Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Log Book of Fever Ship Minerva 1838

The Minerva, 380 tons, master Thomas Furlong, departed Greenock on 13th September 1837. As well as emigrants from Scotland and Northern Ireland, there were also on board a group of German Lutheran missionaries bound for Moreton Bay.

The Minerva arrived at the Heads of Port Jackson on 23 January 1838. She was not allowed to proceed up the harbour to the town of Sydney because of typhus fever on board and instead was directed into Quarantine at Spring Cove. By this time there had already been many deaths on board.

A report by James Stuart, Colonial Assistant Surgeon, revealed that out of the 198 steerage passengers 86 were attacked with fever, of these latter 14 died. When the ship reached Spring Cove, 34 still remained on the sick list, the rest were convalescent.

The Ship Surgeon mentioned in the Log below was Alexander Currie Cook. His wife, mother, father and sister all died on the voyage.

The German Missionary mentioned was Rev. Christopher Eipper.

Pilot in Sydney Harbour when the Minerva arrived may have been Thomas Watson

William Rogers R.N. replaced Gavin Browning at the Quarantine Station. He was appointed to care for the healthy immigrants.

James Stuart was appointed to care for the sick cases.

The following Log of the voyage of the Minerva, kept by passenger William Henderson gives a day by day account of the weather and also devastation as fever took hold

SEPT. 12th, 1837

An account of a passage from Greenock to Sydney, New South Wales, in the ship M., by W. H., Emigrant.

Having sailed from Greenock quay and arriving at Gourock bay, our anchor was again thrown. The day was delightful - we were flushed with expectations - and friends came from the shore to wish their companions and relatives a long, and some of them a last farewell - after which, the passengers enjoyed themselves with music and dancing, until the clock struck ten: the people then retired to berths in order, good health, and revived spirits, but exceedingly fatigued.

13th. At two o'clock, A. M. our anchor was weighed - the wind was favourable - the water boisterous - we saw the Craig of Ailsa, and the entrance to Lochryan.


14th - 17th. We saw Holyhead on the coast of Wales; but was exceedingly discouraged that we required to tack down the channel, whilst the atmosphere was so dense - hence very disagreeable. 18th. The people having grown exceedingly sick the day after sailing, but all rapidly recovering; a Mrs M. K. was seized with severe inflammation in the bowels, and was very ill.

20th. Mrs McK. getting worse; but all the other passengers perfectly well.

21st. Wind becoming more favourable. We all enjoy health; Mrs McK. is worse.

22nd. We spoke the brig Harmony, bound from America to London - the breeze was steady. - Mrs McK. was very ill - little hope of her recovery - Dr Cook had none.

23d. This day Mrs McK. was visited by Mr E., a German missionary on board, who instructed her in the way of Salvation - she was, however, sensible.

24th. Mr E. preached this forenoon - he is of the Lutheran persuasion - his sermon was good; but his English was inferior. Mr S. another German missionary on board, discoursed in German to other assistant missionaries. We had a child baptised to-day - an hospital having been erected, and on Mrs McK. becoming insensible, she was removed to it.

25th - 26th. At night a fair wind, but very stormy - there was much lightening - on which account we were not without fear. - Mrs McK. no better; but despaired of

27th. Mrs McK. a little recovered - mind wavering.

28th. Mrs McK.'s recovery despaired of

29th. Mrs McK. expired at nine o'clock this morning of typhus fever. At four, P. M. her interment took place - the English service was read over her body.

30th. Passengers well; but wind a-head.

Oct. 1st. Two sermons preached to-day as formerly. - A Sabbath school was conducted by Messrs E. who were juvenile and infant teachers - we also had family worship in the evening, which was also managed by Mr E. We had light till nine at night. We are approaching the tropics rapidly, and the weather is getting warm.

2nd. There was a marriage at twelve o'clock to-day.

3rd. Three weeks have elapsed at sea, and we have had three solemn ceremonies: a christening, a funeral, and a marriage. On the evening of the marriage we had music and dancing: the cabin passengers also joined with us : joy was in every countenance.

4th The day was fine, the wind fair, and a day-school established by Mr E.

