The Great Pacific 1866

The shipping Intelligence list of the Morning Bulletin dated 12 July 1866, announced the arrival of the 2088 ton "The Great Pacific", a ship of the Black Ball Line which sailed from Liverpool on 27 March 1866 for Keppel Bay. There were 630 immigrants on board and a large cargo/plant for the Queensland Railways for the western line from Rockhampton to Westwood. The majority of the immigrants were to be employed on this project and came from the Stoke on Trent area. They were under the charge of Surgeon-superintendent George William Paynter, late of Rockhampton Research into the "Great Pacific" has been very difficult and any information about this vessel came from the Queensland Archives, Queensland Maritime Museum, British National Maritime Museum, the Rockhampton Bulletin and the John Oxley museum. The Great Pacific is not mentioned in Lloyds Shipping register and there are no known photographs of her.

 'The Great Pacific' was a large ship of 2088 tons, and would have been around 89 metres long and 12 metres wide. This ship was an auxiliary screw clipper which means that she was a fully rigged ship with a small steam engine which was used only in conditions of little or no wind. This ship was built in Bordeaux in 1858 and was either bought or chartered by Baines, ship owner of the famous Black Ball Line. According to the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich, "The Great Pacific" was sold to WH Potter in 1867 and she was condemned. Potter then listed "The Great Pacific" in the Mercantile Navy List. I have other information that states that Potter had purchased the French vessel in 1864 on Baines behalf and then refitted her and when she was ready to sail, found out that Baines could not afford her. At about the same time, Baines had acquired another French Auxiliary screw clipper which he named "The Great Queenslander".

The ship was to travel direct to its destination, Keppel Bay and the passengers expected to spend only 87 days approximately at sea. Just a few days out of Liverpool, the ship encountered a heavy western gale and lost her top gallant mast, caps and gear. During this time, the family would have been kept below decks in midships. From reports of other immigrants diaries, the people were terrified that the end was near (remember that most had never been to sea), the waves would wash across the deck and sea water would find its way down. People were sea sick, food could not be cooked on the wooden stove on the deck and toilet facilities or heads were to be found at the stern of the vessel and could not be used. From that time, the ship experienced light winds until she again experienced heavy gales and seas at 48 degrees south. At least during this time, the family would have gained their sea-legs. The ship's log tells us that the ship rounded the Cape of Good Hope at 41°60'S & 15°57'E on 28 May. One month later, "The Great Pacific" reached Bass Strait and she was now in Australian waters. The ship continued North along the Australian coast until she dropped anchor near Sea Hill, Cape Capricorn on 11 July 1866. Instead of the expected 87 days, the ship actually took 107 days to arrive.

Here the passengers had to stay on board for a week until the Health Officer arrived from Moreton Island. It was reported in the local paper that on Thursday 19 July 400passengers and their luggage had been taken off the ship and bought into the port of Rockhampton by the "Platypus" and the rest by Government steamer 'Leonie" which had travelled from the pilot station at Moreton Island. This last remaining journey took seven hours to sail up the Fitzroy River.

It was expected that all passengers would help in keeping the ship clean and tidy. The Doctor attempted to give a weekly lecture but the passengers on board the ship could not be induced to attend and anyway he had a severe suffering of the throat. At night, they would have sing songs. Children were expected to go to school while they were on board. The children's conduct at school was better than their parents as the report states that their attendance was very good and a chapter of the bible was read daily to them. A class roll was marked every day regularly.

The Health Officer found that there were no contagious diseases present and he was satisfied as to the sanitary conditions and cleanliness of the ship. According to the ships immigration agent's return, there were 114 married couples on board, 232 single males and 15 females, 64 male children and 65 female children between the age of 1 - 12 years as well as 11 male and 14 female infants. There were nine births and nine deaths on board and the number of deaths was very low compared to other voyages in this era. The papers referred to this shipment of arrivals as "an inferior shipment" and the doctor stated that the conduct of the 629 immigrants "was mainly bad with few exceptions". There were some unruly characters on board and they ended up being charged and convicted

Fortune did not smile on these new immigrants as, when they arrived in Rockhampton, they found that the Government was short of funds so they could not be immediately employed on the railway.

Other records of Cabin passengers and passengers of Water Police Court has been taken from The Morning Bulletin of the day. Lists of other passengers have been found in Queensland Land Records.

Misc Information


 O'BRIEN James


PAYNTER William George born in St Columb, Cornwall