Articles, Blog

The 1918 Flu Pandemic – Leviathan – Extra History – #5

November 18, 2019

*splash* A body hits the water. Days earlier, armed military police
had herded troops onto the Leviathan sealing them
in watertight compartments. It was quarantine of a sort. If one trooper had the flu, it would only affect
the bunk mates sealed in with him. It spread anyway. There is no more room
in the sickbay, the mess hall or any of
the other makeshift hospitals. Patients lie on deck in the sun and wind. And bodies only have one place to go. At the rail, a chaplain mutters a prayer. *splash* Another man disappears
into the Atlantic. *splash* the war will be over. *splash* [Music] “Birth of the People” Leviathan isn’t
the only plague ship. There are many like it. The New Zealand transports
HMS Tahiti and Mantua deliver
the silent visitor to Africa. Infected ships pass the flu to dock workers
each time they stop to take on coal. From there, it rides the rail lines
into the interior, then spreads to the countryside
on bicycles, horseback, or by car. Each of the three waves
of the virus: the mild first wave, the deadly second wave, and the less lethal third wave radiate across the globe. It storms every continent sparing only Antarctica. Tracking the disease
from the surgeon general’s office in Washington, DC, Welch’s friend, and replacement, Victor Vaughan
expresses alarm at the flu’s progress. “If this epidemic continues
at its mathematical rate of acceleration”, he writes, “civilization could easily disappear
from the face of the earth within a matter
of a few more weeks”. He looks at his map. Kimberley, South Africa. When people speak about the flu, they’ll always remember the sound
of hooves and wagon wheels. It’s the sound
of the collection wagons heavy with corpses. The people of Kimberley
knew it was coming. Railway workers tracked its progress
inland on the rail line. It advanced a thousand miles
within a week. Kimberley is a diamond mining city, the largest
in South Africa. And people here live
and work in close quarters. Migrant laborers sleep in crammed concrete
bunk houses; famous for spreading sickness. People begin
to fear each other. When someone sniffles in a shop, people turn away, veins turning to ice. “The distinctive scent of the flu
is like straw”, they say. “You can tell
infected houses by the smell”. Fear leads to dark places. Whites begin blaming
their black neighbors for the disease and within five years their concern with “hygiene” will put forward a law that bans black South Africans
from entering urban areas without a pass. It’s another brick
in the rising wall of Apartheid. Across South Africa, the trauma brings
several village prophets to the forefront, preaching religious
and social revival while describing visions they’ve had
while in the grip of Spanish flu. Some later ally with the African National Congress
to fight for political rights. They will be jailed
or locked in insane asylums. The flu, with no concern
for politics, rages on. It’s good that the mining city of Kimberley
is full of excavation equipment because they’ll need it for the graves. 2,500 miners died
in the autumn wave. A quarter of the city’s
working population. By the time the epidemic is over, 9% of Kimberley citizens are buried
in the diamond-sheltering earth. The country, the worst hit in Africa
will lose half a million people. But another colony will see
at least 20 times more death: India. Traditionally, Indians cremate their dead
on the
riverbank and release their ashes
into the Ganges. But there’s nothing left to burn. Dead bodies clog the wide river gathering in clumps. India is no stranger to outbreaks. Just two decades before,
the country had battled black plague. But the behavior
of the British Colonials during that time had made Indians wary
of Western medicine. They’d herded people into “health camps”, burned personal possessions and sprayed carbolic acid into homes. In other places, they did nothing at all. So, even as flu whipped through the country, British officials offered little help
and Indians accepted even less. Western medicine was largely reserved
for the rich colonials or those in the cities. But there was an organization
that tried to help and often they were the only ones
serving rural areas: the independence movement. In the rural villages, college-trained activists
deliver medicine via bicycle or horse. Much of it is indigenous folk medicine
that just managed symptoms, but given that every Western institute from Rockefeller to Pasteur in Paris
to Koch in Germany had failed to produce a cure, It was no worse treatment