5th. An agreeable day - favourable winds - one of the cabin passengers in the Highland garb, and danced above with the steerage passengers.


6th. Madeira in sight - its appearance was like that of a mountain rising out of the sea for six hours, the ship going her course at the rate of seven knots.

7th. Salubrious day; but very hot. The passengers remained on deck and danced there.

8th. Splendid day - good winds - sermon in English, German, and Gaelic - family worship at night.

9th. Very hot day - ship enters the trade-winds - she moves imperceptibly.

10th. The weather is getting extremely warm - porpoises seen in abundance - we are all well.

11th. Great heat; in the shade of the thermometer is 80 degrees.

12th. The thermometer stands at 90 in the shade - we are all well - many flying fish were seen - one nine inches long was caught: the wings were four - it is beautiful to see them fly. We are now between the tropics. Whilst one of the passengers was bathing himself in a tub of water by moonlight, some evil-disposed person emptied a bucket of tar upon him, which put him to great trouble to get it off: the offender could not be found.

13th. The air between decks very foul - the moon was totally eclipsed about half-past ten.

14th. The ship sailing eight knots per hour, and on her course.

15th. Weather very warm : we could hardly partake of our meals.

16th. Variable winds - very rainy - a deal of thunder and lightning.

17th. A good day: very hot.

18th. Very warm wind - good day - all in health.

19th. Beautiful day; but a great deal of thunder and lightning - was fearful at night.

20th. Great heat.

21st. All well.

22d. Becalmed.

23d. Foul wind. - The vessel was followed by a shark two days, which was almost caught, as it was lifted out of the water with the harpoon. It appeared to be six feet long; it was attended by four pilot fish, which are beautiful creatures. One of the German ministers ascended the rigging, and was tied to it by two of the sailors: he did not get down for some time.(According to nautical custom, he should have consented to pay a bottle of rum before he was allowed to get oil the rigging)

24th. All in good health - wind bad - heat tolerable to-day.

25th. Wind becoming more favourable.

26th. Wind getting still better.

27th. A lamentable occurrence happened to-day: a joiner of the name of McP., belonging to Campbelton; he being in delicate health, and having gone to the bows of the vessel, fell overboard about two P. M.; he not being missed for some time, the ship was put about. I saw his blue bonnet floating upon the deep : he was newly married, and left his widow to bewail his untimely fate. A subscription upwards of £6 was raised.

28th. Good wind - very rainy - but day agreeably hot.

29th. The hooping-cough took away the child that was christened on board. A number of other children in the vessel has the dysentery.

Crossing the Equator

30th. The above-mentioned died last night, and its burial took place this morning. Though we crossed the line this morning, Neptune was not allowed to come on board.

31st. Weather getting fine again.

Nov. 1. Grand day - we are now in the N. E. trades.

2d. Mild day - good wind - sailing seven miles an hour - day getting longer - all well.

3d. All enjoy perfect health.

4th. Sunny day - the moonlight is beautiful - the clouds in Scotland are inferior to those we now behold.

5th. Fine day - all well.

6th. All in good health.

7th. The passengers are in a good state.

8th. Pretty day.

9th. Ship going nine knots an hour.

10th. Nice wind.

11th. Breeze a-head.

12th. Wind foul - cold weather.

13th. Contrary wind.

14th. Fair wind.

15th. Mrs McA., a potter's wife, had a child last night: both doing well - wind fair.

16th. A strong favourable wind; sailing eight knots.

17th. All well - fair wind.

18th. Rainy weather - no disease.

19th. Very rainy - sermon below - albatrosses - Cape pigeons - bossons (birds); and also two or three whales.

20th. In the same latitude as the Cape of Good Hope - we were becalmed - the passengers caught two albatrosses with lines baited with pork: one of them measured eleven feet from the tip of the one wing to that of the other. This is a fine day, P. M. I saw two clusters of stars called the Magellan clouds: they are called man from the navigator who discovered them: they can only be seen in the south sea.

21st. Bad wind - an albatross was caught. I got it; and it relished for dinner,

22d. Wind adverse,

23d. Wind shifting in our favour - good weather; but evenings cold.

24th. All in health.

