HMS Rattlesnake

Naval Database

| Previous Page | Next Page | Index

Rattlesnake, 1822
Type: Survey vessel ; late 6th rate ; Armament 28
Launched : 26 Mar 1822 ; Disposal date or year : 1860
BM: 503 tons Complement as a survey ship: 170

26 Mar 1822 launched at Chatham.

Circa Aug 1825 at Jamaica and reported to be healthy.

6 Jan 1827 Employed in the West Indies.

31 Jan 1828 with a squadron at Grabusa under Commodore Sir T. Staines, destroyed a number of vessels which had been used for piracy. See p. 261-2 at

19 Apr 1828 refitting at Port Royal. Lieutenant Fitzgerald, appointed to the Rattlesnake, vice Russell Elliott.

4 Jun 1828 is cruising off Corfu.

24 Jun 1828 Blockading the coast of the Morea.

27 Jan 1829 Valletta, reported to be sailing for Naples on the 29th inst.

29 Apr 1829 Was reported to be at Malta when the Neva transport departed Valletta.

20 Jan 1830 at Malta.

6 Feb 1830 at Valletta.

19 Apr 1830 left Algiers for Malta.

29 Apr 1830 arrived Malta from Algiers.

29 Jun 1830 at Corfu.

29 Aug 1830 at Corfu.

10 Nov 1830 at Corfu.

6 Jan 1831 at Malta.

3 Apr 1831 arrived Portsmouth from Malta.

20 Apr 1831 paid off at Portsmouth and recommissioned by Capt. Graham, and taken into dock on the 22nd.

23 Jun 1831 in Portsmouth Harbour.

23 Jul 1831 in Portsmouth Harbour.

20 Aug 1831 at Spithead.

23 Aug 1831 departed Spithead for South America, Capt. Graham, in command.

25 Mar 1832 arrived Valparaiso from Monte Video.

May 1832 at Valparaiso.

12 Jun 1832 at Coquimbo with Dublin and Clio when the Volage departed for Rio, the Rattlesnake shortly being due to depart for the ports of the Intermedios.

13 Jan 1833 Was reported to be in the Pacific.

16 Jun 1833 remains Valparaiso.

27 Oct 1833 arrived Plymouth from Rio Janeiro and San Blas, Valparaiso and Coquimbo, with specie.

30 Oct 1833 arrived Portsmouth from Valparaiso, Rio Janeiro (4 Sep).

Spoke to The Gold Fleece, from Liverpool to Bengal, 22 Sep in lat. 1 S., long. 21 W. ;
the Albion, of London, bound to the Mauritius, 29 Sep in lat. 11 N., long. 23 ;
the Iberia, from Hamburgh, 29 Sep in lat. 12 long. 23 ;
the Royal Sovereign, from Dublin, 29 Sep in lat. 12, long. 24 ;
the Sylvia, from the Cape of Good Hope, 2 Oct in lat. 17, long. 27 ;
the Lady Mary Pelham packet, from Falmouth, 12 Oct in lat. 30, long. 29 ;
the Alarm, from Cardigan, 23 Oct in lat 47, long 14.

31 Oct 1833 Has come into Portsmouth harbour to be paid off.

27 Feb 1834 the Admiralty (John Barrow) requests the Foreign Office (Viscount Palmerston), to order Warrants from the French, under the recent Conventions for the Slave Trade, for the Brazil Station for the commanding officers of the Snake, Satellite, and Rapid, at the same time cancelling and returning those that had previously been issued for the Rattlesnake, Samarang, and Pylades.

17 May 1834 taken into Portsmouth dock to be repaired.

17 Jan 1835 in harbour at Portsmouth.

16 Feb 1835 is being fitted out at Portsmouth for the East India station.

26 Mar 1835 arrived Plymouth from Portsmouth on Monday, en route for the East Indies.

18 May 1835 departed Rio de Janeiro for the Cape and India.

2 Aug 1835 departed from Bombay on a cruise.

10 Jun 1836 arrived Bombay.

23 Jun 1836 departed Mauritius for New South Wales.

4 Aug 1836 is reported to be at New South Wales.

14 Dec 1836 arrived Sydney, NSW, from Port Phillip.

21 Feb 1836 departed Sydney for Port Philip.

7-14 Feb 1839 Halifax, as a result of tension with the United States Government regards the possession of disputed territory British troops are to be sent to New Brunswick and the Rattlesnake will remain here until the 67th arrive from the West Indies.

