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Yellow Fever on board the Sybillein 1829.


at Sierra Leone from England in May 1827. Four cases of remittent fever occurred on board in the beginning of June : they seem to have recovered. All that is known of the vessel for the next two years is derived from a paper, that was communicated by Dr. M.Kinnal to this Journal.* From this it appears that she had been cruising in the bights of Benin and Biafra from December 1828 to the 21st of June 1829, when she arrived at Fernando Po, the health of the crew having hitherto been wonderfully good. Here they found the "Eden,” which was still suffering from the ravages of the frightful epidemic with which she had been visited. The “ Champion” too was there, having arrived from Sierra Leone on the 14th of the month, i.e. just a week before the Sybille. The colonial surgeon and his assistant, who had come from England on board the former vessel, died soon after landing at Fernando Po.

On the 22nd, the day after her arrival, the Sybille received on board several men from the Eden. On the 23rd, one of these was attacked with fever and immediately sent on shore; and, in the course of the evening of that day, she sailed from Clarence Cove. On the 26th, a boy fell sick, and on the 2nd of July, a marine (who had come on board from the garrison of Fernando Po) was seized.

From that period the disease continued to show itself in different parts of the ship while at sea. It soon assumed a most malignant character, and attacked individuals of every class, age, and temperament, although the negroes were affected with it in comparatively small numbers, and in a mild degree. On the most minute investigation, the surgeon was unable to trace the disease, either from man to man, or from mess to mess; and those who attended the sick were not more affected than those who kept aloof. The sick-berth attendant, and the surgeon himself, though both unprotected by previous attacks, escaped the fever. The sailmaker, who sewed up the dead bodies in their hammocks, had a slight attack, though he had formerly had the yellow fever at Jamaica ; while the boy who assisted him escaped. Every attention was paid to cleanliness and ventilation; and the dead bodies were speedily committed to the deep, together with their bedding and clothes.

" • The disease was evidently yellow fever in the greatest degree of intensity. With two exceptions, it was of the continued kind; the stage of excitement short. In the worst cases, it terminated fatally between the third and sixth day, most frequently on the fifth. Death was preceded in a great number of cases by black vomit, often accompanied by a dingy or livid hue of the countenance. Yellowness of the eyes and skin was very common before death ; it varied from a pale lemon colour, to a dark orange hue. An officer, who died on the eleventh day of a relapse, had previously suffered from yellow fever in the West Indies.'

“ It is worthy of remark, that of the eight marines received from Fernando Po and the Eden, who took bark during eight days, two only became affected with fever.

“ • The sudden cessation of the disease,' says Dr. M‘Kinnal, on the 28th of August, when forty men were on the list, and when the power of contagion (if it existed) must have been at its height, seems to prove that atmospheric changes had great influence in the production of the disease, as well as in its extinction.'

« * On the 12th of September, the ship arrived at St. Helena without a man on the sick list; being the seventeenth day from the date of the last seizure, and the third day from the date of the last death by fever. After two days' quarantine,

* Vide Medico-Chirurgical Review for October 1830.

the officers and men of the Sybille went on shore, and mixed with the inhabitants from that time till the 25th of October, without any accident resulting from the intercourse.'P. 54.

The Sybille again anchored at Fernando Po in November, when the settlement was considered healthy, She touched at Princes' Island, and on the 5th and 6th of December was at anchor off Whydah. She then sailed on a cruise, and arrived at Princes' Island on the 3rd of January 1830, all well on board. There she was joined by her tender, the “ Black Joke,” which arrived from Sierra Leone, where she had been very sickly and lost 23 of her men. Her crew, however, were now entirely recovered or convalescent.

“When the Sybille was weighing anchor on the 7th, a boy, who laboured under common tertian, came on board from the Tyne, which latter vessel was stated to be healthy. Six days afterwards, namely, on the 13th of January, yellow fever again broke out in the Sybille, while cruising off Cape Forinosa. Dr. M*Kechnie, an assistant-surgeon, who had lately come from England, and who had been on board the Black Joke for a few minutes, was the first seized. The disease soon increased in the ship, and early in February it became very alarming, producing the most dreadful havoc amongst all classes on board. The number of cases during this visitation amounted to eighty-seven ; of which twenty-six died, with the usual symptoms of the most malignant yellow fever."

“ Afterwards, in St. Helena roads, on the 22nd of March, the fever again broke out, twenty-two cases occurred, and six died.” P. 54.

After this period, there does not appear to have been any malignant fever in the Sybille.

The circumstances connected with these two destructive attacks of the disease on board—the first having occurred immediately after communicating with the “ Eden,” which had lost her captain, surgeon, assistantsurgeon, and a great many men by fever contracted at Sierra Leone, and the second after communication with the “ Black Joke”-reasonably sug, gest the idea of infection as the cause of the sickness. The surgeon, indeed, attributed it principally to “ noxious emanations from the interior of the ship, probably caused by the decomposition of the wood from the longcontinued action of heat and moisture, aided perhaps by an accumulation of different substances under the limber-boards of the holds.” But then, the existence of such an accumulation has been positively denied by officers who served in the ship, and who have asserted that no vessel could be cleaner or better ventilated. Lastly, we must not omit to mention that, although her surgeon uniformly maintained that the fever was not infectious, the officers and men thought it was highly so. The commodore, from humane motives, prohibited all Europeans, with the exception of himself and the medical officers, from visiting the sick.

