City of Adelaide - Clipper Ship

July 18, 2018

The oldest surviving clipper ship, the 'City of Adelaide' is now in Port Adelaide. She arrived in Australian waters on a heavy lift ship covered in quarantine wrap in January 2014, back for the first time in 125 years.

The oldest surviving clipper ship, the 'City of Adelaide' is now in Port Adelaide. She arrived in Australian waters on a heavy lift ship covered in quarantine wrap in January 2014, back for the first time in 125 years.

The City of Adelaide (1864) and Cutty Sark (1869) are the last two clipper ships surviving in the world today. One of only four surviving sailing ships to have taken emigrants from the British Isles to any destination in the world – the others are the Edwin Fox, Star of India and SS Great Britain (also a steamer),

Over two decades the City of Adelaide carried English, Scottish, Cornish, German, Danish, Irish and other migrants as well as imported trade goods into South Australia, then carrying South Australian exports such as copper, wool and wheat to Britain on the return voyages.

In the 1920s the City of Adelaide was renamed HMS Carrick and used as a navy training ship in Scotland, the hull was rotting on the banks of the Clyde until a restoration project.

 It will now take on-going conservation work to preserve her for future generations. It is hoped that a seaport village in the inner harbour of Port Adelaide is to be established, where not only will the ship be displayed, people will be able to visit.

Composite Shipbuilding

 By the beginning of the nineteenth century shipbuilders began using iron components in wooden vessel construction. A patent from 1849 saw a shipbuilder named John Jordan specify the first vessel with a complete iron frame. The Tubal Cain was one of the early vessels built under this patent and launched in 1851. Interestingly this ship was sunk in a collision 200 miles WSW of Cape Otway in August of 1862. The firm of Jordan and Getty left the business, but others carried on developing composite shipbuilding principles, notable amongst these was Alexander Stephen Jr.

Through the early 1860’s Alexander developed and refined composite construction and was finally able to get recognition and ultimate endorsement from Lloyds for this form of ship construction. However it wasn’t until 1867 that they finally issued their rules for composite construction. Until then all such vessels were labelled “experimental”.

One of the early problems that shipbuilders had to address was the corrosion of iron frames through contact with non-ferrous bolts. One of the factors favouring composite construction over the parallel developing iron construction involved hull fouling. A timber planked, but iron framed, vessel could be clad in copper or “yellow metal” over the underwater portion, this controlled the growth of hull fouling organisms. This meant the ship could make faster passages, without the constant need to be slipped or careened to clean the bottom. At this point in time there were no anti-fouling paints.

The remaining examples of this important, but short era of shipbuilding, are the City of Adelaide (built in 1864) and the Cutty Sark (built in 1867). Both these vessels are equally important to the development of composite vessels.

Lloyds Survey of 1864

The City of Adelaide is a composite built vessel, timber planked over an iron framework. She was built by William Pile, Hay and Co. at Sunderland. Her principle dimensions, taken from her original Lloyds Survey of June 3r 1864, are as follows:

Tonnage (new) 791.33 tons

Length aloft 176.8 ft (53.89 m)

Extreme breadth outside 33.35 ft (10.17 m)

Depth of hold 18.8 ft (5.73 m)

The vessel was built under Special Survey between the 1st October 1863 and June 3rd 1864.

Timbers Used in Construction

A number of species of timber were used in the vessels construction:

· Her Keel was made of Elm and American Elm

· The main piece of the Rudder is of English Oak

· The main piece of the Windlass is of teak

· The Stem and Stern post are of English Oak

· The Knight Heads and Hawse Chocks are of English Oak

· The Deadwood is of American Elm, Teak and English Oak

· Planking from Keel to (possibly turn of bilge) is of American Elm

· Planking from that point to the Light Water Mark is of German Oak

· Planking from Light Water Mark to the Wales Is of Teak

· The Wales and Black Strakes are of Teak

· The Topsides and Sheer Strakes are of Teak

· The Spirketting and Plank Sheers are of Teak

· The Water-ways are of Teak

The Decks are of Yellow Pine

The hull below the waterline was sheathed in Yellow Metal and Felt in May of 1864.

Signal Code

in 1855 the British Board of Trade developed a new set of signals. What they came up with was a system of eighteen codes flags representing the eighteen consonants of the English alphabet. By allocating a four letter code to every ship, and listing these too in the Mercantile Navy List for each ship, it was easy for a ship to identify itself by hoisting four flags in a single hoist.

In the case of the City of Adelaide, when she was built in 1864 and registered, she was assigned the official British Registration number 50036 and signal WCLQ.

This article was originally published by Sydney Model Shipbuilders Club. The copyright remains with the club and contributor.

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