“Every year 3-5 million people around the world are infected with cholera and 100,000- 120,000 people die from the infectious disease, according to estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO).”
The above is from a 2016 report not that of more than a century ago, when an outbreak meant death for most that contracted the deadly disease. Nowadays a vaccine can be administrated in high risk and epidemic zones saving thousands of lives. Back in the nineteenth century there was no such vaccine as the disease was thought to have been transmitted by air. The disease is in fact but we now know that the disease is caused by bacteria. Cholera is spread through the ingestion of contaminated food and water. That is how it found its way on to the Bracadaile, the ship Edward Weddall was captain on in 1894/5.
The ship carrying mostly emigrant workers from Calcutta in India to St. Lucia in the West Indies, when cholera broke out. This particular stain of cholera originated on the banks of the Ganges making its way to the port of Calcutta and then on broad Captain Weddall’s ship in the water supply and in the food.
Edward Weddall, just like any other sea captain would have placed high importance on hygiene on board his vessel, as it was vital to the survival of all on board. The Health Authority of the United States, stated in regards to the cholera epidemic of 1894/5:
“Sanitary service at sea. Second only in importance to securing at the foreign port a clean vessel and uninfected freight, with the crew and passengers in healthy condition, is a sanitary service at sea that shall preserve the cleanliness of the ship and the health of the crew.”
The above would have been implemented by the captain when leaving port, but as it has a twelve hour to five day incubation period symptoms may not have been recognized till the ship was far out at sea. By then the Blue Death because the victim turns a blue hue from dehydration, had well taken it’s grip, claiming the lives of 21 passengers and one crew member. Captain Weddall telegraphed the port authority with the grim news to prepare the for the arrival at Saint Lucia, but the ship was quarantined until the disease had run it’s course.
REPORT OF THE NATIONAL BOARD OF HEALTH. WEST INDIES. BARBADOS.
[Report by Consul Holley. ]
‘ I have the honor to report the following Government telegrams from Saint Lucia, telegraphed as general news to the commercial body of this island, viz, August 3: *’ The ship Bracadaile, with immigrants from Calcutta for this island, arrived to- day. Reports having had 31 cases of cholera on board, 21 of whom, including one of the crew, succumbed. No fresh cases have occurred for twenty-nine days. Vessel quarantined.”
August 6. — The administrator officially announces that the ship has been free from sickness since leaving the Cape on the 9th of July, and that all are well on board. No communication whatever has been or is allowed with the ship, which has been sent to ride out her quarantine of observation in a bay 5 miles from Castries Island perfectly healthy, and clean bills of health are being issued.
August 16. — It is officially announced that the ship Bracadaile left this morning for New York without having communicated with the mainland. The passengers were landed yesterday on the quarantine island, about a mile and a half from main- land. On landing all clothing was burnt ; the only articles of any kind which were’ landed from the vessel were jewelry and metal drinking vessels. The passengers are in , strict quarantine. The general health among them has been good, and there has been no cholera since 10th July.” In consequence of the telegram of the 16th August, I cabled the following to the Department of State, viz : ‘* Ship Bracadaile left Saint Lucia 16th — New York — had cholera.” I observe by New York Herald, August 11, that the steamship Bracadaile, with Saint Lucia advises, arrived, and was quarantined at Havana August 10. This is undoubtedly the ship referred to in the foregoing official telegrams.
ROBERT Y. HOLLEY.
Captain Weddall with the remainder of his crew arrived home at Tyne on February 18th 1895, having survived this infectious and deadly disease. It was not an unusual situation, life in general was precarious and life at sea more so. He survived this time but would contract a tropical disease later forcing him into early retirement.