Family History – ‘Gulf of Mexico’

Sydney Moring Herald 26 March 1885



The steamship Gulf of Mexico, whose arrival with immigrants was reported in yesterday’s issue, seems to have had a very tempestuous and trying voyage. From the appended reports it will be seen that she has received a considerable amount of damage ; but the immigrants, apart from the cheerlessness brought about by the stormy, unpleasant weather, have enjoyed very good health, and are reported to have behaved in the most exemplary manner under circumstances harassing to even experienced mariners. Nothing like organised amusements could be got up ; and the commander, surgeon, and officers,while spoken of in the highest terms for their attention, &c.,were quite unable to do anything in this way to while away the time, as their duties in looking after the ship were so onerous as to occupy almost the whole of the time at their disposal. The majority of the immigrants are Irish,the remainder being made up of Scotch and English;the first-named of the men are nearly all farm laborers, while the Scotch and English are mechanics.The single girls are mostly general servants. There embarked at Plymouth 682 souls: of these there were 36 married couples, 162 single men, 182 single women, 75 boys under 12 years of age, 80 girls under 12 years, and 11 infants. Dr. Huxtable, well and favourably known in the Government service, has acted as medical superintendent, Miss Chicken as matron, and Miss Tidmarsh sub-matron, and all seem to have performed their duties very satisfactorily.The Gulf of Mexico has been a regular trader to this port.She is of the cargo-carrying type, and her adaptability for the conveyance of immigrants may be judged from the descriptions below. It is proable she will be released from quarantine to-day.

Captain Allan’s report of the voyage is as follows :-The Gulf of Mexico left London at 7.30 p.m. on January 25,and Plymouth at 6.30 p.m. on January 27, the wind when the vessel left the latter port being fresh from south-west.In a few hours afterwards, however, there was a hard gale,with a very high sea, which frequently flooded the decks.At 5.30 a-m. next day several very heavy seas were shipped,washing away two of the quarter boats, davits, &c. ; in the  same gale the main tryrail boom and gaff, bulwark rails, patent sounding machine, &c, were swept overboard, and the immigrants’ skylights were broken. Very bad weather continued until the vessel was within a few hours of Teneriffe, necessitating the casing down of the engines and the heading of the ship to sea on several occasions. The Gulf of Mexico anchored in Teneriffe at 2.30 p.m. on February 4, and after taking in a quantity of coal resumed the voyage at 5.40 a.m. on the following day. Variable winds and weather followed to the Equator, which was crossed on February 13, in 6.20 W., and fresh trades,with a nasty head sea were met with from there to the Cape of Good Hope, which was reached at 5 pm. on February 23.  At 8 p.m. on the 25th the ship got under way again, and ran down the easting on the parallel of 39»80 S. A succession of heavy gales, principally from S.W., was experienced.At 8 p.m. on March 2, during a heavy gale from S.W.with a high sea, the steam steering gear chains carried away. The engines were eased, and at 9 p.m. the hand-gear was connected, but it was almost immediately torn up from the deck and smashed to pieces, the sea at the time making clean breaches over the ship fore and aft, and doing considerable damage. As soon as possible sail was set, and the ship got under control. The passengers behaved in a highly creditable manner under these trying circumstances.At 2 a.m. on March 3 new chains having been fitted to the rudder, the ship was kept away on her course, the engines being sent full speed ahead. On March 8, while the steamer was in lat. 39.30 S., and long. 72-08E., passed the ship Sierra Cordova, of Liverpool, bound to Madras. Cape Otway was passed at 4.30 a.m. on March 22, Wilson’s Promontory at 6.30 p.m. same date, GaboIsland at 3 p.m. on the 23rd, Jervis Bay at 8 a.m. on the 24th, and the Heads were entered at about 6 p.m. same date.  Fresh easterly and N.E. winds were experienced from Wilson’s Promontory to Gabo Island, fresh northerly winds and dull weather thence to Jervis Bay, and fine weather from there to port. Very little sickness occurred during the voyage.

