Published in The Lyttelton Times, 11 Jan 1851
The Charlotte Jane, Captain Alexander Lawrence, commander, left Plymouth Sound at midnight on Saturday, Sept. 17. She sighted Stewart Island on Wednesday, Dec. 11, and cast anchor off Port Lyttelton on Monday, Dec. 16, at ten o’clock — thus making her voyage in 93 days from land to land, or 99 days from port to port. She carried 26 chief cabin, 19 intermediate, and 80 steerage passengers. (With the official shipping list of the paper these figures do not agree. The shipping list figures are chosen in estimating the total number of passengers by the four ships.)
The Rev Mr Kingdon was the chaplain; and Alfred Barker, Esq. Surgeon-superintendent.
During the voyage, the usual domestic occurrences of an emigrant ship occurred – of births 1, marriages 1, deaths 3 – the last being cases of very young children, who embarked with the seal of death upon their foreheads; one even died before the ship took her departure, and was buried on shore at Plymouth.
The course of the Charlotte Jane lay inside the Madeira and Canary Islands. She sighted Porto Santa, one of the Madeiras, on Sept. 17, and on Sept. 19, Teneriffe and Palma, steering close to the latter. Here she met the north-east trades, which, gave her but feeble assistance, and left her in about latitude 18 N. Her course was then south-easterly and in about 6 deg N.
She was driven by currents and foul winds to the eastward as far as longitude 16 W. Here she met a north-west wind, under which she again stood to the southward, crossing the line on Oct. 9, in longitude W. In latitude 2.28 she entered the south-east trades, which carried her rapidly over twenty degrees of latitude. On Oct 12 she spoke the Zeno of Richmond. Her course was then speedily run southward and south-easterly. On Oct. 28, nearing Tristan d’Acunha, she made 250 miles in the twenty-four hours, the largest day run during the voyage.
From Tristaaa d’Acunha, which, to the disappointment of many, she did not approach near enough to sight, she steered S.S.E., with a fresh northwest wind, and crossed the meridian of Greenwich on Oct. 29. South-eastward, still to Desolation Island, with strong gales, a dreary time of three weeks in cold and rain, with no perceptible change in the sea, the sky or the Cape pigeons in the wake. Desolation Island passed, she encountered the first foul wind from the eastward, and ran south. Bearing up again, she ran beautifully on, promising a rapid: voyage, till the 110 deg of east longitude. Here, for a week north and north-east winds prevailed, and drove her to the south-ward, not only out of her course, but to the extreme cold of latitude 52.36 — the furthest point of southing reached.
Here, bets which had previously been freely given an favour of 95 and 98 days from port to port were now freely taken about 105, 110, or even 120 days, she being then 88 days out. However, the wind soon changed, and after a splendid run abreast of the Australian coast, she at last made the land in the afternoon of Dec, 11. Passing close inside the Traps, she was becalmed and baffled for four days on the coast, giving the delighted passengers, as she stood off and on, glimpses of the coast, at Foveaux Strait, Molyneux, and Taieri Rivers, Otago, and Bank’s Peninsula.
On Monday morning early she stood into Port Victoria, and earned the proud distinction of being the first ship to land emigrants on the shores of the Canterbury settlement. From henceforward the age of the colony will be described at dating from the arrival of the Charlotte Jane.
Little need be said beyond this sketch of the ship’s course to describe the voyage. The passengers had their share of the manifold discomforts which go to make a sea voyage a by-word for discomfort. Extreme heat, extreme cold, confinement and ennui, are the lot of every Australasian voyager. But wether it was that, with this courageous little band, a spirit of hope prophesied better things beyond, or the colonist spirit was strong, disregarding petty present evils while greater menaced at a distance or whether it was that the increasing attention to the wants of all, which characterised the management of the Charlotte Jane, smoothed everything, it may be safely said, that by no party of passengers have discomforts been more patiently endured, by none more easily forgotten.
Of amusements, two manuscript newspapers, or weekly magazines, “The Cockroach” and “The Sea Pie” conducted with much spirit and ability, afforded a fund throughout. The wonders of the deep as they successivly presented themselves, were unfailing in interest and delight, interspersed as they were by an enthusiastic naturalist, the excellent surgeon-superintendent. Then there, was the maritime, if not manly game of “shuffle-katy” the foil and single-stick, the piano, and the song, and, during the fine weather, “the light fantastic toe.” At one time a passion for building model colonial houses animated the ship; designs and models were in everyone’s hands, and the subject on every one’s lip; at another, ship building was in vogue, and craft designed on the most courageously ingenious principles, to supersede all existing theories, were modelled and calmly lectured on. Thus, as probably with every ship that makes the voyage, time flew rapidly away; anxious and, more anxious grew the daily investigation of the chart; more and more impatient the expectations of the land-sick passengers. At last the breeze became softer, and to the sanguine seemed to smell of land; and one afternoon, while all were eagerly on the look-out, “the loom” was seen by several at once. New Zealand was made, and the voyage was done.
“How gladly then,
Sick of the uncomfortable ocean,
The impatient passengers approach the shore,
Escaping from the sense of endless motion
To feel firm earth beneath, their feet once more,
To breathe again the air,
With taint of bilge and cordage undefiled,
And drink of living springs if these they may
And with fresh fruits and wholesome food repair
Their spirits, weary of the watery way.
Aud, oh how beautiful the things of earth appear
To eyes that far and near,
For many a week have seen
Only the circle of the restless sea
With what a fresh delight they gaze again
On fields and forests green, hovel, or whatsoe’er
May wear ithe trace of man’s industrious hand;
How grateful to their sight the shore of shelving sand;
As the light boat moves joyfully to land.”
The only general observation that occurs to us as suggested by the voyage is that of pronouncing it highly injudicious for emigrant vessels to run so far to the southward as the latitude in which the Charlotte Jane made her east course. The temptation of thus gaining a rapid passage is doubtless very great, but the utmost speed cannot compensate to poor emigrants for the miseries thereby inflicted on them. It ia almost impossible on board ship to escape from cold, and from rain and spray; the only refuge is by huddling under hatches in dirt and darkness.
The beds can never be properly aired on deck and this single consideration should be sufficient to induce the authorities at Home to prescribe a rule on the subject. A grievous loss to the colony was in ‘this instance caused by the extreme cold to which the ship was exposed. Out of six couples of partridges and four couples of pheasants, which had up to that time continued healthy and lively, only one couple of pheasants and one partridge survived the damp and dreary climate of Desolation Island. Our excellent captain, in this instance, tried the southern passage, having a comfortable and not overcrowded vessel, and succeeded in accomplishing a rapid passage; but in his own opinion the preferable course for emigrant ships bound for Lyttelton would be along the latitude of Bass’s Straits, through Cook Strait, and down the coast with the prevailing northwest wind. Very few more years will set the question at rest for ever.
The First Four Ships – STAR (Christchurch), Issue 6977, 15 December 1900, Page 9