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Ship “Royal Charter” and passengers lost in an 1859 hurricane

by John Noack

Most family history research relating to ancestors on passenger lists concentrates on the ships which sailed from Europe to Australia. Some of these ships disappeared without a trace, while some were known to have been wrecked. Either way, their passengers drowned a long way from their home and none of these lost passengers were able to settle in their anticipated new home or to raise families and descendants.

However, the article “On a fatal voyage” in “The Australian” on Wednesday 4 November 2009 on page 15, shows that the reverse occurred in the case of the ill-fated ship the “Royal Charter”. On 26 August 1859, she took on board 390 passengers in Melbourne, along with 80,610 ounces of gold from the diggings in Ballarat. This Ship was an iron clipper combining the best of sail and steam technology and the journey from Melbourne around Cape Horn to Queenstown in Ireland took only 60 days.

When the ship was near Anglesey in England, a severe hurricane whipped up mountainous seas and the ship was soon at the mercy of the strong winds and the rocky coastline. Only 41 passengers survived and hundreds of bodies were collected and buried in the four cemeteries at Anglesey.