Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A colony established and Calcutta returns home

It rapidly became clear that the location chosen for the settlement was not ideal.

One of the main difficulties was the scarcity of fresh water. A survey of the area was made and the unfavourable report soon prompted Collins and the other members of the expedition to consider abandoning the place in favour of ‘a more eligible situation’, either to Port Dalrymple on the north side of Van Diemen’s Land or to the river Derwent on the south coast of the same island where a small party from Port Jackson was already established.

The crew of the HMS Calcutta, including James Caithness, were meanwhile busily employed collecting ship-timber to be taken back to England. This is a reminder that war against Napoleon was about to erupt once more and every British ship afloat would need to be fit for action, so Calcutta’s task was of great importance and Captain Woodriff was well aware that speed was of the essence.

It was finally decided to move the infant colony to the Derwent and this was partly accomplished before the Calcutta sailed on 18 December. The name Hobart was given to the new settlement.

Mount Nelson near Hobart

HMS Calcutta took on timber at Port Jackson and sailed again on 17 March 1804, passing south of New Zealand which was sighted on 29 March. 

Sydney Cove, Port Jackson, where Calcutta loaded 600 logs destined
for England's shipyards

Calcutta doubled Cape Horn on 27 April, arriving at Rio de Janeiro 22 May, thus, as Tuckey pointed out, ‘accomplishing a voyage round the world, discharging and receiving a cargo, in eleven months’. He reports:

The remainder of the Calcutta's voyage was almost totally barren of incident, either to amuse or instruct. In the long navigation between New Zealand and Cape Horn, scarce a single incident occurred either to interest the seaman, or the naturalist.Throughout this navigation, the wind seldom deviated to the northward of N. W. or to the southward of S. W. with strong gales, which enabled us to make an average of one hundred and eighty miles a-day for twenty nine days.

At Rio de Janeiro they took on water and all on board must have echoed Tuckey’s fervently-expressed wish to ‘see the shores which custom and reason bid us hail as the happiest of our globe’: in short, they sailed for home on 1 June. The end of one chapter for James Caithness and further adventures awaited him in the next.

Panorama: Greater Hobart

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