LISTING of SHIPS visiting BASS STRAIT to 1850

** very draft: LISTING of SHIPS visiting BASS STRAIT to 1850


Astrolabe: Oct 1826  (Dumont  D’Urville) arrived  at King George Sound. 12/10/1826 party of sealers left there 7 months earlier (12/3/1826) by Governor Brisbane came to Astrolabe. Feb 1803 – Baudin described sealing.

The BETSY had a crew of nineteen, including 6 lascars and Chinamen. An officer, one sailor and four of the lascars survived, although only chance spared them from the cannibalism of the Maoris into whose hands they fell, Sydney Gazette, 12 oct 1816. [Did this ship travel into Bass Strait waters?]

BOYD: The master of the Boyd in 1811 ‘received the mortifying intelligence of several boat’s crews in various employees having been barbarously murdered, and mostly devoured, by the cannibal natives… Three men, who had fled from a gang… and had gone among the natives…were also killed and devoured, and thus sadly atoned for their desertion. Sydney gazette, 30 March 1811. [where did this occur – NZ?][Did this ship travel into Bass Strait waters?]

Duke of York:  Capt. Thomas Whyte, Govt. brig.  Feb 1826 seized the Schooner Caledonia with 5 escaped convicts on board, Found 7 more prisoners in Bass Straits, and 8 others at Wilson’s Promontory. N.3: AOT CSO 1/36/621, HTG 25/3/1826, Syd Gaz 1/7/1826. W. Stewart: letter to Col. Sec Campbell, Sydney 28/9/1815:  Banditti.

Fairy, Boston, In Sydney 1793 29 Oct Capt. Rogers report. He came from St Pauls Island end Sept.1793 and  found 5 seamen left there in 1791.

Harrington: In 1805 was seizing vessels on the coast of Peru, and had sent them to Bass Strait.[thanks to C.M.]. Ref? On New Year Islands a gang led by Thomas Evans was landed from the Harrington – Captain Campbell – on 18 March 1802.   1805 episode with the Harrington:

WHEREAS it appears, that a Spanish
Cruiser belonging to the King of Spain,   and a Merchant Brig of the same Nation have been taken out of Spanish Ports on the Coast of Peru and captured by the Harrington Private Ship of War (belonging to Madadras) and brought from thence as far as Norfolk ísland, where they parted company with the Harrington, being officered and manned from that vessel.
There being the most presumptive proof that no Hostilities had commenced between England and Spain in the early part of August last, and the said Vessels being taken on the 26th of September and 2d of October last; and as there is reason to suppose the above Spanish vessels are now hovering about some part of this Coast, the Commanders of His   Majesty’s Ships and Vessels, or Colonial Ves-   sels belonging to the Crown that may fall in with them, or any Officer or Magistrate at any Settlement dependent on this Territory, are hereby required and directed to take the most efficient measures for those Vessels being sent to this Port, whether it be by taking possession of them, or otherways ; Until it is known whether War is actually exist in Europe on the 26th of last September ; in or- der that proper measures may be taken there- in. And it is further required, that the Per- sons who are or may be in charge of those Vessels do not in any manner degrade the   Spanish Flag, but hoist it in its proper place
until it is known whether War did exist at the above period or not.
By Command of His Excellency,
G. Blaxcell, Acting Sec.
Sydney, March 10th, 1805.

The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803-1842) Sunday 24 March 1805, p.1 of 4. [from TROVE online]

HUNTER: New Zealander (Maori?) remained. 17/10/1826: 2 more whaleboats? Arrived with men who had been left by the HUNTER. One manned by 5 englishmen and an Australian Aborigine from port Jackson (Hambilton, Brook, Cloney named)

Margaret: On King Island, Sea Elephant Bay was Daniel Cooper and 10 others landed there from the Margaret. Captain Buyers in June 1802. (Plomley/Henley 1990).


Martha: William Reid, Captain of the Martha brought back a sealing party that had spent winter at Cape Barren Island, arriving at Port Jackson on 14 Dec 1799 with 1300 seal skins and c.360 gallons of oil.Capt Reid (of the Martha)first sighted (?) King Island at end of 1799. By 1802 sealing was firmly established there. Dec 1802 – Peron visited King Island and made report. (Plomley/Henley: 40) ….”The leader of these sealers, the good Cowper, occupied one of these wretched hovels with a woman from the Sandwich Islands, whom he had brought from Mowee…”…. [Thanks to Ron M for letting my know I had wrongly linked Bishop to the Martha.]

Nautilus, brig, Captain Charles Bishop, sailed from Port Jackson on 7 Oct 1798 in company with the Norfolk (decked longboat) with Matthew Flinders and George Bass. They surveyed Furneaux group and then circumnavigated Tasmania, they reached Preservation Island on 19 Oct 1798, anchored  in Kent Bay, CBI and Nautilus arrived 25 Dec 1798 at Port Jackson with 5200 seal skins and c.350 gallons of seal oil. Party of 15 left at Kent Bay in the charge of second officer, John Harbottle, to continue sealing. One of the 15 was Samuel Rodman Chase of Rhode Island, Connecticut, who married Marianne Letitia daughter of Lieut-Gov David Collins, drowned in southern Tas waters c.1827. Ref?