than the ill received in the US or Britain. The message was clear. Articles in the Indian press denounced colonial neglect, saying British authorities cared little for Indians and in their hour of need, the only ones who stepped up were the revolutionaries. They had the grassroots support
they’d struggled so long to secure. And so, India took another step closer to revolution, its independence movement gaining legitimacy even as one of its most predominant leaders, Mahatma Gandhi was out of action. The virus nearly killed him. According to recent estimates,
between 14 and 20 million Indians died from the flu. The most from any single nation. And yet the flu killed on, affecting each country
in its own way. Japan called it “sumo disease” since the first outbreak
exploded after a public wrestling match. There, the wearing of face masks became so ingrained
that it remains a practice today. It possibly killed 4 million
on the island of Java alone. It raged through Russia and Mexico
both of which were in the flames of civil war. By 1919, it had penetrated
even the most isolated regions: the Wood River, Alaska. Coast guardsmen step on to the riverbank, calling out to the Yupik village. No one answers. They’re in one of the most remote places on earth. Here, it’s not unusual to meet people who still think
Alaska is part of the Russian Empire ruled by the Tsar. Now, there is no Russian Empire much less a Tsar. And though news of the revolution
hadn’t made it, the flu had. They’ve heard reports of devastation
at the indolent villages. The disease strikes
native populations especially hard. The guardsmen are here with a doctor
to offer medical aid and assess the impact. But the village seems deserted. The ensign hears something moving
in one of the earth houses, and opens the door to investigate. He slams it and backs away
calling for a rifle. He then smashes in a window
and fires into the house again and again and again. He only stops when everything inside no longer moves. Then they doused the village with kerosene
and burn it to the ground. For the rest of his life, he will never forget what he saw: three enormous sled dogs starving and feral, fighting over the bones of a dead family. As the guardsmen discovered in Alaska, Spanish flu proved to be especially deadly
to native people with isolated immune systems. It slewed its way across the Pacific, hopping from island to island
out of New Zealand. In Fiji, 5% of the population dead. In Tonga, 10%. In Vanuatu, it killed 90% of people
in some villages wiping out 20 unique languages. And then,
it reached Samoa. Pago Pago, American Samoa. Commander John Poyer, the naval governor
of American Samoa liked to follow radio reports on the wire. It gave him news from the war. From home. He could keep his finger on things. Suddenly, one item stuck out to him: Spanish flu in New Zealand. He’d been governor of American Samoa
for about four years and knew Western diseases posed special danger
to Pacific islanders. And with New Zealand having taken
neighboring Western Samoa from the Germans, there was probably ship traffic passing between Auckland and Western Samoa’s port of Apia. Poyer radioed his sister territory. Why yes, they said. There had been a ship from New Zealand. And yeah, there was
some local disease flaring up. Why? Poyer sent an order to the docks: “No matter who comes,
deny them the right to land”. “Dock them at the far end of the pier
and move anyone ill to navy quarantine vessels.” “Work with the villages to form shore patrols
and catch those who try to sneak in.” He radios a warning
to his counterpart in Western Samoa, and offers quarantine
and hospital ships if needed. The governor of Western Samoa, offended by the aid offer, hangs up. a mail ship arrives
from Western Samoa. A US Navy vessel intercepts it. They can’t land, the captain says. Nor will Samoa or any American mail ship in its port accept outside letters. They must return to Apia. Furious, the governor of Western Samoa
cuts radio contact entirely, freezing diplomatic relations. By then, people in Western Samoa
are beginning to die sitting up in their homes. Fields go follow as entire families
are unable to walk. There will be famine next year. A whole generation
of village elders gets snuffed out. 22% of Western Samoa
would die of Spanish flu including 1/3
of the male population. American Samoa continued
its quarantine until 1920 until the last reports
of Spanish flu subsided. It would be
the only place on earth that registered no flu deaths. The fever
was beginning to break. [Ending Music]


