AN EXPERIMENTAL VOYAGE
A CONTEMPORARY REVIEW OF THE STEAMER "LADY AUGUSTA's" PASSAGE THROUGH SOUTH AUSTRALIA IN 1853.
© Peter J Reilly; 1995
History buffs can thank their lucky stars that James Allen jnr., was aboard the Lady Augusta on her historic voyage up the River Murray in 1853, for he has left us with a journalistic gem in his written account of that voyage. It is a thumping good-read and his journal of the vessel's, almost hourly, progress up the river provides us with an intriguing wealth of heritage data. It's true his text contains innumerable errors. But, in view of the elation and great excitement attached to such an undertaking, they are pardonable and, in the context of the trip, they tend to imbue a captivating human element into the whole affair; - Anyway, the errors Allen makes are mostly of a technical nature or pertain to facts that were not available to Allen in 1853. The text, however, contains such an abundance of detail, that an alert reader with a knowledge of the Murray, can identify his aberrations with relative ease, and, more importantly, get a real feel of what day-to-day life aboard the Lady Augusta, in 1853, was like.
BELOW ARE THE INTRO and THE FIRST TWO CHAPTERS OF THE ENTIRE DIARY-LIKE ACCOUNT WHICH PASSENGER JAMES ALLEN JNR., PUBLISHED AFTER HIS TRIP ABOARD P S LADY AUGUSTA ON HER HISTORY MAKING FIRST VOYAGE UP THE MURRAY RIVER IN 1853:
ADELAIDE TO THE GOOLWA.
Saturday, August 20, 1853.-
Having accepted an invitation from Capt. Cadell, to accompany him in his steamer, the "Lady Augusta, quot; on her experimental trip up the Murray, I left Adelaide on horseback for the Goolwa, where the steamer was lying, in the afternoon of this day, full of pleasurable anticipations of the trip, which the novelty and great interest attached to such an undertaking was well calculated to excite.
Reached Willunga after two and a-half hours' ride, where I remained for the night.
Sunday, August 21.-Proceeded early this morning for the Goolwa, distant from Adelaide about seventy miles, and arrived there in the forenoon. Nearly the whole of the party intending to proceed in the steamer had arrived, including His Excellency the Governor, Mr. Younghusband and family, Mr. Grainger, Capt. Kinlock, Mr. Palmer, and many other gentlemen, and, though last yet not least, several ladies.
The accommodation on board the "Lady Augusta," which is lying at the jetty lately erected here, are all that could be desired, and, in conjunction with the cordiality and extreme kindness with which Capt. Cadell has welcomed his guests, leads us to the anticipation of a most harmonious and agreeable trip.
The "Eureka," tender, just built to accompany the "Lady Augusta" as a cargo boat, is lying on the stocks ready to be launched tomorrow morning as proposed. She is certainly a splendid little craft, and well deserving the high encomiums passed upon her.
The "West Wind," steam ship, which had put into Port Elliot for repairs, having sustained several injuries in a gale she encountered in Backstairs Passage, on her way from Melbourne to Adelaide, started again this morning after effecting the necessary repair to her engines, by the assistance of the Government blacksmith at Port Elliot.
Monday, August 22.-The departure of the "Lady Augusta," on her experimental trip up the Murray, has been postponed till Wednesday, or, at least, till Thursday, in consequence of some alterations being required in her boilers.
The dinner to be given here to Capt. Cadell previous to his departure by the settlers in the Goolwa and Port Elliot district has been fixed for Wednesday, in place of Tuesday, as before announced. All the influential settlers in the neighbourhood are expected to attend, and provision will be made for at least one hundred persons.
The launch of the "Eureka," the "Lady Augusta's" cargo tender, is to take place to-morrow, Tuesday, and several parties of gentlemen from Adelaide have arrived to witness it.
His Excellency the Governor started from the Goolwa for Port Elliot this morning to inspect the Government works there, but is expected back in time to witness the launch to-morrow.
Capt. Cadell is indefatigable in his exertions to provide for the comfort of the visitors he has so kindly invited.
We are all anxious to start, and see what steaming on this hitherto unnavigated river, through immense Australian wilds, is like.
LAUNCH OF THE "EUREKA".
Tuesday, August 23.-
This fine little vessel, built by Messrs. Winsby Brothers, at the Goolwa, for Capt. Cadell, as a cargo vessel, to accompany the "Lady Augusta" on her voyage up the Murray, was launched this morning, amidst the cheers of a very numerous assemblage of Goolwa and Port Elliot settlers, and others who had come from Adelaide to witness the spectacle.