3 Aug 1839 Master W. Brodie, appointed to command the Rattlesnake troop-ship ; Second Masters Edward F. Cavell, sen., Samuel Waddington and G. H. Harper, Assistant Surgeon John Sinclair, and Boatswain Benjamin Bull, appointed to the Rattlesnake.

10 Aug 1839 Portsmouth was commissioned in the harbour yesterday. The complement is to be 44.

17 Aug 1839 in Harbour at Portsmouth.

Circa Apr/May 1840 at Singapore.

21 Jun 1840 arrived in Macao Roads and established a blockade of the port and river of Canton. See p. 282 at

1 Jul 1840 at the anchorage under the Buffaloe's Nose.

4 Jul 1840 anchored off Chusan.

5 Jul 1840 Chinese troops retreat into Chusan following short bombardment. See also p. 282 at

6 Jul 1840 British troops discovered that Chinese troops had departed Chusan during the night. See of 15 Dec 1840.

At some time during the period 1839-42 engaged in the Operations in China. Officers and Men serving on this ship during this period may be eligible for a Medal. See p. 288 at

24-> Aug 1841 operations against Amoy and the fortified island of Kolangsoo. See p. 294-> at

4 Sep 1841 the expedition proceeded to Chusan. See p. 294-> at

1 Oct 1841 action at Tinghae. See p. 294-> at

9-> Oct 1841 reconnaissance of the mouth of the Ningpo river and city of Chinhae - subsequent operations and choice of Ningpo as winter HQ. See p. 295-> at

19 Apr 1842 departed Trincomalee for China.

5 Jul 1842 stationed at Chusan.

16 Jun - 29 Aug 1842, expedition up the Yang-tse-Keang, to the end of hostilities and signing of the Treaty of Nanking. See p. 300-> at and

24 Sep 1846 Portsmouth Thursday.- Orders were received this morning to Commission the Rattlesnake, 26, for the surveying service. Captain Owen Stanley took up his commission, and the pendant was hoisted at noon. Her complement ordered is 170, including officers, marines, and boys.

25 Nov 1846 Sails bent.

30 Nov 1846 To sail to Spithead.

5 Dec 1846 To sail form Spithead via Madeira and Cape of Good Hope.

7 Dec 1846 arrived Plymouth, possibly to sail on the 10th ?

11 Dec 1846 departed for Madeira.

18 Dec 1846 arrived Madeira.

26 Dec 1846 departed for Rio de Janeiro.

23 Jan 1847 arrived Rio de Janeiro.

2 Feb 1847 departed for Cape of Good Hope.

7/8 Mar 1847 arrived Cape of Good Hope.

10 Apr 1847 departed for Mauritius.

4 May 1847 arrived Mauritius.

17 May 1847 departed for Hobart Town.

25 Jun 1847 arrived Hobart Town.

7 Jul 1847 Departs for Sydney.

16 Jul 1847 Arrives Sydney ; passengers Capt Charles Stanley RE, and lady, Mr King and Mr Gregson - see below for more information on passage out and details for the passengers.

16 Jul 1847 Vessel at Farm Cove refitting for a surveying expedition.

31 Jul 1847 We understand H.M. schooner Bramble and her tender Castlereagh will be paid off on Monday next. The whole of the officers of these vessels, we believe, with the exception of Lieutenant Yule, in command of the Bramble, proceed to England. The schooners will be re-commissioned with other officers from the Rattlesnake.

7 Aug 1847 Survey of the Harbour.- We are glad to perceive that the officers of H.M.S. Rattlesnake, are at present engaged in re-surveying our harbour. This was a necessary work, as it is now above twenty years, we believe, since it was last done.