25th. Four Dutch men-of-war in sight - one of them so near we tried to speak with them; but could not understand their signals. They appeared to be watching us sailing - course rate six knots - a French man-of-war in sight.

26th. Cold day - ship sailing nine knots.

27th. Wind fair - ship pitching very much,

28th. Calm day.

29th. Good day - many of the steerage passengers unwell of fever and cold, among whom was the doctor's sister. At eight o'clock, P. M. we could see to read. One of the sailors met with a severe accident : he was shot through the hand - soon recovered.

30th. Bad wind.

Dec. 1st. - Wind foul - the hospital is again opened for a young man of the name of Mc I. - the day is good - we beheld six ships - we signalised one which came from Holyhead - we descried a small boat, which had left a large whaling vessel; five men were in her - the day is beautiful - large porpoise caught.

2d. Good day.

3d. Another man, of the name of C. put into the hospital, with typhus fever.

4th. Wind good - a whale blowing in the distance - shots fired from the whaler at the whale.

6th. Typhus fever having broken out in the vessel, a J. McF. whose wife had been previously very ill with the same distemper, taken into the hospital,

6th. McI. and C. died at 5 o'clock and were buried at 7 in the evening - a heavy sea - we were sailing under close reef topsails before night.

7th. We now experienced what is called the storm at sea - the waves were lashing over the bulwarks of the vessel - fortunately the wind was fair.

8th. Ship pitching fearfully - wind good.

9th. Calmer weather - our vessel runs her due course, at the rate of ten knots an hour.

10th, Grand weather - good wind.

11th. Wind shifted - great roll of waves, caused by the waves meeting each other.

12th. Bad wind - sixteen large Albatrosses caught - the wind shifted in our favour - good wind.

14th. Fair wind - a Mrs W. very bad.

15th. Last night Mrs W. had a child, which lived only three hours, it having been born at the 7 month; little hope of Mrs W.'s recovery.

16th. All doing well.

17th. We have sailed two hundred and seven miles the last twenty-four hours - McF. who was put into the hospital, is getting better - we have still fifteen fever patients.

18th. Mrs W. getting better - we past the island of St Paul's this morning - we were fifty miles to the south of it.

19th. The Dr's father died at 4 P. M.; he was buried instantly - stormy day.

20th. Boisterous day - sailing eight and a half knots per hour - at 1 o'clock P.M. the Dr's mother died, and was thrown overboard at 2. - Dr’s sister taken to the hospital.

21st. There are hopes of Mrs W.

22d. This is the shortest day in Britain, but we can see from three in the morning till eight in the evening - the climate is good - all the luggage was put into the hold but a few trunks for seats - the vessel was washed with chloride of lime, to prevent infection.

23d. The recovery of Mrs W. and McF. is expected - the Dr’s sister is getting better.

24th. The potter's child born in the vessel baptised to-day - name, after the name of the vessel - the German Missionaries partook of the Lord's Supper.

25th. Christmas - I took the fever.

26th. Good day.

27th. Good wind, doing well.

28th. Dr sick.

29th. A Mrs C. unwell - Dr's sister worse.

30th. Mrs C. insensible.

31st. Mr E. and another of the missionaries, took charge of the patients.

Jan. 1st, 1838 - A bad omen presents itself at the dawn of New-year's morning, for then the Dr's sister died - C. removed to the hospital.

2d. Patients getting worse.

3d. C.'s fever increases - ship in awful state.

4th. Fever spreading.

5th. At six a.m.. C. died and was soon buried.

6th. Mr McC. in the hospital, not expected to live,

7th. M'C. died at 4 a.m.. - sailors afraid to bury him - Elizabeth took the fever - it had been noticed that McC.'s chest was broken into, the Dr's brother was one of the thieves - Messrs. D. and C. got watches, money, and gold pins from him.

8th. Irons were put on the Dr's brother - I am now recovered from the effects of fever.

9th. Foul wind.

10th. Sailing well, with good wind.

11th. Dr C. and wife taken to the hospital - on the look-out for land.

Van Diemen's Land

12th. Van Diemen's land in sight at 10 A.M. - a cabin passenger observed it first - at 12 noon it was distinctly observed - the land is high, and the rocks gigantic - the entrance to Hobart Town was plainly seen.

