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Hell Ship

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  342 ratings  ·  55 reviews
The riveting story of one of the most calamitous voyages in Australian history, the plague-stricken sailing ship Ticonderoga that left England for Victoria with 800 doomed emigrants on board.

For more than a century and a half, a grim tale has passed down through Michael Veitch's family: the story of the Ticonderoga, a clipper ship that sailed from Liverpool in August 1852,
Paperback, 260 pages
Published August 1st 2018 by Allen & Unwin
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Average rating 4.11  · 
Rating details
 ·  342 ratings  ·  55 reviews

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Jan 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
A terrific insight into life aboard an immigrant ship for those who took the perilous Journey from Ireland, Scotland and England to seek a new life in Australia. I started this and just couldn't put it down, the hardship and conditions these people had to put up with on a 90 day journey was just heartbreaking and we must remember their courage and foresight as they forged better lives for their children and grandchildren and indeed for their families left behind as they sent the money back home ...more
Hell Ship is an adventure tale that is one hundred percent true. The author writes of what his great-great-grandparents lived through when they emigrated to Australia. On August 4, 1852 the American-made, double-decked, black-hulled, elegant and stream-lined clipper, the Ticonderoga, embarked from the Birkenhead Depot on the outskirts of Liverpool. It carried some 800 emigres, a crew of 48, an acclaimed surgeon and an assistant surgeon by the name of Dr. James Henry William Veitch. This Veitch w ...more
Jul 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow. What a powerful (true) story. Brilliantly written and totally absorbing.
Full review below.
In the close quarters of an overcrowded ship packed with English, Irish and Scottish emigrants, disease waits. The year is 1852 and the impressive American clipper Ticonderoga is fitted out for the purpose of transporting its human cargo from Britain to Victoria, Australia. It is an exciting time in sea travel with altered shipping routes and faster ships resulting in shorter voyages from the mother
Kiwi Begs2Differ  ✎
Written by the great-great grandson of the second medic onboard this is the fascinating story of the Ticonderoga, a ship carrying 800+ Scottish immigrants to the new colony of Victoria (AU). If you ever wondered what made people to leave their homes and embark on the perilous journey seeking fortune in an unknown land, enduring cramped quarters, atrocious weather and facing daily the real possibility of sickness and even death, read this book, you won’t be disappointed.
Highly informative never
Sep 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
A very interesting and an important book. Initially I was thinking that it is going to be a simple book about Ticonderoga's trip from Liverpool to Australia in 1850, transporting emigrants from England, Scotland and Ireland to their new life down under. Not a simple book at all. Completely opposite, a well researched document, historical document and a well delivered document. I learned a lot from this book. Even La Trobe is mentioned in this book.
Struggled a bit with style of writing, but it su
Helen O'Toole
Jun 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.5 would definitely be best. I had a great, great grandfather bring his family out to Melbourne on a clipper ship. Family history states that when my great grandmother as a young girl was naughty, her parents would threaten her with going back on the clipper ship. It had become becalmed in the Indian Ocean. But my family’s voyage seemed a picnic compared to the poor wretched souls on board the Ticonderoga. I was so touched by the stories of the Scottish families leaving their poverty stricken h ...more
Excellent non-fiction. Well paced and well written, it was hard to put down. Hell Ship is an accurate description of the conditions onboard once people became very sick, however, the book is about so much more and really reveals what was happening in Scotland, England and Australia at the time to bring about this wave of migration. I had family from Scotland who came to Australia in the 1850s and it was fascinating to read about the times. Highly recommended for anyone interested in this period ...more
Mar 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Wow. This book literally gave me full body goosebumps at times reading what these people went through. Already suffering from the utter social economic and emotional devastation of the highland clearances they were traumatized in almost unimaginable ways on their journey to Australia. This was incredibly eye opening, very well told, and once I actually was able to commit to listening to this I flew through it.

