4. En route Down Under
The recent discovery of a journal kept by a young passenger on board the Planter (a British ship) set for the Australian colonies, sheds some light on what a voyage to the other side of the Earth meant during Victorian times. The author, James Bell, a 21-year-old devout Christian describes in detail the actions of the other passengers and the crew during their 6-month journey.
While some of the voyagers were convicts exiled from Britain for their crimes, most were simple pilgrims looking for a new beginning. In any case, this 225-page manuscript shows its readers the true character of Australia’s first colonists. Mr. Bell points out that most of the women onboard the ship, convict or not were having sex with the crew and other passengers in exchange for better quarters and a pocketful of money. He goes on describing that even the captain took on two sisters at the same time, daughters of a preacher who was also onboard, along with his entire family. What shocked James Bell the most about this preacher and his girls was the fact that he didn’t seem to mind, but quite the opposite, encouraging their affair with the captain for the benefit of the whole family.
Local records show that James Bell died of a “brain fever” one year later, after his arrival to Adelaide in 1839 and his journal, which was destined to reach his sweetheart back home, remained hidden for more than 150 years.