We have now a few words to say respecting the Medical History of Fernando Po. That remittent fever is endemic, and therefore continually present there, has been too well known ever since the place was first occupied in Oct. 1827; but it was not until the end of June 1829, that it prevailed epidemically in the settlement. It has been seen that the Eden arrived there from Sierra Leone in a most sickly state on the 11th of this month; and, after a few days quarantine, was permitted to send her sick on sbore ; that the Champion arrived from the same place on the 14th, and that

1847] Medical History of Fernando Po.

441 several bad cases of fever had been landed from her ; and that the Sybille arrived on the 21st, her crew at that time in health : her subsequent history has just been given. Now for the outbreak of the epidemic fever on the island :

“On the 29th of June, a serjeant of marines was attacked; on the following day four other cases occurred, and it then became general; between the above date and the 31st of August, there were no less than seventy-seven persons prostrated by the disease; to thirty-nine of whom it proved fatal, a mortality that sufficiently stamps the malignancy of the disease. It however appears that the season had been unusually wet during the months of July and August, when the disease had acquired its greatest virulence.” P. 68.

It deserves, however, to be stated that Fernando Po is, in all years, and especially at certain seasons, exceedingly unhealthy. As a proof of this, it may be stated that “ of thirty mechanics, who arrived there in November 1837, all had suffered; the number that died cannot be ascertained ; a few were invalided, and five only remained when the Eden arrived in June 1828 ;" and that “ of the whole party of marines and mechanics, including officers and women, landed upon the island in the middle of June, amounting to fifty-eight, only four had escaped an attack of fever on the 31st October, 1829, and most of the others had experienced two." Altogether, Fernando Po is unquestionably one of the most pestiferous and deadly spots on the face of the wide globe. After about five years' occupation, it was at length utterly abandoned in the beginning of 1833. It should be stated that, while the epidemic of 1829 was raging, several cases occurred of invalids being received from shore on board ships in the harbour, without communicating the disease to the rest of the crew. We must not omit to mention, at the same time, that “this fever was distinctly remittent in its character, and accompanied by yellow suffusion of the skin and eyes, and by black vomit.”

Dr. Bryson, after carefully considering all the circumstances of the case, makes the following significant remarks :

“ It will be observed that both the Eden and Champion contracted the disease at this colony (Sierra Leone), and in their crowded state carried it with them to Fernando Po, where the supernumeraries for the colony and all the sick were ianded in the course of a few days after their arrival. Amongst the former it continued to rage for the two succeeding months with unparalleled fury, and also assailed other individuals who had no direct communication with either vessel. It also appears that it broke out in the Hecla at Sierra Leone, or shortly after she left it, and carried off thirty-nine of her ship’s company. The Sybille, as previously detailed, contracted the disease at Fernando Po in June, and in the course of a few weeks lost twenty-two men out of the sixty-nine attacked. In the Black Joke, however, in prizes, and otherwise, she lost in addition thirty-seven, making the total number of deaths fifty-nine for the year. There was not any vessel that suffered in the same proportion with the Eden; during the year, out of a crew it is supposed of not more than one hundred and sixty men, she lost altogether ninety-nine, sixty of whom died on board, and thirty-nine on shore. The loss in all the other vessels on the station during the year was, comparatively speaking, trifling, with the exception of the Sybille's tender, the Black Joke, from which there was not any returns sent into office in consequence of her being attached to that vessel, and manned exclusively out of her ship’s company; it is, however, ascertained that she also contracted the disease at Sierra Leone.

“ After the disease had been extinct for a period of upwards of four months it reappeared in the Sybille in January, 1830, and again, in the same ship, at St. Helena in March. In these two visitations her losses amounted to thirty-two men, and then it may be said the epidemic of 1829 and 1830 finally ceased, although fever of an equally virulent character nearly unmanned the Plumper in the November and December of the latter year at Sierra Leone." P. 87.

From 1831 to 1836.-During the five years following 1830, fever in a malignant and epidemic form did not appear in any of the vessels of the squadron, the “ Conflict” excepted. For twelve months after her arrival on the station, she suffered but little from the common remittent of the country; but in July 1831, after the greater part of the crew had been on shore at Sierra Leone and allowed to commit the greatest excesses, thirty cases of bad fever, of which eight terminated fatally on board and five were sent to the hospital, were the result of these imprudences.

