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By the time the Sierra Leone fleet left for Africa, both Clarkson and many of the passengers were exhausted and sick. Spending three months in the dead of winter camped in a field waiting for ships to be procured didn't do much for anybody's health. The crowding helped to spread disease as well.

Clarkson had worn himself down by trying to attend to every detail. There was a lot of work involved in arranging the passage of 1100 people halfway across the world. Clarkson simply wore himself out trying to be all things to all people. He had decided to show solidarity and humility by traveling on board the hospital ship, which had the effect of putting him in close contact with the sickest settlers. His health suffered from his symbolic decision.

Clarkson was so exhausted when he boarded the ship that he had to be hoisted on board, and his illness only worsened on the trip. Clarkson was soon unable to walk, and had to be carried around the ship. Many of the blacks suffered a worse fate. About 60 died on the voyage, mostly on the hospital ship. Both Clarkson and the captain came very close to death themselves, suffering delusions and fits. The other ships in the fleet left Clarkson's ship behind, since with a sick crew and captain they couldn't keep up with the main group.

Conditions on board the ship were extremely crowded, even if Clarkson had gone to some trouble to ensure fresh air and cleanliness. Each of the fifteen ships carried between 277 and 72 passengers, as well as all the supplies to establish a settlement. At the higher end it must have been almost as crowded as a slave ship.

By the time the ships approached Sierra Leone in March the plague that had swept through the ship was subsiding. Clarkson was able to move again, although still very weak. Eventually he rowed ashore to meet the men who had been preparing the settlement for the new colonists.

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Image: Black crowded into a ship's hold
About 60 blacks died on the passage to Sierra Leone.

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