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QUARANTINE ISLAND., Otago Witness, Issue 1177, 20 June 1874
Very pleasant is an excursion to Quarantine Island on a fine day, when the placid waters of the harbour are bathed in sunshine, and ripple round many picturesque headlands, clothed with native verdure to their bases. On such a day Port Chalmers and its neighbourhood look their best, especially when viewed from seawards, and discover a rare commingling of nature unadorned, and nature embellished by tho art and ingenuity of man. Evidences of thriving prosperity, of the substantial progress of this land of our adoption, are apparent on all sides. Stutely merchantmen in every stngo of loading and unloading throng the harbour and line the jutting piers, whilst the scream of the railway whistle, the rattle of tho heavily liulen train, and tho thud-thud of the paddles of the steamow which ply about the bay, toll the tale of the advance of science as applied to everyday affairs, and indicate that a share of the abundance of knowledge which pervades the world is not wanting bore, and that man has profited and is profiting thereby,
The sea view of the Port is pleasantly contrasted by the smiling landscape with its patches of civilisation hewed out of the dense bush. There is the snug township, embracing a long range of suburban residences radiating from the central cluster of buildings, oh the outskirts of which the temples reared by man's adoration and reverence to the Almighty Creator and Benefactor lift their tall spires heavenwards. There are not many prettier places in the world than that stretch of the harbour ex- ■ tending from Carey's Bay to Portobello, and its beauties are seen to the best advantage if viewed in detail from water level when the tide is in. On the one band, the Bay extends without a break for miles to the opposing shore of the long Peninsula, whilst, on the other, the shore line is indented with bays and coves, is dotted with houses and verdant gardens, and docks and shipbuilding yards, and is crowned with masses of dark, heavy bush, through which peep the grey faces of quarries, where the ring of the hammer and drill is heard, whilst every now and then the reverberating report of the powder blast tells of rocks riven that man may progress. This is one section of the scene. Another opens up beyond Observation Point, where the harbour takes a sweep to the right, and, at first sight, appears to terminate in an extensive bay, at the far end of which a high headland projecting from the Peninsula seems to almost touch the ground upon which the Quarantine station is established. But a narrow strait, through which the tide rushes with great velocity, separates them, and as the station is approached the Quarantine Island, and its neighbour the Goat Island, become denned, and the idea of cul de sac is dissipated, for through the channel that separates them the harbour is to be seen extending far away Dunedinwards, whilst beyond the narrow strait above-mentioned, the white houses of Portobello appear in pleasing relief to the foliage in which they are embowered. Port Chalmers Peninsula flanks this part of the harbour to the right, and is bedecked with many charming residences, which look down somewhat with contempt upon the new building that might be mistaken for a penitentiary, and which constitutes in itself the township of Goat Island, on which it has been recently erected for the accommodation of young men immigrants who may be unfortunate enough to fall into the meshes of quarantine. A narrow channel alone separates Goat Island from the Peninsula, and another of greater width — the main ship channel, in fact — separates Goat Island from Quarantine Island proper. Both islands are densely scrubbed, excepting where clearances have been effected ; and we presume that Goat Island has been so named because it swarms with rabbits.
"We were induced to pay a visit to Quarantine Island on Saturday for the purpose of generally inspecting the station, and also to ascertain ■what was the condition of the immigrants who had been transferred to it from the steamer Atrato. The opportunity, too, of inspecting the Barracks when occupied was not to be lost, because, as a rule, the island when inhabited is in strict quarantine ; the existing circumstances were quite exceptional. The landing-place is situated at the end of the island nearest to Portobello, and, we were pleased to observe, was in the course of being rendered worthy of the name by the addition of a wooden pier to the old stone causeway that for so many years sufficed, albeit very imperfectly, to serve the purpose. The new jetty will, when finished, at least render the Island comfortably accessible to boats and small steamers at any time of tide. Fi'om the jetty a flight of steps, hewn out of the face of the hill, leads to a sloping plateau, upon which tho principal in point of size and number of the quarantine buildings are erected. The first of these to catch the eye is the residence of Mr Dougall, officially designated the BarrackMaster, but whose occupation will be better understood if he is described as the person in charge of the Quarantine Station. He lives in a nicely constructed four-roomed cottage, and built upon a bluff overlooking the bay. We, of course, applied to him in the first instance, and met with a ready acquiescence to our request that ho would conduct us through the Station. " Really," we observed, as we glanced around at tho handsome buildings in sight, and the wellke23t paths leading to