A more propitious day for the launch could not have been desired. The deck of the "Eureka," which is 106 feet in length by 21 feet beam, was fitted up in the most tasteful manner for the accommodation of visitors, and an awning, hung over the entire length of it, protected those on board from the rays of the sun. The vessel was adorned with innumerable flags, floating in the breeze, and which added to the gay appearance of the assembly on board, of which the ladies formed a conspicuous part, presented a sight in the highest degree pleasing. Wreaths of flowers of the honeysuckle-tree decked in great profusion the upper part of the vessel, which, while it had the advantage of being a shade to the company, imparted a most delightful fragrance. About three hundred persons, amongst whom were a large proportion of the fair sex, as also many gentlemen on horseback from a distance, assembled in immediate contiguity to the vessel to witness her launch. His Excellency the Governor arrived on board about two o'clock, when a salute was fired, and, all being ready for the launch, the supports were taken away, and the "Eureka" glided down the ways. The ceremony of christening was performed by Miss Eliza Younghusband, who wore a wreath of pretty native flowers in her hair, and who altogether presented a most interesting appearance. Numerous salutes were fired from small pieces of firearms attached to the vessel, which were returned by the discharge of guns and other fire-arms on shore.
The "Eureka" slipped slightly off her ways on the launch, and settled by the bows in the sand; but, as she is very nearly afloat, no difficulty will be experienced in drawing her off by the steamer "Lady Augusta" to-morrow.
The dimensions of the "Eureka" are 96 feet in length on the keel; extreme length on deck, 106 feet; 12 feet breadth of beam; 21 feet on the cross-guards; and depth of hold, 8 feet. Her estimated burden is 87 tons; but this, of course, is only conjecture, as she has no registered measurement. She is calculated to carry in her hold about 100 tons of goods dead weight, or 250 bales of wool; and on her cross-guards, or flush deck, from stem to stern, which is covered in on a raised frame-work, about 10 feet from the deck, 250 bales more; so that, freighted with wool, she will carry upwards of 500 bales. Her draught in full burden is three feet, at which she displaces 80 tons of water. Her draught without cargo is thirteen inches. If fitted up for passengers, she is estimated to carry 200 with comfort. The bottom planks of the "Eureka," as also her frames, are of blue gum; her upper planking of New Zealand pine; and her decks formed of Baltic deals. She was both designed and built by Messrs. Winsby Brothers; and the beauty of her design does infinite credit to them; especially when considering the many difficulties with which they had to contend, in the want of the necessary facilities for such an undertaking. It is believed by all here that the "Eureka" will be found perfectly adapted for the purpose for which she was built, and that, though the cost of her build has been very great to Captain Cadell, he will soon reap the rewards of his large outlay, and be requited for the arduous exertions which have attended the prosecution of this most enterprising scheme.
THE "LADY AUGUSTA".
This vessel is allowed on all hands to be a noble little craft. She in named after Lady Young. Her extreme length on deck is 105 feet; on the keel, 98.5 feet; depth of hold, 5.5 feet; breadth of beam, 12 feet; on the cross-guards, 21 feet. She has two engines of 20 horse-power each, and of the best workmanship. Her total tonnage, including engines, which weigh 30 tons, is 91 tons. Her beams and planking are of New Zealand pine, and her timbers are honeysuckle. She draws 3 feet of water full, and 2 feet 4 inches light. When first launched, without her hurricane deck, her draught of water was extremely small. Her accommodations for passengers are admirable. She is able to carry conveniently sixteen cuddy and sixteen fore-cabin passengers. All her arrangements are admirably planned and, as a passenger-vessel, nothing is wanting to ensure every comfort and convenience.
The "Lady Augusta" is still lying at the jetty of the Goolwa, quite ready to proceed on her trip, when all the arrangements for her departure are made, which is expected to be the case on Thursday morning.
Captain Cadell kindly entertained the visitors, who had come from a distance around the neighbourhood, at dinner on board the "Lady Augusta," after the launch of the "Eureka" was over.
To-morrow the "Eureka" will be laid alongside the "Lady Augusta," preparatory to our final start, and the day will be wound up with the dinner to Captain Cadell.
DINNER TO CAPTAIN CADELL.
Wednesday, August 24.-
This morning the "Eureka" was moored alongside the "Lady Augusta" at the Goolwa Jetty, and preparations were then made for the dinner to Capt. Cadell, and for our start up the Murray to-morrow. These latter involved the taking in of fuel, and sundry other matters not sufficiently important to be particularised.