11 Oct 1847 Departs Sydney on a Surveying Cruise

17 Oct 1847 Arrives Moreton Bay

3 Nov 1847 At anchor at Cowan Roads, Moreton Bay

4 Nov 1847 departed for Port Curtis

29 Nov 1847 Departed Port Curtis

8 Dec 1847 arrived Port Molle

10 Dec 1847 Depart Port Molle

11 Dec 1847 Arrive Cape Upstart

Returned to Port Molle

31 Dec 1847 arrived Moreton Bay

8 Jan 1848 departed for Sydney

14 Jan 1847 Returns to Sydney from Surveying Expedition - see below for RoP

2 Feb 1848 Surveying cruise

11 Feb 1848 arrived Port Phillip

3 Mar 1848 Depart Launceston

9 Mar 1848 Arrive Sydney - see article below for 11 Mar 1848 for brief details of trip

29 Apr 1848 departed from Sydney on a surveying voyage.

29 Apr 1848 Letter to the Governor re future surveys in the coming season - see below

28 Jun 1848 Fitz Roy Island. See below.

27 Oct 1848 Reported to be leaving Port Albany for the Endeavour Straits for the purpose of surveying..

20 Dec 1848 Surveying vessel, East Indies.

24 Jan 1849 arrived Sydney from Survey cruise.

25 May 1849 departed from Moreton Bay.

1 Sep 1849 The brig Sir John Byng has been chartered by the Government to proceed to Cape York with stores for the Rattlesnake and Bramble and Port Essington, sailing on the 5th inst.

Gazette for 27 Jan 1849 for report on cruise.

6 Feb 1850 Arrives Sydney from a surveying cruise. During the cruise a white woman by the name of Barbara Crawford was rescued from natives. See below for detail.

7 Feb 1850 Crew assist Maeander in putting out a serious fire onboard the Maeander.

16 Mar 1850 The death is reported of Captain Owen Stanley on Wednesday morning.

23 Mar 1850 It is reported that Lieutenant Yule has been appointed in command.

28 Mar 1850 Able Seaman William Howard of this ship reports to the Sydney Water Police that he came upon a dispute in which one man was thrown by 2 others into the water. Being unable to swim he was unable to render assistance, but returned to the ship and reported the incident.

2 May 1850 Sails for England via the Falkland Islands. This departure appears to be contentious in that it was ordered by Captain Keppel of the Maeander, temporarily on station, whereas Captain Erskine of the Havannah, senior officer on station, but junior to Capt. Keppel wished to keep the Rattlesnake on station until the end of the year. Watch this space !

16 May 1850 arrived Bay of Islands.

23 May 1850 departed.

5-25 July 1850 Falkland Islands.

29 Sep - 5 Oct 1850 Fayal

3 Aug 1850 And now the Flag Officer appoints Captain Cockburn in command, according to the United Services Gazette. It was subsequently been reported in the Naval and Military Gazette that Captain Keppel of the Meander threatened to fire into the Havannah if Captain Erskine pursued the Rattlesnake with a view to replacing the officer appointed by Keppel. What a mess !

8 Aug 1850 Spoken to by the Phoenician off Rio Janeiro.

23 Oct 1850 arrived Plymouth. She was carrying several invalids from the Havannah and Maeander.

15 Nov 1850 It is reported that two of her Master's Mates - Brooker and Inskip - passed their examinations for Master on arrival in the UK and came out at the head of the 14 candidates.

11 Jan 1851 It is reported that the vessel is to proceed to Chatham to be paid-off.

22 Mar 1851 It is reported that Their Lordships approve of Captain Keppel's action in appointing Lieutenant Yule as the commanding officer of the Rattlesnake, on the death of Captain Stanley, but disapprove of his having sent the ship to the UK before she had completed the surveys which would have occupied her for another 6 months.