  • Reply Extra Credits August 3, 2018 at 4:51 am

    The 1918 flu jumped ship–to ship–to ship, infecting and devastating the whole world.

  • Reply LEE SZE HUI JESSICA 3D December 22, 2018 at 5:15 am

    wow this flu really was bad there are6 videos…

  • Reply NapalmAnomalies December 23, 2018 at 10:23 pm

    "The war will be over!" S P L A S H

  • Reply Mudchip 123 December 28, 2018 at 4:37 am

    Who else thinks if Extra Credits made a horse stuffed animal it would be cool?

  • Reply Chris Russell December 29, 2018 at 12:30 pm

    My great great grandfather was one of those South African stats

  • Reply Robert Norton December 30, 2018 at 6:28 pm

    Lets use the flu to make a zombie apocalypse!

  • Reply ArkhanneTV December 30, 2018 at 8:32 pm


  • Reply Richard Pham December 31, 2018 at 4:47 pm

    How did you get the report of Wood River, Alaska?

  • Reply the real samrb January 2, 2019 at 3:08 pm

    The governor of American Samoa had to get a statue made of gold

  • Reply Matthew Scholz January 3, 2019 at 6:43 am

    how exactly do you forget up to 4 million deaths on java?

  • Reply Zeph Lodwick January 4, 2019 at 5:46 pm

    This series is practically apocalyptic!

  • Reply Matt Parach January 6, 2019 at 12:46 am

    1:00 “we’re going to Tahiti”

  • Reply Timothy Davis January 12, 2019 at 2:18 am

    American Samoa–The real Greenland

  • Reply Whitemares January 12, 2019 at 9:45 am

    What ever happened to Doctor Welsh?

  • Reply Gargamel Knutsson January 15, 2019 at 10:01 pm

    What if this is just some dude playing plague inc!

  • Reply Raymond Phan January 18, 2019 at 4:54 am

    Just getting news on the daily telegram

  • Reply Confused Person January 20, 2019 at 9:23 pm


  • Reply Assorted Trash January 20, 2019 at 11:56 pm


  • Reply David Hood January 26, 2019 at 8:07 pm

    Did they predict the iPhone XR?

  • Reply Wafflepudding January 27, 2019 at 2:02 am

    6:57 – Zombie coverup?

  • Reply dubstep ninja Yusuf palada January 27, 2019 at 1:47 pm

    That part with the inuets was just like the start of a zombie move

  • Reply Bram Jans January 27, 2019 at 2:22 pm

    War: check
    Plague: check
    Death: check
    Famine: check

  • Reply feather cheesecake January 28, 2019 at 10:16 am

    The world population is replenished by the American Samoans

  • Reply Titanic January 29, 2019 at 6:09 pm

    And now, for something completely different

  • Reply Purple Inkling January 30, 2019 at 1:37 pm

    Plague Inc. Mega Brutal Player- PPPFFFBBBTTHHH. I can do better than the flu.

  • Reply verdragon 5 February 3, 2019 at 10:37 pm

    Misanthropy is the best way to avoid getting sick! Ain't that right American Samoa?

  • Reply Dkaloger February 4, 2019 at 6:55 pm

    Wow well done American Samoa amazing

  • Reply Shawn Michael Navales February 5, 2019 at 6:51 am

    There's no flu in the philippines

  • Reply The Fallout Kid February 6, 2019 at 3:53 am

    My great grandpa was a ww1 vet and he lived to have my grandpa at age 50.

  • Reply Saffana Siddiqui February 6, 2019 at 4:01 pm

    Hmm…some people have gotten it wrong…the American Samoa didn't make Western Samoa ill or anything…they on the other hand told Western Samoa that we will help you.
    But they stopped taking any ships..and when western Samoa sent a mail ship…they didn't allow it to Port. That's all.

  • Reply LuigiGodzillaGirl February 7, 2019 at 4:49 am

    The first thing that sprung to my mind upon hearing of American Samoa shutting down its ports was Madagascar in Pandemic 2

  • Reply Abi Farrell February 8, 2019 at 5:56 am

    I feel bad for those dogs

  • Reply Themo1234562 February 8, 2019 at 8:40 pm

    splash splash splash splash

  • Reply animating soju February 9, 2019 at 6:08 pm

    My friend name is km berry

  • Reply Andre Gigante February 10, 2019 at 3:08 pm


  • Reply Diet Coke _ February 12, 2019 at 6:53 pm

    Hmm… smells like revolution to me, do you smell it?

  • Reply Dr.Bright February 14, 2019 at 5:00 am

    This should be required viewing for anti-vaxxers.

  • Reply MistaLOD February 14, 2019 at 5:54 am

    Fortnite will be coming to an end.


  • Reply MUH Geschichte February 17, 2019 at 8:53 pm

    yeah india whichs metrics of living standart and production and all increased under european rule , eh

  • Reply Leon King February 22, 2019 at 10:23 am

    The Spanish flu was a failure for humans as a race.
    There were so many chances to contain it but because of war (which was so misguided and completely avoidable in the first place) it couldn't
    And even after that, leaders around the world failed to take noticed
    We ostracized each other cause of the flu, and no one took notice until it was too late
    The flu was lethal and terrifying
    But we as a race need to understand that part of the blame falls on us.

