Sailing the British Empire : The Voyages of The Clarence, 1858-73

Mutinies Aboard

With only thirty to sixty crew to hundreds of coolies, fear of mutiny on voyages was heightened amongst the crew, guards, and captain.  Deplorable conditions leading up to the voyage as well as those on the ship were instigators of riots.  Conditions on the ship were unbearable - coolies were locked below the deck for months at a time, and the filth and grime below the deck resulted in uncontrollably spreadable disease.  As a result of the appalling conditions upon departure, coolies used makeshift clubs from bedposts and cleavers stolen from the kitchen to attack the guards and crew to escape these conditions.  Following a successful mutiny, coolies navigated the ship to land and fled.  In most cases, however, mutinies were foiled by the crew and the instigators were given to authorities at the next port, put in chains, flogged, or hanged.  

The captain, crew, and coolies on the Clarence experienced an epidemic and other severe hardships on their voyage from Calcutta to Demerara, British Guiana.  Despite the devastation on the Clarence, there was no act of mutiny aboard the vessel. 

The following pages provide greater detail and case studies about the coolies and mutinous activity. 

Source Cited:
1. Lubbock, Basil. Coolie Ships and Oil Sailers. Boston: Charles E. Lauriat, 1935. 32-51.


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