News from 1885 Maiden Voyage of Belgic II

Mark Baber

Staff member
MAB Note: Although neither of the following snippets mention that this is Belgic's MV, the fact that she was only delivered to White Star on 7 July 1885 (as per Shipbuilders to the World) leads inescapably to that conclusion.

The Times, 7/15/1885

Arrived---***Belgic, st., to load for Sydney.
The Times, 7/31/1885

The steamer Belgic, of 2,695 tons, Capt. Walker,
chartered by Sir Saul Samuel, K.C.M.G., Agent-General
for New South Wales, sailed from Plymouth for Sydney
yesterday, with a total of 590 emigrants, under the
supervision of Dr. L. R. Huxtable, as surgeon-superintendent,
Miss Chicken being in charge of the single women.


Mark Baber

Staff member
The Sydney Morning Herald, 14 September 1885
Retrieved from the National Library of Australia web site,

The Orient Company's chartered steamship Belgic, from Plymouth, with
Government immigrants, entered the heads at 1.35 p.m. on Saturday, and
dropped anchor in Watson's Bay, about a quarter of an hour afterwards. The
port health officer, Dr. Sibley, was in attendance, and on boarding the
Belgic had the pleasing intelligence conveyed to him that there was and had
been no sickness on board from the time the vessel left Plymouth until she
arrived in Port Jackson. The usual examination followed, Dr. Sibley being
accompanied by Dr. H. N. MacLaurin, the health officer and medical adviser
to the Government, and the Hon. C. K. Mackellar, late health officer, and
the result was most satisfactory, every part of the ship being found to
be thoroughly clean and in the most scrupulous order, evoking highly
complimentary remarks from the inspecting officers. No hesitation was felt
about giving the Belgic pratique, and shortly after 4 o'clock she got
underway again and steamed up to the Orient Company's moorings in Neutral
Bay. The Belgic has made the most successful voyage with immigrants yet
accomplished, the time occupied having been only 44 days, no sickness,
whatever having occurred, and no deaths. While a cursory glance over this
splendid vessel shows that to her build and perfect equipment in everything
that tends to the health and comfort of the passengers are largely due the
success of the voyage, praise must also be accorded to the
surgeon-superintendent, Dr. L. R. Huxtable, to Miss Chicken (the matron),
and to Captain Walker and his officers, who left nothing undone to assist
the surgeon in the performance of his arduous duties or to promote the
comfort and happiness of all on board.

