In the 19th century, sewage and other potentially nasty things, were dumped into water ways be they lakes, rivers, the sea, canals [Venice for example] and harbours. If the facility gathering this waste was connected by pipework or any other form of conduit which in turn fed a body of water direct, then it was more or less taken as granted and seen as a luxury. In the absence of such an infrastructure, the waste was transported to the body of water and ceremonially dumped. In an area where no such body of water existed the waste was dumped in situ, even, as we are told, out of upper windows above narrow streets [York for example] onto passers by below.

However, have you ever considered a static ship, say with 600 or more souls on board emptying its communal waste into the sea [in this case] year in year out? On top of that, or rather with that, was other waste especially food waste, plus waste not suitable for such a disposal but heavy so an immediate and quick descent to the bottom without trace. The affect of the tide, in a vast harbour with many creeks [Falmouth for example]  is to spread the effluent around the harbour, some  remaining afloat, some sinking and some making landfall and  fouling beaches. Other smaller harbours [Portsmouth for example but still with several creeks] has a better chance of the ebb tide taking the effluent seaward, in reality extending the environmental problem, a problem which poisoned countless thousands of Victorians. Ships stationed in harbours with much water under the keel where the tide created a huge vortex leading to dangerous underwater currents, had a washing-effect on their hulls resulting in a denial of a build-up of waste under the ship. In Victorian times and especially where it was for the welfare {?} of a boys' training ship - whose incumbents were mere fodder of the future - the sites were neither scientific, monitored, changed or dredged.  Such a 'Laissez Faire' attitude led to the atrocious conditions experienced largely in boys' training ships, the subject and reason for this page.

In telling the story of HMS Ganges at Falmouth [in this case it could have been foul-mouth], wherein I tell of the dreadful sewage problems of each of her three berths in the years 1866 to 1901, I was unable to find any documents pointing to the problem, so instead of publishing what would amount to trivia, I simply made a statement based.  Since writing that story many years ago, I have now found a published piece which covers the problem with a boys' training ship called HMS St Vincent and dates from 1899. She too was a static ship moored in Portsmouth harbour, and what is written about her equally applies to HMS Ganges moored in Falmouth harbour, a difference being the depths of the respective harbours where Falmouth provided a deeper more 'friendly' navigable challenge!

 Anyway, this gives you a good idea about the problem.

Use your page magnifier as necessary.

for hms st vincent read hms ganges.jpg