5 Apr 1851 It is reported in Sydney that MAA Robert Coates, late of this ship, has been awarded the medal and £15 gratuity, and a pension of £36.16s. per annum for a service of 37 years. United Service Gazette.

8 Jan 1855 Arctic search for the "Monongabela" of New Bedford following the Winter of 1853, when it is thought that this vessel may have been carried into the ice. It is understood that the prospects of finding this vessel in one piece are slim

13 Jan 1860 Chatham. Completed breaking up, per Parliamentary estimates etc. 1861-62.

29 Jun 1847 left England on the 11th December, 1846, arrived at Madeira on the 18th, departed again on the 26th ; arrived at Rio de Janeiro on the 23rd January, 1847, departed on the 2nd February ; arrived at Simon's Bay, Cape of Good Hope, 8th March, departed on the 10th April ; arrived at the Mauritius on the 4th May, departed on the 17th, and arrived at Hobart Town on the 25th June. We furnish below a list of the officers. Owen Stanley, Captain and surveyor; Robert W. Suckling, senior lieutenant; Joseph Dayman and Henry C. Simpson, lieutenants and assistant surveyors; John J. Brown, master, John Thomson, M.D., (c) surgeon; Frederick Brady, paymaster and purser ; John M°Gillivray, naturalist; Thomas Huxley, assistant surgeon; George H. Inskipp, second master; Josiah G. Messum, Admiralty clerk ; Arthur Burnett, Captain's clerk; Arthur Packe, William Hewett, Thomas C. Smith, and H. E. G. Earle, midshipmen; Charles J. Card, clerk's assistant; Philip Sharpe, W. W. Howell, C. C, Robinson, Alexander Henderson, and G. P. Heath, naval cadets ; C. J. Johnston, W. H. Obree, and H. W. Burnett, master's assistants; Edward W. Broker, acting ditto, The Rattlesnake will make a short stay here, and then proceed on to Sydney.- Hobart Town Advertiser, June 29.

17 Jul 1847 arrived yesterday morning from England, having touched at several ports on her passage, for the purpose of landing specie, has been fitted out for the purpose of completing the survey of the coasts of New Holland and New Guinea, which is expected to occupy her the next five years. She is commanded by Captain Owen Stanley, an officer well known in these colonies, having commanded H.M.B. Britomart on this station, for about three years. Captain Stanley has instructions from the Admiralty to pay off the schooners Bramble and Castlereagh and recommission them as tenders to the Rattlesnake. She has on board £4000 in specie for the Commissariat Department of this colony. At the Cape of Good Hope she landed £50,000 ; at the Mauritius £15,000 ; and at Hobart Town £4000. Capt. Charles Stanley, R. E., who has arrived in Sydney by the Rattlesnake, is a brother to Captain Owen Stanley : he is Private Secretary to Lieutenant-Governor Denison, at Van Diemen's Land. Mr. King, another passenger, is a son of Captain King, of Port Stephens, and has returned from England, after completing his education at Cambridge, for the purpose of being ordained as a clergyman of the Church of England, and it is expected the Rattlesnake will remain here about two months. We are informed that the officers surveyed Simon's Bay, and made a number of valuable observations on the passage out.

The Rattlesnake.- During the last three months this vessel has been engaged with H.M. schooner Bramble, in surveying different bays to the northward of this port. She departed hence on the 11th October, and arrived at Moreton Bay on the 17th ; having completed there the survey commenced by the Fly and Bramble, she proceeded to Port Curtis, and remained there three weeks. A most elabo-rate survey was made of the harbour, and a new channel or entrance, from one to two miles in width, and four to seven fathoms of water, was discovered. There was no appearance of natives, and at Facing Island a spy-glass and several other small articles, which had been left there by Colonel Barney's party some months' since, were found. She departed from Port Curtis on the 29th November, and on the 8th December arrived at Port Molle, where she remained two days, a splendid harbour being found there, and some valuable obser-vations made. From thence she proceeded to Cape Upstart, and arrived there on the 11th December, that being her farthest point north.

