News from 1855: The clipper White Star's maiden Melbourne arrival

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Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
MAB Note: This article is presented subject to my oft-stated reservation
about treating the Pilkington & Wilson White Star Line as the true
predecessor of the Ismay White Star Line, while acknowledging it as the
source of the name and house flag and, in this case, the ship in question
being the namesake vessel. White Star arrived at Melbourne on her maiden
voyage on 17 July 1855

The Argus, Melbourne, 19 July 1855
Retrieved from the National Library of Australia web site,

This splendid clipper ship, the property of Messrs. Pilkington and Wilson,
of Water-street, Liverpool, the proprietors of the Mermaid, Arabian, Emma,
Shalimar, Red Jacket, Golden Era, &c., the magnificent fleet constituting
the "White Star Line" of Australian packets, is not only the largest, but
the most handsome vessel yet arrived from America, and owned by Liverpool
merchants; and in saying this, there is no detraction from the merits of
any other of the splendid ships now belonging to the Australian trade. The
White Star is admitted to be the perfection of naval architecture: her
colossal dimensions attract general attention, and her symmetry is the theme
of universal admiration.

She was built last year at St. John's, N.B., by Mr. Wright, the celebrated
builder, on whom she reflects the highest credit, and made the passage from
St. John's to Liverpool in the comparatively short time of fifteen days,
notwithstanding she encountered severe weather and adverse winds nearly
the whole of the distance. Her extreme length, over all, is 286 feet; beam,
48 feet; depth of hold, 30 feet; register tonnage, 2336, burthen, 4500
tons. Her model is perfection; she has a flat floor, very long and sharp
entrance, a beautiful and exceedingly fine run and clearance, and good
bearings along her whole length of water line and aloft. She has a good
shear, but not too much; a bold yet graceful appearance; while her masts,
spars, and rigging, although of large dimensions, impart the idea of
amplitude and snugness, the whole being according to scale, and of the very
best material. A ship of this description, under full sail, must present a
magnificent appearance, her spread of canvass being immense.

Her internal fittings are correspondingly beautiful and commodious. Her
poop-deck, although not extending in width to the beam of the ship by some
12 feet on either side, affords room beneath for a fore and aft saloon, each
30 feet by 14, and 8 feet high. The latter contains a dozen state-rooms for
passengers, 9 feet by 6; and the former twenty-six state-rooms, very little
less in dimensions; the whole of which are most conveniently fitted up and
elegantly furnished. The saloons themselves are more like drawing rooms than
cabins of a ship: both are painted a pure white, and ornamented with gold
devices and cornices, the latter serving as ventilators. Throughout are
interspersed tables, marble topped mahogany sideboards, couches and settees,
hair-stuffed, and covered with blue velvet, and massive mirrors in gilt
frames. A velvet-piled carpet covers the floors, and the whole has a most
delicate yet brilliant appearance.

In the centre of the fore saloon is a ventilator, passing through from the
poop-deck to the 'tween decks, the portion exposed in the cabin being
eight-square, the squares forming mirrors and ornamented glass. Both cabins
are well lighted by large skylights aloft, and the state rooms by patent
sidelights, which also act as ventilators. At the extreme stern are
capacious plunge and shower baths, &c, and circular stairs lead to the

Amidships are a couple of large deck-houses, built upon the beams of the
ship,---one 50 feet by 14, and the other 18 feet by 14, each 7 feet high.
The berths for second-class passengers are large and convenient, most
comfortably fitted up and furnished, and well lighted and ventilated.

The between-decks, which are very roomy, contain a large number of berths,
fitted most conveniently for the accommodation of single and married
passengers, or families, the greatest attention being paid to the light and
ventilation. The tables are fitted beamwise, and yet afford ample space for
promenade fore and aft. Several large hatch-houses, in addition to
patent sidelights along the whole extent of the ship, afford ventilation to
all parts of the 'tween-decks.

The galleys---one for the passengers, and the other for the officers and
crew---are large, and supplied with every necessary; while the stewards'
pantry is replete with every conceivable requisite. The accommodations for
the crew are not lost sight of. Their sleeping-berths are most comfortable;
and the "man at the wheel" is completely sheltered from the weather, the
wheel being in a spacious and lofty house, with an aperture in the front,
through which he may see every sail set.

The White Star is commanded by Captain J. R. Brown, late of the Briseis, and
who has had extended experience in the Australian trade. She has first,
second, third, and fourth mates, a crew of between sixty and seventy hands,
and a chaplain and surgeon.

She is the largest, longest, and most powerful sailing-ship that ever
anchored in the Port Phillip waters. She brings English dates to the 20th
April, and considering the light baffling winds experienced the first half
of the voyage, and some unavoidable accidents which have occurred since, she
has made a fine passage. On the eighteenth day at sea from Liverpool the
ship was within 400 miles of the Equator,---a performance seldom, if ever,
equalled. On the 4th June (then forty-four days out), the royals were furled
for the first time, which fact sufficiently indicates the light winds
experienced. On the 13th of June, just before midnight, strong winds and
squally weather prevailed, the ship laboring heavily, and carried away the
main yard (a spar ninety feet long, and five feet in circumference); the
maintopsail truss was broken, and sprung the maintopmast; and during the
next two days, without a sail on the mainmast, the ship logged 230 miles per
diem. On the 17th Captain Brown had the spare mainyard aloft, and damages
repaired; and on the 2nd July, in shaking a reef out of the maintopsail, the
chain tie parted, and the yard (seventy feet long) broke in the slings. Two
days after they sent up the spare topsail yard, a splendid pitch pine stick,
which was scarcely aloft and the sail beat, when it was carried away. Within
three days a third maintopsail yard was in its place, made from the wreck of
the two first spars. It is to be doubted if such serious damages were ever
repaired in so short a space of time. Some minor mishaps occurred, such as
carrying away the spanker boom and gaff, and the martingale twice.

Captain Brown has, however, succeeded in bringing safely to this port his
splendid ship in good condition, and with upwards of six hundred souls, all
in good health. Besides this large number of passengers and crew, the White
Star has on board 3000 tons of cargo and stores, 1500 tons of which are dead
weight, and she was drawing nearly twenty-three feet water on leaving
Liverpool. In ten consecutive days (June 30th to July 9th, inclusive), she
ran, by observation, 2393 knots, equal to 290 English miles per diem, and on
the last day she logged 337 English miles.

The White Star is in all respects a clipper ship, but retains sufficient of
the old form to make her a comfortable and profitable one.

The commander, Captain Brown, has won golden opinions from all classes of
his passengers, who have admired his ready facility in repairing damages,
his untiring vigilance, and his real kindness of heart.

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