Arrival in SA

Conditions On Board

Duke of

Pioneer Ships to arrive in South Australia

After the historic meeting at Exeter Hall on the 30th June 1834, where the principles, objects, plan and prospects of the New Colony of South Australia were explained to the public, hundreds of enquiries from prospective immigrants started to arrive at the South Australian Association's rooms at 7 John Street Adelphi.

The First Expedition
Because the Commissioners were not able to appoint the colonial officers and surveyors until the South Australian Act became law - 19th February 1836 - the South Australian Company was able to organise its ships first.

The Company's Ships
The Company dispatched the Duke of York, the Lady Mary Pelham, the Emma and the John Pirie, with the intention of commencing whaling operations on Kangaroo Island - a known safe harbour.

The Commissioners' Ships
The Commissioners had the extra problem of not knowing exactly where the capital and seat of government were to be placed. They gave explicit instructions to the Surveyor General Colonel Light, to locate the city and harbour within easy communication of the River Murray.

Their first expedition consisted of the Rapid supported by the Cygnet, to complete the maritime survey. The Buffalo, with Governor Hindmarsh in command, was to proceed to Port Lincoln to await the decision of Colonel Light as to the capital site.

The other pioneer ships which departed in 1836 were to rendezvous at Nepean Bay Kangaroo Island and then to proceed to Light's capital and harbour.

The 6 ships which did not arrive until 1837 were:-

1st September
Holdfast Bay
17th January 1837
William HuttLondon
12th August
Holdfast Bay
26th January 1837
John RenwickLondon
18th October
Holdfast Bay
9th February 1837
3rd September
Holdfast Bay
11th February 1837
Sarah and ElizabethHull
26th September
14th April 1837
South AustralianPlymouth
22nd December
22nd April 1837

Passage and Selection Of The Emigrants
Under the Emigration Scheme, labouring classes received a free passage. They had to be between 15 and 30 years of age, preferably married and needed two references. Steerage passengers paid
15-20, Middle Berth 35-40, Cabin class 70. Children under 14 years were charged 3 while those under 1 year were free.

Conditions on board
Although the ships had been assessed for their suitability to convey immigrants, the captain was responsible for their welfare once on board.

The larger emigrant vessels each carried a doctor who was paid 10/- per person landed in the colony as an innovative medical insurance scheme.

Even though there were a few deaths and births, these were minor compared with the Duchess of Northumberland's journey described left.

We can only imagine what it was like to spend 137 days or so cramped up on one of these small wooden ships, sailing half way round the world with the prospect of not even knowing where your final destination was to be or what you would find when you got there.

All emigration to South Australia was voluntary - remarkable also for the high percentage of women and children who arrived on our first fleet.

The 9 ships to arrive in South Australia in 1836 landed:- 343 males, 164 females and 129 children - total 636.

Their average age was only 19 years of age.

On to the Duke of York
Return to the top of this page.

Lady Mary

John Pirie.





Tam O'Shanter.



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