The Voyage of the "Oriental"

506 Tons Register William Wilson, Master

Arthur C. Kemball, Surgeon-Superintendent
Sailed 22 June 1841 from Plymouth, England
Arrived Port Nicolson, Wellington 22/10/1841
Arrived New Plymouth 7 /11/1841

The third vessel to leave New Plymouth under charter to the Plymouth Company was the ship Oriental. Her first port of departure was London, with a fair complement of passengers for Wellington. At Plymouth she completed her loading, finally leaving there on June 22nd, 1841. Passengers totalled 112 males and 79 females - a total of 191. Births recorded on the voyage by the Surgeon - Caroline Oriental Street, and Albert Bishop ( there were 3)

The reminiscences of one child (Sarah Hellier) state -

The voyage was a fair one and was enjoyed by the children, having no work, a little schooling and the opportunity of playing on deck when the weather was fine. The few cabin passengers were quartered on the main deck astern. The emigrants were below divided into three divisions - the young men forward in the bow; the young women aft; the married people with their children between the two, and adjacent the young women.. There were also intermediate passengers, a less numerous class, with rather better quarters than the emigrants. The married quarters consisted of one big apartment, with bunks all around the walls or sides of the ship, in tiers, and in the centre tables, which were pulled up to the ceiling when not in use for meals. Here the married people -  men, women and children lived together, and for privacy it was necessary to dress and undress in the bunk, with the curtains drawn. The food was good for those days but it was a delight to again taste bread at Wellington, after having for months only hard biscuits, made from something akin to "sharps". After the call at Wellington, the first port touched at since leaving England, disembarkation took place at New Plymouth on a beautifully fine Sunday morning, with Mt. Egmont and the bush which covered the surrounding country showing at their best. The site of New Plymouth was then in bush, except for a few scattered clearings. The dwellings were practically all raupo whares with sod chimneys. No roads but tracks, which took the easiest route.

The Oriental arrived at Port Nicholson on October 24th, and disembarked her Wellington passengers. This gives a period of four months from Plymouth to Wellington, a good run for those days. This was the second voyage of the Oriental under charter for the conveyance of colonists to New Zealand, her first arrival at Port Nicholson being on January 30th, 1840, having been preceded only by the Tory, the New Zealand Company's pioneer ship, August 16th 1839 and the Cuba, January 3rd. 1840. Captain Wilson commanded the Oriental on both voyages. Whilst the ship was lying at Port Nicholson on this occasion, one of the gentle zephyrs that sometimes blow in that latitude, came on. Captain Wilson had evidently experienced on his first visit what a Port Nicholson gale was capable of, for he made every preparation to meet its onset. Everything that could be "struck" from aloft, was brought down and made fast, and the ship made as secure as possible. He also put out extra anchors, but in spite of these precautions, the ship dragged from her anchorage, somewhere off Pipitea Point, across the harbour, eventually fetching up within a, "biscuits throw" of the rocky beach in the locality of Oriental Bay. Her anchors had secured a firm hold on the rock ledges on the floor of the harbour thereabout. In this position she rode out the gale, but it was a narrow escape.

The Oriental came to anchor in the roadstead at New Plymouth on Sunday, November 7th landing her passengers and cargo on the beach at the mouth of the Huatoki river, differing from the William Bryan and Amelia Thompson in this respect, who used Muturoa Bay and beach for that purpose. A letter written by a married couple, passengers on the Oriental, upon their arrival at Port Nicholson gives some account of the voyage, and their first impressions of New Zealand, prices etc. The letter John Peake which is dated October 24th.1841, and addressed to "My dear Mother, brothers and sisters," says:

"With great pleasure we have to inform you of our safe arrival in this harbour, after a long and pleasant voyage. No storms were encountered, neither did we touch or put into any place.

Port Nicholson is a beautiful place, but we are told that New Plymouth is far superior. . . . How we wish you were all with us. We have had the best of health since leaving Plymouth, thank God for it, and the children have improved much in growth. There is a mail post leaves here two or three times a month for Sydney, from there it goes round to India, and then round to England. . . . We are longing to leave the ship and get on shore, but our living on board has been quite good, and fortunately the water ( drinking water in casks) has kept very well indeed. We were allowed to bake every fifth day, which was a great treat, and could you have seen the dishes we made up, you would I am sure, have been pleased to share them with us. Labouring men are getting £1/10/- a week at Port Nicholson, but they say better wages are to be had at New Plymouth, and we can buy things just as cheap as at home. Sugar @ 6d. per pound; tea @ 4/- and 5/- per lb; soap - 7d., and meat 7d.and 8d. per lb.; Shoes are dear; clothes are very dear; tea cups and saucers, 6/- a dozen, but we can do without them for a time."

