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Week 01 - Setting sail

[ 1836 to 1836 ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 45: Proclamation and Celebration ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 43: Kangaroo Island ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 40 - Finally! The harbour is found ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 37: Building a Home ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 36: Family Life ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 35: Pastimes ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 34 - a tempest ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 26: Whose story? ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 25 - The demon drink ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 22: In Good Time ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 20 - infectious disease ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 18 - the port of Rio ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 16: Crossing the Line ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 16 - towards Australia ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 15 - high drama on the John Pirie ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 08: Employment ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 06 : Weathering the Storm ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 05: Ship Shape ]

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 1830’s, 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:

Week 42: Numeracy Onboard

Over the past eight months we have read many journal entries, diaries and letters describing the experiences, thoughts, ideas and feelings of those onboard the nine ships. We have followed the authors…

[ Read the full journal extract ]

Week 25 – The demon drink

[ | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | , on board the | | | | | | | | wrote.]

On land It is one week into the grand experiment of colonisation and things are not going well at Nepean Bay. Samuel Stephens and Captains Morgan and Ross have their hands full, with both the company …

[ Read the full journal extract ]

Week 20 – infectious disease

[ | | | | | | | | | | , on board the | | | | | | wrote.]

The Duke of York is now in the Southern Ocean, making good progress. It is Captain Morgan’s wife’s birthday and he reflects endearingly on his love for her and his happiness in the married state….

[ Read the full journal extract ]

Week 14 – steady progress

[ | | | | | | | | | , on board the | | | | | wrote.]

All six ships are making steady progress, sailing south in the Atlantic. The weather is fine and conditions pleasant, but relations on board the John Pirie and the Cygnet are tense. On the John Pirie …

[ Read the full journal extract ]

Week 13 – tensions reach breaking point

[ | | | | | | | , on board the | | | | | wrote.]

This week we catch up with the Cygnet as it approaches the Equator. A bout of bad weather has seen many of the passengers sick and conditions below deck are foul. Boyle Travers Finniss is impatient with…

[ Read the full journal extract ]

Week 06 – a ‘perfect Hurricane’

[ | | | | , on board the | | | wrote.]

On 26 March the John Pirie seemed to be making progress, as it finally cleared the English Channel and struck out for the Atlantic Ocean. But just west of the Bay of Biscay the weather worsened…

[ 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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