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The Lyttelton Times

Vol. 1.     No.1.    SATURDAY, JANUARY 11, 1851.    PRICE SIXPENCE.

We have been favoured with the following accounts of the first ships, by passengers on board:-


The "Charlotte Jane," Capt. Alexander Lawrence, commander, left Plymouth Sound at midnight on Saturday the 17th of September [1850].   She sighted Stewart's Island on Wednesday, the 11th December, and cast anchor off Port Lyttelton on Monday the 16th of December, at 10 o'clock; thus making her passage 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.   The Rev, Mr. Kingdon, Chaplain, Alfred Barker, Esq., Surgeon Superintendant.

During the voyage, the usual domestic occurrences of an emigrant ship occurred, of births 1, marriages, 1, deaths, 3; the last being cases of death on 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 Santo, one of the Madeiras, on the 17th of September, and on the 19th, Tenerife and Palma, steering close to the later.   Here she met the N.E. trades, which gave her feeble assistance, and left her in about lat.18�.  N.  Her coarse was then south-easterly, and in about 6� N., she was driven by currents and foul winds to the eastward as far as long. 16 W.   Here she met a N.W. wind, under which she again stood to the southward, crossing the line on the 19th of October, in long 19 degrees W.

In lat. 2.28'. she entered the S.E. trades, which carried her rapidly over 20 degrees of latitude.  On the 12th of Oct. she spoke the Zeno of Richmond, U.S., from Benguela to New York, and sent letters to England.  Her course then was speedily run southward, and south easterly.  On the 28th of October nearing Tristan d' Acunha, she made 250 miles in the 24 hours, the largest day's run during the voyage.  From Tristan d'Acunha, which to the disappointment of many she did not approach near enough to sight, she steered S.S.E. with a fresh NW wind, and crossed the meridian of Greenwich on the 29th of October.  South-eastward still to Desolation island with strong gales a dreary drive 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 passage, till 110th degree of east long.  here for a week E. and N.E. winds prevailed, and drove her to the southward, not only out of coarse, but to the extreme cold of lat. 52. 36'[S], the furthest point of southing reached.  Here bets which previously been given freely in favour of 95 days and 98 days from port to port, were now freely taken about 105, 110, or even 120 day, she begin 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 the 11th of December.  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 Straits, Molyneux, and Taieri Rivers, Otago, and Bank's Peninsula.

On Monday morning early the 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 as 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 bye-word for discomfort.  Extreme heat, and extreme cold, confinement and ennui, are the lot of every Australasian voyager.  But whether it was that with this courageous little band a spirit of hope prophesied better things beyond, or the colonist spirit of resolution was strong, disregarding pretty present evils, while greater menaced at a distance;-or whether it was that the unceasing 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 done more easily forgotten.

Of amusements, two manuscripts 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 successively presented themselves, were unfailing in interest and delight, interpreted as they were by an enthusiastic naturalist, the excellent surgeon-superintendant.  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 every one'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 exciting 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 eager 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 scene 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 there they may,
And with fresh fruits and wholesome food repair,
Their spirits weary of the watery way.

And 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 the trace of man's industrious hand;
How grateful to their sight the shore of the shelving sand;
As the light boat moves joyfully to land. - SOUTHEY

The only general observation that occurs to us as suggested by the voyage is that pronouncing it highly injudicious for emigrant vessels to run so far to the southward as the latitude in which the "Charlotte Jane" made her 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 is almost impossible on board ship to escape from the cold, and from rain and spray; the only refuge is huddling under the latches in dirt and darkness.  The beds can never be properly aired on deck; and this single consideration should be sufficient to induce authorities at home to prescribe a rule on this subject. A grievous loss to six brace of partridges and four brace of pheasants, which had up to this 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-crowded vessel, and succeeded in accomplishing a rapid passage; but in his own opinion, the preferable coarse for emigrant ships bound for Lyttelton would be along the latitude of Bass's Straits, through Cook's Straits, and down the coast with the prevailing north-east wind.  Very few more years will set the question at rest for ever.

The Christchurch Museum Archives, Rolleston Ave, Christchurch, New Zealand has the Canterbury Association Shipping Papers. They also hold diaries by:

Lyttelton Harbour and Quail Island
"View taken from the terrace in front of Mr FitzGerald's house at Lyttelton... The house in the centre is Mr Ward's in Quail Island. November 15th, 1852. - J.E. FitzGerald. Canterbury Museum holding.

A model of the "Charlotte Jane" can be found in the Canterbury Museum, Christchurch.Passenger Lists of Canterbury Association Ships. 1900.

