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Author: Subject: 029.740 Cork Examiner, 25 October 1854
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[*] posted on 5-9-2015 at 11:34 PM
029.740 Cork Examiner, 25 October 1854


It will be recollected that an emigrant ship called the “Ben Nevis,” put into this port about three weeks since, with several cases of decided Asiatic Cholera on board, and on her arrival in was ascertained that, during the passage from Liverpool, several deaths had taken place, caused by the named disease. The “Ben Nevis” had 588 passengers on board, and a crew amounting to 42 persons, which made a total of 630 human beings. Before leaving Liverpool cholera had appeared on board the ship, and four cases were reported to have occurred on the 17th of last month, while the vessel was still in the dock. The passengers were then taken out of the ship, the vessel was cleaned and fumigated, and the people were re-shipped on the 21st. However on the 23rd two fresh cases broke out, but, from that date to the 26th, no additional cases occurred, and the vessel sailed for her destination on that day. Shortly after the ship put to sea, the passengers began to get sick, and before the close of the day eight passengers were struck down by decided Asiatic cholera. On the 27th, four additional cases were reported, on the 28th three more were placed on the sick list, and on the 29th , the day of her arrival in this harbor, the number had increased to ten. Out of the cases enumerated seven passengers died between port and port, and on the arrival of the ship there were twenty-one under treatment, in various stages of the disease. Scarcely an hour had elapsed from the arrival of the ship, when Dr. Scott, the medical officer of the Colonial land and emigration Commissioners was on board, and after minutely inquiring into the nature of the disease which prevailed on board, and the symptoms which manifested themselves, he at once directed the speedy removal of all the passengers, both sick and well, out of the “Ben Nevis.” In the report in which Dr. Scott urged the immediate adoption of this measure, he observed that several days would be required to render the “Ben Nevis” fit for their shipment again, as from the facts which had been reported to him, in addition to the smart outbreak of cholera on the day of her arrival, that disease appeared to be decidedly manifest.

On the receipt of the recommendation as to the removal of the passengers Captain De Coursey, the government emigration officer of the harbor, with the promptitude which had eminently distinguished his conduct since his arrival in the port, applied to Sir William F. Carroll for permission to use her Majesty’s ship “Inconstant” as a receiving ship for the healthy emigrants of the “Ben Nevis,” to which application Sir William Carroll at once acceded. The healthy emigrants were then, without delay, transferred to the “Inconstant,” where, on her ample decks, and, in her airy and well-ventilated sleeping apartments, they quickly regained that health and strength which had been somewhat impaired during their passage from Liverpool; and the sick emigrants were removed to an hospital ship which was provided for the occasion by the emigration commissioners.

We will now permit the interval that elapsed between the day on which those people were transferred and Saturday to pass by without further observation, in order that we may turn to the report of Sr. Scott, which bears brief but emphatic testimony to the excellence of the arrangements which were entered into, and the almost incalculable advantages that may be presumed to have resulted from the presence in our harbor of the means that enabled them to carry out their arrangements. In the medical report dated October 23, 1854, addressed to Captain De Courcey, Dr. Scott says, “I have now the pleasure to announce to you the total disappearance of cholera from among the emigrants of the ship ‘Ben Nevis,’ no new case having appeared for seven clear days.” Dr. Scott continues to state that, in his report of the 29th, he suggested the speedy separation of the sick and the removal of all the people, as the average daily number of cases was then nearly seven, in addition to which the malady made a rapid increase on the last of those days. The credit of the promptitude of the government emigration officer was speedily shown by the fact that the number of cases had diminished from ten to three.

After the arrival of the ship in the harbor the duration of cholera extended over a period of sixteen days in the receiving ships, and, although the cases were not very numerous at any given time, yet the sanitary condition of the people required the closest attention, as, on no former occasion, was a similar duration of disease witnessed by the medical officer under circumstances correspondingly favorable. In explanation of the tenacity which the disease here exhibited it may be stated that it was ascertained that the cholera prevailed among those passengers during the time they remained on shore in Liverpool, while the ship was being cleaned and fumigated. The presence of cholera must then, in this instance, be traced to the passengers; we understand some cases occurred amongst them before their departure from Germany, it was imported through them to the “Ben Nevis,” and acquired that character of fixity and intensity on board that ship which is so peculiar to the disease. From the “Ben Nevis” is followed, through the same material agency, to the “Inconstant.”