  • Reply Warren Lehmkuhle February 26, 2019 at 12:26 am

    In the Name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirt, Amen
    Oh God, we pray thee that the memory of our friend be sacred in our hearts.
    And that the sacrifice which they have offered for cause may be acceptabe in thy sight.
    And may this sailor find repose with the sea in which he gave his life that we might live.
    Into thy hands, oh Lord, we command the soul of thy servant departed, now called unto external rest, and we commit his body to the deep.
    In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Sprit. Amen.

  • Reply pfefferfilm February 27, 2019 at 6:13 am

    Sounds like American Samoa's played a lot of Plague Inc

  • Reply Christian West February 27, 2019 at 11:20 pm

    Influenza: island hopping before it was cool.

  • Reply Rosanna Melendez March 1, 2019 at 12:31 am

    During ww2 crew of battleships and aircraft carrier divisions did that every time a crew man was lost as you did a good service vide

  • Reply Ilikepie Ilikepie 3 March 2, 2019 at 11:35 pm

    But the Russians have this really nice place called Siberia and the flu can survive there so the Russians can just hide in Siberia

  • Reply Peptuck March 3, 2019 at 12:37 am

    I know this video is supposed to showcase how horribly lethal the flue was at this time, but the part at 1:16 with the virus driving a car was hilarious.

  • Reply Crazy Lime March 3, 2019 at 6:04 am

    America: coughs
    The whole world: dies

  • Reply Foch 155 March 3, 2019 at 9:15 am

    Nearly there SPLASH

  • Reply Theatrical Penguin March 5, 2019 at 2:15 am


  • Reply Thrakerzad March 6, 2019 at 5:27 am

    so many corpses so little time

  • Reply Martijn Cornelussen March 7, 2019 at 4:23 pm

    First several minutes..

    "Hoi hoi hoist the yellow jack!"

  • Reply John Egbert March 9, 2019 at 5:26 am


  • Reply sebatian March 10, 2019 at 10:34 am

    so why were people against the idea of STOPPING AIR TRAFFIC from Ebola-hit areas?

  • Reply Slimy Boy March 11, 2019 at 3:37 am

    HMS Tahiti, dang I’m glad Arthur didn’t go to Tahiti…

  • Reply Khyler King March 13, 2019 at 2:22 pm

    pickle and earth don't go well

  • Reply AzariahWolf March 17, 2019 at 12:27 am

    With so many of these ending with someone doing something stupid to help the disease continue its spread, it was nice to finally have a situation where someone did EXACTLY the right thing and saved countless lives.

  • Reply Ethan Nguyen March 21, 2019 at 4:20 am

    Yoooooooo what up yall

  • Reply Makchu Cook March 22, 2019 at 5:02 pm

    "It storms every continent, sparing Antarctica" I know the feel, I know the feeling clenching fist

  • Reply TheVideoIsTheKing March 29, 2019 at 6:31 pm


    But did it infect Greenland? HMMM?!

  • Reply live 922 March 30, 2019 at 5:00 pm


  • Reply Yong J April 7, 2019 at 10:11 pm

    3:18 I love that pellagra reference

  • Reply Jordan April 11, 2019 at 6:19 am

    Wait, what about Australia???

  • Reply Loc Hoang April 14, 2019 at 12:46 am

    cough cough

  • Reply K33 3 April 26, 2019 at 2:34 pm

    in 6 weeks, the war will be over

  • Reply Kirk Aslor May 5, 2019 at 2:16 pm

    The phillipines sufferings from japanese

  • Reply TigerGamer 5466 May 7, 2019 at 4:03 am


  • Reply USAgopnik May 12, 2019 at 1:42 am

    “Every continent spare Antarctica”
    Thank god the penguins are ok ?

  • Reply Alduin 96 May 12, 2019 at 3:59 pm

    7:42 Tonga time to die.

  • Reply Tim Guay May 13, 2019 at 12:00 am

    With air travel the next pandemic will be in every country in days

  • Reply Emperor Washington May 15, 2019 at 6:21 pm

    Bruh, Madagascar and Greenland never got hit, don't lie.

