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White Wings Vol I. Fifty Years Of Sail In The New Zealand Trade, 1850 TO 1900


Notwithstanding the many beauties of her day, the 1,790-ton ship Blue Jacket, stood out in such a marked manner when she paid her first visit to Melbourne in the year 1855, that shipping people took practically a holiday to admire the new-comer. And when one thinks of such boats as the Lightning, the Oliver Lang, the James Baines, the Marco Polo, and the White Star, it means much when we know that even in such company she was admittedly a "beauty." Built at East Boston, United States, for the original White Star line of sailing packets, she was one of the speedy craft that the American builders turned out to the order of British shipping people before the latter had changed their old fashioned methods that were exploded by the experiments made by the Yankees during the struggle for supremacy in the China tea carrying trade. the Blue Jacket arrived at the Mersey on October 20, 1854, after a fine run of 12½ days. She made her first appearance in Melbourne on May 13th, 1855, under the command of Captain Underwood, after a remarkable run of 68 days from London, whence she sailed on March 6th. One cannot help thinking what a contrast was such a smart passage to the performances of some of the old tubs that were sent out to Auckland and Wellington in those eariy days.

On her return journey to London from Melbourne, the Blue Jacket took only one day longer than her outward passage. She and the other fast clippers I have mentioned above, were put on the Australian trade during the great rush to the Victorian goldfields which started in 1852. And a very profitable trade it was, naturally attracting the best and fastest shps.

During the eighteen months following the discovery of gold at Ballarat, the population of Melbourne jumped from 23,000 to 70,000. Basil Lubbock in writing of this golden era says: "In the five years 1852-57, when the rush to the diggings was at its height, 100,000 Englishmen, 60,000 Irishmen, 50,000 Scots, 4,000 Welsh, 8,000 Germans, 1,500 Frenchmen, 3,000 Americans, and about 30,000 other nationalities of the world, including 25,000 Chinese landed at Melbourne."

the Blue Jacket's passage of 68 days London to Melbourne, was the fastestpage 327 of the season in 1855, the Lightning coming second with 73 days, and the Red Jacket, third, with 75 days.