Sent to sea aged 12, Horation Nelson sailed to the West Indies on a sugar ship, the Mary Ann already before he was 18. Horation Nelson soon suffered from terrible seasickness and this continued all his life. And this may have been the reason that he did not spend a longer period in Ceylon. However, he visited the island, that is now called Sri Lanka.
Nelson took part in a naval expedition to India and Ceylon, which started in November 1773. After the HMS Seahorse had carried him round the Cape, theyarrived at the British outpost at Madras in the following May, where they spent several months escorting merchantmen. With the outbreak of the First Maratha War, the Seahorse was dispatched to carry a cargo of the company's money to Bombay in 1775. Two of the Maratha’s ketches from Mangalore attacked the Seahorse, which was Nelson's first experience of battle. The rest of the year they spent escorting convoys again.
After visiting Calcutta, Nelson also arrived in Trincomalee in Ceylon. Those days, the British considered Trincomalee to be the crucial seaport to control the Gulf of Bengal. The reason is that there are no good natural harbours along the long Coromandel Coast (south-eastern coast of mainland India). But Trincomalee at Sri Lanka’s north-eastern coast is a perfect harbour. It is stated that Trincomalee was visited by Horatio Nelson, when he served as Midshipman on board the HMS Seahorse. Nelson is believed to have called Trincomalee “the finest harbour in the world”.
In early 1776 Nelson contracted malaria. He was discharged from the Seahorse due to his severe illness and returned to England. When he arrived in Britain in September, he had already recovered well. But Nelson remained to be frequently very sick with recurrent bouts of malaria for the rest of his lifetime.
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