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Part two: The Voyage

The voyage section of 'Going Abroad' is the most detailed account ever published of shipboard arrangements and conditions on early emigration voyages to New Zealand. It includes publication, for the first time, of Francis Pillans' diary, written during the voyage of the Mooltan. This fascinating record is one of the longest and most interesting diaries of sailing ship passengers to New Zealand. Illustrations include almost every engraving of emigration ships and shipboard scenes published by the famous Illustrated London News between 1844 and 1855, and 22 drawings by a passenger on the Duke of Portland, which sailed to Canterbury, New Zealand, in 1851.

The sailing ship Mooltan – describing the ship which carried the MacGibbon family and 152 other passengers to Otago. Shameless hyperbole from the Greenock Advertiser describes the fitting out of the vessel.

Ship from Clyde to Otago – the Greenock Advertiser reports on the Mooltan's departure for Otago. "No finer ship or more hopeful body of emigrants ever left the Clyde..."

Plan of a typical 19th century emigrant ship

Emigrating with the New Zealand Company – describing the terms and conditions under which the New Zealand Company conveyed emigrants to New Zealand. There was a world of difference between Steerage and Chief Cabin. Provisions of the British Passengers Acts are discussed.

Emigration from Great Britain, 1825-1849 – during these years, 2.3 million people left British shores for a new life abroad. In 1849, four out of every five emigrants were estimated to be Irish, and the great majority travelled to the United States. New Zealand, Australia and Canada were more likely to receive emigrants from Scotland or England.

Publicising emigration to New Zealand – it cost five times as much to emigrate to New Zealand than to the USA, so the New Zealand Company and the Lay Association of the Free Church of Scotland had to crank up the publicity machine.

Voyage of the Mooltan in 1849 – map of the sailing route from Greenock to Otago, based on actual day-to-day records of latitude and longitude.

Quite a summer cruise - sailing to New Zealand on the Mooltan was something to be "...looked forward to as quite a summer cruise," the Greenock Advertiser advised. Anyone who booked a passage for New Zealand on the strength of that claim was in for a rude shock.

Health and other concerns of the ship's surgeon – a discussion of health matters on board the Mooltan and other British emigrant ships of the period. Health was a particular issue for the Mooltan, which had one of the worst passenger death rates of any of the ships which sailed to New Zealand. Ships' surgeons had more on their plate than just health. They were responsible for the general welfare of passengers, and this included the maintenance of a High Moral Tone, in the face of inevitable hormonal challenges.

Dining, but hardly cordon bleu – a discussion of what the various classes of passengers ate, when they ate and how the cooking was organised.

Day in and day out – how passengers filled in their days on the long voyage, and coped with cramped, dank quarters, enervating heat in the Doldrums, cold and storms in the Southern Ocean, and the threat of shipwrecks and other disasters. The Mooltan nearly came to grief three times during its voyage.

On the new home run – coming into Port Chalmers, in Otago Harbour, and seeing Dunedin for the first time: passenger reactions.

John Wickliffe and Philip Laing were the first two ships – a discussion of the first two ships, and a list of all 24 ships which arrived at Port Chalmers between 1848 and 1851, including dates and numbers of passengers.

Diary of Francis Pillans, a chief cabin passenger on the Mooltan. One of the most detailed sailing ship passenger diaries to have survived from this period, Pillans' 18,000 words range from the dramatic to the macabre; from fascinating to the infuriating. He is never dull, and his account of the panic on board during a cholera epidemic is chilling. The complete diary is reproduced.

List of passengers who sailed on the Mooltan – including an analysis of ages, gender, occupations and deaths on board the ship.

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Advertisement for the Mooltan sailing

Advertisement in the Greenock Advertiser for the Mooltan passage to New Zealand. (The advertisement incorrectly spelled the ship's name Moultan.)
Click on the image to see an enlarged version of the advertisement, and a discussion of rates of passage, including their value in 1997 dollars



Spinning a yarn

In 1851, John Pearse sailed on the Duke of Portland to Lyttleton. During the voyage he drew many tiny sketches of his fellow passengers, the crew and ship activities. 22 of the sketches are in this book. Pearse's own captions are: above, "Draughts"; below, "Spinning a yarn". The original sketches are held at the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellingtom.


The Departure

"The Departure" (Illustrated London News, 6 July, 1850) Click on the image to see an enlargement of the picture (20K)


Arriving at Port Chalmers

Artist Andrew Devon's impression of the MacGibbon family ready to depart the Mooltan at their destination anchorage, Port Chalmers, in Otago Harbour near Dunedin.


ADDITIONAL MATERIAL NOT IN THE BOOK: click HERE to read John McLay's reminiscences of the Mooltan's voyage to Port Chalmers. This fascinating account turned up after Going Abroad was published. It is reproduced here in full.

Click here to see our own lists of passengers, including information about occupations, marriages, places of residence etc of passengers on all ships to Port Chalmers between March 1848 and January 1851.
An excellent resource for emigration passenger ships and names for both New Zealand and Australia is on Graham Jaunay and Malcolm Frost's Adelaide website: Australia and New Zealand Passenger Lists. Other useful lists include Jenny Brandis's Australasian passenger lists and links and Olwyn Whitehouse's NZ-bound passenger ships.

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