Before the Pitt sailed, an anonymous complaint reported that in the prison section, should the 391 men be placed in the prison, every berth or space of 18 inches would be occupied and if a sickness should happen a sick person would touch someone in good health. The women [convicts] were accommodated in quarters built on the gun deck. The officers were also compelled to live in very cramped conditions. As a result of this report 33 sick male prisoners were re-landed.

The Pitt sailed from Yarmouth Roads on 17 July, 1791, and arrived at Port Jackson on 14 February, 1792. Before the ship reached St Jago in the Cape Verde Islands there had been fifteen deaths from smallpox among the prisoners. It was very hot and an unhealthy season, but despite this, both the sailors and soldiers were allowed ashore. In the doldrums the Pitt experienced calms and incessant rain with severe thunder and lightning for a month, during which time she made scarcely any headway. The prisoners showed symptoms of scurvy and developed ulcers on their bodies and legs, but otherwise remained comparatively healthy.

 Among the soldiers and sailors and the families of the soldiers, who were also confined below decks because of the weather, a malignant fever appeared and it was said to have resulted in 27 deaths in a fortnight. The fever spread so rapidly that for some time they were almost afraid to approach each other. The Pitt's crew were so depleted that when she left the doldrums and ran into heavy gales, some of the convicts were recruited to help navigate her. This would have been a welcome relief from the stench and heat experienced below deck. Major Francis Grose, who sailed in the Pitt with the middle contingent of the Rum Corps, claimed that the mortality rate among the soldiers and sailors was due to the dreadful stench which rose through gratings placed on each side of the ship. Although these gratings brought fresh air to the convicts below deck, the stench that rose from them was so dreadfully offensive as to bring on fever amongst the soldiers and sailors who slept above them. However, the Pitt's, master Edward Manning blamed the call at St Jago for the fever which appeared among those who went ashore but did not spread to the convicts.

At Rio de Janeiro the sick were sent to hospital where they would have been treated for such complaints as fever, dysentery, boils, scurvy and mouth rot caused by lack of adequate diet and cramped unventilated accommodation.  The healthier convicts were landed on an island not far from the ship where they were placed in the care of Mr Jameson and given a diet of fresh meat, fruit and vegetables. Captain Manning found it necessary to send four convicts ashore in the ship’s boats from which the convicts escaped. The captain feared they had drowned in the attempt although they could have been hidden in the convent of Froars. Fresh provisions and the spell ashore did much to restore the health of all.

Reluctantly, after resting for three weeks at Rio de Janeiro, the Pitt resumed her voyage and 24 days later arrived at the Cape. By the time she arrived at Port Jackson, 20 male and nine female prisoners had died on the voyage and 120 men were landed sick.

The Pitt arrived at Port Jackson on 14 February 1792.


[from Warby, My Excellent Guide by Michelle Vale]