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White Sails

The White Sails are one of the romantic nicknames for sailing ships that carried Irish and Scottish immigrants across the Atlantic and into the New World. Numerous Irish, Scottish and British emigrated on these timber ships and traveled in the steerage berths of cargo ships. The ships were also called coffin ships because of the high numbers of casualties that resulted from the trial of the passage.

Ship names such as the Hector, the Rambler, and the Dove struggled across the stormy Atlantic losing sometimes 30 to 40% of the original passengers. Diseases such as cholera, typhoid, dysentery, and small pox were common. As a result of the harsh conditions on the overcrowded ships, the majority of the immigrants arrived in the New World diseased, famished, and destitute from the long two month journey across the stormy Atlantic. These immigrants became the backbone of the first settlements in North America.

Quarantine islands were hastily setup throughout the eastern seaboard of Canada and the United States after the Quarantine Act was passed in 1710. These sites include:

LocationCountryWhen Established
Partridge Island, New BrunswickCanada1785
Grosse Isle, QuebecCanada1832
Rainsford Island, BostonUnited States1737


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