The dinner took place in the evening, in the large store built by the Government at the Goolwa for the reception of wool and other produce, and it afforded abundant accommodation. About sixty of the most influential settlers in the neighbourhood sat down to dinner. There was also a goodly number of ladies, and many visitors from Adelaide and other places at intermediate distances. Mr. Barton, of Port Elliot, was the caterer on the occasion, and the provision made by him was in the highest degree creditable.
I attended the dinner, and took the following notes of the proceedings:-
DINNER TO CAPTAIN CADELL, AT THE GOOLWA.
< Mr. Allen's "notes" amount to four pages of fine print. For brevity sake, it's sufficient here to report:-Capt. Cadell was, of course, the Guest of Honour;-The 'chair' was taken by the Rev. R. W. Newland, of Encounter Bay, supported by William Younghusband Esq. M.L.C.;-Mr. Williams, of Encounter Bay, acted as croupier for the evening.-The dinner passed off in the most satisfactory manner. Then the speech making, which Mr. Allen records with almost "Hansard-like" detail, and the "toasting" took place.-Those present "toasted" everything from Queen Victoria and Country, to the bottom planks of the "Eureka's" hull, and they were all drunk "with enthusiasm". Between the toasts, several songs were sung, some nationalistic, and some of the more boisterous bush ballads variety. The festivities went on until quite late. >
DEPARTURE FROM THE GOOLWA.
Thursday, August 25.-
We started from the Goolwa this evening at half-past six o'clock. This was the day Captain Cadell had fixed upon for the commencement of the voyage, and we had anticipated starting at a much earlier hour, but as numerous arrangements, which require as much attention for the prosecution of a trip up the Murray as for a long sea voyage, were not completed until late in the day, we were detained until the hour I have mentioned.
During the whole of the day, great interest was excited at the Goolwa by the contemplated departure of the steamer, and, towards the afternoon, a numerous party had assembled on the jetty to witness our start.
Mr. Mason, the Sub-Protector of Aborigines at Wellington, arrived at the Goolwa early this afternoon, after a passage of four days from Wellington, the length of which was occasioned by the unfavourable weather experienced by him on his way down. From his long residence in the Murray district, and his extensive knowledge of the proper courses of the river, his arrival was greeted with much satisfaction.
The customary alarm bells having been rung on board, and a farewell taken of all the kind friends who had assembled to witness our departure, the "Lady Augusta" steamed from the Jetty, accompanied by the "Eureka" which was lashed to her port side, amidst the loud and continued cheers of the crowd on shore. It was half-past six o'clock precisely when we started, and, though we had not daylight in our favour, a beautiful clear starlight sky illumined our way, and afforded a good substitute. I felt greatly impressed, and I believe all on board were, with the novelty and interest of our position. We were on board the first steamer that had ever navigated the waters of the Murray; all other attempts to demonstrate its practicability having been unsuccessful.
Of this attempt to penetrate the vast interior of the Australian Continent, who can predict the result? By thus opening up the resources of this, the largest of Australian rivers, it may, when this and succeeding generations are no more, for aught we can tell, rival the great Mississippi, both as to its usefulness, and the stupendous results to which it may lead.
As we threaded our way up the stream, salutes were fired from the "Lady Augusta," which were returned by the enthusiastic settlers on shore, who, not content with these means of showing their gratification, had lighted a large bonfire on an eminence in our immediate neighbourhood. A small band of musicians on board enlivened our passage up the river for some distance with a number of favourite airs, which, in connexion with the beautifully clear starlight sky above, and other agreeable associations around us, had the effect of almost inducing us to believe that we were on the Thames, and on a trip up to Richmond.
The party on board, proceeding with the "Lady Augusta" on her voyage up, consists of His Excellency the Governor, William Younghusband, Esq., M.L.C., lady and three daughters, Mrs. B. T. Finnis and son, R. Davenport, Esq., M.L.C., J. Grainger Esq., M.L.C., Mrs. Irvine, Captain Kinlock, Messrs Bright, Palmer, Andrews, and J. Allen, Junr..
Under the successful pilotage of Captain Cadell, assisted by Mr. Mason, the "Lady Augusta" successively passed, on her way up the river, Hindmarsh Island, Currency Creek, and the Finnis, and anchored at half-past ten o'clock, about 15 miles from the Goolwa, opposite Stirling's cattle station.
Compiled by P. J. REILLY 1997-9 ...