South Australia - Lost at Sea Before it Began?

Mar 30, 2011, 01:00 ET from History South Australia

ADELAIDE, South Australia, March 30, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- A near fatal episode is about to strike the new Bound for South Australia blog – the on-line program re-enacting the first nine voyages from England to establish the Province of South Australia.  This innovative project is attracting worldwide coverage, with thousands of followers from around the globe tracking the vessels and their voyages.

Although only in its fifth week, the project has already uncovered some little known and surprising facts about the original voyages.  Most surprising is the fact that after more than one month at sea the first two vessels have barely left the English Channel.  Pounded by unrelenting seas and fierce storms the Duke of York and John Pirie have struck out time and time again, only to be beaten back to shore.

This ordeal reaches a climax in the coming week's episode when the vessel John Pirie is almost lost at sea during a storm that was so ferocious those on board described it as a "perfect hurricane." An excerpt from the captain's letter conveys the gravity of the situation clearly " 2 A.M (Monday Morning) a tremendous sea broke on board of us, which completely overwhelmed her in one solid body of water, I then for some time gave up all hope of ever seeing her rise again, she being to all appearances at the time going Down, in consequence of the great weight of water on her decks..."

History SA Chief Executive Margaret Anderson said "we have two accounts of what it was like to be on the John Pirie during this terrible storm.  Both are incredibly graphic.  When I first read these accounts I kept thinking that if an experienced sailor like Captain Martin was terrified by this storm, imagine what it must have been like for the passengers, all new to the sea.  What a traumatic way to begin a new life!"

The journey to South Australia was far from romantic, and in this case almost ended before leaving England. It is interesting to consider the likely consequences had the John Pirie indeed sunk.  Would the Province of South Australia have sunk with it?  

Bound for South Australia is a digital re-enactment of those nine voyages made between February and December 1836.  It presents a range of original source material, including captains' logs, letters and diaries kept by those on board, and passenger lists.  Brought together for the very first time, these sources combine to produce real life accounts of these early South Australians – their hopes and fears, their excitement at the adventure, their moments of terror as they encountered the awesome power of the ocean.

In weekly episodes subscribers and visitors meet the people, and hear about their experiences in their own words.  

Passage onboard the fleet is open to everyone.  The journey can be joined at  Weekly entries will be posted on the website, or subscribers can receive email updates and notifications of new posts, or follow the action on a twitter feed.

   What: Bound for South Australia website
   Where: Head to the website:
   When: The first two vessels have set sail

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SOURCE History South Australia