Sunday, April 19, 2009

HM Colonial Brig Lady Nelson – replica of 1798 square-rigger

The original colonial brig was built in 1789 at Deptford on the Thames.
Named after Lord Nelson’s wife, the little brig was only 16m long with a 5m beam and weighed 60 tons. She carried two masts and was square rigged on the foremast.
In order to sail into shallow water in the Antipodes, the original ‘Lady’ was fitted with three sliding centreboards in place of a fixed keel.
Under the command of Lieutenant Grant, the Lady Nelson left The Thames in March 1800 and sailed to the new settlement in New South Wales.
This remarkable small ship carried a small crew and an eccentric physician with pet dog and monkey.
In 1801 the Lady Nelson was the first vessel to sail west to east along Bass Strait and the first to make landfall on what is now South Australia.
Also in 1801, under the command of Lt. John Murray, the Lady Nelson sailed into Port Philip Bay – until then an undiscovered harbour.
In 1803 she headed south and sailed up the Derwent River to investigate a site for settlement in southern Van Diemens Land.
In 1804 she sailed up the Tamar River (where my journey began) to select a site for the future city of Launceston.
She returned to the Derwent and established a site for Hobart and later sailed north to the Hunter River to establish the city of Newcastle.
After that the Lady Nelson was used as a coal carrier, and a convict carrier transporting prisoners from Norfolk Island to Van Diemens Land.
In 1825 sailing north to Timor, the Lady Nelson was lost.
Her burnt out hull was later discovered in Timor and it is thought that the crew were murdered, the cargo pillaged and the ship burnt. An ignominious end to a proud little lady.

Little did I know that with three days of my short tourist sail, I would be setting out for the notorious waters of Bass Strait and following the route taken by Lieutenant Grant down the east coast of Tasmania heading towards Hobart.

Pics: Sails on the foremast and Lady Nelson the River Tamar, Northern Tasmania
Inspection Wharf on the Tamar – note small size of the brig in comparison with a modern day yacht

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