News from 1897 First New Zealand voyage of Delphic I

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Mark Baber

MAB Note: Contrary to what's stated here, Delphic did, in fact, visit New York twice during the summer of 1897 before joining the New Zealand service.

The Evening Post, Wellington, 12 October 1897
Retrieved from the National Library of New Zealand web site,

The cargo carrier Delphic, the latest addition to the already fine
direct-trading fleet of the Shaw, Savill, and Albion and White Star Company,
will reach Wellington in a few weeks, having left Plymouth on 3rd October.
Up to the present no particulars have come to hand regarding this fine
vessel. To Mr Gannaway, stevedore, we are indebted for the following
extracts from a letter received by him from a friend in England with
reference to the big liner:- The Delphic was built by Messrs Harland and
Wolff, the celebrated shipbuilders in Belfast, and is a steel twin-screw
steamer of the length of 472 feet 9 inches, breadth 55 feet, and depth 40
feet. She has four masts, one funnel, four boats, and three derricks and two
steam winches allotted to each hatch, besides being fitted with cargo spars.
She carries frozen meat in the three forward holds, having two orlop decks.
No 1 orlop has two ports on each side for passing mutton into the hold.
There are also two ports on each side in No 3 for the same purpose. The
steamer, it is expected, will be one of the handiest vessels of her class
trading to the colony in regard to the loading and discharging of cargo, as
she requires so little trimming. There is a spacious orlop deck for the
receiving of wool cargo, this being a distinct feature in the construction
of the vessel. The refrigerating machines, which are of heavy material, are
situated on the upper deck forward, a most unusual place on such steamers.
Lavatories, &c, have been fitted up for steerage passengers, but until the
steamer definitely took her place in the New Zealand trade it was not
intended to erect the accommodation for this class of passengers. It would
appear that the steamer has no saloon accommodation, or if any is of a very
limited character. The machinery is on the triple expansion principle, the
cylinders being of 19, 31, and 52 inches in diameter, with a stroke of 48
inches, and the estimated average speed is 11 knots. The Delphic has yards
on the foremast, and carries three jibs and two trysails, as in the case of
the Gothic. Summed up, the new liner is constructed and fitted up on the
most up-to-date principle expressly for the rapidly-growing deep-sea cargo
trade. When the last mail left London it was expected that Captain Sowden,
who has charge of the vessel, would have with him as chief officer Mr
Thornton, for some first officer of the Gothic, and that Captain Hill,
formerly connected with the ship Taranaki, would be another of the deck
officers. It was originally intended to send the Delphic on a couple of
trips to New York, but slackness of the Atlantic trade compelled the
proposals to be abandoned, and she was laid up until such time as she could
be despatched to New Zealand for the November wool clip.


Mark Baber

The Evening Post, Wellington, 22 November 1897
Retrieved from the National Library of New Zealand web site,

It was not long after noon yesterday that the White Star Co and Shaw, Savill
and Albion Co's magnificent new steamer Delphic made her appearance at the
Heads from London via Plymouth, Teneriffe, Capetown, and Hobart, and shortly
afterwards dropped anchor in the stream pending the examination of the
Health Officer (Dr James). Everything on board in regard to health matters
being satisfactory, the large steamer was taken in charge by Pilot Shilling,
and berthed at the Queen's Wharf without a hitch. From time to time
particulars have appeared in these columns of what is unquestionably the
finest cargo steamer that has yet been seen in New Zealand waters, and a
description of the vessel only a few weeks back adequately represents in
full what this leviathan carrier is afloat. Yesterday's stormy weather did
not prevent a very large number of people from visiting the newcomer, the
consensus of opinion being highly complimentary as regards her internal as
well as external arrangements. A report of the voyage shows that she took
her departure from Plymouth on 3rd October, experienced light to moderate
north-east to east winds across the Bay of Biscay, thence gentle to moderate
variable winds and fine weather to lat 25 S, long 10 1/2 E; afterwards
variable southerly winds till 25th, when she arrived at Capetown, where 149
passengers were landed and 18 embarked. The voyage was resumed the same day,
and experienced light to moderate winds from the north-west with fine
weather to lat 46deg 20min S, long 114 1/2deg E, when she fell in with a
very heavy south-west gale, with hurricane squalls and terrific sea. The
steamer was run before the gale for 20 hours, when the storm moderated, and
the vessel proceeded on her course to Hobart, which was reached on 16th
November. She left the same night for Wellington, arriving here as stated.

The steaming times between the different way ports were:---Plymouth to
Capetown, 21d 15h 16min; Capetown to Hobart, 21d 2h; Hobart to Wellington,
4d 10h. The gale which she ran into before reaching Cape Leuwin started the
after wheelhouse, but no serious damage was done.

The Delphic brought the following passengers for Wellington:---Saloon---Mr
Webb; steerage---Misses Vokes, Thane, Mrs Vokes, Messrs Davis, Hazelwood,
Tunnicliffe, M'Herran, Coote, Blair, Burton, Kelworth, Gassop, Geddings,
Kent (2), Reynolds, Lenard, Chair, Norris, Inman, Butler. There are two
saloon passengers for other ports---Captain Crisp and Rev Cannell---and 48

Particulars of her cargo have already appeared. The vessel's future
movements are not yet settled, but her stay in the colony is likely to
extend over some time.

Captain W. Sowden, an officer well known in New Zealand in connection with
the White Star Co, is in command of the Delphic, and he has associated with
him the following officers:---Chief officer, Mr Thornton, late of the
Gothic; first, Mr Davy, late of the Georgic; second, Mr Hill, formerly
captain of ship Taranaki and second officer of the Cufic; third, Mr Bellis,
late of the Adriatic Steam Navigation Co; fourth, Mr Hughes, late of the
Kaikoura; chief engineer, Mr Peascod, late of the Adriatic; second, Mr
Wright, late of the Ionic; third, Mr Sharp; fourth, Mr Bull; chief
refrigerating engineer, Mr Mitchell, formerly of the Doric; chief steward,
Mr Chapman, at one time connected with the Coptic; surgeon, Mr Bill, who is
now leaving the vessel to join his friends in Australia.

Captain Sowdon highly praises the sea-going qualities of the Delphic, which
were severely tested on the voyage in the hardest gale he ever remembers at
sea. The Americans were desirous of keeping the Delphic in the Atlantic
trade, her cargo working facilities and general appointments giving great
satisfaction during the two trips she made between Liverpool and New York.
On her first voyage from England to America she landed 4800 tons sugar, the
papers getting through the Customs five minutes before the time fixed for
the operation of the new tariff. Her cargo of grain and produce brought to
Liverpool from New York was the largest that had ever been landed in the
English port.

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