The THESSALUS was arguably the fastest and definitely the largest sailing ship built by Barclay, Curle & Co. for the Golden Fleece Line, owned by A. and J. Carmichael, of Greenock. She was an iron clipper ship launched in July, 1874. She was intended for no special trade but was just a general trader. In her career she went everywhere with excellent passages as a jute clipper, a wool clipper and a San Francisco grain carrier. She was not designed specifically to carry passengers but often did have a half a dozen first-class passengers when going to Melbourne or Sydney. Throughout her career she was very fortunate to keep clear of any accidents.
Her registered dimensions were: Length, 269 feet; breadth, 41 feet 1 inch; depth, 23 feet 6 inches; gross tonnage, 1,865 tons. Only two ships of another builder, Harland & Wolff, had larger ships – The BELFAST of 1,957 gross tons and the STAR OF BENGAL of 1,870 gross tons. She had only two captains during her entire life under the red ensign – Captain E. C. Bennett from her launching until the early 1890’s, when he retired from the sea, and Captain J. Henderson, who remained with the ship until she was sold.
On her maiden voyage she went to Calcutta, arriving back in London 97 days out from Calcutta. On her third voyage she made her best jute passage, leaving Calcutta on December 6th, 1876 and reaching London 90 days out on March 6th, 1877. Her second passage, in between the two jute passages, was a wool passage to Melbourne and back. On this trip, on September 5th, 1875 she had her main upper topsail yard, which was made of iron, broken during a furious gale. The weather was so bad it took two days to bring the damaged spar down to the deck for repair. She reached Melbourne 83 days out with six passengers. She ran her first wool cargo back to London, leaving Melbourne on October 30th, 1875 and arriving in London on January 31st, 1876, 93 days out.
The THESSALUS’s best voyage was her fifth passage, going from London to Melbourne in 73 days despite a hard beat down channel in the spring of 1878. From Melbourne Captain Bennett took whalers to Calcutta in only 48 days. She then took jute home, arriving at Dundee on February 18th, 103 days out.
To show the variety of cargo carried, Captain Bennett left London for Melbourne in 1880 and took 86 days to reach his goal. She then took 69 days to Calcutta with horses as his cargo. He was congratulated when he arrived, however, because all his horses were alive and in prime condition when he arrived in port. She then loaded with wheat bags, wool packs and camels for Melbourne. The camels were also landed in good condition, but it could not have been a pleasant voyage. She next loaded wool for London and arrived there on April 28th, 1881, 104 days out.
She made her first grain passage in the spring of 1883. She ran out to Australia in 80 days, crossed the Pacific to San Francisco in the excellent time of 55 days, and sailed from San Francisco on January 10th, 1883 with the usual grain cargo. She reached the Lizard on April 25th, being 105 days out.
Following a number of routine passages to all areas around the world, she began her 13th passage in 1887, which was made to Sydney in the excellent time of 78 days. While on this passage, she covered 3,007 miles in 11 days, her best 24-hour run being 322 miles. Her homeward voyage was made from Portland, Oregon, and resulted in the quickest passage of her career from a North Pacific grain port. She made the run in the excellent time of 98 days.
The THESSALUS was considered one of the very fastest grain vessels in the very early 1890’s. The THESSALUS, under Captain Henderson, got the better of the ARGONAUT in their grain race in 1890. In 1891-92 no less than 155 big sailing ships left the United Kingdom or Continent for San Francisco. Henderson in the THESSALUS again did better than Captain Thomas in the ARGONAUT – the THESSALUS arriving at Hull 128 days out, while the ARGONAUT took 139 days.
In 1892-93 the THESSALUS loaded Welsh coal for San Francisco. She then left San Francisco on November 19th, 1892 and arrived at Queenstown on February 28th, 1893, 101 days out. This was her last grain voyage. Her next five passages were out to Sydney by way of the Cape, and home with the wool clip. During this time she had one of the finest runs of her career. She left Cape Town on Saturday, July 15th, 1893 and took 27 days 11 hours to reach her anchorage in Table Bay. During this extraordinary run she made her best single day passage of 369 miles (in 24 hours).
In 1895 she almost broke this record, leaving London on April 11th and arrived within 100 miles of Cape Town on the fortieth day out, but was then held up for 3 days by light easterly airs, finally reaching her anchorage until May 27th, 44 days out. She reached Sydney on this trip in 78 days – a very excellent run. Leaving Sydney in October, 1896, she made the best wool passage of her career. She reached London in 78 days, the best wool passage of that year.
On the arrival of the THESSALUS home from Sydney in the spring of 1898, she was sold to the Swedes, and left London on May 17th for Sundsvall to load for Adelaide. For the next 10 years she sailed in the Baltic and Australian timber trade, but apparently her new captain made no attempt to drive her, for she had no outstanding passages to her credit while under the Swedish flag. The grand old ship was finally broken up about five years prior to World War I.
The design stamp is made after painting of Jack Spurling.
Niger 2020;(6x1000) f.
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