Image Map
  • 18th & Early 19th Century Sailing Vessels
    Provides background information on maritime vessels in the late 18th century and early 19th century. Also includes a descriptive list of different types of vessels.
  • Glossary of Nautical Terms
    Provides a descriptive listing of the main nautical terms as applied to the late 18th century sailing vessels.
  • List of Ships
    In this list those ships mentioned specifically in the text of Lachlan and Elizabeth Macquarie's journals are marked with an asterisk *. The remaining ships are referred to in the historical notes provided in People and Places.
Details have been kept to a minimum, for more complete information relating to these vessels reference should be made to standard reference works on Australian maritime history, such as, C. Bateson The Convict Ships and Australian Shipwrecks Vol.1: 1622 - 1850; J.S. Cumpston & I. H. Nicholson Shipping Arrivals and Departures (various titles); R. Parsons Australian Shipowners and Their Fleets; and G. Broxam & M. Nichols Tasmanian Shipwrecks: Vol. One 1797-1899.

Ships' tonnages must be regarded as approximate; for some vessels made a number of different voyages with various cargoes, and often underwent a refit to accommodate the goods or people that they were transporting .


Travel by sea in the late 18th & early 19th centuries was arduous, uncomfortable, and at times extremely dangerous. Men, women and children faced months of uncertainty and deprivation in cramped quarters, with the ever-present threat of shipwreck, disease and piracy.

Passengers on ships could be officials, or the brides of officials, soldiers, or soldiers' wives, merchants, emigrants, convicts, indentured servants, slaves, debtors, stowaways, visitors - or invalids seeking a healthier climate.

Some of these individuals recorded their travel experiences in diaries and letters - and today these writings provide an invaluable insight into their lives and their shipboard experiences. When they wrote they tended to concentrate more upon the places that they visited rather than detailing their experiences at sea. Similarly, their comments on the vessels on which they sailed tended to be brief, limited to listing the comfort (or discomfort) that they experienced, and only indirectly describing the workings of the ship and its crew.

The reasons for this are varied, but among the practical considerations would have been the rolling and pitching of the ship, the dimness of the lanterns below decks, the distraction of other passengers, and, of course, seasickness. Furthermore, great personal commitment would have been required to sustain a diary over a voyage lasting three or four months. It would not have been easy to generate something new to write about every day once the strangeness of the ship had become familiar and the routine of life at sea had been established.

The long journey between England and Australia via the ports of South America and/or the Cape of Good Hope was no exception. The number of accounts by men is quite extensive and many of these were kept by officials who were familiar with the requirements of record keeping. Lachlan Macquarie, though not a colourful diarist, certainly showed a tendency to document his activities; and often made additional copies of his correspondence and record books. His shipboard diaries are brief, yet historically interesting. Elizabeth Macquarie's diary of the voyage to New South Wales in 1809 on the other hand is interesting for the observations that she makes upon vessels encountered, such as a Portuguese slave ship bound from Bengola to Rio de Janeiro, or the small American sloop they boarded after leaving the Cape Verde Islands; the shore leave activities undertaken in Rio and Cape Town (observing social customs and exploring the surrounding hinterlands); and her descriptions of fellow passengers. Other personal accounts of voyages to Australia by women in this period include:

PARKER, Mary Ann.
Voyage Round the World in the 'Gorgon' Man of War. London, John Nichols,1795.
[Reprinted in Maiden Voyages and Infant Colonies: two women's travel narratives of the 1790's (ed.) Deirdre Coleman. Washington, C.C: Leicester University Press, 1999.

FREYCINET, Rose Marie de.
A Woman of Courage: the journal of Rose de Freycinet on her Voyage around the World 1817-1820. (Trans. & ed.) Marc Serge Riviere. Canberra, National Library of Australia, 1996.

Additional insights into travel and/or residence abroad by women in this period of time can also be found in:

BARNARD, Lady Anne.
South Africa a Century Ago: letters written from the Cape of Good Hope (1797 - 1801). London, Smith, Elder & Co. 1910.

GRAHAM, Maria Dundas (Lady Maria Callcott).
Journal of a Voyage to Brazil, and Residence there during part of the years 1821, 1822, 1823. New York, Frederick A. Praeger, 1969 (reprint).

GRAHAM, Maria Dundas (Lady Maria Callcott).
Journal of a Residence in Chile during the year 1822; and a Voyage from Chile to Brazil in 1823. New York, Frederick A. Praeger, 1969 (reprint).

For a contrasting view of the presence of women on board the ships of the Royal Navy in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries consult:

STARK, Suzanne J.Female Tars: women aboard ship in the age of sail. London, Pimlico, 1998.

Stark offers revealing accounts of the wives of officers and seamen who accompanied their husbands to sea, women in male disguise serving as seamen or marines, prostitutes sharing quarters with the crew whenever a ship was in port, as well as an autobiography by Mary Lacy who served as a seaman and shipwright for 12 years in the Royal Navy.

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