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THE BRITISH EMPIRE
Lyttelton Times September 15th 1864

This fine vessel arrived in Port on the 6th Sept., after a voyage of 98 days.

A description of the voyage will be found in a letter of the surgeon.

The following are the births and deaths during the voyage; - Births Mrs M Cater, of a daughter; Mrs Templeton, of a daughter; Mrs Munro, of a son; Mrs Cribb, of a daughter. Death; - Francis Morris aged 2; James Cox 39; Richard Pepprill 35; Mrs Fisher 80; Mr Tindall 30; John White, Exeter, 19. (Infants); H Symonds, T Agnew, S Larcombe, R Stavison, W Haggett, C Templeton, F Dennis, A Lunt, M Stark, and a daughter of Mr W Evans.

To The Editor Of The Lyttelton Times
Sir .- As I presume the British Empire is the largest ship ever yet destined to Canterbury, and the number of souls on board the largest ever conveyed here in one vessel, a concise account of our voyage may not be uninteresting to some of your readers if you will kindly afford me a corner in your journal :-

We sailed from Gravesend on May 31st, and anchored that night in the Downs, early next morning we got away in tow of a tug with a light wind and before night got under weigh on our own account, On June 3 we passed the meridian of the Lizard, and on the 30th day crossed the equator in a good position - long, 23 deg, 30 min. W. While in the North Atlantic the ocean was like a lake; still we got within a few degrees of the equator in eighteen or nineteen days. Here we were met by provokingly obstinate winds at every tack, and did not get past the line till the day named; however we had many ships as our companions.

In our course southward we were forced to go far to the westward of Trinidad and there had to tack to the eastward on E.S.E. wind; after this we were more favoured but before arriving at the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope we unfortunately sprang our foremast, which was speedily secured with chains and ropes, and although it was blowing very stiff and a strong sea running, we proceeded on our voyage and passed the Cape on the 25th day from the line in Lat,.42 deg, 50 min. S. After this again we were constantly foiled by N.E, and E. winds, but yet made the longitude of Stewart's Island in eighty- six days. To the south of Australia the foremast became so shaky, the flaw having occurred about ten feet below the fore-top, that Captain Callenan deemed it prudent to take down the top gaIlant-mast and spars and put the ship under short canvas, when he still found her to answer well.

We had very fine weather all through the voyage with scarcely any rain, and but few gales; and had we been at all lucky with the wind we must have made a rapid passage, as our ship is as good as she is large. We had many tests of her speed, having fallen in with several vessels going the same course, when we always were the victors.

At starting we had a total of 646 souls on board; the passengers being 393 adults, and no less than 181children; of these the saloon people were 26 adults and 12 children; amongst whom were some old colonists. In the second cabin there were 27 adults and 6 children. Among the emigrants were 75 single men (assisted), and 63 single women.

The temperature never exceeded 86 deg. in the shade in the tropics, or got below 43 deg. in the southern latitudes.

We had a very comfortable voyage; the migrants were of a most respectable class, and amusements abounded among us. Besides the usual chess, whist &c, &c, we had four theatrical performances, got up in remarkably good style, on our spacious quarter deck, on which we extemporized a very good stage three feet high, all being covered by an awning, and flags converted into scenery, and the vessel was so wonderfully steady as scarcely at any time to interfere with our movements. We had one concert, beside serenading without end, exhibitions with the magic lantern, a chess tournament, a draughts tournament, sweepstakes, jumping, quoits, &c., &c. And our weekly newspaper, which always appeared on Saturday, never held less than 12 pages of foolscap paper- sometimes 14 and 16.

This I conducted in conjunction with my talented friend Mr. Robt. Speechley who goes out as architect for the Christchurch Cathedral. The eagerness with which this was sought for when due often amused us much, and it has been so appreciated that we have orders paid in advance for 800 copies, which we shall have printed as soon as we can effect arrangements for it.

Our school has been a great success, the attendance being as good as that of a small town, with a high daily average of boys and girls. The fine weather favoured this much, and the examination for prizes on the 25th of August, which took place in our fine saloon, was a regular treat. The Scripture, Geography, History, and Arithmetic classes were taken by different gentlemen; and the cleverness of the children astonished everybody. Some long pieces were recited with great accuracy, and between the classes and recitals, several pretty songs were sung – a singing class having been conducted by the ladies on board. The boys were regularly drilled by an English officer whom we were fortunate enough to have amongst us.

Accompanying us were two very interesting enterprises – one in the hands of Mr Prince, an old colonist, who brought a large number of English birds of all kinds with him; but I regret to say he has lost a great many. The other was a most ingenious attempt, by a Mr Johnson, to introduce salmon, trout, &c., into the New Zealand rivers. But owing to circumstances, which on another attempt I think might be easily remedied, it was unsuccessful. However as these matters are fully treated of in the "British Empire Gazette" from which you may perhaps think it worth while, when your space permits, to transfer one or two articles, I shall say no more of them at present.

We had five births; but I regret to say no less than fifteen deaths. Out of these ten were babies; one an old man of 63, who was so delicate coming on board that he could only have come as a member of a large family; another a man who had been suffering from an abdominal disease for years; a fine young fellow, Mr. J. White, who died of fever in the tropics ; another man who came on board in the last stage of consumption; and an old decrepit woman about 80.

We had a great deal of illness, and at several times very suspicious rashes and eruptions amongst the children, with a few well marked cases of erysipelas [contageous skin disease, due to streptocicci with vesicules and bulbious lesions].

When the unusually large number of infants is recollected, as they seldom do well at sea, perhaps the number of deaths is not very large in proportion; more than forty babies were under one year old.

If circumstances could be made to answer so that we could get the Theatre, or, in the event of that not being possible, the Town Hall, I am authorized by the "British Empire amateurs" to state that they will give two nights theatrical performances for the benefit of the hospital at Christchurch, and as I feel confident they will produce some creditable pieces, I trust the secretary and some active members of the hospital committee will handle the matter as soon as possible, before our party breaks up and everyone goes his own way. I shall be happy to give all assistance, and to reply to any communications addressed to me at Christchurch.

During the voyage we were much indebted for our comfort to the distilling apparatus which is on board, and capable of producing 500 to 600 gallons of the finest water in twenty-four hours; if occasionally it did not work for a day the regret was universal at having to take to the tank water. We were indebted also to the good condition of the decks; the leakage of which was a mere nothing, and no matter how small always remedied as soon as detected. She is the best passenger vessel I have ever seen, and gentlemen interested in shipping wool would do well to inspect this fine ship, and, if possible, induce Captain Callenan to remain for their clip. She is so high out of the water that even spray seldom comes on the decks; she leaks scarcely anything, and is very fast.
Off Port Cooper, 6th September 1864.

The above was written on the 31st August, after getting round Stewart’s Island, when we were pretty sure we should have got in in 24 hours or 36 hours. However, true to our usual luck, it fell calm till Saturday morning. When South of Dunedin we got a fair wind. We should have been in port early yesterday had there been a light on the Peninsula, but as the wind was on shore, we kept out at sea too far. Again on approaching Port Cooper late last evening, owing to absence of anything to notify that it was the port, we feared to venture in as it was becoming dark. We stood out, and to our horror this morning was perfectly calm, and so continued up to 1 o’clock, pm., when a light breeze sprang up and we sailed to our anchorage.

We had unfortunately during the past week four deaths – one man from pulmonary consumption, an old lady nearly 80 years old, one man who had been weakly for some weeks past, and a delicate baby only a month old – so that though our number of deaths is large, only two healthy people died during the three months.

Andrew Nash
Physician and Surgeon