The Belgic is certainly one of the finest vessels that ever entered this
port. She is the first of two important additions lately made to the Oceanic
Steam Navigation Company's White Star fleet, and was launched from the yard
of Messrs. Harland and Wolff, in Belfast, on the 3rd of last January, so
that she is now on her maiden voyage. Her general appearance corresponds in
all respects with that of the well-known vessels of this line, having a
graceful, yacht-like hull, with ample beam, four masts square-rigged on two,
thus providing effective sail-power in the event of any breakdown of the
machinery, fully equal to that of a first-class sailing-ship. Like her
sister ships the Ionic, Doric, and Coptic, now so favourably known in the
trade between New Zealand and London, she has turtle backs both forward and
aft, forming an excellent shelter in wet and stormy weather for steerage
passengers. The captain's cabin is immediately adjoining the wheelhouse and
bridge, so that he is, practically speaking, always at his post of duty. The
officers, as is customary in the White Star steamers, are quartered by
themselves in a deck-house on the upper deck forward, convenient to their
work and quite apart from the passengers, so that there is nothing to
interfere with their needful rest, or the efficient execution of their
responsible duties. The steerage accommodation is in three sections,
approached by separate entrances, and provided with separate lavatories,
with an ample water-supply, kept in constant circulation by a pulsometer
pump. During this voyage the single men have been housed forward, a part of
the married couples in the saloon accommodation amidships, and the remainder
further aft, while the single girls had all the after part: but when the
ship is in her ordinary condition, the single men steerage passengers will
be quartered in the main and lower decks forward, and between their and the
married peoples' [sic] quarters is the saloon accommodation and engine
space. The single women will, as at present, be right aft. A hospital with
every requirement is provided for each section, and two on deck for
infectious diseases. The whole of the upper deck, fore and aft, forms a
splendid promenade for steerage passengers, while the saloon passengers have
a separate deck above this again. The accommodation for saloon passengers is
not unlike that of the Orient Company's R.M.S. Austral, and is of the most
perfect description. It is situated amidships, immediately forward of the
engines and boilers, in the quietest and best part of the ship. The saloon,
or dining-room, is approached by a very handsome entrance hall from the
upper deck, and from it is access to the saloon deck, already alluded to, by
an easy double staircase, with bronze and mahogany balustrading. The saloon
has been beautifully and artistically decorated, the panelling being of
lincrusta and the woods used being satinwood and teak, while the furnishings
are of the most sumptuous character. There is a fine Broadwood piano at one
end of the apartment, and a library; and the sofas all around are richly
upholstered, while the chairs are revolving and of elaborately carved wood.
The ladies' cabin and the smoking-room are on the saloon deck, and are
models of artistic decoration and furnishing. The sleeping-cabins on the
main deck are large, airy, perfectly ventilated, and lightly and elegantly
furnished. Bathrooms and lavatories, beautifully tiled and arranged, are
provided; and the electric light, on the Swan and Edison principle, extends
throughout the ship, and has proved in every way a great success, not a
hitch having occurred with it during the whole voyage. The Belgic is divided
into eight water-tight compartments, any of which may be penetrated without
seriously imperilling the vessel's safety, and it may be truly said, no
vessel afloat excels her in efficiency and perfection of arrangement in this
respect. The bulkhead water-tight doors are so much approved of that they
are being adopted in her Majesty's navy as something infinitely superior to
the old system of bulkhead openings. The provision against fire is most
complete, and an outbreak in any section of the ship can at once be met by
both steam and water. The life-saving apparatus are also of the most
approved order. Two large life rafts are stowed on the deckhouses forward,
ready for immediate use, and eight large lifeboats hang in their davits,
with fittings complete, and ready for service on the shortest notice. The
Belgic is built of mild-steel, the ductile quality of which ensures the
maximum of strength and durability. Her principal dimensions are --- Length,
420 feet; breadth, 42 feet; depth, 29 feet 6 inches; and the gross register
tonnage is 4712 tons. There are two double cylindered engines of 400
horse-power nominal, also built by Messrs. Harland and Wolff, the steam for
which is supplied from three elliptical boilers, working at an initial
pressure of 90 lbs. to the square inch, but tested by the Board of Trade to
double that pressure, and capable of bearing even much greater pressure than
the maximum official requirement. The crank shafts and straight shafting are
of steel, and so constructed as to minimise the risk of a breakdown, the
more so as the engines are two distinct and complete machines capable of
being disconnected, and worked separately at a reduced speed. The Belgic is
steered amidships by steam, but she has two additional steam steering
engines further aft, besides two sets of hand gear, and a most complete
arrangement; so that even if the whole of the steam steering gear, and the
hand gear also, were carried away, the ship could be kept under perfect
control by means of blocks and tackle. This is a most ingenious arrangement,
and is well worth a visit from any one of a mechanical bent.

The ship proved herself in every way admirably suited for the conveyance of
immigrants, the excellent electric lighting arrangements and the
refrigerator being special advantages. Throughout the voyage the health of
the passengers was remarkably good, the effects of tropical heat being
little felt, on account of the very efficient and complete ventilation in
all the compartments. The general good conduct and cleanliness of the
immigrants was noteworthy. The provisioning department, under the immediate
supervision of Mr. Eastdown, the purser, was most satisfactorily
administered. There were two births during the voyage. Divine service was
held on Sundays when the weather permitted, and a school for the instruction
of the children was carried on throughout the voyage by Mr. Treadgold, one
of the passengers. Amusements were not forgotten. A series of most
successful concerts was, by the kind permission of the commander, held in
the saloon under the conductorship of Mr. Wotton, the hospital orderly,
whose services were greatly appreciated. The weather was generally fine
during the voyage, which added greatly to the comfort of all the passengers,
who scarcely had an idle hour during the comparatively brief time the ship
was at sea. It may be stated that the average speed maintained was 12.3
knots an hour, and the biggest day's run was 336 miles. The immigrants had
an ample supply of fresh meat and the best of food generally, while the
quantity of fresh water was practically unlimited, the ship starting with
not less than 24,000 gallons, of which she has still about 6000 gallons

Of the 590 souls who left Plymouth the following classification is
given: --- 46 married couples, 148 single men, 211 single women, 64 boys
under 12 years of age, 67 girls under 12 years of age, and 8 infants ---
equal to 516 statute adults. The men comprise miners, joiners and
carpenters, brickmakers, ironworkers, painters, plumbers, brass-finishers,
quarrymen, a policeman, stonemasons, boilermakers, tailors, blacksmiths, and
general labourers, while the single women are mostly domestic servants.