them, * : you have a very charming place here." " Yes," he rejoined, "it is well enough now, but before those buildings " — pointing, as he spoke, to a large block which he termed the Main Barracks— "were erected, wa were pushed for room. This," he continued, as we approached a low shed-like domicile, was then one of the principal habitations. My family and I lived in one end of it, and the remainder of the space was devoted to the accommodation of cabin passengers. Now it is put to a variety of purposes. My old quarters are converted into a storeroom, and the other part is sometimes used as a luggage-room, and sometimes, as you see it at present, is converted into a washiug-house. The scene about the entrance and inside explained this remark. Groups of immigrant women, with one or two men amongst them, were elbow-deep in tubs of foaming soapsuds : the wash-up after the voyage was in progress. A dozen or two of children were I also scattered about, and Avith their elders, looked the personification of health and robustness. Smiles and civility welcomed us, and onr occupation being mistaken for that of officialdom, we were interrogated again and again as to whether the Government intended to soon remove the immigrants to town. Strangers, in such a place, invariably prove a source of attraction, so that when we turned to leave the washing-shed, quite a crowd had gathered about the place, and a pleasant-looking crowd it was— iuen, women, and children were clean, stout, and to all appearances, Btrong and healthy, and, moreover, looked i respectable. Upon the latter point our can- ! ductor spoke very decidedly. They were about the best looking immigrants he had had any dealings with ; they were quiot, orderly, and gave no trouble. " Was there any disease worth mentiouiug amongst them V" we enquired. " Certainly not," he replied, "they were as healthy as could be desired ; two children had died, it was true, but then the one was a weakly little thing, said to be consumptive, whilst the other had given way to cold and exhaustion, superinduced by a severe attack of measles on ship board." From the luggage-shed we proceeded to tho main barracks, which may be briefly described as three largo buildings, two of them two-storeyed, and oach opening into the kitchen in the centre. Tho buildings stand a little apart from euch other, and are connected by a central shed that covers in the kitchen, scullery, cooks' room,. &c. Our inspection of the barracks commenced with the building aot apart for the accommodation of single women. It is two-storeyed, and is fitted up oa both floors with
cabins, each of which contains four sleeping berths. Between the vestibule and the lower dormitory, there are a bath-room, lavatory, closetSj &c. The lavatory is fitted up with rows of pewter basins, each having a water tap- and a pipe in the bottom through which the dirty water e«capes. The water is derived from iron tanks overhead, and the bath-room, plunge and shower, is also so supplied, and at the same time commands a hot water tap. The offices and building throughout were beautifully clean aDd neat. Ninety-eight single women can be accommodated in it. On the opposite side of the kitchen, and standing in a line with the last building, is the one devoted to the accommodation of married people. Like the other, it is two-storeyed, and is fitted up with ranges of side rooms or cabins, one to each family. There are 24 of these— twelve on each floor, or six on each side, with a central I passage. This part of the barracks was also | clean and comfortable, and amply ventilated and lighted. The side rooms were also roomy, and so were those in the single ■women's buildirg. The offices, lavatory, waterclosets, bath-room were also similar. The third building stands at right angles to the others, and is the eating room. It is a large commo 3 dious apartment, with a double brick fireplace in the centre, and furnished with ranges of tables and benches. It was occupied at the [ time of our visit by several of the immigrants and their children, all variously employed. The centre of the barracks — the kitchen — we found a model of comfort and convenience. There was a double cooking range, and a bewildering paraphernalia of cooking appliances. A large scullery leads from it one way and a sort of pantry another. There is a large hot water boiler that supplies the baths and other parts of the establishment. > The kitchen arrangements were perfect in their way, and entirely in keeping with the other parts ot the main barracks, which have certainly been constructed on very liberal principles indeed. The water supply of the barracks is stored in iron tanks, of which thero are 24, besides a large cistern of 4000 gallons capacity attached to the kitchen, After inspecting the main barracks, we turned to a building at the rear of them, and which our conductor informed us was once the main barrack, but was now used as a residence for the single men. It was unfurnished, even lacked sleeping stretchers, the men having to shaked own upon | the floor. A large open fireplace stood at one end of the room, and the latter was open from end to end, and appeared to be rather superabundantly provided with doors and windows. It was a most uncomfortable looking place— very barnlike. However, henceforth it will be only used for housing people during emergencies, inasmuch that, exceptiug they are fit subjects for | hospital treatment, single men immigrants will | find no footing on Quarantine Island, ample ac- I commodation for as many as are likely to be