As the “Louisa Baillie” careened in cold, rough seas not far from India, the decisive drama of fragile life and certain death played out aboard the ill-equipped sailing ship. Ferrying the introductory batch of surviving indentured labourers who fought for months to return from British Guiana’s sugar estates to their far-flung families and homeland as promised and contracted, the chartered vessel started its May 1, 1843 journey with at least 188 potential returnees but by mid-September it still had not arrived at the destination.

The passenger numbers rapidly dwindled as the voyage proved perilously prolonged, supplies ran short, the weather deteriorated into freezing conditions, and the mystery deepened over sudden serious sickness. Such harrowing scenes would be repeated countless times over the coming historic decades of new recruitment and continual immigration of hundreds of thousands more people, displaced and dispatched to work in British colonies scattered across the world….

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