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White Wings Vol II. Founding Of The Provinces And Old-Time Shipping. Passenger Ships From 1840 To 1885

The Oriental

The Oriental.

The Oriental, 506 tons, Captain William Watson, the third of the barques chartered by the company, sailed from Plymouth on June 22, 1841, and arrived at New Plymouth on November 7, after having first called in at Port Nicholson. There were only 90 emigrants aboard, and only one cabin passenger—Mr. Charles Armitage Brown, the friend of Keats, the poet. Sixteen other cabin passengers had left the ship at Port Nicholson, as they did not like the reports they heard about Taranaki. The Oriental had a fine weather passage from the Old Land. As she had so few passengers and little cargo beyond the belongings of the passengers, she got quick discharge, but nevertheless she very nearly met the same fate as the Regina.

Apparently there was some trouble with the crew, and in weighing anchor the orders of the captain were not properly carried out. The barque was perilously near the shore, at one time being about half a page 53 cable's length off, but fortunately the anchors held when promptly dropped. Captain Liardet then went aboard and skilfully worked the vessel out of her difficult position. As it was she struck the bottom two or three times, but no serious damage was done. Naturally such incidents as these did not enhance the reputation of the roadstead, and Wellington merchants for a time absolutely refused to send vessels up. We read that towards the end of 1841, when some persons were trying to charter a vessel, "out of twenty lying at Port Nicholson none of the captains could be induced to accept a charter at any price."

The month of November, 1841, was a particularly unlucky one for the infant settlement of New Plymouth. The Regina was wrecked, the Oriental had a narrow escape, and a little later a dreadful accident happened to Captain Liardet and Mr. John Watson. Intending to purchase one of the four-pounder iron guns off the Regina, Captain Liardet was busily engaged clearing the touch-hole, which had been spiked, when the powder exploded, both Liardet and Watson getting the charge in their faces. Liardet lost his right eye, and the following March he left for England to get the best medical attention. He luckily retained the sight of the left eye, and was appointed to a responsible position at the Greenwich Hospital.