From another source the following interesting particulars of the voyage have been obtained :- ” During the first six days we had a succession of gales from the southward, with a heavy cross sea. On tho night of the 27th January, the second after leaving, we lost two boats. The starboard one was carried away, davits and all; the other one first had its bows smashed in, and was then swept overboard. At the same time the main trysail boom was smashed, and the female hospital on tho afterdeck, near the wheelhouse, was damaged, a portion of the roof being carried away, and allowing the seas to get in among the spare bedding and hospital stores, which were greatly damaged. The same weather continued for a week,during which we had no rest whatever. Next afternoon a serious accident happened to one of the seamen. He was engaged hoisting the masthead light, when the ship gave a very heavy lurch and he was thrown clean overboard. I thought he would never come in again, but he clung to the halyards,and when the ship righted herself he came on board again,but with such force that he smashed up against the fore booby hatch and fractured his left thigh bone so badly that the surgeon-superintendent considered amputation necessary. But the weather was such that the operation could not be attempted, the ship pitching and rolling about very badly, and it was therefore decided to put the poor fellow ashore at Teneriffe, which was accordingly done. During the next few days two sheep pens, the bakehouse, and the issuing-room of stores were very badly damaged, and a considerable quantity of stores were spoilt, thus materially enhancing the difficulty of supplying the immigrants. Through-out all this time tho ship rolled very heavily indeed ; and in addition to the damage already recorded, the water closets, bake house, and galleys were again all more or less damaged. Indeed, the galley forward, which had been  provided for the use of the officers and crew, was damaged so seriously as to be utterly useless, and during the rest of the voyage the one galley had to serve for both officers, crew, and immigrants. The decks fore and aft were swept by the seas more or less all this time. Everything possible was done by Captain Allan to ease the ship, and improve tho condition of the immigrants’quarters. During most of the time the vessel was head on to the sea, and-her course occasionally varied hourly in order to meet the perplexing cross sea and heavy roll. Our condition throughout was rendered more serious by the extremely heavy rolling, due apparently to imperfect loading. On the third day the single girls and married women and children were allowed on tho leo side of the bridge, and had their food served out to them there.Tho ventilators, while they were below, had all to be closed to prevent the water from getting down, so that it can well be imagined the passengers were glad to got on deck to breathe the fresh air, even mired with salt spray. The officers and petty officers of tho ship were most assiduous in this time of trouble to add to the comfort of the passengers, a bright exaniplo being sot inthis roapoct by the commander of the ship, Captain Allan.For a week aftor leaving Teneriife tho carpenters werebusily employed repairing the deck-houses and immi-grants’ quartors. On February 13 the first caseof scarlet fover appeared on board. Tho patientwas immediately isolated, and as the caso wasa mild one, it was hoped the disease would not spread.Tabla Bay was reached on Fobruary 23, but owing to astrong, squally wind blowing right off the ßhoro, coalingoperations could not be commenced until next day, and thesteamer was therefore considerobly delayed. She

started again on February 20, and throe days

aftorwsrds encountered very heavy woather. On the2nd of March there wus a- fresh S.W. breezewith a heavy swell, in which tho ship rollodconeiderably. At 7.30 p.m. tho Btoam steoring-goar brokedown, a link of the chain having carried away. The handsteoring-goar was immediately connected, but that at oncegave way also, owing to a heavy sea striking thohelm. The engines wera slowed down, and fore andaft sail sat immediately, but the ship rolled very heavily, and considerublo bodies of water foundtheir way into the single woman’s compartment, throughtho booby hatohes, the forward one of whioh was for sometime in immodiuto danser of giving way altogether, whichwould have been a very serious mut tor. As soon as possibletarpaulins wore secured over both hutches. Shortly after 1a.m. the damage to the steering-gear waa ropaired, after aperiod of six hours’ terrible suspenso, to the reliefof all. On March 3 the hand steering-gear, being found irreparable, wus, after much difficulty, smashed up andthrown overboard. Thors was also a likelihood of its damaging the temporary steoring-gcar. On Maroh IO theissuing room was again damaged, soma of tho stores werelott, and the storekeeper wa* knocked down and injured, butnot seriously, Next day, the ship still rolling heavily, the water closets on the fore dock were again smashed up, butthin was the last of the troubles so far as the weather was concerned. On March 19 another case of scarlot fever occurred, but like the first it. was a mild one.”


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