Forgotten tales

stories of my family

Cholera deaths on the Caesar. 1854.

The Sydney Morning Herald of Tuesday 27 March 1855 carried the final death toll for the emigrant ship Caesar, from Hamburg. A scan of the original can be seen online here.

Mar 26 – ….The Caesar has had a long passage of 116 days from Hamburg to this port.  She has on board 184 German immigrants, who are all in good health.  About 11 days after leaving Hamburg the cholera broke out on board this vessel, and carried off 66 persons, the greater portion of who were children.  There were no fresh cases after crossing the Equator. Four births have occurred during the passage (one still-born).  The immigrants are principally vine dressers and farm labourers.  The Caesar put into Twofold Bay on 10th instant, landed 63 of her passengers, and sailed from this port on the 24th instant.

Another website gives a list of crew on board the ship on her arrival in Sydney; they numbered 14 including the captain. There was also the good doctor, Ernst Middendorf. So on arrival there were 199 people on the Caesar. Three of these were babies born on the voyage. At departure from Hamburg there were 261. 66 of the 261 had died en route, a fatality rate of a little over 25%.

The MSF figures quoted in my last blog entry indicated that 5% of infected persons get severe disease, 20% of people mild to moderate diarrhoea, while the other 75% have few symptoms. The death rate on the Caesar would indicate that everyone who developed even mild to moderate symptoms died, and this may be a reflection of the generally weakened state of the people on board when the epidemic hit. The 75% who did not die were almost certainly infected too, but never developed any clinical illness.

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