By Averil Staunton
The Panama’s passengers of 165 Orphan girls and private 18 paying adult passengers (nine couples) and two children all arrived in good health, on Saturday, 12th January, 1850. It was recorded by the The Sydney Herald the following day. Safe arrival with all aboard alive and well was quite a compliment to the Captain, Crew and the ship’s Medical Officer, plus the Matron and the staff in charge of the girls, when one considers the length of the voyage. Compared to the awful conditions of the private coffin ships sailing west to the States and Canada this was excellent management of the ship.
On arrival at Sydney in the early hours of the day the weather was hot and sultry with dark clouds, lightening and heavy rain. The temperature was 64° F (18° C) at 8 am and by 2:30pm had reached 76° F (24.5° C). This was quite a change from the winter weather the girls left in Ireland.
Like all ships sailing to the new world, the Panama carried a mixed cargo, which included, farming tools, tools for building the homes of settlers, home contents plus mail and government despatches together with private mail and some British and Irish newspapers.
The agent for immigration at Sydney, Francis L. J. Merewether reported back by letter to the Secretary General Earl Grey on the 7th July 1850 regarding the voyage. He stated that:
The Panama besides being a vessel of smaller tonnage than it is desirable to employ for the conveyance of Emigrants to this Colony, is, like most North American built ships, ill-suited for the service, her tween decks being dank, dark and very imperfectly ventilated. She was a new ship but leaked through the voyage. On examination here, in Sydney the leak, I understand proved to have been caused by two open boltholes, into which bolts had not been driven. The tween decks were in a clean state on arrival and the condition of the ship presented satisfactorily.
The Immigrants were in good health on their arrival and when individually questioned, in accordance with the practice of the Board of Inspection here, said they had no complaints to make regarding their treatment in any respect.The Surgeon Superintendent, Mr A. Wiseman performed his duties in an efficient manner. He reported that he received all requisite assistance from the Master and the Officers of the ship. The Matron appeared to have performed her duties satisfactorily. The principal diseases reported by the Surgeon Superintendent were Tympani is (an eardrum problem) and bowel complaints.