The following account of the voyage is supplied by Capt. Walker:--- After
embarking passengers, the Belgic left Plymouth at 1.40 p.m. on July 30, and
went full speed ahead at 2.33 p.m. Fine clear weather, moderate easterly
winds, and smooth sea prevailed all the way to Teneriffe, the vessel
arriving there at 6.58 a.m. on August 4, the run having thus been made in 4
days 17 hours and 15 minutes. After coaling she proceeded again at 7.38 p.m.
same date, and had light easterly and southerly winds to the Equator, which
was crossed at noon on Tuesday, August 11, and moderate to fresh S.E. winds
and sea thence to Cape Town, which was reached at 4.50 p.m. on Thursday,
August 20. She coaled and proceeded at 2.22 p.m. on Friday, August 21, and
in making the easting on the parallel of 39° experienced principally
westerly winds, at times increasing to gales, a strong gale being
encountered just before reaching St. Paul's Island, which was passed and
sighted at 1.22 a.m. on August 31. The meridian of the Leuwin was passed on
the 5th instant at about 10 p.m., and fresh easterly wind and head sea were
had from there to the Otway, which was passed on the 10th instant, and fine
weather thence to port.

The Belgic is commanded by Captain William Henry Walker, and the deck
officers are as follows, ranking in the order named:--- Messrs. George
Wright, George Beckman, J. L, Taylor, and P. Taw. The chief engineer is Mr.
John Graham, and the purser Mr. Thomas Eastdown. Captain Walker is now on
his first visit to Sydney. He has been for a number of years in the White
Star ships, and states that the reason the Orient Company succeeded in
securing the Belgic for the conveyance of immigrants to New South Wales was
simply because it was almost on her way out to her destination, as she is
intended for the mail service between Hongkong, Yokohama, and San Francisco.

The single women will be landed from the ship first thing this morning, and
the Board of Immigration will assemble at the immigration office, Hyde Park,
at the usual hour, for the purpose of examining them. The examination of the
married couples and single men will take place on board the steamer at noon,
and it is expected that at 2 o'clock the ship will be free [?].


Mark Baber

Staff member
MAB note: From Australia Belgic headed to San Francisco to join the White Star/Occidental & Oriental transpacific service, the only Australia to United States trip made by any White Star ship.

Daily Alta California, San Francisco, 22 November 1885
Retrieved from the California Digital Newspaper Collection web site,
California Digital Newspaper Collection

The Occidental and Oriental Steamships "Gaelic" and "Belgic"

The above two new steamers are important additions to this company's fleet.
The Gaelic arrived from Hongkong October 30th, and sailed for Japan and
China November 10th. The Belgic, now at the company's wharf, foot of Brannan
street, arrived November 2d, and takes her place in the line sailing
November 28th. The two ships are in every respect alike, and a description
of one will serve for both. They are built of steel, and divided into eight
water-tight compartments. The frames, beams and plates are well
proportioned, and show that they have been put together by competent
workmen. Their dimensions are: Length 420, feet [sic] beam 42 feet, depth 20
feet 6 inches. They have four steel boilers, low-pressure engines with a
working capacity of 2200-horse power. They are fitted with electric lights
and a patent refrigerator of sufficient capacity to preserve meats for the
voyage. The cabin accommodations are superior, rich and substantial. They
present an air of comfort that will be pleasing to the traveler. The
steerages are high and airy, and the Belgic is being fitted with a new style
of steerage berths, adopted and used only by the O. and O. S. S. Co. The
berths are portable, can easily be stowed overhead between the beams when
not required, and when in their places afford a clean and substantial bed,
occupying less space than any other style. The Belgic will be thrown open to
visitors Tuesday next, the 24th instant, and in the evening will be
illuminated with the electric lights.