"The Mystery" - Voyage 1854-1855


So many of us are in awe of our amazing ancestors and their various voyages, however there is another voyage that exceeds all those great feats.

Having watched an excellent documentary on SBS television, that has left me mesmerised by its feat. It was a voyage of seven fishermen from Penzance, Cornwall, England to Melbourne, Australia. No doubt the Cornish Special Interest Group would know well of their voyage?

The seven owners of a lugger fishing vessel decided they wanted to follow the gold boom and what better way to do it than in their own boat. They knew it inside out and back to front and they could sell it when they arrived in Melbourne. Its length was thirty seven feet whilst the beam was eleven feet six inches, weighing sixteen tons. Both fore and aft decks were added for the long voyage south, to take on water and supplies.

With a crew of seven and seven days stop-over in Cape Town, South Africa they travelled nearly twelve thousand miles in 115 days, or one hundred and ten miles every day they were at sea.

The South Africans were so impressed with their speedy vessel they were asked to take the mail onto Melbourne, as the mail ship was running rather late.

A log entry for the 6 March 1855 states, "A terrific gale of wind - heaviest so far experienced. Our Gallant little boat rides the mountain of sea remarkably well. Not shipping any water, dry decks fore and aft. I am confident she is making better weather than a great many ships, if here."

The documentary showed the original compass, probably about the size of a shilling that would have fitted easily into a waist-coat fob pocket. Such a tiny instrument played such a vital role in the odyssey.

Five men returned home including the Captain Nicholls. After such sustained and courageous leadership the unlucky gentleman was knocked down by a dray and killed. Two of the seven stayed on in Victoria, a Lewis Lewis died in Castlemaine whilst P. C. Mathews settled in Melbourne.

This story is remarkable. But if I may suggest these seven men lived on the sea fishing for their livelihood, hence it was crewed by seven owners who were seven professional sailors and anglers, who were aware and prepared to under-take this huge endeavour.

My admiration is still strong and proud of all the hardships endured by our forebears in their travels for a new opportunity in a new homeland.

( Contributed by Michael Grogan, PPPG Member No. 1332 )


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