Australia ship

Dando family voyage on the “Australia” from Liverpool to Port Phillip Bay1853

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the emigration of Edward Dando and his wife Susannah (nee Hapgood) from Marksbury, Somerset, to Victoria, Australia in 1853 on the ship the “Australian” and some information about their life after they arrived. The first post is here.

This week I have found a great book called “The Somerset Years” by Florence Chuk, 1987, which is all about the emigration from Somerset to Australia from 1839-1854. And it has a short entry on the Dando family (same information as in my earlier blog post) and also a picture of the “Australia” and a description of the voyage!

The “Australia” picture is posted below and the original is from the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London. The ship was owned by Brooke & Co, based in Liverpool, and was fairly new (built in 1850). The trip to Port Phillip Bay, Melbourne in 1853 was her first voyage. She carried 370 immigrants to Australia and 35 crew – there was no other cargo and only one cabin passenger,who was related to the ships surgeon (and so a bit of an exception) [1].

Australia ship
The Australia, Brooke & Co Line, from the National Maritime Museum in Grenwich London, via the “Somerset Years” by Florence Chuk, 1987 [1]

The Somerset years also has quite a long description of the voyage, which I have quoted below:

The shipping firm of Brooke & Co. of Liverpool owned the Australia. The ship was built in 1850, in Quebec of oak, elm, tamarack, birch and pine. In 1851 she was partly sheathed with yellow metal, and some iron bolts replaced tree-nails.
Emigrants enjoyed ‘delightfully balmy weather’ whilst waiting to embark and immediately after joining ship. Long sunny days were driving Liverpudlians out of the town and down to the sea-shore, glad to the last of the bitter cold which had prevailed during May. The Bridgwater ‘Times’ had described the spell as being ‘more like March than May’.
The continuing calm sunny weather made the first few days aboard the vessel reasonably comfortable the emigrants. During the voyage the Australia spoke other vessels: one being the Thames, in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, bound for Sydney, with all on board well.

The Australia was a fine roomy vessel for emigrant use, lofty and well-ventilated between decks, an kept scrupulously clean. On her arrival, the ‘Argus’ reported that “The closest inspection from the stem to the sternpost could not detect a spot where the holystone and the scrubbing brushes had not been amply used.”

Description of the voyage of the Australian from Liverpool to Melbourne in 1853., from “The Somerset Years” by Florence Chuk, 1987

The voyage appears to have had good weather but not good luck:

In spite of efforts by emigrants and the 35 crew members to maintain cleanly conditions, there was a good deal of illness during the passage. Fever had been brought aboard by some emigrants transferred by government from another vessel, the Hercules, and it was to the credit of Dr Johnson that only ten passengers ­died. These deaths included three premature births, two of them the premature twins born in mid-August to William and Charlotte Lewis of Dorset. On entering Port Phillip Bay 15 patients were left on the quarantine vessel Lysander at the Heads. There five more deaths took place, including that of Maria Meredith, a 30 old woman from Somerset. Another young woman suffering from fever took her own life while delirious throwing herself overboard into the shark-infested waters.

The remainder of the 370 passengers ‘free from all contagious disease and in perfect health and spirits’ were safely landed at Melbourne. Most of these were single women, whose suntanned, cheerful faces caused the ‘Argus’ to comment that they had been well fed and cared for during the voyage!

Description of the voyage of the Australian from Liverpool to Melbourne in 1853., from “The Somerset Years” by Florence Chuk, 1987

Its quite nice to read an account of the voyage, including the weather, although like all voyages in the 1853 it was fraught with dangers… The Dando’s survived the voyage, although tragedy was only a few years away…


[1] The Somerset Years by Florence Chuk, 1987:

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