  • Reply Bothersome Bertie May 26, 2019 at 9:46 am

    this is a genuine horror story!

  • Reply Justice Ben-Ezra June 11, 2019 at 11:58 am

    That wolf stuff is creepy

  • Reply Blueberry Yoghurt June 12, 2019 at 11:21 am

    s p l a s h

  • Reply Omgitsjoetime T June 16, 2019 at 7:00 pm

    Let’s treat your Super Flu with some Heroin!! Wooo! Maybe some intravenous cocaine on the side and we’ll call it a party

  • Reply stars June 19, 2019 at 10:44 pm

    Apartie also known as the bull poo law

  • Reply Johnnie McPherson June 25, 2019 at 1:54 am

    Racism the world's worst disease

  • Reply The unslick Biscuit June 26, 2019 at 8:02 am


  • Reply Reza Koplak406 June 28, 2019 at 1:59 pm

    *S P L A S H*

  • Reply 역병으사 June 28, 2019 at 5:48 pm


    Such a deadly virus shouldn't look this adorable.

    It's even riding the Extra Credits History horse

  • Reply The Lost Beaver July 8, 2019 at 2:19 pm

    7:20 was fucking haunting

  • Reply Eurasian ST July 19, 2019 at 7:26 pm

    Tahiti!!!!!!!Dutch Tahiti!!!!!!!!!!

  • Reply GremTSY July 22, 2019 at 9:48 am

    Water, water… I splash the… The…
    Ill will not

  • Reply Sky Guy Aviation August 1, 2019 at 11:08 am

    I’m South African

  • Reply Edy Lai August 12, 2019 at 4:40 pm

    HOLY SH*T I wonder how traumatizing it is to see three dogs eating the bones of a dead family

  • Reply Family Games August 13, 2019 at 11:35 am

    Iceland lives on lol.

  • Reply Trin&EL August 30, 2019 at 2:03 am

    I remember reading a book called “one for sorrow” it was a horror book that was historical fiction. I loved it and was about the Spanish flu

  • Reply SoofKiwi August 30, 2019 at 10:22 am

    ahh,i love seeing the great ol' revolutionary Magnesium serving the indian public

  • Reply Raibaru Fumetsu September 1, 2019 at 2:45 am

    Poyer better have a statue in American Samoa and/or a medical institute named after him

  • Reply Foxtrot Nine September 4, 2019 at 5:07 pm

    20% of comments: Greenland in Plague Inc.

  • Reply Jesterton September 21, 2019 at 6:28 pm

    *sirens go by my house*

    another one bites the dust dududududuuu…

  • Reply Coby October 3, 2019 at 6:56 am

    The weird thing about islands in epidemics is that it’s fairly easy to prevent if you know about the outbreak beforehand, but if it gets in, you’re absolutely screwed.

  • Reply Harry Huang October 14, 2019 at 11:43 am


  • Reply h h October 15, 2019 at 4:52 am

    Spanish Flu: almost won the game, infected all nations

    except for…

    American Samoa: closes ports

    Better restart…

  • Reply Alfa&Omega 00000 October 19, 2019 at 3:41 pm

    "New Zealanders with new disease? Yes,why?"

  • Reply Ihateritzcrackers October 23, 2019 at 3:26 am


  • Reply Raymund Mijares November 3, 2019 at 9:20 am


  • Reply Nate Irv. November 9, 2019 at 10:42 am

    So uh, I know this is old but this is my first time watching this specific series. Is anyone else jumping out of their skin after the image of the sled dogs? Kidd you not I keep turning around imagining I'll see one at the door to the room. Probably doesn't help that it's 12:41am and I'm a bit tired.
    Time to gorge on chocolate.

  • Reply MR potato November 9, 2019 at 12:41 pm

    How about the philippines? Did it catch the flu?

  • Reply imthebrush72 things November 11, 2019 at 2:50 pm

    The flu looks so happy.

    Its so sad 🙁

    Flu is like a puppy, it sticks to you till it dies… or you die.

  • Reply Arjus Arauis November 11, 2019 at 7:42 pm

    Man those past five episodes, we all would have thought about maybe just impose quarantine everywhere and ban the traveling and gatherings. But nope we gotta keep going and do our thing while getting everyone else sick.

    Surprised we all managed to wither the disease on top of a world war, not sure how we still have a breeding population despite it all.

  • Leave a Reply