Famine Ships

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The Famine Ships: A Wing and a Prayer The Famine Ships is a book written by Edward Laxton about the Irish exodus from their ravished homeland. The focus on the book is describing what it was like to travel on these ships across the Atlantic Ocean while encountering storms, icebergs, disease, and starvation. The trips were often long and horrifying for the passengers, but they were forced to make the journey due to worsening conditions in Ireland at the time. As the potato crop continued to fail, more and more Irish left their homeland for America and Canada on these famine ships. In search of a better existence, many Irish risked their lives by taking the 3,000-mile voyage on ships that weren’t fit for service. Many of them died from sickness, starvation or accidents while in route, yet they kept coming, for their fate at home was even worse. Between 1846 and 1851 emigration from Ireland to America and Canada increased drastically due to the deteriorating famine conditions in Ireland. When the potato crop failed in 1846, “more than 100,000 had crossed the Atlantic by year’s end” (Laxton 13). This mass evacuation of people required more ships than were available, so many ships were refitted in order to carry passengers one way and then freight the other. The living quarters beneath the ships were over crowded and unsanitary. Wooden boards were thrown together in the ship’s hold as makeshift bunks, and each passenger had a very small space to live during the trip. The crews were often abusive and the food and water rations the passengers were promised frequently never materialized, so several starved on the voyage. The navigational systems on the ships were limited to “Atlantic seas charts, a magnetic compass, a simple chronometer for measuring time and a longitude and a sextant for checking position” (124). Bad…...

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