quar»ntined at onetime having been provided for them on the adjoining Goat [sland. Still it is within the compass of prooable contingencies, especially if immigration is to be forced at high pressure rate, that Quarantine Island may be flooded with unfortunates to a degree quite disproportionate to the accommodation at command for housing them ; and we would therefore suggest the advisability of rendering the old barrack a little more fit than it is for occupation i by human beings. Young men may be able to rough it, but married people with families, and women, ought to be differently provided for. From the main barracks, we proceeded to the hospital, over the hill. That is to say, we were about to instinctively follow our nose along a narrow path leading over the hill, when our conductor suggested that we should take a new path, which he modestly remarked he had recently constructed round the hill — and a very good gravelled path we found it to be. In one place, by its side, was a commodious rustic bench, open to the sun, and sheltered behind by the growing bush. "In.ade that bench," said Mr Dougall, "for the convenience of the convalescents ; the poor things like to sun themselves, and it commands a pretty view.-" This remark was accompanied by a sweep of the arm towards Portobello, which was plainly in view across the mile or so of intervening water that rippled and glinted as tho sunlight danced upon it, save where dark shadows were cast by the projecting bluff that forms one side of the bay at the bottom of which nestles the town of Portobello. " You sometimes rig a tent here," we remarked, as we pointed to a familiar-looking fiame that stood on an excavation on the lower side of the path. "That, sir," he replied, "is where the constable lives when we have one here. Ah, I don't know what wo should do without one sometimes, for although as a ruie the people who come here are orderly, yet there are exceptions. Them Brogdouites is the worst. There was a nice crowd came in tho Christian M'Auslnnd, I should have been lost without a constable to assist me." ''Fighting, eh?" we suggested. " Fighting !" ho rejoined. " Tndeed yps ; and tho women were worse than the men — a bad lot, truly. However, it isn't often that we are troubled like that." The pathway led to the top of the ridge, where the hospital is situated, It is an imposing building — lofty and well built — and comprises two wards, each about 26 feet long by 18 feet wide, and, say, 3.6 feet high. The arrangements for ventilation are perfect, and each ward is provided with an open fireplace, and each connected with a central range of offices, comprising closets, bath rooms (hot and cold water), and lavatories. Beyond those again aro the kitchen, dispensary, surgery, doctor's room, and the nurse's room. The wards are merely furnished with the ordinary folding xip stretchers, but looked exceed- | ingly comfortable for all that, and also cheerful. " Had the warda ever been fully occupied ?" en- 1 quired we. " Never," said Mr Dougall, "and I hope they never will be." There appeared to be about room for twelve patients in each ward, although a few more might be squeezed in on a pinch. We did not fail to notice the primitive character of the quarters provided for the medical man who may happen to be in charge. They consisted of two very small rooms, absolutely unfurnished, excepting a deal table and bench in the one, and a stretcher, suggestive of anything but ensy repose, in the other. Tho kitchen was large and well appointed, and so was the dispensary—at any rate there seemed to be plenty of medicine of one kind nnd another on the shelves, with brass bound cases of sinister aspect, and splints, bandages, lint, &c. Indeed tho hospital appointments throughout wore commendable, save and except the water supply, which does not exceed 4000 gallons, stored in iron tanks, and is dependent on tho rainfall. The hospital was not entirely unoccupied at tho time of our visit. Death was there, his chill grasp resting on the remains of ft
lit bio chUd who had died on the previous day. TJ^e body lay in a rough deal coffin in one of th» wards, and when thelid was lifted the placid, Wf-x-like features of what had been an engaging fi'l were revealed. "And the cause of her e.ith," observed a medical friend who accompanied Us, "was ?" "She is supposed to have died of consumption, Sir," Baid Mr Dougall. " , : she was a pretty little thing, but very delicate, and had not suffered from measles on board ship. She is to be buried to-morrow. There is another dcid child at the convalescent ward, where, if you please, we will now go.'' To the convalescent ward we accordingly proceeded. Once it wa* the hospital proper, and is situated a good stones-throw from the main building. We found it inhabited by a family of whom the dead child was once a member. Decent, substantial people they looked, and, according to their own showing-, were natives of Jersey j the man a -baker by trade, with ft portly, smiling helpmate, and several children ; we really omitted to count them. All, however, wore the livery of good health and strength. "A healthier family there never was, gentlemen," said the woman, " and but for the horrid scroodging on board that Atrato, and the heat of the donkey-boiler, which wa3 close to our berths, I believe we should not have lost our little one. The poor child took the measles, and didn't seem able to rally afterwards — when we landed here died of cold or something." In reply to au interrogatory, the man said they were very well treated on the