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Week 02 – Storm in the Channel

[ 27th of February 1836 to 5th of March 1836 ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 02 - Belief Systems ]

As February 1836 drew to a close two of the three South Australian Company ships, the John Pirie and the Duke of York, left Gravesend at the mouth of the Thames and began their careful navigation of the English Channel towards the Atlantic Ocean. Poor Captain Morgan continued to be very anxious about his wife, who was due to give birth any time. He hoped desperately that both she and their child would survive the Labour, childbirth. ‘trying hour’  and that their existing child would not be left motherless. But very soon he had other worries. The Channel was a capricious stretch of water at the best of times and this was no exception. Overnight on 29 February (1836 was a leap year) both ships were caught in a ferocious storm. With waves breaking over the deck, the vessel ‘verry laboursome’ and all the passengers sick, Captain Morgan ran for the shelter of the Isle of Wight, where the Duke of York rode out the rest of the storm secured by two anchors. The John Pirie was not so lucky as the following extracts make clear. The author of this account is unknown, although he seems to have been a crew member, responsible for the vessel’s livestock.  Read on to discover how these two vessels, their suffering passengers and their animals, fared in the storm.

Ship progress, weeks 2 to 3.


Journals from passengers at sea:

Sunday 28 February 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

After private prayer entered in the service of another
Sabath – different circumstanced than the last Sabath
at half past 6 weighed anchor and made sail down channel
with a fair wind I feel in the parth of my duty England I
love thy shores duty calls me from thee…

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Tuesday 1 March 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

This day commenced with strong winds and a heigh sea
the vessel verry laboursome and the sea beating over the
deck the dear passengers all sick the decks much lumbred
and the people dissatisfied as to the commencement of our
voyage at 11 AM made the land and took a  To navigate difficult stretches of water, ships took pilots on board. Pilots were coastal navigators with knowledge of their local waters and they captained the ship through the channel or harbour.pilot for the
Isle of white at 2 PM came to anchor at the mother bank
this afternoon blows verry hard gave 40 fathoms of cable
my communion with God has not bing so sweet as at other
times in the everning it blew a perfect gale let go the
seacond anchor and gave 70 fathoms of cable I experianced
how good and servesable this anchor is to the vessel
and how much more is Christ to the beliveing soul

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Thursday 3 March 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

… recd[?] a letter from my beloved wife and child and bless God
for surporting her in the trying hour
… read the explanation of the
145th Psalm and lay down in peace

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Friday 4 March 1836

[, on board the wrote.]

After private prayer and Christain conversation
took boat and went to cows …
– blowing hard let go the seacond
anchor – sent a letter home to my beloved wife

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Will our two vessels manage to repair the damage and get underway again?  Will they encounter more storms and how will the poor livestock fare? Will Captain Morgan's wife deliver her child safely? Read on next week to find out.

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14 Responses to “Week 02 – Storm in the Channel”

  1. Paul Grabham March 4, 2011 at 9:20 pm #

    I’m over-awed by the stoicism of these people – where has our dedication gone today and why do we whinge so much at the smallest displeaure.

    And this has only got them to the Isle of Wight – what must lay before them?

  2. Julie Peak March 4, 2011 at 4:07 pm #

    Hi Kirsty,

    yes that’s him :)

  3. Shirley March 3, 2011 at 12:34 pm #

    Great stuff, our family arrived in SA from the UK only 30 years ago, but I have a passion for stories of sea voyages. (Essential reading for all Australians is, I think, the amazing book by Diane Armstrong – “The Voyage of their Life”. I really recommend it.) but I like this week by week account.

  4. Wayne March 1, 2011 at 7:37 pm #

    This sort of educational subject is well over due, i am a one eyed South australian , so looking foward to every week. thank you

    Regards W.R. Opie

  5. Julie Peak February 28, 2011 at 8:00 pm #

    Henry Alford – passenger on the “John Pirie” one of the first policemen in SA and at one time Second Inspector of the Mounted Police. We also had word that he was the person responsible for introducing the white horses for the Parades (instead of the traditional colour) – which are still used to this day. Also, the small township north of Adelaide (near Kadina, Moonta etc.) called ALFORD, is named after him. We heard that he gave chase on horseback and finally captured the criminal in that now known township ALFORD. There is also a painting in the Mortlock Library of Henry Alford, sitting on his horse in his uniform.

    • Kristy March 1, 2011 at 10:16 am #

      Hi Julie,
      Many thanks for alerting us to the Henry Alford portrait in the Mortlock Library. Is it this one that appears to have been digitised on the SLSA catalogue? http://images.slsa.sa.gov.au/mpcimg/56000/B55788.htm
      Regards,
      Kristy – History SA.

  6. Sue February 28, 2011 at 11:45 am #

    I have often wondered what it was like for the people, especially the women, who arrived in South Australia in late December 1836, with dark and voluminous clothing, no refrigeration/air-conditioning, no public transport and bushland where we now see roads, etc. The trip here must have been horrendous. It’s hard to believe that it took so long just to reach the open sea. We’re into the second week and they haven’t left the Channel yet!
    Sailors certainly had a tough life. No wonder my great-grandfather jumped ship and settled down to a life on the land!

  7. Alan Newbury February 28, 2011 at 9:22 am #

    “took boat and went to cows”
    Rather than livestock, it is far more likely that he is referring to the port town of Cowes on the Isle of Wight.

    • Kristy February 28, 2011 at 10:04 am #

      Hi Alan, yes you are correct. He was meaning Cowes on the Isle of Wight (you will note we have these listed in the related places tags at the bottom of the page). We are reproducing excerpts from the original journals word for word and ‘cows’ is what the John Pirie writer penned. Some of the spelling (and handwriting) is quite a challenge to decipher!
      If you are interested we have written a little piece on the sources that explains this a bit better:
      http://boundforsouthaustralia.com.au/using-this-site/source-material.html
      Regards, Kristy – History SA.

  8. Margaret Tiller February 28, 2011 at 9:02 am #

    This is the way to make the journey by sharing the experiences of the time line. At the moment I’m gazing over Nepean Bay K.I .and steeling myself for the 45 minutes choppy journey back to the mainland. The detailed information is great and portrays the incredible fortitude of the Settlers.

  9. Evan Holt February 28, 2011 at 8:36 am #

    Crikey! I’m exhausted and we haven’t got to the Bay of Biscay yet. I wonder what condition I’ll be in after another 44 weeks of sailing? They were a lot tougher than we are today. I’ll pause here to go below and get my sou-wester, storm cape and sea boots for the next p[art of the trip. Well done!

  10. Christine Dixon-Hawes February 28, 2011 at 7:57 am #

    Keep it coming, I am captivated & am looking forward to the next chapter.

  11. kay Hillier February 27, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

    I am looking forward over the next few months and following the voyage of these Free Settlers on the long hard Journey of the first free Settlers to ad,d the hardships they endured , My Great Great Grandfather came here in 1836 on board the Afrcaine

    • Mary Hopkins March 1, 2011 at 9:01 pm #

      This is a fascinating way to follow these journeys. My Great, Great, Great, Great Grandparents and their family also came on the Africaine, along with the the man who only 3 years later married their daughter, so my 3 Greats Grandparents were on this difficult voyage too. The presentation of this material is fabulous and I am looking forward to the unfolding story each week.

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