When their brief spell on deck was over, the emigrants were forced back down into the darkness of the hold. During the many storms, the hatches were battened down and people would subsist on hard-tack biscuits.
Not every vessel was as safe and well cared for as the Dunbrody. Hygiene was notoriously poor aboard most ships. With nothing more than buckets for toilets and only sea-water to wash with, disease was rampant. Cholera and Typhus accounted for a great many deaths.
With death rates commonly reaching 20%, and horror stories of 50% dying, these vessels soon became known as ‘Coffin Ships’. Those who died were buried at sea.
After weeks cooped up in these terrible conditions, Irish emigrants arrived in North America. Many were filthy, penniless and often illiterate, making their subsequent successes all the more remarkable