13th. We pass the point called Tasman's head.

14th. Good wind.

15th. A Mr McN. died, leaving a wife and child.

16th. Bad wind - our whole ship appears like an infirmary.

17th. Mrs Dr C. and a man called C. expired at nine A. M.

18th. Foul wind.

19th. Anchor chains cleared - Bad wind.

20th. Wind unfavourable still - much thunder and lightning.

21st. Wind shifts in our favour - A Mrs McN. died; she has left a sucking child and a fine little boy.

Port Jackson

22d. Wind good - land seen - cannon loaded for signal to pilot.

23d. Janet having been attacked with fever on the 9th, now regains her wonted health and strength. - Sydney head's light-house seen last night at ten o’clock - at 8 A. M. pilot comes alongside - he refuses to come on board, when he knew fever was in the vessel - he orders us to hoist our yellow flag - he conveyed us to the quarantine ground, Spring Cove - here we cast anchor, and thus I conclude.

Particulars of the Voyage

Having stated the particulars of voyage, which lasted for nineteen weeks, or four months and a half, you may be anxious to know if we were comfortable on our passage. You will, I have no doubt, be sorry when I inform you, that I never was in so uncomfortable a state, as when on board the ship M.: our governors were inhuman, their regulations were bad, and the food which necessity compelled us to consume, was such as produced the effects so lamentable to many, viz. in the death of their friends and nearest relatives. The sugar was sandy, the meal and flour decayed, the tea of the most inferior quality; in short, all the provisions were of the same stamp, and calculated to shorten human life: they were given out in quantities barely sufficient to sustain our existence: hence the reason that they who arrived at Spring Cove were in such a weakly state: I would advise any emigrant to investigate into matters better than I did.

You may be curious to know (after I have written so much about deaths and burials) how we buried our dead, whilst floating on the mighty deep; we sewed them in canvas, had the English Church funeral service read over them, and committed them to the sea.

There is no doubt you will be very impatient to know when our quarantine ended. Dr C. being still very unwell, we required to get a surgeon from Sydney the same night we anchored, after lying eight days in the Cove (which is ten miles from Sydney) we were landed on an island opposite which the ship lay; there the healthy were separated from the sick - the former under the care of a Dr B., who lost his situation, which was filled by Dr R. - and the sick under Dr S. who employed me as nurse, in which capacity I officiated, until we were ordered to sail for Sydney. We were under quarantine for ten weeks, during which period we were treated in the most handsome manner.

You may estimate the ravages of fever, when out of a hundred cases, there were thirty-three deaths.

We came up from Spring Cove on Saturday, 7th April, 1838. After two months. and fourteen days in quarantine ground, we got into an empty house of Dr L.'s, free from expense of house rent, but nothing more. I cannot say much now, but we do not like the country as yet, every thing is so dear, excepting tea, sugar, fresh, bread, and soap. But I must give you a list of the prices of things: best flesh, or mutton, 4d. per lb. ;
best tea, 2s. per lb.;
best sugar, from 4d. to 6d. per lb.;
soap, 4d.;
bread, 4d. half quarter. - No bread sold below 4d. worth; and the smallest house you will get is 6s. a-week, and from that to 12s. butter is from 2s. to 2s. and 10d. per lb.;
cheese, Is. 6d. per lb.;
butter milk, 8d. a pint;
sweet milk, 1s. 6d. a pint;
fresh pork, 10d. per lb.;
smoked ham, 1s. 4d. per lb.;
eggs, 3s. a dozen.

There is no coal, all wood; no grates put in the fire place; they burn the wood ; cloathing is so dear, that a coat will cost six pounds, two pounds for a good waistcoat, and so on.

Potatoes, Id. per lb.

It is a very wild looking country; the natives are in the town every day, and the worst looking people I ever saw. Plenty of beautiful birds, but bad singers; delightful flowers, but bad smell. It is now winter with us, and it is as warm as the middle of summer at home.

Tradesmen's wages is from two pounds to two pounds ten shillings per week, and thus I must conclude with my kind respects to all enquiring friends. You may let any of my acquaintance read my log and voyage. Give my kind compliments to David F.

