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5 August 2014

Steamer for Jervis Bay – the Sophia Jane.



1831 Sophia Jane was the first paddle steamer to operate in the coastal waters of NSW.
She was built in England and arrived in Sydney in 14th May 1831.


The arrival of the Sophia Jane was greeted with much fan fair and expectation, this new age of steam would herald in a new spirit to the coastal districts.

1831 the Australian.
Part of a report in the Australian newspaper June 1831 illustrates the great expectations the arrival and operation of the Sophia Jane would bring to the coastal communities.

“Persons will shortly be able, we expect, to breakfast in town, lunch at Newcastle, dine at Port Stephens,
and put up comfortably at Port Macquarie next morning, at half the present expense and in quarter the time,
for the journey to Wallis's Plains. Should she not find enough to do between this and Newcastle the route to
and from Hobart Town lies open, and the Western Port, when the fine line of coast about there shall be settled.”

Said to be a very beautiful build and a good sea boat. She was commanded by Lieutenant Edward Biddulph R.N. who was also part owner. She was originally constructed for the almost exclusive accommodation of passengers.
No expense had been spared in fitting her out and the apartments were said to be of the finest description. There were three separate cabins (one for gentlemen, one for ladies and one for steerage). Sixteen beds could be made up in the gentlemen's room, 11 in the ladies and 20 in steerage. In an emergency extra beds could be prepared making a total accommodation of 54.
Her value was estimated to be £7,500 and she arrived from England with an experienced engineer and a duplicate set of all the necessary apparatus. She was considered very fast and could make the 60 miles between Newcastle and Sydney in under 8 hours.

By 1842 The Sophia Jane was also plying regularly between Sydney and Wollongong.

Capture 1 from trove - 1843 - the australian newspaper.

Shipping Notice in ‘The Australian” 1842

South Huskisson
By this time the private township of South Huskisson had grown into a small but important coastal port servicing the wool industry.
Edward Deas Thomson subdivided his unprofitable farmland to form the private township of South Huskisson,
(located where Vincentia is today) the township grew to 15 hotels, blacksmith's shops and many other trading places including a brothel in Church Street.
When the bullock train arrived, the jinkers loaded with wool were backed to the water, the bales were loaded into small boats and taken out to the moored ships.


Image of a typical wool loaded jinker.
Public Domain

a successful meeting raised money to build a wharf, some of the hewn sandstone blocks from the wharf area still visible at low tide near the Holden St boat ramp.
The Sophia Jane was  most active running to Sydney twice monthly.


This painting depicts the Sophia Jane being loaded with hay bales on the wharf at South Huskisson (Vincentia) in 1843.
The other ship is the barque Cygnet.
Marine painter. Ian Hansen.

The decline.
A drought started the decline in Jervis Bay traffic and pressure to government's by Sydney wool merchants, businessmen along the Melbourne Rd and the developers of the Twofold Bay saw the end of the Jervis Bay wool trade. South Huskisson being a private development obtained no assistance from the government of the day, some shipping continued but by 1858 the settlement was virtually deserted.

The end of the Sophia Jane.
1845 her timbers showed signs of decay. and her owners deemed it necessary to have another hull built and the old engines installed. This vessel ‘the Phoenix’ was launched in 1846 and continued in the trade until 27th July 1850 , when she was totally wrecked on the Clarence River Bar.

Sophia Jane Specifications.

256 ton brig rigged paddle steamer she was 126 feet long, breadth 20ft and could travel 8 miles and hour, she was an auxiliary steamer.
A two-masted sailing ship with auxiliary steam power. The advantage was supposed to be that the ship could sail up-wind when it was convenient, and additionally, it could use the steam power to move relative to the wind to obtain a more advantageous angle to the wind.

In practice, the disadvantages combined rather than the advantages. The type had great wind-resistance, leading to an increased use of fuel up-wind compared to a pure steam ship. At the same time, the requirement to store coal reduced the cargo space over that of a sailing ship. It thus combined the slow speed, high maintenance and poor righting (ability to resist capsize and wind) of a sailing ship with the small cargo space and fuel expense of a steam ship.

REF: http://www.jenwilletts.com/Steamers.htm
Top painting. P.S. SOPHIA JANE - from a painting by Dickson Gregory, image No.; 2805501, courtesy State Library of Victoria.

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