Captain Liardet, Resident Agent of the New Zealand Company, and Mr John Watson, late first mate of the Amelia Thomson, went with the pioneers on the Oriental from Wellington to New Plymouth. The Oriental landed her passengers on the 7th. off New Plymouth. On the following day, Monday, the sea was too rough for the boats to communicate with the ship, and on Tuesday, the north-wester having increased, she had to slip and run to sea, having, in consequence of the foul ground, rocks, etc., capsized the windlass, and lost one of her anchors in this manoeuvre, Wednesday was still too rough, but on Thursday she again came to anchor, and her discharge was completed, having practically no cargo, only passengers luggage and belongings.

On Sunday the 14th., the Oriental had the narrowest escape from destruction, owing to the crew being out of hand, and not responding to the Captain's orders when attempting to get out of his dangerous position and run to sea. Nicholas Browse, late Master of the wrecked Regina, states in his journal, under date of Sunday, November 14th. "Wind north-west. At daybreak heard signal guns of distress firing. Went to the beach, saw the ship Oriental about half a cable length from the shore between two dangerous reefs of rocks. Two boats went on board with Captain Liardet and Capt. King. At 8 am the wind veered round from NW to SSW, the Oriental slipped her cables etc. and got safe out to sea. The boats returned at 10 am. Capt. King reported she had struck two or three times, but made no water. I am convinced that had it not been for the exertions of Capt. Liardet and his boat’s crew, although the wind shifted to the SSW, the Oriental would have been piled up on the rocks close to the Regina.

In reporting this incident to the Chief Agent of the Company, Colonel Wakefield, Captain Liardet states under the date November 20th, 1841: "Since writing to you last, the Oriental has had a very narrow escape. On Sunday the 14th at about 4 am, this place was thrown into the greatest consternation by several alarm guns being fired from the Oriental. I immediately ordered guns to be fired from the shore, to show them that we were acquainted with their situation, and then made all possible haste to Moturoa, it being the most likely place to launch a boat. We had a very large party to launch the boat, but to my disgust, I could not make up a crew to go with me, and most of them were panic struck by the appearance of the weather, more particularly the whalers. Capt. King (aged 60) coming down at the time, immediately volunteered to pull an oar, and we were just on the point of launching the boat through the surf, one man short, when another man came forward, making up the crew. At the time it was raining very heavily with a fresh breeze and much swell. when we got on board (a good two miles pull) I found she was in a dangerous position, about a cables-length from the Kawaroa reef. Captain Wilson stated that the ship commenced to drag her anchor before he could make sail on her. He was therefore obliged to veer cable again, I think to 60 fathoms. The proof that she must have dragged her anchor some distance, and through foul ground, is that her anchor stock was broken in two pieces, and floating close to the ship. However with Captain Wilson's seamanlike management, and Captain King's readiness in attending in every place where he could make himself most useful, and some more timely assistance having arrived from the shore, (John Watson and others used to the working of the ship) which enabled us to set all her sails quickly and attend everything at once, and, most fortunately, the wind favouring us just at the minute when everything was ready to slip the cables, and cut the springs; which being done, to my great joy I saw the ship "gather way" and clear the rocks. I cannot express to you how anxious I was about her . . . ."

Having escaped from this dangerous position the Oriental stood to sea not to return to these shores, having in her brief visit of seven days had two narrow escapes from shipwreck, and lost two, if not three, of her anchors, also cables.

"The immigrant's arrival" drawn by A H Messenger.

PASSENGERS : Richard Lethbridge Labr. 44; his wife Louisa 40; George 20 ( Mar. Frances (Fanny) Perry - Amelia Thompson); Thomas 18 (Mar. Susan George - Oriental); Richard 15 ( Married Sarah Batten - Essex); Mary 13 (Thomas Newsham - Thomas Sparks); Emily 10 (Married John Goodman); Edith 2 ( Married George Collins )

Source - White Wings - Sir Henry Brett: The Oriental, 506 tons, Captain William Wilson, the third of the barques chartered by the company, sailed from Plymouth on June 22, 1841, and arrived at New Plymouth on November 7, after having first called at Port Nicholson. There were only 90 emigrants aboard, and only one cabin passenger - Mr Charles Armitage Brown, the friend of Keats, the poet. Sixteen other cabin passengers had left the ship at Port Nicholson, as they did not like the reports they heard about Taranaki. The Oriental had a fine weather passage from the Old Land. As she had so few passangers and little cargo beyond the belongings of the passengers, she got quick discharge, but nevertheless she very nearly met the same fate as the Regina. Apparently there was some trouble with the crew, and in weighing anchor the orders of the Captain were not properly carried out. The barque was perilously near the shore, at one time being about half a cable's length off, but fortunately the anchors held when promptly dropped. Captain Liardet then went aboard and skilfully worked the vessel out of her difficult position. As it was she struck the bottom two or three times, but no serious damage was done.

Descendant input to up-date family pages is very welcome - more detailed information available on request.

Image of the barque "Oriental" sent by descendant of George Yates Lethbridge - Richard Hart. Thank you.