voyage, and had nothing to complain of excepting the crowding, and also, that " they could not always get food prepared for the children. There wa3 a deal of favouritism shown at the galley." Man and wife were exceedingly communicative, and after the children bad disposed of a large bowl of porridge of some kiud upon which they were engaged when we entered, they sidled about their parents and looked on according to their wont. The convalescent ward is a low building of one floor, and subdivided into three apartments, of which one is used as kitchen and eating-room. Considered as an abode for oonvalescents, it appeared to us to be a questionable kind of a place for the purpose— ill-arranged and small, it certainly was the size, being only 30 feet in length by 16 feet wide, whilst the rooms wore a higgledy-piggledy air. _ The season of convalescence is, perhaps, as critical, or more so, than any other period of an invalid's illness, and excessive care, to prevent & relapse, is demanded in the majority of cases. Hence particular care ought to be lavished upon patients during the convalescent stage, outward influences should be studied, and every practicable comfort bestowed. We are of opinion that the convalescent ward is not a place suitable for the purpose it is put to. A larger building, more coi yeniently arranged internally, is demanded. It should be provided with a reading-room, with chiss and draughts, and a common bagatelle table would not be out of place in it. The convalescent ward at the Quarantine Island reminded us of abushaccommodation house of the old days of Australia. Upon entering it we instinctively glanced upwards to v, here the sign-board might have been, with its inscription of Travellers Rest, or the Jolly Diggers, or Shepherd's Home. The wardcommandsa pretty vie wot th* harbour, and is placed close to the wide road that has been cleared through the scrub, and winds along the ridge and round the west side of the island towards the ship channel. The island rises in that direction, and forms a high hill, the summit of which must be a couple of hundred feet above the level of the hospital. "That hill is the spot for a water reservoir. Sir," said our conductor. "Mr Miller proposed to have one constructed there, and to haye pipes leading from it to the hospital and main barracks. It would have given a fine pressure in case of a fire, and then we should never be short of water, which we are sometimes. You see," he continued, " there is tank storage for about 21,000 gallons, which at first sight seems a lot ; but, bless you, wlwn people come ashore here after a long voyage they soon make it fly in washing clothes. I hive had to put a stop to washing when wi.ter ran low, and sometimes we have to obtain wafer from Port Chalmers, and that, you know, comes expensive. What is needed is a good large reservoir on that hill. The water shed is not very extensive, it is true, but the reservoir would fill in a month or two, and once full would, with the tanks, be ample for all ordinary purposes. Yes, there has beeiagood bit of clearing done here," he rejoiced; "I cut the most of it away myself. Perhaps you would like to see the cemetery." We promptly assented, and were conducted along the road to another that led to about half way down the east side of the Island ; and there, surrouaded by the dead and living bush — its only enclosure— reposed " God's acre." No stately monuments elaborately sculptured and inscribed, weie to be seen there ; but instead the places of the dead were marked by modest mounds of earJi that lacked even the simple garnishing that, where the means to provide more assuming trappings of remembrance are wanting, are so often bestowed by loving hands. Only four of the graves were fenced in, and provided with head boards, two of them being where the retrains of two of Mr Dougall's children lay, whilst in the other, a dual grave, rest the bodies of two young women who died aged 20 and 17 respectively. But the other graves were not entire ty unmarked. At the head of each of them was a snail slip of board with the name of tho deceaaed written on it. v I marked most of them myself, sir," said Mr Dougall; and, as we turned to leave the spot he observed: "There are forty-one bodies buried there, most of them children."
With the cemetery terminated our inspection of Quarantine Island. But one other little scene had to be enacted, and although trying to the feelings we shrank not from it but performed our duty manfully. " would we step into the oottago," said Mr Dougall. We assented, and found ourselves in a snug comfortably furnishod apartment with a presiding divinity in the form of a buxom dame. " Visitors," observed Mr Dougall, with a sly twinkle of the eyo, " do sometimes ruu the risk of infection here. Perhaps the doctor," at the same time nodding to my companion, "would prescribe." The doctor did so, and presently two bottles— one labelled 01 : Junip : ; the other G: Ammon: — were placed on the table, and tlioir contents having beun duly administered by our friend of the faculty, we shook hands with our host and hostess, and were soon ouce more afloat, and on our way back to Port Chalmers. In conclusion we may state that the result of our visit to the Island was, altogether, satisfactory. There was not a case of sickness of any kiud under treatment, and the whole of the immigrants who were located thcro looked the personification of vigorous health,
QUARANTINE ISLAND., Otago Witness, Issue 1177, 20 June 1874
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