Quarantine unmasked: surviving the 1918-19 influenza pandemic at North Head
Peter Hobbins (Department of History)
Sydney Harbour Federation Trust Volunteers
In the middle of the worldwide ‘Spanish flu’ pandemic, Arthur Moore found himself detained at North Head Quarantine Station. His stay in March 1919 was short, but shared with thousands of other returning soldiers. ‘The fellows are enjoying being here’, he noted, watching them play leapfrog. As their numerous carvings left in the sandstone over 1918–19 suggest, many soldiers and sailors spent their enforced leisure time roaming around North Head. Others were less happy, however. In fact, from the earliest arrivals in October 1918, many travellers, returnees and crews suffered from the dreaded infection, with 64 victims being hastily buried in the station’s Third Burial Ground. Another soldier was so badly bullied by his comrades for being a ‘Bolshevik’ that he hung himself. In fact, military discipline nearly broke down several times amongst the repatriated troops, desperate to return to their families after years overseas. Drawing on the carvings and gravesites at North Head, this presentation shares stories of life in quarantine while influenza killed millions across the world beyond.
Sydney Harbour Federation Trust head office,
Building 28, Best Ave,