Journal of Surgeon William Evans

MEDICAL AND SURGICAL JOURNAL of the Asia Convict Ship, between the 28th. June 1823 and the 18th. January 1824 during which time the said Vessel has been employed in conveying one hundred and fifty male convicts from Woolwich to Hobart Town Van Diemen's Land, N. S. Wales

Found the Asia convict ship on the 28th, June 1823 at Deptford. The Guard embarked on the 5th July consisting of one Captain, one Subaltern, one Sergeant, and two Corporals. Thirty men, five women and one child. - On the 15th July one hundred and fifty male convicts embarked on board from Justitia Hulk at Woolwich to be convey'd to Hobart Town Van Diemens Land.

From the continued wet weather several cases of Catarrh occurred before we reach'd the Down's which we did on the 3rd August, these yielded to the usual remendies.

From the Downs we sail'd on the 9th August with beating wind down channel and were obliged to put into Portsmouth on the 15th in consequence of the prevailing westerly gales with much rain which increas'd the Sick List to fifteen principally Catarrhal; with one case of Enteritis.
Thomas BERESFORD aged 41, convict, 17th. August 1823. - Motherbank Discharged 3rd September.

Sailed from Portsmouth on the 28th August, and the weather gradually became more settled till we reach'd the Latitude of Madeira (18th September) when the Sick List diminished to some trifling cases of debility arising from the long confinement of many of the Prisoners in the different Goals previous to their embarkment. Two cases of importance came under my care at this time Viz.
William ROBERTS, aged 24, convict at Sea 12 September, was attack'd during the night with an Epoleptic Fit From the 30th. He continued in a comatose state till the evening of the 4th. October when he expired. He was a weak delicate constituion when he received on board at Woolwich and was then subject to Epileptic Fits. I have reason to believe that the insufferably hot weather which we experienced for a length of time between Cape de Verd and the Islands accelerated his dissolution. The Thermometer ranging at this time between 86 and 98 degress of Fahrenheit.

Thomas NICHOLS convict, aged 34, at sea September 18th. 1823-was attacked Pyrexia, Expired suddenly on the 9th. October at 8.20 P.M..

Thomas ROBINSON aged 20, Guard at Sea October 11th. 1823 attacked with excruciating pain in the Head Heat of the Atmosphere intense, heavy, close to Cape Palmas on the coast of Africa in about 4 degrees North latitude. On the 26th October discharged to duty quite recovered.

I shall now resume my narrative. In consequence of the Master determined to go between Cape De Verd Islands and the main we experienced much greater heat than we would have done had we gone to the westward (the usual track)- when off Cape Palmas on the coast of Africa we encountered several Tornado's severe Thunder Storms with torrents of rain from time to time- From this period (12th Octr) till we reached the Equator several cases of Pyrexia occured among the Guard and convicts. Under this mode of treatment the disease was combated with success-some incipient symptoms of Scurvy also manifested themselves especially among the convicts, arising from the humid and heated atmosphere added to the protracted length of passage (sevens weeks) through these trying regions till we got the South East trade wind on about one degree of North Latitude-which diffused and instilled new vigour and energy to every person on board and was hailed the greatest blessing that could be bestowed upon us.

From twenty to thirty convicts as well as the guard were allowed to be on deck during the night from Cape de Verd to the Equator, as the Prison room was insufferably hot. They were now ordered to sleep below as the weather was temperate though only in 5 degrees of south latitude, comparatively to what it was north of the Equator. During the day the whole of the Guards and convicts were on deck from six o'clock in the morning until Sun Set, whenever the weather permitted, and fires lighted in the swing and airing stoves in the Prison as in the "Barracks" from which incalculable benefit has been desired- Cleanliness also was rigidly enforced and extra allowance of Lime Juice given to the Scorbutic Patients who generally were composed of the most Slothful from among the Prisoners. They were constantly kept on deck weather allowing and were ordered to Bathe in the Tub daily which had the desired effect in stopping the progress of the disease.

The weather form the Equator to 32 degrees of South Latitude was remarkably fine, so serene was it at times, that the Planet Venus was distinctly seen at noon on the 1st November altitude 54' 46' and continued visible while above the horizon. But few applied for Medical aid during the three weeks we were performing this portion of the Voyage.
James TELFORD convict aged 37, Novr. 9th at Sea-case of Enteritis on the 18th. He was discharged from Sick List quite recovered.

