July 1877 – The Anti sea-sickness couch

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In the era before the airliner and the Channel Tunnel, there was but one option open to Britons who wished to leave these shores — get on a boat.

Of course, as anyone who has been on a cross-Channel ferry in choppy seas will know, the experience can leave the habitual landlubber feeling rather green around the gills.

An English inventor known only as Mr Anderson, however, believed he had found the perfect remedy in the elegant form of his Equilibrio Couch.

Anti sea sickness couch
Anti sea sickness couch

As The Engineer explained ‘the couch is designed for use in passenger ships to counteract the rolling motion and so provide for its occupant a means of exemption from the principal cause of sea-sickness.’

The couch is fitted with two pairs of wheels running on two concave rails able to counteract 15º of roll in either direction. ‘It is thus caused to maintain its own level by the influence of gravity, and when placed transversely across the ship remains horizontal while the latter is rolling,’ noted The Engineer.

In what was presumably intended as the Victorian equivalent of Virgin Upper Class, Mr Anderson envisaged long rows of Equilibrio Couches populated by contented, nausea-free sea travellers.

Such was his confidence, he revealed plans for entire cabins constructed on the same principle where large numbers of passengers could take refuge in bad weather. Even horses and cattle would have purpose-built Equilibrio Stalls.

Full-scale trials were about to begin when The Engineer article appeared. Sadly for Mr Anderson, subsequent history suggests that before the arrival of the sea-sickness pill there turned out to be no alternative but to grit your teeth, stay near the side and wait to find your sea legs.