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Convict Ship Ocean 1823


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Select from the Links below to find information about Convict Ships arriving in New South Wales, Norfolk Island and Van Diemen's Land between the years 1788 and 1850

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Embarked: 173 men
Voyage: 125 days
Deaths: 6
Surgeon's Journal: yes
Tons: 437
Previous vessel: Henry arrived 26 August 1823
Next vessel: Earl St. Vincent arrived 9 September 1823
Captain William Harrison  
Surgeon Superintendent James McTernan



The Ocean was built at Whitby in 1808. This was her second voyage bringing convicts to New South Wales, the previous voyage being in 1818.  

Some of the prisoners of the Ocean were held in the Leviathan hulk at Portsmouth prior to embarkation. These men were sent to the Ocean on 12 April 1823.   Officer of the Guard Lieutenant Robert Woodgate of the 54th regiment brought with him his wife and nine children and servant Elizabeth Prendergast.

The Ocean departed Portsmouth on 24th April 1823 just four days before the Henry sailed. The prisoners on the Ocean had a very different experience on the voyage to those of the Henry.

The men on the Henry experienced very little illness and all survived the passage out whereas on the Ocean there was a serious outbreak of scurvy causing the death of several men:

Thomas Upton aged 22, died 25 May 1823
William Alcock aged 46 died 6th August 1823
James Malone aged 20 died 4 August 1823
James Simpson aged 29 died 15 August 1823
William Exeter aged 26 died 4 August 1823
William Thompson aged 39 died on 22 August 1823

Two children also died on the voyage. Altogether twenty-one prisoners were treated for scurvy during the voyage.  

This was James McTernan's first voyage as Surgeon Superintendent on a convict ship. He joined the vessel on 23rd April, just one day before departure. He kept a Medical Journal from 23 April 1823 to 2 September 1823 and included some of his thoughts on the cause of scorbutus (scurvy) in the general remarks at the conclusion of the Journal:

With the exception of the general appearance of scurvy, it will be seen that the Ocean enjoyed tolerable immunity from disease. In the treatment of the case of venereal which is given, I experimentalized a little on the combination of the quiescent and mercurial plans and am more confirmed in an opinion which I have held of their combined utility. Among men who shared so liberally in medical comforts and to whose cleanliness exercise and ventilation the most strict attention was paid, I should feel at a loss to account from the appearance and prevalence of scurvy, if I were not aware of a strong predisposing cause. They consisted for the most part of men who by repeated acts of misconduct in their hulks had forfeited every claim to indulgence, had formed a resolution to take whatever ship they should be put out in had actually attempted to possess themselves of the Ocean and concerted measures to repeat their attempt. It will be admitted that the desponding naturally arising from disappointments in those repeated mutinies added to a quick transition from a tropical to a high Southern latitude, is calculated to produce the effects so generally prevailing. But not quite satisfied with (my) own opinion on the subject, I suggested to His Excellency Governor Brisbane, the propriety of a search into the circumstances of their condition on board, my attention to and care of their comforts during their passage as well as the development of a cause that might to me be unknown. Such enquiry having future good and satisfaction to me for its objects with regard to the latter.  I have no hesitation in attributing much benefit to my being constantly among them, cheering them and administering their nourishment with my own hand.  
 

The Ocean arrived in Sydney on Wednesday 27 August 1823. She was one of twelve vessels bringing convicts to New South Wales in 1823, the others being - Lord Sidmouth, Surry, Princess Royal, Brampton, Woodman, Recovery, Henry, Earl St. Vincent, Mary, Isabella and Medina. Approximately 1550 prisoners arrived in New South Wales in this year.

By 1823 the penal settlement at Newcastle had been closed and most of the convicts had transferred to Port Macquarie penal outpost. The Hunter Valley had been opened for settlement and colonists such as James Mudie at Patrick Plains, Edward Cory at Paterson and James Reid at Rosebrook were all establishing their estates by this time. Several of the Ocean convicts were assigned to settlers such as these.

The year 1823 was also a year of exploration and discoveries - John Oxley sailed north to examine Moreton Bay, Archibald Bell discovered a new route across the Blue Mountains from Richmond that became known as Bell's line of road and Allan Cunningham discovered Pandora's Pass through the Liverpool Ranges.  

The prisoners of the Ocean were landed on Tuesday 2nd September 1823. They were inspected by Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane in the forenoon and then distributed throughout the colony.

At James McTernan's request Governor Brisbane instituted an enquiry into the high death rate on the Ocean........   

Sir Thomas Brisbane to Earl Bathurst.
Government House, Sydney, New South Wales,
My Lord, 17th November, 1823.

The Report, which I have the honor of enclosing, has been received from the Principal Surgeon of the Territory in consequence of the Ship Ocean having arrived in this harbour with her Convicts afflicted so considerably with the Scurvy that Forty were obliged to be disembarked and taken into the Hospital immediately, when I deemed it to be my duty to cause an enquiry to be made, whether Sickness so unusual was attributable to deficiency of attention or professional skill on the part of Doctor McTiernan, her Surgeon Superintendent. I have, &c, Thos. Brisbane. 17 Nov.