Sophia (lost at sea 1807)

SOPHIA (previously named SWIFT or LA SWIFT) Fast sailing prize (captured ship), of 240 tons with a crew of 20, Sophia was owned by Robert Campbell.Operated , from 1804 to 1806, by Campbell and Company, Merchants of SYDNEY, used by NSW Governor from January 1805 to transport stores, suppplies, convicts to Van Diemans Land. Campbell & Co also used her to colllect oil (whale and seal) and engaged crew for sealing parties. SOPHIA was lost at sea in April 1807 at TILLIGO BAY, deaths at sea of Captain John WALKER and 5 men recorded by LLOYD’s LIST No 4209, London, Friday December 4, 1807 Query: is TILLIGO BAY, TALAGO/TALOGO/TOLOGO BAY (now TOLAGA BAY) in NEW ZEALAND? Advice from Australian National Maritime Museum is that “Tillago Bay” is most likely modern Tolaga Bay (variously spelt in the 1800s Tologo Bay or Tolago Bay). She departed Port Jackson on 5 October 1806 with Master John WALKER and 20 men, cargo described as ballast and the proceeded to Bass Straits and then the New Zealand whaling/sealing fields to obtain a full cargo of oil and skins before proceeding to England. Tolaga Bay has a dangerous rock, partly under water, to the north side of the entrance to the Bay, perhaps unseen in a gale, the ship along with her Captain John WALKER and 5 men of her 20 crew were lost. The crew were assumed to be those approved by the NSW Govenor to depart the colony as listed in The Sydney Gazette & New South Wales Advertiser :
14 September 1806: page 3 (13 men)
William Austin (Aikin?) Axtin?
Henry Bacon
John Bosley
William Foster
John Guernley
William Henry
James Jones
John Juno
Daniel Kennedy
John Scott
Richard White

21 September 1806 page 1 (4 men)
John Spain
Edward Spencer
Samuel Thompson
William Lyon

5 October 1806 page 2 ( 4 men)
John Green
Benjamin Johnson
William Price
John Williams

The ship SOPHIA was formerly known as SWIFT or LA SWIFT, a prize ship captured on 12 Sept 1804 by Captain Charles Sparrow FOSTER commander of the private ship of war called POLICY.

At the time of her capture SWIFT was a DUTCH ship, owned by Messrs. Wintz and Talman of Batavia ,under command of Captain R. Portvelt, sailing from Batavia for Amboyna, with sundry cargo belonging to the Dutch East India Company..
Her prior history:
French built at Bordeaux; 20 tons, celebrated as the fastest sailing Vessel the French Republic had, as companion of La Brave and La Mouche, much annoyed the British Commerce in Europe, defied British Cruisers until her Capture in1800 taken as a Prize by His Majesty’s Ship La Minerve, and sold in 1801 to the Americans (as appears by her Bill of Sale) and sold by them to the Dutch at Batavia, where she was examined, copper-bolted, damar’d, and new coppered in August 1803.
Source of ship’s history: Mr Lord’s advertisement for sale by auction (The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW) Sunday 2 December 1804 p 4 Advertising )
(1) not the same ship called “SOPHIA” operating 1814-1819 provisioning Van Dieman’s Land, carrying freight and passengers on government service.
(2) not the same ship called “SOPHIA” which brought convicts to Australia in 1828
that ‘SOPHIA’ was built 1819 at Calcutta. Wood ship of 537 Tons. She carried 192 male convicts to Sydney and had two deaths en-route. She departed Dublin on the 15th of September 1828 and arrived in Sydney on the 17th of January 1829. Master: Captain Thomas A. Elley. Surgeon: Alick Osborne.


Sydney Cove, leaking on voyage from Bengal to Port Jackson, after being blown through Banks Straits, sank between Preservation and Rum Islands.

Union: American snow, Captain Pendleton, on King Island by Feb 1803, seen by Baudin.

References and Sources:

Archives Office of Tasmania, Guide to Convict Records by Ship Reference.

Bateson, Charles, The Convict Ships 1787-1868, Brown, Son & Ferguson Ltd 1985.

Nicholson, Ian Hawkins, Shipping Arrivals and Departures, Tasmania, 1803-1833, Roebuck, 1983, p149.

Phillips, Margaret E., Australian Joint Copying Project, Handbook Part 7, Public Records Office Admiralty Records, National Library of Australia 1993, pp 75-77.

General notes – unsorted:

To check: Surgeon’s Journals possibly available on AJCP microfilms.





  1. I appreciate your efforts.
    Don’t forget the case of the ship Harrington in 1805 that had been seizing vessels on the coast of Peru, and had sent them to Bass Strait.

    In addition to the SADS series by Roebuck, have a look at Eduoard Stackpole’s “Whales and Destiny” and “The Sea Hunters”

    good luck

  2. William Reid was the captain of the Martha! Bishop did business with Reid and his business partners, however, he wasn’t ever in command of the Martha, nor was he ever a part owner or owner of the Martha.

    Ron Madden

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