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Clipper Sailing Ships

Much of the information on this page comes from
Clipper Sailing Ships
The Power of Gold
Emigrant Ships to Australia in the Forties.
Report on Steerage Conditions in 1844.
The Discovery of Gold in Australia
Melbourne and its Shipping 1851-2
Blue Jacket
Champion of the Seas 
Cutty Sark
Donald Mackay
Heather Bell 
James Baines
John Bunyan
Maid of Judah
Red Jacket
Walter Hood
White Star
Tall Ships 2007 Wall Calendar



Melbourne and its Shipping 1851-2

It was one months before the news of the great Australian gold strike spread round the world and one can well imagine the excitement on board the incoming emigrant ships, when they were boarded almost hefore their anchors were down and told the great news. Often successful miners would come off and prove their words by scattering gold on the deck, to be scrambled for, or by removing their hats and displaying rolls of bank notes inside them. Settlers, bereft of their servants, sometimes even came off with the pilot in their anxiety: to engage men. Indeed it wits commonly reported in the winter of 1851 that the Governor was compelled to groom his own horse.

    With such stories flying about, and every native apparently in a state of semi-hysteria, it is not surprising that often whole ships' crews, from the captain down, caught the gold fever and left their vessels deserted. Not even the lordly Blackwall liners with their almost naval discipline could keep their crews The six-shooter and belaying pin were used in vain. Shipmasters were at their wits' end"where to get crews for the homeward run. 40 and even 50 was not found to be sufficient inducement to tempt sailors~away from this marvellous land of gold. Even the gaol was scoured and prisoners paid 30 on the capstan and 3 a month for the passage.

By June, 1852, fifty ships were lyjng in Hobsons Bay deserted by the crews. Nor were other Australian ports much better .The mail steamer Australian had to be helped away from Sydney by a detachment of volunteers from R.M. brig Fantome; and at Melbourne and Adelaide, where she called for mails, police had to be stationed at her gangways to prevent desertion, whilst at Albany she, was delayed seven days for want of coal, because the crew of the receiving ship, who were to put the coal aboard, were all in prison to keep them from running off to the diggings.

Some description of Malbourne at this wonderful period of its history may perhaps be of interest.

From the anchorage, St. Kilda showed through the telescope as a small cluster of cottages, whilst across the bay a few match-boarding huts on the beach stood opposite some wooden jetties. Williamstown, indeed, possessed some stone buildings and a stone pierhead, but in order to get ashore the unhappy emigrant had to hire a boat. Then when he at last succeeded in getting his baggage on the quay, he had to guard it himself, or it would myster iously disappear. Rather than do this many a newly arrived emigrant Put his outfit up to auction acting as his own auctioneer on the pierhead itself,And AQ,d as an' outfit purchased in England !for the Colonies is usually more remarkable for its weight than its suitability, those who did this generally profited by their astutenss. Melbourne itself could either be reached by a riversteamboat up the Yarra Yarra, which at that time was not more than 25 feet wide in places; or by ferry boat across the bay and a two mile walk from the beach by a rough trail,through sand, scrub and marsh. When emigrants began to arrive in such numbers as to overflow Melbourne, the beach became covered with tents and shacks and was known as "canvas town".

There were only 23,000 inhabitants in Melbourne at the time of the gold discovery. Its houses were mostly of wood and but one story high. With the exception of Collins, Bourke and EHzabeth Streets, which were paved, the streets were merely narrow muddy lanes, and there were no foot pavements.

In the wet weather these lanes became torrents of water" and many a carter reaped a harvest taking people across the road at sixpence a time. Lucky diggers, down on the spree, easily distinguishable by their plaid or chequered, calbbage tree hats, moleskin troltsers, and bearded, swarthy faces were to be seen everywhere. Many of them spent their time driving about in gay decorated carrisages accompanied by flashily dressed women covered with cheap jewellery. Amongst these charioteers, the uproarious British tar could always be picked out. He disliked driving at a, slower pice than a gallop, and as often as not. instead of handling the ribbons, he would insist on riding postillion- and he was also unhappy unless his craft flew a huge Union Jack.

As usual with gold so easily come by, the lucky digger~made every effort to get rid of his dust. Just as the buccaneer in the days of the Spanish Main. when back from a successful cruise, would pour his arrack and rum in to the streets of Port Royal and invite all and sundry to drink at his expense, so in Melbourne the Australian digger stood champagne to every passer-by. It was being done across the Pacific~ in California. It was done on the Rand. It was done in the Klondyke. And some day it will be done

The shops as usual, made more money than the diggers; and tradesmen, made casual by prosperity, adopted the "take it or leave~ it" tone and gave no change below a sixpence. The police were a,nondescript force, mostly' recruited from the emigrant ships, .and the only emblem of their office was, the regulation helmet. Indeed, dressed as, they were,in the clothes in which they had arrived out, their appearance was not very uniform. However it was beyond the power of any force to preserve strict law and order at such a time, and the most, that was expected of them was to keep the sidewalk and gutters clear of drunken miners and to pacify' the pugnacious.

The "nw chum" had hardly landed before~ he was regaled with hairrising-stories of bushrangers apparently these gentry had an akward habit of holding one up in, the Black Forest on the way to the diggings. Thus firearms of every description were soon at a premium, many were more dangerous to man fired than to the man fired at. Before leaving Melbourne for the sea, I must not omit to mention a well-know character of

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