From 36 degrees of South Latitude to the Cape we experienced boisterous weather which left the Prison room damp in spite of our unremitted attention to have it thoroughly ventilated and kept as dry as possible by lighting fires in the Airing and Swing stoves between decks-Notwithstanding our attention thirteen cases of Scurvy now manifested themselves which became daily more unequivocal. I may be allowed to remark that the experience of past voyages (this being the fourth) convince me that Prisoners received on board at Woolwich are generally in more precarious state of health and consequently more prone to manifest symptoms of Scurvy, Fluxes and Fevers than those received on board at the out ports and Ireland- having gone three former Voyages without loosing one and not even sent to the Hospital on my arrival at Sydney. In consequence of the Scorbutic cases and our proximity to the Cape of Good Hope I recommended the Master to put in being well convinced that nothing but a mixed diet of wholesome animal and vegetables would be efficient to remove the Scorbutic diathesis now but too general on board. We reached the Cape on the 21st November 1823 and stood till the 30th when the obstinate cases of Scurvy and Scorbutic Dysentry were rapidly receding and general health improving-Three days fresh Beef and Vegetables were carried to sea for Guard and convicts so that they were thirteen days on fresh provisions during this period. The Beef was indifferent, the Vegetables consisted of Carrots, Turnips, Leeks and greens. I wrote for a supply of fresh Lines to Captain CHAPMAN R. N. H.M.S Espeigle of Simon's Bay (Senior Officer) but from some delay did not receive Mr PENILE the Agent Victualler's order till the ship was underweigh which of course prevented our getting a supply of those useful the cases were as follows Viz.

Edward PARKER convict, aged 23, Novr. 10th at Sea - Was attacked with severe purging and griping, By 2nd. December he was discharged from the Sick List.
John NEALE convict, aged 31, at Sea 10th. Novr. Was attacked during the with Suppression of Urino On the 18th. He was discharged from the Sick List but his diet was regulated for some days later.
William HARDING convict, aged 22. Novr. 11 at Sea. He has been labouring under great dejection of Spirits and anxiety and oppression At Cape of Good Hope much improved.
John RODMAN aged 23, convict, November 12th. At Sea 1 Decr. Discharged from Sick List. (see Note at end)
Abel HICKMAN convict, aged 22, Novr. 14th. At Sea. Complained of pain in the stomach and bowels 9 Decr. Discharged from Sick List.
Richard CLARKE convict, aged 29, November 14th at Sea 6th. Decr. Discharged from Sick List.
William BARGE convict, aged 19, Scurvy.
John EVANS convict, aged 22, Scurvy.
Joseph BILLINS aged 26, convict, Scorbutic Dysentry.
Thomas SILWOOD aged 20, convict, Scurvy.
James WINFIELD convict, aged 21, Scorbutic Dysentry.
Thomas ADAMS aged 22, convict, Scurvy.
Williams JONES aged 24, convict, Scurvy.
William PARKER aged 54, convict, Scurvy.
William HESTER aged 33, convict Scorbutic Dysentry, also subject to Epileptic fits and general debility.

We quitted Table Bay Cape of Good Hope on the 30th November and for the first nine days in December experienced calms and light airs from S.S.E which detained us off the Cape till the evening of the 9th December when a smart gale sprang up from N.W. and from this till we reached the longitude of the Islands of St Pauls and Amsterdam (24th December we experienced heavy gales generally commencing N.W. and running round to West and W.S.W. . The weather during this part of the passage was exceedingly cold and the Atmosphere damp with heavy squalls of Sleet and hail notwithstanding its being midsummer-22 December.)

Fires were lighted daily in the Prison room and between decks and every attention paid to preserving the health and morals of these unfortunate creatures who have been led into errors through want of education and proper sense of religion.
Several cases of Pneumonia catarrh, one case of Acute Rheumatism and some Stramons cases were manifest previous to our quitting England but became ameliorated while within the Tropics
From the Longitude of St Paul and Amsterdam till we made the South West Coast of Van Diemens land we experienced similar weather but not quite so severe as the summer is fully set in. We generally kept in Latitude 45 degrees south to ensure fair wind.' The cases were as follows Viz:

Arthur CUNNINGHAM aged 24, convict, December 8th. At Sea was attacked during the night with great pain in right side As the catarrhal cases(some of which were accompanied with Pleuritic Stiches) differs but little from cases already enumerated in this Journal I shall only inset their names, age and quantity Viz:
Wm. HARET aged 29, convict, Catarrh.
Master (?) CHAPMAN aged 40, convict, Catarrh.
George BOWD aged 24, convict, Catarrh accompanied with Pleuritic Stitch.
Phillip FARQUHAR aged 32, convict, Catarrh.
Thomas WILKINSON aged 20, convict, Catarrh.
Snowdon DANHILL aged 59, convict, Catarrh accompanied with Pleuritic Stitch.

Samuel HOPKINS aged 17, Convict, 22nd December at Sea, was assisting the Butcher in killing a sheep. The deck being very slippery when the Vessel gave a sudden roll and in endeavouring to save himself from falling accidentally received an incised wound across the Metacarpal Bones of the left hand from the Butcher's knife. The Exterior Tendons of the Ring and little fingers were completely divided and the other Exteriors were exposed to view- The lips of the wound were immediately brought together by strips of adhesive plaster and a soft Pledget and Bandage. On the 29th. The dressings were removed and adhesion had taken place the whole line of the wound except on the little finger. It was now daily dressed till the 7th. of January when it was completely cicatrized and on the 9th. He was discharged from the Sick List cured.'

ADM 101/4/7
AJCP Reel 3188, Piece 4.

Transcribed and submitted to this site by * Sharon Foskett
Sharon Foskett 2002. All rights reserved

Note: John RODMAN, convict, listed in the report refers to Jonah RODMAN. Information supplied by descendant Rodney Lee.

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Updated 21-Dec-2010