The Voyage

Once the hatches were closed and day became night there would be not a person in that cramped dark box who had any notion of what lay before them.They knew nothing of the risks of the voyage. That on a government chartered ship at the least one out of every ten persons would die during the voyage. Most would be their children – typhus, measles, and dysentery. The lice and fleas that they brought along with them on the voyage, would as the weather cooled kill them. They knew nothing of tropical monsoons, the doldrums or the ice ridden obstacle course of the southern ocean. They were doing as subjugated people do everywhere. Do what they had to survive.

They didn’t know that, if the diseases that they brought with them didn’t kill, then they may disappear forever in the icy reaches of the southern ocean. That a giant ice block, adrift from the vast ice shelf, its roots deep in the freezing waters, invisible in the mist and dark of an Antarctic spring could send them to the bottom, or a late cold snap could see them embayed in the ice until all aboard starved. A ship, even one tall and majestic in the Mersey would be a speck in this ocean wilderness.

These tiny vessels, sailed into the biggest wilderness on the planet, where no man lived and where the smallest and largest of creatures had existed for millennia. Where the winds and currents brought the coldest water to the surface of the ocean and phytoplankton turned the water green so that great mountains of water blue and green and grey would break over the little ships and sends water through every opening through the decks, breaking doors off hinges and near drowning the passengers crammed between decks. If they had been allowed on deck they would have seen as they crested a wave the valleys and hills of this watery world. The noise of the wind, the crash of the waves, the scream of the sails and the humming of rope and gear a terrifying soundtrack.