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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





The Orient, pioneer of the Orient Line, was launched at Rotherhithe in 1853, and measured:


Registered tonnage

1033 tons


184.4 ft


31.7 ft


21.1 ft


She was built to participate in the gold boom to Melbourne, and was fitted to carry passengers under a poop 61 ft long. However, she was not destined to start life on the Australian run, for she had barely been launched before she was taken up by the Government for the transport of troops to the Crimea. At the landing at Alma in September, 1854, she was transport No. 78, carrying the 88th Connaught Rangers. She managed to ride out the gale on the 14th November, 1854, off Balaclava, in which 34 of the Allied ships were wrecked and over 1000 lives lost. And in October, 1855, we find her acting as a hospital ship during the expedition against Kinburn and Odessa. In 1856 she returned to London and was then put on the berth for Adelaide. She sailed from Plymouth under Captain A. Lawrence on the 5th July, 1856, with a full passenger list, and hence forward was a favorite passenger ship in the South Australian trade.

She generally took about 95 days coming home via the Cape, calling in at Capetown and St. Helena, as it was the custom with ships carrying passengers.

On 3rd November, 1861, the Orient left Adelaide with 2600 bales of wool, some copper ore and several passengers. Touching at the Cape she left Table Bay on 18th December. One the morning of 2nd January, smoke was observed to be rising from the fore hatch. Captain Lawrence at once had the lower deck hatches lifted fore and aft, but there was no smoke in the hold, which seemed to prove that fire was confined to the between decks. The hands were turned to breaking out cargo, but were driven from the fore hold after getting to the third beam aft of the hatchway. The mainsail was then hauled up and the fore hatches put on to prevent a current of air. The main hatchway was then opened and an attempt made to break out the cargo from the hatch, but again the crew were driven back. The hatches were next battened down and every aperture closed. The carpenter was then ordered to bore holes in the deck. He started in the galley and gradually worked forward until he was over the seat of the fire. On this being found the fire engine, condensing engine and every other means was brought into use for pouring water below; and as fast as it went down it was sucked up again by the shipís pumps. The deck ports and scupper holes, also, were closed and the deck itself kept some inches deep in water.

While the crew fought the fire, the passengers, under the direction of the bosun, provisioned and lowered the boats and streamed them astern. At 5 p.m. dense smoke began to issue from the scuttle under the fore cabins, the woodwork was caharred, and the glass bullís-eye melted. The scuttles were immediately plugged and the deck cut through at this place. The result was startling . Smoke and flames burst out in volumes. All night long the crew kept doggedly at the pumps and fire engine. Next day the women passengers were all transferred to a Dutch ship which stood by the burning Orient. At last the fire was smothered and on the 5th January the Orient arrived in Ascension, where a large portion of the cargo was taken out and examined. She was temporarily repaired and then proceeded, and arrived safely in the London River.

Twelve of her timbers were so charred that they had to be replaced, together with the planking of the main deck as far aft as the main hatch. The saving of this ship was a very fine performance and the underwriters presented Captain Lawrence with a piece worth #100 and also #800 for himself, officers and crew. The steadiness and discipline of both passengers and crew were worthy of all praise, and undoubtedly saved the ship.

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