Which strands will it fit with?
- Place and Environment
- Continuity and Change
- Identity, Culture and Organisation
Thinking, Relating to others.
Levels of achievement
Which topics of study can it support?
- New Zealand Society - Past and Present
- Pūrākau - Storytelling
- New Zealand Environment
How long might this take?
Allow 10 minutes.
Why should I take my class to visit this?
Come and find out what it was like to be a migrant travelling to New Zealand in the nineteenth century - the days below deck, the disease, the hunger, the boredom, and a very, very long journey.
What is there to do there?
- Imagine sharing your bedroom with six other brothers or sisters. Unimaginable? Children on board the immigrant ships had to share a bunk space with their six siblings and their parents for the months of their voyage from England to New Zealand!
- Open the shutter doors and discover more about medicine, games, and food on a typical sea voyage.
- Read about the conman who charged passengers to see the equator through his telescope - located just outside of the ship immersive environment, just opposite the computer interactives.
- Re-enact an equator-crossing party.
- Use the computer interactives to test your luck and skill as a ship captain sailing to New Zealand.
What should I know about this?
- Most migrants on ships to New Zealand received a subsidised or free passage from an emigration company or the New Zealand government. They didn’t have cabins, but lived in bunkrooms below deck. They did all their own cleaning and washing, and were allocated ship chores.
- Ill health was a big problem below deck in steerage class; it was often dark, damp and crawling with ticks, cockroaches, and rats. There were outbreaks of serious diseases, such as measles, diphtheria, scarlet fever, typhoid, small pox, and tuberculosis - the youngest were often the hardest hit. ‘Another beautiful boy died at 4 this morning…God grant that it will be the last…the Dr. ordered everyone down stairs to go on deck while the place was fumigated with hot vinegar and cayenne pepper’ - Elizabeth Yeoman, passenger on the John Duncan, 1863.
- However, not all migrant ships were disease-ridden. If they struck good weather, the passengers might not fare too badly. In fact, there was even organised leisure time, such as dancing on deck, however, it was usually separated by class. ‘Everyone are on deck wither playing at Cards Dominoes or Draughts which seems to put a lot of them into ecstacys as they are in a Roaring mood’ - William Smith, passenger on the Nelson, 1862.
Possible topics for discussion
- Why would anyone want to endure these conditions? Why did people want to come to New Zealand? There are many reasons people emigrated to New Zealand. Some wanted to escape the poverty and desperation of their homelands, some to possibly escape the law. Some people came to New Zealand attracted by the propaganda put out by the New Zealand Company - about a clean, green prosperous new country, where people could start all over again. Some were whalers, sealers, missionaries, or gold diggers.
- Do you think immigrants in the nineteenth century would have liked it here? Why/why not?
- What would happen if someone got an illness like measles on the voyage? The ship’s surgeon would dispense ‘medical comforts’, such as stout, sherry, sago, port, milk, and preserved potato. Often diseased passengers would have been quarantined to another part of the ship. ‘Almost all seasick again…ordered some bucketfuls of gruel and brandy for the females, some having taken nothing since our departure’ - Henry Weekes, surgeon on the William Bryan, 1840.
- How long would the journey have taken?
- Would the voyage have been better if you were rich?
- If you were to leave your home behind and could take only one suitcase, what would you pack?
- What has changed about crossing the world in the last hundred years?
- How many students can you fit on the bunk?
- Ship’s medicine chest in the ship immersive cabinets, Level 4, Passports exhibition.
- Check out the Passports exhibition, Level 4, which tells the stories of immigrants to New Zealand from countries around the world.