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 motherland to the young country at the end of the world. The expected sea travel time of just ninety days to Melbourne means that all supplies for the journey are to be taken on board at Liverpool – there will be no stops before reaching the ship’s destination.
For these eight hundred passengers, the journey will be arduous, with a regime of order and cleanliness on board ship that must be strictly adhered to. Australia needs workers from all stations of life, as the Melbourne gold rush still has enough of a fantastical hold on the dreams of those who arrive in Port Phillip Bay to make their fortunes. The largely disenfranchised Highlanders and others on board feel they have nothing left to lose. When the fever takes its first victim, it is nothing unexpected. As more and more people fall ill and Typhus decimates the ships’ passengers, an enormous strain is placed on the only two surgeons on crew. Denied entry to Melbourne for being a ‘plague ship’, the Ticonderoga is at the end of its voyage, but this will not be the end of its troubles.