Friday, August 30, 2013

Mariners: Caithness and the Flying Dragon 1

At the beginning of 1854, the year which saw the wreck of over thirty ships including the Sea Gull (Captain Caithness) during a gale in Table Bay, talk of a wonderful new clipper ship was making headlines in the British and Colonial press.

In a column headed ‘English Clippers versus American Clippers’, one report read:

We have been much gratified by the inspection of the clipper Flying Dragon, built by Mr Pile, of [Monkwearmouth] Sunderland. Her tonnage is 780 old measurement and 674 new. She has been built especially to compete with the Yankee clippers. Her length over all is 199 feet and her beam 34 feet. The Flying Dragon made the run from the Wear to the Thames in the short space of twenty-eight hours and, judging from this specimen of her performances, we shall be much surprised if she do [sic] not make one of the most rapid passages to Australia on record. She has everything necessary to make her go. Her build is on the most improved principles. She is neatly and well rigged, with no  unnecessary top-hamper; and, moreover, she is commanded by a smart officer, Captain James George Carter, who, on his last voyage from China, was successful in saving the lives of the crew of the barque Titania which was lost … in the China seas …*

A heroic Captain and a clipper of marvellous modern design couldn’t fail to excite widespread interest. The career of the Flying Dragon would be closely watched by the general public as well as by the maritime community at the Cape, who could hope for a good look at the ship when she called at Table Bay on her Australia run.

No-one could have predicted that the Flying Dragon, true to her name, would soon be breathing fire and smoke and trailing disaster in her wake.

The Sunderland Clipper Barque Flying Dragon
Illustrated London News 4 Nov 1854

 The Courier, Hobart, Tasmania 4 January 1854, copied from the London Morning Herald's report.

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