Brief account in White Wings Volume 2 by Sir Henry Brett.

Registration details from the Lloyd's Register:
Master: Captain Lawrence
Rigging: Ship; sheathed in yellow metal in 1850; copper fastened.
Tonnage: 619 tons using old measurements and 729 using new measurements.
Construction: April 1848 in Bristol
Owners: James Thomson & Co.
Home Port: London
She could carry 150 passengers and about 35 crew

Christchurch Star 12.03.2005
A 155-year-old diary that arrived in Christchurch on the Charlotte Jane reads a bit like a modern text message, Canterbury Museum's Jo-Anne Smith [email protected]  says. The diary, written by 13-year-old Lucy Howard while travelling with her family on the first of the four ships that brought Canterbury's founders to Lyttelton in 1850, has little punctuation. The book has never been on public display before. But that will change next week when it is taken out of storage as part of the museum's celebration of archives and records week. Smith, who herself has an ancestor who came to Christchurch on the eighth immigrant ship, the Duke of Bronte, is excited about the diary being on show. "We don't have them out on show often. We don't want to exhibit archives often as it damages them. We keep them in an environmentally sound storage area," she said. Items in storage are usually brought out only on request. Of the thousands of archived items the museum has, only a handful are from children or adolescents. A transcript of the diary will be available for people to read. "It's a little book, about 8cm across and 15cm high, and it's missing its cover. It's written in children's handwriting with very little punctuation. It's almost a bit like texting because she does write in a very abbreviated manner," Smith said. Tragically, Lucy Howard died in 1858 - less than a decade after arriving - from an epidemic that was going around Christchurch. Two events have been planned next week at the museum as part of its autumn programme Mummies, Meteorites and Memories. The first is a talk by Smith on how people should care for their family archives and the second is a behind-the-scenes tour of some of the treasures held in the archives and manuscripts collection.
Bookings are essential and can be made by telephoning 366-9429 ext 817. An extract from the diary of Lucy Howard, on board the Charlotte Jane to Lyttelton in October, 1850:
Wedd 2nd Nothing particular.
Thursd 3rd I am quite ill today.
Frid 4th It is quite impossible to write a Journal on board this ship for this all the same thing over and over again.
Satd 5th It is quite delightful to be on the poop now for there is no smoking from 8 in morning till 9 at night the very instant 2 bells are struck out come nuisances Mr F Bishop stands with his [pipe] in his hand because he should not lose a moment he stood half a hour one day.
Sund 6th We did not have a sermon but had a sacrement.
Mond 7th Nothing particular.
Tuesd 8th They talk of us being on the line tomorrow afternoon it is a practice on being on the line for the first time to have some trick played on you sometimes this is taken to a very great extent but we are not afraid of any thing like that on the eveing before neptunes he generaly makes his apperance to prepare people for what is to follow.

"Sir George Seymour"
Shipping News
Lyttelton Times Extract

New Zealand Bound


'Tis the first watch of the night, brothers,
And the strong wind rides the deep;
And the cold stars shining bright, brothers,
Their mystic courses keep.
Whilst our ship her path is cleaving,
The flashing waters through,
Here's a health to the land we are leaving,
And the land we are going to!

First sadly bow the head, brothers,
In silence o'er the wine,
To the memory of the dead, brothers,
The fathers of our line.
Though their tombs may not receive us,
Far o'er the ocean blue,
Their spirits ne'er shall us,
In the land we are going to.

Whilst yet sad memories move us,
A second cup we'll drain,
To the manly hearts that love us,
In our old homes o'er the main.
Fond arms that used to caress us,
Sweet smiles from eyes of blue,
Lips that no more may bless us,
In the land we are going to.

But away with sorrow now, brothers,
Fill the wine-cup to the brim!
Here's to all who'll swear the vow, brothers,
Of this our midnight hymn:
That each man shall be a brother,
Who has joined our gallant crew:
That we'll stand by one another,
In the worlds we are going to.

Fill again, before we part, brothers,
Fill the deepest draught of all,
To the loved ones of our hearts, brothers,
Who reward and share out toil.
From husbands and from brothers,
All honour be their due,
The noble maids and mothers,
Of the land we are going to.

The wine is at the end, brothers,
But e're we close our eyes,
Let a silent prayer ascend, brothers,
Should our toil be all unblest, brothers,
Should ill winds of fortune blow,
May we find God's haven of rest, brothers,
The land we are going to.

Charlotte Jane, Nov. 2 1850

Poets' Corner January 18 1851
Editor: James Edward Fitzgerald (1818-1896)