Great read.
Saturday's Child
Jul 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Travel from England to Australia in the 1800’s was certainly perilous on many occasions for passengers and crew of the clipper ships. Many made these journeys in the hope of achieving a better life in Australia, but tragically for some it did not happen. This account of the Ticonderoga’s fateful voyage in 1852 brings to life the hellish conditions the passengers and crew faced not only from the ocean but also a deadly outbreak of typhus. It also provides details of the reasons why people left th ...more
Matt Fone
Nov 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
From the blurb on its back, I was initially concerned the book would focus too much on the "love story" between the author's great-great-grandparents and not enough on the plight of the ship. Thankfully I was wrong, and that story was relegated to a small paragraph at the end of the book. I thoroughly enjoyed this read as the author has done a tremendous job researching the factual evidence of this ships plight. ...more
Oct 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fascinating story of an often untold journey from Liverpool to Australia. I was initially disappointed that this book wasn’t written in a fictional style as the story lends itself to being brought to life through the eyes of one of the many characters aboard this ill fated ship. However, the story is fascinating and I whipped through the pages in a week. I will now follow it up with the Richard Fidler Conversations podcast where he interviews the author.
David Becker
Mar 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Strikingly well-done history that compellingly tells a forgotten sub-chapter of Australia’s colonial past. Veitch tells the the tale of the Ticonderoga, a dangerously overcrowded emigrant ship that arrived at Melbourne with hundreds of passengers dead or dying from typhus, with clarity and vigor. Besides a rousing read, he also manages to slip in all kinds of knowledge, touching on everything from Scottish agriculture to epidemiology.
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The emigration of Scots and Irish to North America tends to be better known in the UK, so I found this book informative. I do have a personal interest, however. I wouldn’t exist had my ancestors taken one of these routes in the mid 19th century - rather than moving from Skye and Co Down to the south of Scotland!

As this is the author’s family history he recounts he has taken great care to research the subject, which had been taboo for long years.

Ironically, sheep had replaced humans in the High
Stephen Whiteside
Feb 10, 2021 rated it really liked it
This is a terrific book. It tells the story of the Ticonderoga, an American ship that brought 800 - 900 immigrants, mostly from the Scottish Highlands, out to Australia in 1852, but tragically lost over 100 of them to typhus - and perhaps scarlet fever - en route. It is to some extent a personal story for the author, for his great great grandfather was the assistant surgeon on the ship.

The principal difficulty faced when writing the book would appear to have been that there are no surviving firs
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audio
My interest in history comes with little thanks to the education I received in my youth. My recollection of those classes was learning about important events by memorising dates, geography and not much else. It was boring!

What we needed was books like HELL SHIP. Veitch has done a wonderful job with his well researched account of not only the horrendous journey of the Ticonderoga from the UK to Australia but the multitude of economic and political circumstances that made such journeys a necessity
Feb 20, 2021 rated it really liked it
This book sat on my to-read shelf for ages. When libraries locked-down for so long in Melbourne I finally got around to reading it. I REALLY wish that I had read it earlier. I have an avid interest in my family tree, and this gave me an idea of the huge sea journey my own ancestors would had from England & Ireland in the 1850s. Michael has a engaging storyline that tells the story of the Ticonderoga's journey, whilst dipping into other areas of interest in more detail (I learnt so much!), and ad ...more
Nov 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: aty-2019
Not at all what I was expecting. I was expecting an account of the journey and quarantine but got a history of why so many people emigrated from Scotland (sheep) and Ireland (spuds) and of the design advances of ships.
The history did add to the book as I suspect that without it the undiluted story would have been more horrifying than it seemed. It also helped the reader understand the background and why people were prepared to put up with those conditions.
Both doctors seem to have done an amazi
Helen O'Shaughnessy
Feb 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobooks
Tracing the context, voyage and aftermath of the Ticonderoga, a government emigrant ship that left Liverpool for Melbourne in 1852 with about 900 people onboard.

I’m interested in family history and members of my family emigrated to Melbourne at this time - it could have happened to me!

I enjoyed the story-telling and the personalisation of this book. I also loved all the side stories / context / information - the circular route via no land and Antarctic waters springs to mind.