Principal Surgeon Bowman to Secretary Goulburn.
General Hospital, Sydney, 29th Sept., 1823.
Sir, I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter Report by of the 18th Inst, communicating the Governor's instructions to undertake a minute examination of the Medical Journal of of journal of the Surgeon Superintendent of the Ocean Convict Ship, report for His Excellency's information whether sickness so unusual is to be attributed to deficiency of attention or professional skill on the part of Doctor McTiernan. In reply I have to acquaint you for the information of The Governor, that having perused the Medical Journal of that officer, I do not find any statement of the cause of the disease, which prevailed among the Convicts during their voyage to this Colony, is attributable. Dr. McTernan has given with considerable care a lengthened detail of the treatment of various patients under his charge, and the daily occurrences which took place, without reference to the manner the diseases originated; he has stated the facts as they came before him and not attempted any theoretical hypothesis. This you will perceive completely prevents me carrying His Excellency's wishes into effect, as no cause of disease is assigned in the Journal. Referring to the latter part of your letter respecting the professional skill of Doctor McTernan, I beg to be excused giving any opinion, that gentleman having by a public examination proved himself qualified for the situation he holds in His Majesty's service; as he is now serving under the immediate control of the Medical Board of the Navy, and is obliged to produce his Journal to that Board on his return to England, he is held responsible by them for the treatment of the sick under his care, consequently any opinion I could offer is rendered unnecessary.
I have, &c, J. Bowman, Principal Surgeon
. (1)  

This was the last voyage the Ocean made bringing to convicts to New South Wales. She departed Port Jackson in September 1823. Those advertising to depart on her included 1st Officer J. Lobban; 2nd Officer J Morrison; 3rd Officer T. Warran and 4th Officer J. McCormack,  


Notes & Links:  

1). James McTernan was later employed as surgeon on the convict ships Sir Charles Forbes in 1827 (VDL) Asia in 1828, Eliza in 1829, Lady Harewood in 1831, John Barry in 1836 and the Sara in 1837 (VDL).  

2). Ralph Wittle came free as a seaman on the Ocean.  

3). Convict artist Theodore Constantini arrived on the Ocean.  

4). William Price Wall who resided in Maitland for many years arrived as a convict on the Ocean, having been tried at the Old Bailey in 1822. He was a tailor by trade and although his first few years as a prisoner were difficult he eventually married and set up business in Maitland. He was recommended for Conditional Pardon by some of the most influential settlers in the district in 1842. He left Australia with his family for the Gold Fields in California in 1850 however later returned and eventually settled in Victoria.  

5). Henry Drummond was also one of the men transported on the Ocean. He was also convicted at the Old Bailey, however his experience as a prisoner was very different to William Price Wall. Henry Drummond was only 15 years old on 24 October 1821 when he was convicted of pick pocketing and sentenced to 14 years transportation. He never reconciled to his new life and in his time became a pirate, mutineer and not least in the eyes of other convicts, a snitch. He was sent to some of the worst penal settlements in the colony, the first being the Moreton Bay penal settlement where at the time Captain Bishop was Commandant.

At Moreton Bay he was employed as a stockman and together with another prisoner John Boyd, was found guilty of stealing sheep and absconding from the settlement. They were both forwarded to Sydney for trial. At their trial they pleaded not guilty stating that their prior confession was made with the view of escaping corporal punishment at the settlement and of being forwarded to Sydney where they could have a fair trial. They were both sentenced to death but later the sentence was commuted to transportation to Norfolk Island. It was to be many years before Alexander Maconochie brought penal reforms to Norfolk Island and in 1827 the settlement was a hell-hole for the convicts.

Bound for Norfolk Island in the brig Wellington in February 1827, Henry Drummond joined with other desperadoes to Capture the Wellington and take captain, crew and troops prisoner. They made for New Zealand where they were captured by Captain Duke in the Sisters and conveyed back to Sydney.  Five of the pirates were later executed, however Henry Drummond was not amongst them. He was returned to Norfolk Island.

In 1834 he once again became part of an infamous colonial chapter when he took part in an uprising of 150 convicts. He was injured in the battle but later recovered. (2). He was put on trial with many others, one of whom gave a testimony which brought tears to Judge Burton's eyes - 'Let a man be what he will when he comes here, he is soon as bad as the rest; a man's heart is taken from him, and there is given to him the heart of a beast'. Henry Drummond was found guilty and executed for his crimes with twelve other cohorts a month later.  

6). Select here to find Hunter Valley convicts / passengers who arrived on the Ocean in 1823    

7). Lieutenant Woodgate with his wife and 9 children embarked on the John Shore to join his corps in Hindostan in September 1823.
54th Regiment, West Norfolk Regt......





References:  

1.  HRA, Series 1, Vol. p. 155

2.  Sydney Gazette 8 March 1834

3. National Archives - Reference: ADM 101/57/9 Description: Medical journal of the Ocean, convict ship from 23 April to 2 September 1823 by James W Ternan, surgeon and superintendent, during which time the said ship was employed in conveying convicts to New South Wales

4. Bateson, Charles & Library of Australian History (1983). The convict ships, 1787-1868 (Australian ed). Library of Australian History, Sydney : pp.344-345,  384




 
 

 

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