“ The disease appears to have been of a most malignant character. It was remittent, but varied in its symptoms in different cases; in the worst it was attended with great excitement, and, as it advanced, the skin assumed a yellow colour, interspersed with livid spots. Towards dissolution, in the fatal cases, a quantity of dark matter was vornited, while a disagreeable cadaverous smell exhaled from the body some hours before life became extinct. The dejections were also frequently dark and fetid. In one instance, in the course of half an hour after death, the whole surface of the body presented a dark blue colour, and the cuticle separated. There can be but little doubt that all these cases were what is usually termed yellow fever in its worst form. Still, although every circumstance is very minutely detailed, contagion is not alluded to." P. 96.

The Conflict sailed in August for Ascension, where, upon being overhauled, “ the hold presented, on the removal of the tanks and limber. boards, a very filthy appearance, blackish mud with vegetable matter being brought into view, the effluvium from which was at first insufferable. The passages to the pump-well were found to be completely blocked up."

1837 and 1838.- The “ Ætna" returned from Gibraltar to the African station in Nov. 1837, and anchored at Sierra Leone on the 30th, all on board being then quite well. Malignant fever was at the time committing great ravages on shore, and amongst the shipping. The Ætna only re. mained until the 3rd of December for the purpose of watering, and this was effected by the Kroomen: she then proceeded to sea. The weather was still calm, wet and sultry.

“ On the 10th of the month two cases of fever occurred, and on the 12th there were two more; of these three died, one on the fifth day, and two on the seventh day of the disease, with black vomit and yellowness of the skin. There were not any fresh attacks until the 20th of December, when two others occurred, and on the 21st there were five. The disease then began to attack officers and men indiscriminately. As it was considered to be contagious, recourse was had to artificial means of ventilation, by swinging stoves and windsails, and to fumigation, by whitewashing the decks and sprinkling them with chloride of lime. In the meantime a course was shaped for the region of the trade winds, with the view of making Ascension; on getting into the S. E. trade however, on the 15th of January, the violence of the disease did not abate, but on the contrary, it continued to attack one after another of the remaining few who had hitherto escaped with as much virulence as it did when the ship was becalmed in the immediate neighbourhood of the land; nor did it entirely cease until the 20th of 1847]

Yellow Fever on board several Ships in 1838.


January, the day on which she anchored at the above island. The total number attacked was ninety-nine, including one Krooman and four African boys; of these twenty-five died. The total number of the ship's company, exclusive of the Africans, was ninety-eight, and of these only five escaped, two of the latter being nearly all the time on the sick list, one with intermittent fever, and the other with rheumatism.

“ The disease was considered to have been contracted at Sierra Leone, and its influence was supposed to have been the greater upon the ship’s company from mental depression, in consequence of their being obliged to return to the coast of Africa instead of being paid off, as they had anticipated, from a general scorbutic taint amongst them at the time, from the laborious nature of the service on which they were employed, and from incidental privations peculiar to it. The fever was distinctly of a remitting character, attended with yellow suffusion of the skin and eyes, hæmorrhage from the gums and fauces, and, in the fatal cases, with black vamit.” P. 120.

No allusion is made as whether any, and what, measures were taken at Ascension, on the arrival of the ship.

It is worthy of notice that the Ætna returned to the coast towards the end of spring and re-commenced surveying, the convalescents having been discharged to duty, although still in a weakly state. Upon the whole, however, the crew continued tolerably healthy until she returned to England in October 1838.

The “ Bonetta” and the “ Forester" were also very sickly at the beginning of this year, 1838. The former left the coast (in a healthy state we presume, for nothing is said to the contrary), having taken on board a supply of Indian corn and yams for the island of Ascension. In the second week of January, she fell in with the latter in a sickly state, several fatal cases of bad fever having occurred on board. After receiving a prize-crew from her, the vessels separated; and the Bonetta proceeded on her voyage to Ascension, which she reached on the 20th January, having lost eight men from the disease on the passage. The report continues thus :

In consequence of the illness and death of the assistant-surgeon, there is not any account of the origin and progress of the disease until another joined on the 3rd of February, when the state of the sick list and ship were as follows :—The commander, master, assistant-surgeon, purser, and twenty-eight seamen and marines, were all lying about the deck in a most helpless and melancholy state, three with black vomit, and to all appearance beyond the aid of medicine. The vessel was in a very filthy condition, the stench from the holds being almost insupportable, and totally incompatible with health. It may also be added that, on subsequently clearing her out, the corn and yams with which she was freighted were found to be in a state of decomposition.

“ Shortly after her arrival, tents were erected on shore, and the whole of the crew were landed and placed in them; the sick being separated from the healthy. This precaution was unnecessary, or at least without the desired effect, as the few remaining Europeans and three Africans were almost immediately added to the list ; making a total of thirty-nine, of whom twenty-eight recovered and returned to duty, three were invalided and sent to England, and eight died.

“ The fever in this instance appears to have displayed all the usual characteristics of the common remittent or yellow fever ;--yellowness of skin, bleeding of the gums, and black vomit. It is to be regretted that there are not any means of obtaining information relative to the first appearance of the disease, or of its progress prior to her arrival at Ascension on the 30th of January, in the deplorable condition previously described. The first assistant-surgeon who took

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