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Week 01 - Setting sail

[ 20th of February 1836 to 26th of February 1836 ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 01 - Setting sail ]

On 25 February 1836 Captain Robert Morgan sat down in his tiny cabin on board the Duke of York to begin a diary of the long sea voyage to the new Province of South Australia. He was well aware that the journey he faced would be long and perilous, indeed the route to Australia was one of the longest sea voyages undertaken at the time, and he knew only too well that he might never return. Morgan was a fond family man who clearly left his family with regret. In his very first entry he consigned them into the ‘hand of God’, but anxiety for his family remained as a constant theme in his first weeks away. Robert Morgan was a deeply religious man, even by the standards of the 1830s, and his diary is peppered with references to Almighty God, the benign influence of Providence and the beneficial power of prayer. On the long journey to the new province of South Australia, the Christian God would be his constant companion, guide and source of solace.



Model of the ship Duke of York



Model of the ship Duke of York. Collection of the South Australian Maritime Museum

The Duke of York was the second of the nine ships to leave England for South Australia between February and July 1836. The John Pirie was the first to leave, on 22 February, according to a later newspaper report, but we have no other information from this vessel until later in the voyage. A former mail packet, refitted as a whaler, the Duke of York was acquired by the South Australian Company to transport these vanguard colonisers to an initial settlement on Kangaroo Island, where a makeshift unofficial settlement already existed. They went in advance of the government vessels, which would follow with officials appointed by the Colonial Office to establish formal government in the new province. On board the Duke of York was a motley group.  A small group of passengers, eager for a new life in a new land, but completely untried at sea, rubbed shoulders with hardened seafarers - whalers anxious to get on with the job and impatient with landlubbers. Captain Morgan would need to call on all his reserves of seamanship, discipline and diplomacy to deliver his vessel and the souls it carried, safely to harbour on the other side of the world.

Journals from passengers at sea:

Thursday 25 February 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

10 AM left my family in the hand of God at home
[?with a]ll.things needful for life and godlynesse glory be to God
… my christian brother English in company we went on
[?boar]d of the A packet was a ship that ran a regular route between two ports and had a government contract to carry the mail, in this case powered by steam rather than sail. The ships also carried passengers and cargo and the mail contract was seen as a mark of their speed and reliability. steem packetand landed safe at gravesend where
Captn Pryn joined us and we came on board of the Duke of York
… after dinner all hands with most of the passengers assembled [?]
… on the quater deck haveing hoisted the Bethel flag…
… ist head we commenced the worship of God with singing

Captn Pryn offered a most affectionate prayer to
Allmighty God for us and all mankind many tears was shead
and I hope the seed sown that will be blessed of the Lord
without whose help the labourer laboureth in vain I went on
shore after service and bid farewell to my christian Bretheren
knowing not if I shall see them again in the flesh but God
knows that will surfice -

[ Read the full journal extract ]

Saturday 27 February 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

came to anchor in about 15 A fathom is a measure of depth in the imperial system. One fathom is equal to six feet or 1.83 metres. fathoms water in the downs in the evening, assembled the officers and apprentices for prayers, read a chapter in Book of the Old Testament of the Bible. Proverbs  and commended ourselves to God.

[ Read the full journal extract ]

Read on next week, as the Duke of York encounters a fearsome storm at the very beginning of its journey.

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Image Credit: Model of the ship Duke of York. South Australian Maritime Museum collection.

Comments or Questions:

17 Responses to “Week 01 – Setting sail”

  1. Wayne March 1, 2011 at 7:45 pm #

    will this weekly voyage list names of the passengers of each ship ???

  2. Diane February 24, 2011 at 6:48 pm #

    Geoff L Coat wrote: I read the passenger list included on this site.

    Where is this please. I may have information to add to this passenger list.
    Diane Cummings

  3. Brian Beck February 23, 2011 at 10:23 pm #

    I have written up the history of Luke and Harriet Broadbent and their family who travelled to South Australia on the “Buffalo in 1836 with Governor Hindmarsh. For a period they lived on Kangaroo Is.I am happy to make this available to you. It is in electronic form (pdf) so if you let me have an email address I can send it to you.


    Brian Beck

    • Kristy February 24, 2011 at 9:14 am #

      Hi Brian, that would be great! The more people stories we have the better. I will email you my details.
      Kristy – History SA

  4. Geoff L Coat February 22, 2011 at 3:19 pm #

    Congratulations on what looks like the start of a journey of involvement for we readers.
    I read the passenger list included on this site and found that at the place called Torbay on the voyage, one passenger was goaled, another left the ship and a third, deserted the ship. That should make interesting reading in the weeks ahead.

    • Geoff L Coat February 23, 2011 at 10:53 am #

      thank you

    • Kristy February 23, 2011 at 11:10 am #

      Hi Geoff, There certainly are some interesting adventures ahead! Week 6 in particular features a horrifying storm. stay tuned.
      Regards, Kristy.

  5. Mark Staniforth February 22, 2011 at 2:37 pm #

    great site. You need to check the link to the newspaper report as it seems to be broken

    • KDermody February 22, 2011 at 4:36 pm #

      Thanks Mark. You should find that it is now fixed.

  6. Carl Caruana February 22, 2011 at 12:35 pm #

    The links to “full journals” do not work ? I keep getting errors everytime I click on them.

    • KDermody February 22, 2011 at 1:54 pm #

      Hi Carl,
      thanks for pointing this out. We are looking into the broken links now.
      Regards, Kristy.

  7. David February 22, 2011 at 12:27 pm #

    What a novel idea for putting different types of history into the public domain. Really interesting information. I await next weeks installment.

  8. Jenny February 22, 2011 at 12:21 pm #

    Very interesting reading. Great to see more local original historical documents available online and easily accessible to a wide audience. Looking forward to next week’s instalment!

  9. Bill Temby February 22, 2011 at 12:11 pm #

    My forebears arrived with the first colonists to Nepean Bay on the Cygnet, Africaine and Buffalo.

    • Margaret February 22, 2011 at 6:33 pm #

      That’s some lineage Bill! If you have any additional information as we get to those voyages we’d love to hear from you. thanks for the comment.

  10. Paul Grabham February 22, 2011 at 7:43 am #

    It’s interesting to note that even 175 years ago, we required our new intended settlers to first be settled on an island.

    Why are we complaining today about Christmas Island?

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