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The tragedy of the SS Talune and the 1918 influenza pandemic

October 3rd, 2018

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In October 1918 the SS Talune was permitted to leave Auckland bound for Fiji and Polynesia, even though the ship's master knew that influenza was rife in the city and that there were sick on board ship when it left port. The state of the ship was also known prior to its arrival in many of its destination ports.

Within eight weeks of berthing at Fiji, Western Samoa and Tonga, at least 5% of Fijians, 7% of Tongans and one-quarter of Western Samoa's population had died of influenza.

In this Public History talk, qualified nurse and communicable diseases specialist Ryan McLane discusses how and why this tragedy occurred.

Ryan McLane has worked in a variety of public health roles over the past two decades, including time spent leading a clinical team in an Ebola Treatment Unit in Sierra Leone and managing a public health unit in the Alaskan arctic. During his seven years in New Zealand he has worked with the Ministry of Health, the Southern District Health Board and the University of Otago Medical School. His PhD with the University of Otago focused upon the 1918 influenza pandemic in the Samoas, Tonga, and Fiji.

These monthly Public History Talks are a collaboration between the National Library of New Zealand https://natlib.govt.nz/ and the Ministry for Culture and Heritage https://mch.govt.nz/.

Recorded live at the National Library of New Zealand, 3 October 2018.