The ARISTIDES was launched in 1876 at a time when steam was starting to seriously challenge the sailing ship for the passenger traffic to Australia. The owners of the ship, the Aberdeen Line, had several reasons why they still wanted sailing ships. People respected and were loyal to the Aberdeen White Star ships, shippers of the wool clip still objected to steamers, and Jewish shippers supported the line due to the ships all having Jewish names. It was twenty years after the launch of the ARISTIDES before the owners, Messrs. Thompson, reluctantly gave up sail, primarily due to the increase of sailing-ship insurance rates by Lloyd's in 1897. Even then, the Aberdeen Line kept the ARISTIDES and one other sailing ship.
ARISTIDES was not only the largest ship built for George Thompson, she was also considered the finest ship ever built in Hood's yard. She was the flagship of the green fleet throughout her career. She registered 1,661 tons, her measurements being: Length, 260 feet; beam, 39 feet 5 inches; depth of hold, 24 feet 5 inches. She was heavily rigged with double topgallant yards at the fore and main, and deep royals.
Captain Kemball took command of the ship for her first ten passages. He averaged a remarkable 77.9 days on the outward passages, but she was not the fastest of the fleet's ships. She was by no means slow, however.
On her first voyage out she had a picked crew, her cargo was most carefully stowed, and Captain Kimball new the ship could handle whatever her gave her. She made the passage in 70 days. This was a fine performance - only one ship beat her in 1876. One her return she made the best wool passage of the season, arriving in the Thames on February 17th, 81 days out. ARISTIDES was kept on the Melbourne trade until 1889, when she was put on the Sydney run. Captain Kimball retired in 1887 and was succeeded by Captain Spalding. The third skipper of the ship was Captain Allan, who took over in the early 1890's. Her forth and last skipper, Captain Poppy, was lost in her.
In 1880, after beating down Channel against a strong S.W. gale, ARISTIDES took her departure from the Lizard on July 27th, crossed the Equator on August 23rd, crossed the Cape Meridian on September 12th, and arrived in Port Phillip on October 5th; thus equaling the time of her maiden voyage.
While Captain Kimball was the most successful captain of ARISTIDES, Captain Spalding did make a very fair record in the Sydney trade. One of the best runs was made on her second run out to Sydney in 1890 when she anchored in Port Jackson 85 days out. He later found out that the CUTTY SARK beat her by ten days! Her best run during this passage was in the roaring forties when he made 320 miles in one day. This was the year of the shipping strike, and the fastest clippers loaded wool for the March sales instead of those in January. It was not a favorable season for the run home, and only the CUTTY SARK made a respectable passage, the times of various ships being:
Ship Name Left on Arrived on Days
RODNEY Sydney Dec 6 London Mar 26 110
ARISTIDES Sydney Dec 10 London Mar 27 107
LOCH LOMOND Sydney Dec 12 London Apr 6 115
MERMERUS Melbourne Dec 13 London Mar 29 106
SALAMIS Melbourne Dec 13 London Mar 24 101
CUTTY SARK Sydney Dec 14 London Mar 17 93
WEST LOTHIAN Sydney Dec 17 London Apr 17 106
In her last years, like every other windjammer, the ARISTIDES was forced to go seeking a cargo in all parts of the world. On May 28th, 1903, she sailed from Caleta Buena, with a cargo of nitrate for San Francisco, and was posted missing. Although she was searched for by several ships and the Pacific Islands were investigated on her route, no trace of the ship was ever found. Thus, the famous house-flag of the White Star Line was no more seen at the main-truck of a clipper ship. The design stamp is made after painting of Jack Spurling.
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