To the next paragraph in this report we have to direct the especial attention of the public. Dr. Scott says, “with this explanation before us, and to which I beg to draw the attention of the Commissioners the advantage of the receiving ship cannot be too highly estimated, as had those emigrants been sent into the town to lodge, the result would in all probability be most disastrous.”

Before the ‘Ben Nevis” left Liverpool on the 26th, 14 passengers died of cholera; on the passage from Liverpool to Cork seven died of the same disease; and from the time that she anchored in Cork harbour to the day of her departure, 29 persons, including the surgeon of the ship, Dr. Blennerhassett, died of cholera, and three more from other diseases.

In the course of last week the passengers were re-shipped on board the Ben Nevis; their bedding, bed clothes, and wearing apparel cleansed and fumigated, were placed on board, and the captain signified to the authorities that he was ready again to proceed to sea. Captain De Courcey and Dr. Scott went on board the Ship on Saturday, the passengers were mustered on deck, and immediately examined, when all were found to be in the best health and excellent spirits. The provisions, water, and other necessaries were inspected by Captain De Courcey, and found to be unexceptionable, and here it is only a matter of justice to observe that, by the Liverpool agent of the ship, Mr Mayer, from the time of her arrival in this port to the day of her departure, no expense was spared in prompting the health and comfort of the passengers. The “Ben Nevis” was cleared out on Saturday, and sailed on Monday morning, with a fair wind, for Galveston, Texas.

Perhaps no circumstance could more forcibly illustrate the benefits that have been conferred on this locality by the presence of the “Inconstant” in our harbour, and her conversion to the purposes of a receiving ship, than the fact that, during the entire time the epidemic prevailed on board the “Ben Nevis,” a period of over three weeks, not a single case of cholera occurred in Queenstown, or at any other place within the harbour. It is also a singular fact, and one for which we cannot be too thankful, that medical men agree in stating that they do not recollect this city to be more free from disease of any kind than it is at the present moment. It was we believe through precisely the same agency, namely - the presence of foreign emigrants, who were landed in the town from their ships - that cholera was introduced into Liverpool a few months since; from which time it has prevailed there with more or less virulence up to the present. The presence of the “Inconstant” in our harbour is anther proof, if any were wanted, that where a wrong is to be redressed or a joint and reasonable demand is expected to be acceded to, it will not do for people to sit down contentedly, waiting for relief to be thrust upon them; for, in the present instance we believe it was mainly owing to the constant and untiring exertions of the people of Queenstown, to their united demands in public, and their constant remonstrances, sustained, as those demands were, in the last Session of Parliament, by facts and figures which could neither be contradicted nor denied, that a demand which has been ignored for years, has at length conceded. In the same spirit which prompted the Government to place the “Inconstant” in our harbour, we are sure they will not now hesitate to render the machinery for the relief of sick emigrants, who may be driven late this harbour, complete, by providing another ship to be used for hospital purposes, and to supply the place of the hired vessel that was employed in a similar manner, for the relief of the passengers of the “Ben Nevis .”

In concluding this statement, it would be doing an injustice which we should regret, if we omitted to express the approbation of the public at the manner in which the Government Emigration Officer, Captain De Courcey, and the Emigration Commissioners’ Medical Officer, Dr. Scott, discharged the onerous duties that were placed upon them. To the promptitude, energy, and watchful superintendence of Captain De Courcey, and the medical skill and unwearied attention of Dr. Scott, is owing the fact, that the measures necessary to be taken were adopted within a few hours after the arrival of the ship in this harbour, and that those measure were afterwards carried out efficiently and energetically. The result is seen in the departure of the ship, with the crew and passengers in the best of health and spirits, in little more than three weeks after her arrival.

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Dan Bednarski
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thumbup.gif posted on 6-17-2017 at 05:49 PM
The Inconstant and the Elsa

My understanding is that the Ben Nevis was evacuated for fumigation and sanitation, with, as it states here, the healthy being loaded onto the Inconstant.

The sickly boarded the hospital ship Elsa, where they were treated/quarantined while the Ben Nevis was "cleaned".

The importance of the Elsa in containing and eradicating the disease was tremendous. A sage course of action - to effectively quarantine both the ill (Elsa) and the healthy (Inconstant), while protecting the good health of the local citizenry!
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