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Convict Ship Bengal Merchant 1836 

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Embarked 270 men
Voyage 123 days
Deaths 1
Surgeon's Journal - Yes
Tons: 503
Previous vessel: Captain Cook arrived 13 November 1836
Next vessel: Pyramus arrived 14 December1836
Captain William Campbell  
Surgeon Superintendent John Tarn

John Tarn kept a Medical Journal from 13 July 1836 to 17 December 1836 during the voyage of the Bengal Merchant from England to New South Wales.

In the last week of July 1836, 270 male convicts were embarked at Woolwich and Sheerness after inspection on the hulks. They were mainly middle aged with a large proportion of lads, mostly in good health. Some of the older men were emaciated and pallid in appearance.

The guard consisted of 29 rank and file of the 80th regt., under command of Lieutenant Samuel Tolfrey Christie (brother of William H. Christie who came on the Captain Cook) and Ensign Horton with four women and four children as passengers.  

The Bengal Merchant departed the Downs on the 8th August 1836 and sailed via Tenerife.

Ninety-three men including the guard were on John Tarn's sick list at various times throughout the voyage. There was only one death, a man already ill and who according to Tarn should never have been embarked. Most of the cases were of slight catarrh, diarrhoea, dyspepsia.

In the early part of the voyage there were fevers, mostly from prisoners who embarked on the Justitia hulk at Woolwich where the disease was prevalent. On reaching hotter climates, cholera appeared.

Because some of the elderly men seemed less healthy, they called at Tenerife to pick up refreshments, obviating the need to call at the Cape. Fresh fruit and vegetables were taken on board and the men had the benefit of 7 or 8 days fresh diet, which much improved the general health. The surgeon suggested that tea should be substituted for chocolate and an increase in the allowance of bread and sugar. Many of the convicts refused to eat the cocoa at all and the guard never took it.  

The decks were dry holystoned daily (the deck was scoured with small, smooth pieces of freestone after a layer of dry sand had been sprinkled over it) and the convicts kept on deck during the forenoon. The prisons were well ventilated and kept dry by the airing stove.   Towards the end of the voyage scurvy was apparent in about a dozen men.

They arrived in Port Jackson on 9th December 1836 by which time the convicts had been on board for a total of 140 days.

Notes & Links:  

1). John Tarn was employed as surgeon on the convict ships Georgiana in 1831 George Hibbert 1834 in 1834 and the Surry 1840 (VDL)  

2). At least seventeen of the convicts who arrived on the Bengal Merchant in 1836 were assigned to the Australian Agricultural Company  

3). Hunter Valley convicts / passengers who arrived on the Bengal Merchant in 1836

4). Detachments of the 80th regiment arrived the Lady Kennaway, Lloyds, Norfolk, Bengal Merchant, Asia, Captain Cook, Earl Grey, St. Vincent, John, Prince George, Mangles, Heber, Theresa, Calcutta and Eden.


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