I remain yours, W.H.

- A True Picture of Australia, its Merits and Demerits.

Report of Deaths of Passengers of the Minerva

Sydney Gazette

The Quarantine Station – Spring Cove

There now remain, in all, at the Quarantine Station, but 70 of the immigrants by the Minerva, of whom 43 are in the houses, recently vacated by the healthy immigrants, and 27 are in the convalescent grounds. Those at the healthy station, all of whom have for a considerable time been convalescent, will be the first relieved, and the others, who have only recently been removed from the hospital, will follow in a short time after.

The following list of the deaths, from the date of the ship’s departure from Greenock, we publish for the information of their friends in the mother country:-
On Board the Minerva
Mrs. McKinnon, from Kilmarnock, died on the 29th September (1837)
Donald McPhail, from Kintyre, carpenter, 27th October
Mary Angus, an infant, from Iona, 30th October
John McIntosh, from Caithness, carpenter, 6th December
John Carr, from Perthshire, shepherd, 6th December
John Cook, from the Isle of Arran, 19th December
Mrs. Cook, wife of the above, 20th December
Mary Cook, daughter to the above, 31st December
John Campbell, from Belfast, gardener, 5th January (1838)
Alexander McClure, from the Isle of Skye, shopkeeper, 7th January
Alexander McNeil, from Kintyre, farm labourer, 15th January
Mrs. Dr. Cook, a native of Saltcoats, 17th January
James Currier, from Saltcoats, tailor, 17th December (1837)
Mrs. Neil McNeil, from Kintyre, 21st December
Hector McKelvie, Campbelltown, shepherd, 25th January
Mrs Alexander McNeil and infant, from Kintyre, 26th January
Mary McKinlay, 10 years of age, from Campbelltown, 27th January 29

At the Quarantine Station
James Ogilvie, from Glasgow, blacksmith, 31st January
Mr Schneider, German Missionary, 3rd February
Mr McArthur, second officer of the Minerva, 5th February
Miss Martha Lucas, from Dungannon, 5th February
Peter McNeil, from Dindinnie, Wigtonshire, farmer, 5th February
David Dickson and Son, from Kilmarnock, farmer, 6th February
Matthew Mitchell, from Kilmarnock, shopkeeper, 7th February
Alexander Sutherland, from Morayshire, teacher, 8th February
Mrs. Clark, from Dunoon, Argyleshire, 13th February
Angus Stevenson, from Oban, Argyleshire, farmer, 18th February
Mrs. Swan, from Ayrshire, 18th February
Mrs Cunningham, from Kilmarnock, 21st February
John Latta, from Kilmarnock, currier, 2nd March

Of these, one, viz., Donald McPhail was drowned; one Mrs. Alexander McNeil, died in childbirth; one Mrs Cunningham, from asthma; and the remainder from typhus fever.

Saturday 10 March 1838, Sydney Gazette page 2

Notes and Links

1). The Ship Minerva in Quarantine, 1838 By Shelagh Champion, B.A. (Lib.Sc.) and George Champion, Dip.Ed.Admin.

2). Headstone of Jane Ecless - EHive

3). Sydney Quarantine Station Moveable Heritage Collection

4). Sunday Sun 26 March 1906 - Away up on top of the hill is the old graveyard, now overgrown with bush and wild creepers, and most of the amateur cut tombstones are now almost buried beneath the sandy soil. A few still stand up gauntly through the undergrowth, reminding one of the sad side of a stay in the Quarantine Station. Some of these show even older records than the slab above referred to, and that several of the company of the good immigrant ship Minerva had been laid to rest there, mostly, the victims of typhoid fever. Scratching away the sand from an old stone on the verge of toppling over is to be read, Alexander , Aberdeen: In memory of his child - died 1837. Another stone, the letters on which are rather easy to decipher after a lapse of 70 years, reads: Beneath repose the remains of Peter McNeill, native of Dindinnie, Scotland, aboard emigrant ship Minerva, 1838. Beside this stands another stone, bearing: Margaret Mackiley, ship Minerva, 1838. Still another just bears the name of Jane Eccles. All these old emigrants no doubt had left their homes and all those dear to them to seek fresh fields and pastures new.