Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Ships named Natal

In 1852 the General Screw Steamship Company, which already ran a mail service between England and South Africa, obtained the contract for carrying mails between Cape Town and Natal, with coastal stops. Two years later, in March 1854, the Natal, of 680 tons burthen, put in her first appearance on this route. The Natal Mercury 12 April 1854 described her as ‘a remarkably fine vessel, and besides having capacity for a large cargo … she possesses ample and elegant accommodation for passengers’. Her commander was Captain LOWEN.

She was not long seen in South African waters, however, as the General Screw Company withdrew from the Cape, and disappeared altogether in 1857. The Natal and her sister ship, the Cape of Good Hope, returned to England. Later, the Natal was chartered to the French Government, and finally wrecked on the Spanish coast in March 1855 on her way to the Crimea.

Ship arrivals and departures at Natal for year
ending October 1866. Several of the ships mentioned in
this post appear listed.
The Union-Castle Line coaster, also named Natal, was built in 1866, ten years after her namesake’s demise. This new ship, of 618 tons, was designed so as to be able to cross the notorious Bar at Durban’s harbour entrance, no matter what tide was running. Her career began inauspiciously when her captain, RIDSDALE, fell overboard and drowned during a voyage to Cape Town.  Transferred to the Zanzibar Line in 1873, the Natal was first overhauled and painted yellow, after which she went on a cruise to Saldanha Bay carrying some distinguished passengers among whom was Sir John MOLTENO, the Cape Premier.

This Natal had a varied career, including some years in the Australian coastal trade; subsequently she had Siamese owners, before being sold to a Dutch East Indian company, who renamed her Srie Bandjar.  A ship with an identity crisis, she later became the Libertas and then the Alava, under Spanish ownership.  In 1905 she was wrecked in the Philippine Islands.

Natal Star was among Rennie's Aberdeen Clippers.
Advertisement 1867.
There was yet another Natal: not to be confused with either of the above, this was a sailing vessel, one of Scottish shipowner John T Rennie’s ‘Aberdeen Direct’ clippers. The first of this line to sail the direct route from England to Natal was L’Imperatrice Eugenie, departing November 1858 and arriving at Durban on January 21 1859. It was such a successful venture that Rennie had further ships built specifically for the Natal direct route; they were barques of under 500 tons, of beautiful proportions, and included the Prince Alfred, Tugela, Transvaal, Natal, Quathlamba and Maritzburg.  One of Rennie’s clippers on the same route was named Natal Star.

A three-masted schooner of 216 tons, also named Natal, was reported in The Natal Mercury as arriving from London on October 5 1862, under Captain SPENCE, with about 15 passengers; her agent was J BROWN. This may have been a private charter.

The Cape and Merchants’ Line had a steamer called the Natal Merchant, about 1300 tons, in the 1880s. And, in 1865 there was a coaster called Natalian operating between the Cape and Natal as part of the Diamond Line – a company whose light flickered briefly and was extinguished in 1867.

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