It was Captain Stanley's intention to have proceeded as far as Rockingham Bay, but not being able to obtain sufficient water for the ship, (all hands having been for some days on short allowance,) coupled with the circumstance of strong northerly winds prevailing, he was induced to turn back ; and having touched a second time at Port Molle, for the purpose of hoisting in the Asp, (tender), arrived at Moreton Bay on the 31st December. Having watered there, she departed again for Sydney on the 8th January, leaving the Bramble to follow on the completion of some small service - and touching at the Solitary Islands on her way. From the time the Rattlesnake left this port, up to her return yesterday, continued soundings have been taken along the coast - charts on a large scale have been drawn of the places surveyed, and a valuable collection of curiosities has been made by the naturalist ; Mr. John McGillivray.

We believe we are correct in stating that Captain Stanley's instructions from the Admiralty were merely to survey the inner barrier of Tames Straits ; but the season not being favourable for such duty this cruize was undertaken by him entirely for the benefit of the colony, and by so doing, he has rendered an important service. From Cape Upstart, the Rattlesnake has experienced exceedingly bad weather, and had to beat nearly the whole of the distance. On Wednesday last she passed the steamer Thistle, hence for Moreton Bay, off Port Stephens. We understand it is Captain Stanley's intention to proceed to Bass's Straits in the course of ten days, on some service connected with the erection of the light-houses ; which will occupy about a month, after which he will return to Sydney to refit, and in April sail again for Torres Straits.

Notice to Mariners.- We understand that Captain Stanley, of H.M.S. Rattlesnake, has reported to the Government, for the information of masters of vessels trading to Moreton Bay, that the outer black buoy marked A. in Captain Wickham's chart, has been driven from its position (during a heavy gale of wind, from the northeast) a mile and a half to the S.S.W., (magnetic), and it is now inside the shoal altogether, in seven fathoms water. The buoys - B: and C: remain in their proper place.

11 Mar 1848 During the absence of the Rattlesnake and Bramble from this port, they have visited the different lighthouses, at Port Dalrymple, Swan and Goose Islands, Kent's Gioup, and Cape Otway, and the observations made thereon, we understand, will shortly be made public through the Government. The Rattlesnake departed from Launceston on Friday week, and the Bramble from Port Phillip the day previous. The latter reached Kent's Group on the afternoon of Friday, but having previously examined the works there, continued her voyage for Sydney ; during the night, however, Lieutenant Yule directed a careful watch to be kept on the light, and he informs us it was seen a distance of thirty-seven miles from the deck of the vessel. Owing to light contrary winds, the Bramble did not make Cape Howe until Wednesday morning, when she met with a strong breeze from the southward.

Torres Straits.
(From Tuesday's Government Gazette.)
Colonial Secretary's Office, Sydney, 8th May, 1848. His Excellency the Governor directs the publication of a letter from Captain Owen Stanley, recommending that in the event of any vessel being unfortunately wrecked in attempting the outer passage through Tomes' Straits in the present season, the crew should join her Majesty's ship Rattlesnake, at Princess Charlotte's Bay, or Cape York, rather than attempt to cross the Gulf of Carpentaria to Port Essington.

H.M.Sg. Ship Rattlesnake,
Sydney, 29th April, 1846.
Sir,- Having landed Mr. Kennedy and his party, I shall commence the survey of the inner passage at Rockingham Bay, and work to the northward ; I expect to be in the neighbourhood of Princess Charlotte's Bay the end of July ; and at Cape York the beginning of October, so that in the event of any ships being unfortunately wrecked in attempting the outer passage this season ; it would be better for the crew to join this vessel than to attempt to cross the Gulf of Carpentaria to Port Essington.

I am, Sir, Sir,
Your very obedient servant.
Captain and Surveyor.
Honorable E. Deas Thomson. Colonial Secretary, &c.