All (or almost all)
Dennis Rutzou
Dec 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can sum this book up with one word - superb. I was absolutely enthralled from start to finish, in fact the name is probably the worst thing about it as to me it misleading as it is much, much more than a story about a ship in which a tragic number of passengers died of typhoid. The research into why so many assisted migrants quit their Scottish homeland in the 1850s to travel to Australia is fascinating and told in a way that brings the subject to life while the description of the currents and ...more
Don Main
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What an interesting story of a government emigration ship in the mid 1800’s to Australia that is wracked with disease on its journey to Victoria that killed many of the emigrants and their family’s. The book written with in some cases very little remaining evidence from the time is very engaging and the author with a family connection to the ship has managed to create a very informative book that has some very moving pieces from survivors of the voyage. A book well worth reading if your interest ...more
Oct 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, non-fiction
Fascinating, well researched book that explains the circumstances of people who were emigrating from the UK to Australia and the desperate circumstances they faced. Then the book explores the horrendous voyage and arrival into Melbourne. The author writes in a way that gives us an in depth understanding of the bigger things that that were happening at the time - really wonderfully written.
Made me realise that Australian government bureaucracy has always been random and short term - its not a ne
Jan 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
4.5 would be a better rating.
Great read packed with information about migration from Scotland and the conditions in Scotland before 1850s. Michael Veitch sets the scene, both in Scotland and Australia, before the ship Ticonderoga sets sail and continues to build a picture of life on board for the passengers hoping for a new start in Australia. On the voyage, typhus breaks out, killing a quarter of the passengers.

Amazing true story of hardship, death and survival of the Ticonderoga, that sailed f
Claire Baxter
May 06, 2020 rated it liked it
A ship full of ill passengers struggling to find a place to disembark because the local inhabitants are fearful of the illness spreading among them. No it's not the Ruby Princess in 2020, it's the Ticonderoga in 1852. The parallel isn't why I chose this book but it was an interesting reflection as I went through.

Despite the three stars, this is worth reading for the story alone. It's just a little thin and one gets the impression that the author keeps repeating himself in order to pad it out. Bu
Claire Holman
Oct 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I was truly amazed. What a story to hear, and learn about. Congratulations Michael Veitch, you researched this story so comprehensively, then told us the tale in such a way, it was gripping, and I read it in double quick time. It has made me want to learn more, as there was so much information of the very early days of the UK that I did not know. I have now obtained my family history book to study as they too, came from Scotland, but at a later date. Thank you Michael.
Dionysi Krinas
Dec 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, tragedy
More like 4.5 stars if not 5!
This was a read that I really enjoyed. After visiting a market one day at Port Sea which uses the facilities of the original quarantine station mentioned in this book I felt compelled to find out more and this book allowed me to do so as it was being sold at one of the stands. Much research has gone into this book and I learnt so much about the events of the Ticonderoga and emigration from the UK and immigration to Australia during the 19th century. The book is writt
Nov 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An excellent read - a fascinating recount of a horror voyage to Australia, written by a descendant of the ship's doctor. Early in the voyage of the Ticonderoga, typhus struck the passengers, and given the cramped conditions, it spread rapidly. In his recount, Veitch also surveys the reasons as to why the bulk of the passengers, who were Scots, sought to emigrate, and the conditions on board a clipper ship. this work is highly recommended. ...more
Oct 12, 2018 rated it liked it
I visited Port Nepean years ago, heard of the Ticonderoga, and was enthralled by the story. I was excited when I heard about this book, but sadly it didn't live up to my expectations. It reminded me of the book Solomon's Noose, where it frequently wanders off on tangents not at all related to the story at hand. However, it did still satisfy my curiosity about this tragic voyage. ...more
Jan 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
So well written, you feel like you've been on this awful journey yourself. The author deftly sets the background to answer your question of why oh why would someone choose to take this journey. You'll understand. Gee they were a tough lot, those who survived. You can read the book yourself for all the appalling details. Highly recommended. ...more
Feb 08, 2020 rated it did not like it
There is a class of aged men in Australia who believe themselves to be historians because they can access and read primary source documents. Roland Perry is one such as is Michael Veitch. This is historical fiction masquerading as fact. It is poorly written, hysterically dramatized and vapid in the extreme.
Another author I need never bother with again.
Lyn Ryan
Mar 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
This story truly reveals the hardships and horror faced on this hellish journey by all on board. For the families that survived the typhus and the journey the memories must have been horrific. I hope to make the journey to their landing place soon. Thanks to Michael for putting this story out there
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Michael Veitch spent much of his youth writing and performing in television sketch comedy programs, before freelancing as a columnist and arts reviewer for newspapers and magazines. For four years he presented Sunday Arts, the national arts show on ABC television, and produced two books indulging his life-long interest in the aircraft of the Second World War, Flak and Fly. He lives in Hobart, wher ...more

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