, or of despair at being now unable to reach that home, escaped the lips someone; while every now and then some unfortunate child , or woman would lose her hold and be sent flying backwards. Groans, crying, screaming, moaning, were mixed with the noise of rattling kettles, pots, and pans that had fallen from their places.

[1] Accommodation between decks, in sailing ships that were not specially made to carry passengers. It was usually a converted cargo hold that could only be accessed by ladders.


  • What other difficulties do you think other women and children faced while they were on board ship?

Task no. 2

Thornbury family on deck of ship 1881

What are the similarities and differences between this image of life on board ship and the account given by William Parker Snow in Source 2?

Task no. 3

The gymnastics of dressing in a rolling ship on the way to Australia

The following series of pictures is an amusing look at life on board an emigrant ship by a male passenger who is able to afford some private accommodation.