Saturday, August 24, 2013

Souvenir Saturday: Ocean Queen and 19th c Clippers

The Ocean Queen is a good example of an Aberdeen clipper barque, similar to William Falconer's Alexandrina.* Ocean Queen was built in 1846 by John Duthie and was of 349 tons. She has a large forward rake to her stem, the 'Aberdeen clipper bow'. Alexander Duthie took over the family firm in 1837 and with his brother John managed it and supervised construction until 1860. They built several of the famous Aberdeen clipper barques. Painting by Whitehaven artist Joseph Heard (Parker Gallery).

A clipper indicates a 19th c sailing ship designed for maximum speed, with forward-raking bows and a large expanse of sails which allowed the vessel to ‘clip’ along at a rate – about 250 miles a day - unimagined by earlier mariners. Narrow for their length, they had three or more masts and were square-rigged. The world was their oyster: clippers sailed on all the trade routes between Britain and its colonies in the east and across the Atlantic bringing vast profits to merchant owners.

By 1843 the so-called tea clippers were in increasing demand for more rapid imports of that commodity from China – tea needed to be delivered fresh. But it was the discovery of gold in California and Australia in 1848 and 1851 that brought the greatest boom years of the clipper era. Primarily built in British and American yards, though other nations did produce some, clippers led the way for the development of the great emigrant ships and the burgeoning of Colonial trade.

The Cape of Good Hope was an important waypoint on the clipper route. A change of era would come in 1869 when the Suez Canal was opened but until then the clipper was indeed queen of the ocean.

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