Voyage of The Genghis Khan

VOYAGE OF THE GENGHIS KHAN

Genghis Khan

The following is a brief account of the voyage of the "GENGHIS KHAN"  on which William and Elizabeth Lee emigrated to Australia, gleaned from various books and unpublished letters and dairies of passengers on this voyage.

The ship “Genghis Khan” of 1306 tons, was built in New Brunswick in 1852, of hackmatack, birch, oak and pine.  She was originally owned by Bates & Co. of Liverpool, she was then sold to Hammond & Co. of London.  Her hull was sheathed in metal early in 1853 and some fastenings were replaced with iron bolts.

On this particular voyage the “Genghis Khan” sailed from Liverpool 25th March 1853 and arrived at Melbourne on July 1st 1853. The Master was Dyer Bond.

William and Elizabeth along with the other emigrants boarded the “Genghis Khan” on 15th March 1853, a week before the vessel put to sea.  During this time they accustomed themselves to the hard beds, their crowded quarters and the surprisingly adequate food.  On 22nd March the livestock for the voyage was brought on board: ducks, fowls and sheep. The following day the ship was towed from the Mersey by steam tug.

Our Lee ancestors were on their way to a new life in a strange new land on the other side of the world. The moderate easterly soon died down, leaving the vessel briefly becalmed in the Irish Sea, with a memorable view of the Welsh mountains.

The first few days at sea were horrific, storms and gales tossed the ship about, water poured down the main hatchway into the steerage, and crockery and tinware, clothing and food, were scattered in confusion all over the passengers' deck.  This would have been a terrifying experience for William and Elizabeth, as they would never have been to sea before in their lives.  The damp conditions added to the emigrants' discomfort, for most were miserably sea sick.  "If we did not sleep in boxes", wrote emigrant Joseph Tarry, "we should be tossed out of bed..."

As the weather and their health improved, passengers adjusted to shipboard life.  The men made out a roster so that two were awake at all time during the night to assist any sick passengers and prevent irregularities. Soon passengers and crew were reporting thefts to the Master, who announced a thorough search of all luggage on arrival at Melbourne, the thefts stopped immediately.

The early April days were pleasantly warm as they approached the equator.  Most passengers had written letters, in case they met a homeward bound vessel, but none were sighted.  Entering the South Atlantic so as to follow the Great Circle Route, the ship once again ran into bad weather.  About 30 feet of her top mizzen mast being lost in a storm on April 7th. Soon icy gales and mountainous seas caused the loss of 60 feet of her main mast and damaged her foretop mast.  Even experienced seamen were afraid to go aloft  and eventually the Master himself began to climb the rigging, calling on his crew for "the best men among you" to follow him.  Much later, in better conditions, the Master told the passengers that in twenty years at sea he had never experienced such a storm.  The deck was strewn with smashed and splintered timber, torn canvas and broken ropes.

Passengers were confined below as heavy seas washed over the upper decks, frequently splashing down the main hatch in spite of its canvas cover.  They were cold, often hungry  and frequently ill.  The cooks could not keep water in their boilers because of the tossing of the ship.

The cooks fires were constantly being doused with sea water.  When hot food could be prepared, the English emigrants complained that puddings cooked in sea water were unpalatable.  The Scots and Irish were sometimes able to bake oatcakes from their ration of oatmeal, on a griddle provided for their use.  

The t'weendecks was overcrowded.  The passengers became tired of each other, and even such minor and familiar nuisances as lice contributed to make conditions intolerable

There was a great deal of illness at sea. Many of the small Scottish children were suffering from malnutrition before the voyage began, and had little resistance to the measles, scarletina, diarrhoea and typhus which swept through the steerage compartments, taking 30 lives

On May 23rd , a large piece of floating ice struck the ship.  Visibility was poor, and when  Prince Edward Island was passed it was completely hidden in thick fog.  Antarctic gales increased, breaking a yard arm.  Waves struck the ship with the thunder of cannon balls.  An officer described the “Genghis Khan” as being "almost a wreck".  The Chief Mate, held in esteem by all the passengers for his seamanship and courage, was suddenly demoted.  After too much alcohol he had become insane, threatening to sink the ship.

The Great Circle Route was terrifying not only for the rough weather, darkness, and prospect of meeting icebergs and uncharted islands, but also for its intense loneliness.  No other ships were seen on this route, no friendly greetings, no visits of crews from passing ships.

As the “Genghis Khan” neared Port Phillip, Joseph Tarry wrote of the growing excitement amongst the emigrants "and no wonder after being shut up in this floating prison for a quarter of a year without      having seen a speck of God's fair earth or a green leaf and for many weeks not even a ship."

On the evening of June 24th the cry of “Land Ho!” brought everyone on deck.  Cape Otway was clearly visible to the north, bathed in moonlight.  Next day the  “Genghis Khan” with the aid of a pilot entered the Heads, anchoring at the Quarantine Station on Ticonderoga Bay, where two families suffering from scarletina were taken on board the hospital ship “Lysander”.

Fresh beef was brought aboard, and appetites revived amazingly.  Their strength renewed six seamen deserted during the first night, bound for the goldfields.  A day of absolute calm at the Heads had been followed by a storm so rough that it was impossible to sail, and the “Genghis Khan” finally reached Melbourne a week later, on a beautiful clear winter day.  In spite of the storms and epidemics 256 of the passengers could count themselves fortunate that they had lived to arrive in the colony.

One wonders what William and Elizabeth may they have been thinking ,when they first saw the place they had decided to make their new home.  Unfortunately, neither of them kept a diary, so we will never know