Saturday Scenes

Thu 19 May 2011

All letters are of course fumigated before delivery

Filed under: #satscene —— Sylvia @ 17:26

On the 14th of May in 1879, the Leonidis carried 463 Indian indentured labourers to Levuka on Fiji. 498 passengers departed from Calcutta in March and a few days later there was an outbreak of cholera and smallpox on the schooner. Seventeen passengers died before they reached the islands. Fiji had previously suffered from infectious diseases brought in by ship: in 1875 a third of the Fijian population died to measles. They were taking no chances and the ship was anchored as far from the shore as possible in order to quarantine the crew and passengers.

The day the ‘Leonidas’ arrived in Fiji (Fiji Times, May 17, 1879)

Dr McGregor (the Chief Medical Officer of the Colony) has devised a very ingenious method of effectually preventing the contagion being conveyed to the shore, during the process of sending stores, letters, etc, to the ship.

A staging has been erected on the outer reef, with a moving platform. Stores necessary to the ship are placed on this platform at low tide and taken off by the ship’s boat.

The whole staging is then demolished and allowed to float until the next low tide; when it is re-erected.

All letters are placed in a carbolic acid bottle, and are of course fumigated before delivery. Communication with the vessel under these circumstances is of course slow, but from what we learn there are 373 male and 149 female coolies on board, independent of children, all of whom are under the charge of Doctor Welsh. We hear also that two buffaloes are on board.

A further eighteen passengers died of dysentery and typhoid during the quarantine. The remaining 463 survivors were admitted onto the Fiji islands on the 9th of August in 1879. They were the first of some 61,000 indentured labourers to arrive from India over the ensuing 37 years.

On the 14th of May in 2011, these photographs were submitted to SatScenes without using precautionary methods nor even a pinch of carbolic acid:

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