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

The Red Jacket

page 330

The Red Jacket.

Famous American Clipper—A Record Round Voyage—Caught Among the Ice.

In 1860 Auckland Harbour was graced by the presence of one of the most famous and finest modelled sailing ships that ever sailed the seas. This was the Red Jacket, a large full-rigged ship of over 2000 tons, or 1597 tons by the new measurement, sent out to Melbourne and Auckland by the White Star Company. This line, not to be outdone by rivals, followed the example of the Black Ball Company, and in 1854 chartered three American ships—the Chariot of Fame, Blue Jacket and Red
Red Jacket Surrounded By Ice.

Red Jacket Surrounded By Ice.

Jacket. The last two were extreme clippers. the Red Jacket, the most famous of this trio, was built by George Thomas, at Rockland, Maine, in 1853-4, and was owned in Boston. Her dimensions were:—Length, 260ft; breadth, 44ft; and depth, 26ft.

On her maiden voyage the Red Jacket sailed from New York for Liverpool on February 19, 1854, commanded by Captain Asa Eldridge, and made the passage in 13½ days from Sandy Hook to the Rock Light, Liverpool. During the entire run the wind was strong from the S.E. and W.S.W., with either rain or snow. The first seven days the Red Jacket averaged only 182 miles per 24 hours, but during the last six days she made 219, 413, 374, 343, 300 and 371 miles, a fraction over an average of 336 miles in 24 hours.

On her first appearance at Liverpool the Red Jacket attracted much attention as being an extremely handsome ship. One of the papers, reporting her arrival, stated: "She is one of the finest models that we have hitherto had the pleasure to behold." For a figurehead she carried a full length representation of the Indian chief after whom she was named. On this occasion she raced home with the celebrated Lightning, which sailed from Boston a day before the Red Jacket. Both ships arrived at their destination on the same day.

Remarkable Round Voyage.

the Red Jacket made her first voyage from Liverpool to Melbournein 1854, under the command of Captain. Samuel Reed, in 69 days, 12 hours. She receivedpage 331 very quick dispatch, being in port only 12 days, and made the passage to Liverpool in 73 days—the voyage round the globe, including detention in port, being accomplished in five months, four days—a record which has probably never been beaten. On her homeward passage she carried 45,000 ounces of gold, and on this run she beat the celebrated Guiding Star. by nine days, though she lost a considerable time through being among icebergs and field ice off Cape Horn, which was rounded in 20 days from Melbourne. On her arrival at Liverpool the ship was sold to Pilkington and Wilson of that port (then agents for the White Star Line), for £30,000, and continued in the Australian trade, where she was much appreciated, for many years and becoming one of the most famous of the American clippers.

Sailing Among the Ice.

The day after she rounded the Horn, on the homeward passage, the Red Jacket had a most trying experience amongst the ice. A passenger by the ship supplied the following account to a London paper of the risk the ship ran: "On 24th August I was roused out of sleep by the noise of shortening sail. Ice had been seen before, but the solid masses had been supposed in the dark to be land. I found we were in smooth water and large masses of ice were floating about us. As the day broke we found ourselves sailing along a lake of water, not unlike a canal. The ice appeared to extend on every side in solid fields as far as the eye could reach, without any prospect of getting out, so that we had to follow the channel. All sail was clewed up except the topsails, and as there was a good breeze we proceeded along at about four or five knots. Our situation at this time seemed most appalling, as we appeared to be getting further into the ice, so that at 11 o'clock we were almost making up our minds to remain for weeks in this fearful situation. About noon the captain and second mate, who had been on the foretopsail yard all the morning, discovered a clear sea again, to reach which we had to force a passage through dense masses of ice. It was here she sustained the principal damage to her stem and copper.

"We soon got clear and the rest of the day we saw no traces of ice, and were very thankful we had got off so easily. But, to our dismay, at 8 p.m. we again fell in with it. The ship was put about and sail shortened for the night, and we ran back to the clear water in which we had been sailing. At daybreak sail was made and at 7 a.m. we came up with the ice. At first it was only large pans, and much melted, the water having all the appearance of brine and being quite thick round them. Afterwards large masses of icebergs presented themselves.

Huge 'Bergs.

"In grinding the ship through these, great difficulty was experienced. Very large bergs were also interspersed and visible all round. This day we cleared it again about noon. Icebergs were still, however, seen both near and in the distance. Their appearance was most grand. The largest, about two miles in circumference and 100 feet high, was passed about four or five miles distant on our starboard and lee side. We hove-to again at night.

"Next day was for the most part a dead calm. We were carried back with the current. Icebergs were still visible. The following day we passed many more which were the last seen. One of these was really grand, being about 200 feet high. We cleared it about a mile distant. The weather during this period was clear and fine."

Comes To Auckland.

As already stated, the Red Jacket visited Auckland in 1860, arriving at that port on the 17th May. She left Liverpool on January 27th, and notwithstanding adverse circumstances, made the passage to Port Philip in 84 days. The captain stated that he had never before met with such light N.E. and S.E. trades. After rounding the Cape the Red Jacket had no westerly winds, N. and N.E. prevailing right up to Cape Otway; still the run from the Cape to Melbourne was made in 27 days. With the exception of 58 hours, the ship kept on the port tack all the way from England. On arrival at Melbourne the Red Jacket landed 1200 tons of cargo and 250 passengers.

She remained in port at Melbourne until May 6, when she sailed for Auckland. She ran across to the Three Kings in seven days,. and on May 17 arrived at Auckland, where she landed general cargo and 150 passengers, among whom were Mr. and Mrs. Henry W. Smith, who celebrated their diamond wedding on March 8, 1924, at Edendale, Auckland.

the Red Jacket completed ten passages to Melbourne—from 1854 to 1860.