28 Jun 1848 Letters have been received from H.M.S. Rattlesnake, dated Fitz Roy Island, June 28th. The Rattlesnake, Bramble, and "Tam O'Shanter" had a beautiful run from Sydney to Rockingham Bay, where Mr. Kennedy's party were landed, and the "Tam O'Shanter" proceeded on her voyage to Batavia. The survey was proceeding satisfactorily, the coast aid reefs for one hundred and twenty miles having been triangulated. It was understood that both vessels were to arrive at Cape York next month, and there wait for stores to be sent from Sydney. All were well.

(As reported in the Sydney Shipping Gazette of 9 Feb 1850)
The Rattlesnake has been absent from Sydney since the 8th May last, and, in conjunction with the Bramble has been making some very important and valuable surveys about the vicinity of New Guinea. From this, she proceeded to Moreton Bay, and after remaining there a few days, resumed the voyage until reaching the easternmost end of the Lousiade Archipelago, near which, it was supposed, that no certain passage existed ; but, after a minute survey it was found that a channel of forty miles breadth, from the land to seaward, extended to Cape Possession, on the south east coast of New Guinea, and at which point Captain Blackwood's survey terminated.

There was also a good and clear passage inside Sud Est Island, at which was found a spacious harbour, with good anchorage, which was named by Captain Stanley the Coral Haven, in which they anchored on the 14th June. The inner part of the reef was then surveyed, and intercourse was had frequently with the natives of the group both on board and on shore, who were of a superior description, being well proportioned and of an amicable disposition, bringing off in their canoes, (which were of large dimensions, some measuring 55 feet in length,) flax, arrowroot, yams, in abundance, tortoiseshells, and all the varieties of tropical fruits, which they eagerly sought to barter with ; tomahawks, red cloth, &c., were offered, but the only article they seemed to prize was hoop iron, and that which was rusty pleased them best. The canoes were well built, and elaborately carved and coloured. Upon landing, the inhabitants were found residing in well-constructed houses, in a most comfortable manner, and in a cleanly state. From thence they proceeded to Bruinie Island, where they remained a fortnight, the natives behaving .most friendly. Ranges of mountains were seen on the coast of New Guinea, from the Cul de sac de l'Orangerie to Cape Possession, ranging in many parts to the height of Teneriffe.

Having completed the survey, the expedition left the coast of New Guinea the latter end of September, for Cape York, and arrived there on the 1st October, at which place the brig Sir John Byng arrived the following day from Sydney, with provisions which, having discharged, she left on the 17th October, for Port Essington and Manila.

Cape York is described as being a very eligible place for a military post, the surrounding country being well wooded and watered, and the natives most friendly. Whilst lying there the watering party of the Rattlesnake brought off a white woman, and some of a native tribe who had come over from Prince of Wales Island to the main land. Upon coming on board she could scarcely make it understood that she would wish to be retained from the native, as she had almost forgotten the English language, but has been brought up in the vessel, and having again acquired her native tongue, states that her maiden name was Barbara Crawford, the daughter of a tinman, a Scotchman, residing in Sydney, who arrived in the John Barry, as an immigrant ; that she was married to a man named Thompson at Moreton Bay, which place she left with him and some other men, in a small cutter called the American, for Port Essington, at which place they intended settling, but were unfortunately cast away on Prince of Wales Island, when all but herself were drowned ; that the natives behaved very humanely to her during the five years she was among them, but refused until the present occasion to allow her to have any communication with the several vessels passing. At length, seeing the Rattlesnake anchored at Cape York she induced them to take her on board, saying she wished to shake hands with her countrymen. Captain Stanley rewarded the natives liberally with axes, knives, &c, as an inducement for them to behave similarly should another wreck happen. From her, great information has been received relative to the manners and customs of the inhabitants of the islands in Torres Straits. The discovery of these channels through the Louisade Archipelago will considerably shorten the voyage from this to India, and from the description given of the fertility of the islands and of the coast of New Guinea, also the strong inclination of the natives to trade, it will likely tend to send some of our colonial vessels among them to traffic ; but they should go well armed, as hostile intentions were often shown towards the Bramble when in shore among the reefs. The Bramble may he expected in a few days. A great quantity of curiosities obtained.