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Migrant Ships

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SS Pericles (1908-1910)

The following report appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on 24 December 1907:

LONDON, Dec. 23.

George Thompson and Company's (Aberdeen Line) new steamer Pericles has been launched at Belfast.

The Perlcles is a twin-screw steamer, and was built by Messrs. Harland and Wolff, Ltd., Belfast, to the order of Messrs. George Thompson and Co., Ltd., London, for their South African and Australian service. The new vessel is 500ft in length by 62ft in width, and has a tonnage of between 11,000 and 12,000, consequently she will be one of the largest vessels engaged in the trade. The Pericles has four masts, is a very handsome model, and, with her graceful lines and artistic superstructure, will present a fine appearance when completed. She is built on the cellular double-bottom principle, the double-bottom extending the whole length of the ship. She has five decks, all of steel. She has eight watertight bulkheads subdividing the vessel into nine watertight compartments. The vessel will carry about 100 first-class and 400 third-class passengers. The first-class accommodation will be of a superior kind, and the comfort of the third-class passengers will also be carefully studied. The whole of the first-class accommodation is arranged amid-ships. The dining saloon is situated on the main deck and is a very spacious apartment, extending the entire width of the vessel. The first-class staterooms are arranged on the awning and bridge decks. The third-class accommodation is arranged aft on the main deck. A feature of this accommodation is the large number of two and fourth berth rooms, all the accommodation being arranged in enclosed cabins.

The Pericles will carry about 10,000 tons dead weight, and besides a general cargo, is especially designed for the carriage of frozen mutton, the two forward holds, and also 'tween decks, being insulated for this purpose. The 'tween decks are also arranged on the cold air system for the carriage of fruit. The refrigerating machinery and air cooler are fitted in a large deck-house on the awning deck directly above the insulated chambers, and the machinery is of sufficient capacity to admit of the upper 'tween decks being also insulated for the conveyance of either mutton or fruit, if required. The general arrangements for working the cargo are of the most approved type. For cargo there are 14 winches at the different hatches, in addition to two for warping purposes, and two boat winches. There are also 19 Mannesmann tube derricks, one lifting 15 tons and the others five tons each. Twin screws have been adopted. The machinery consists of two sets of quadruple expansion engines on the balanced principle, specially designed to obviate vibration, and the vessel will have electric light throughout."

Sadly, SS Pericles didn't last long. The largest passenger liner to ever sink off the coast of Australia went down near Augusta.

On 31 March 1910 the Pericles was on it's 4th voyage, passing Cape Leeuwin, when it hit an uncharted rock. This tore a gash in the hull and the liner began to sink bow first into the water, completely sinking within two and a half hours. Thankfully, all passengers and crew were able to get into the dozen lifeboats, and as conditions were fair at the time, they were able to all make it to shore, guided by a signal fire that had been lit by the Cape Leeuwin lighthouse keeper.

Although there was no trace of the ship after it sank, over the following days tons of goods from the ship washed up on shore. From as far away as Wonnerup, south west families came down in droves, bringing horses and carts to gather up what they could find. The exact location of the wreck was left unknown for almost half a century until it was located and partially salvaged in the 1950’s.

Owner/SourceReproduced Courtesy of Trove Online Archives.
DateAdded 16 Oct 2012
Linked toEthel Florence Bassett (Emigration); George Gilbert Maidstone (Emigration)

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