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Conception of the City of Adelaide
The wool shipping trade lay mainly into the hands of three firms: Elder and Co., the Orient Line, and Messrs Devitt and Moore. A business partnership was formed between Devitt and Moore, Henry Martin a wealthy South Australian pastoralist, the Harrold Brothers iron mongers and shipping agents in Adelaide, and Captain David Bruce a clipper ship captain. This partnership had constructed a new clipper ship expressly for the South Australian trade.
The ship was built by William Pile, Hay and Co in Sunderland and launched on the 7th May 1864. She was named the City of Adelaide.
Between 1864 and 1887, the City of Adelaide made 46 voyages between England and South Australia – 23 outward and return - bringing hundreds of families from England, Scotland, Ireland and other European countries.
Part of the clipper’s historical importance is the fact that she was particularly a passenger ship. She had fourteen first-class cabins and was able to carry up to about 270 second class passengers ‘tween decks.
The City of Adelaide is a square-rigged clipper ship of composite construction, with wooden planking on iron frames. The hull was sheathed with copper to help keep the hull free of weed and barnacles. Until the advent of anti-fouling paints, sheathing gave timber-hulled vessels an advantage over iron ships due to cleaner hulls resulting in less resistance and higher speeds. Thus composite ships were fast, light, and had good cargo-carrying abilities.
The advent of steamships in the late 1800s led to the demise of sail. As a result, the clipper ships represented the pinnacle of sailing ship design.
The City of Adelaide was fast, able to carry hundreds of passenger at a time she was the Boeing 747 of the 1860s.
The above picture compares Qantas’ 747-438 named the City of Adelaide (call sign VH-OJE) to Devitt and Moore’s City of Adelaide. Qantas can carry passengers from London to Adelaide in 24 hours. Devitt and Moore’s best time was 77 days but the trip once took 105 days.