I’ve visited Australia seven times now and the 24 hour flight is becoming less of a chore each time. With more airlines than ever flying the kangaroo route you have a great choice when it comes to choosing an airline, and more often than not for a small premium you can travel in pure luxury with a flat bed. Rewind back 150 years, however, and you would have been one of 300 passengers on a small clipper ship which would have taken 90 days on average to reach Adelaide, South Australia from the UK. South Australia was one the free colonies which went on to form the Commonwealth of Australia, and it didn’t accept convicts from the UK. It was formed totally of migrants in search of a better life and entrepreneurs who were looking to take advantage of Australia‘s many assets such as their lucrative mining industry. During my most recent trip to Adelaide I decided to take a step back in time and visit the worlds oldest surviving clipper ship, the City of Adelaide and discover some of the amazing history of this ship and the migrants who emigrated to Adelaide from Europe many years ago.
The City of Adelaide Clipper Ship
The City of Adelaide was initially a clipper ship used for transporting passengers to South Australia. The first voyage was made in 1864 and on average would take 90 days, the fastest voyage being 74 days. The City of Adelaide had 14 first class cabins, accommodating a maximum of 28 passengers on its upper deck, each with ensuite WC, but with just one shared bath for all. On the top deck there was also a first class saloon and stairs to the above open deck. The middle deck was for the second class passengers and housed almost 300 passengers here in quite cramped conditions. The ship also carried livestock which was to be used for food during the voyage, as well as chickens so the passengers could have fresh eggs. Cargo and all supplies for the entire trip were loaded on board as there were no stops along the way.
The City of Adelaide also had its own desalination plant so fresh water could be made from sea water. On her return to the UK the City of Adelaide would transport mainly first class passengers back, and the second class quarters would be converted into a hold to transport copper, wool and grain back to the UK. The ship made 30 return crossings in her 23 year life, which back in those days was a long life for a ship, and she owed this to her revolutionary steel frame.
Since her days as a clipper ship she has been used a hospital ship in Southampton as well as for Naval training under the name of HMS Carrick, then later as a prestigious Naval Volunteer Reserve Club Room in Glasgow which was frequented by the HRH Queen Elizabeth II and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. In 1989 she was moved along the Clyde to a private slip in Irvine where she was essentially left to rot. Fortunately she was saved from this fate and embarked on a voyage back to Port Adelaide, arriving in 2014. She stopped off briefly on her way back to Australia, so the Duke of Edinburgh could officially rename her as the City of Adelaide. She is currently undergoing extensive restoration while awaiting her new home in dock 2 where she will form part of a proposed new maritime tourist attraction.
In her current location in Port Adelaide there is an information centre which is open daily from 9am – 3pm (weather permitting) where you can view the ship and purchase merchandise, with all proceeds from sales going towards the restoration. The restoration is being completed solely by volunteers and with the help of charitable donations by companies and individuals. If you are interested in visiting the City of Adelaide Clipper Ship there are three daily tours at 10am, 12 noon and 2pm where you can have a guided tour around and inside the ship. Tickets cost $20pp or $30 for a couple or family.