The Ravages of Smallpox: Australia

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Nicholas Gordon

From An Historical Journal of the Transactions at Port Jackson and Norfolk Island, published in 1793 by John Hunter:

I expressed much surprise at not having seen
A single native on the shore
Or a canoe as we came upon the ship;
The reason of which I could not comprehend
Until I was informed that the small-pox
Had made its appearance a few months ago
Among these unfortunate creatures.

It was truly shocking to go
Round the coves of this harbor,
Which were formerly so much frequented by the natives,
Where, in the caves of the rocks,
Which used to shelter whole families in bad weather,
Were now to be seen men, women, and children
Lying dead.
Some were sitting on their haunches
With their heads reclined beneath their knees.
Others were leaning against a rock
With their heads resting on it.

I saw a woman sitting on the ground
With her knees drawn up to her shoulders,
And her head resting on the sand
Between her feet.

Copyright by Nicholas Gordon

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