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MERMAID Cutter Built in 1816, Port Jackson. Purchased a year later.
Sold in 1823.

  • She was built of teak, 56 ft long with a beam of 18 ft 6 ins; deep laden draught less than 9 ft.

    Her total armament consisted of 12 muskets.
  • Lieut. Phillip Parker KING was appointed in February 1817 to complete a survey of the north and north-west coast of Australia.
    and he, with Messrs. Frederick BEDWELL and John Septimus ROE, master's mates, sailed from Ireland in the transport DICK arriving in New south Wales on 3 September to commission MERMAID.
    His crew consisted of 12 seamen and two boys with a Mr Allen Cunningham, a botanist, and Boongaree, an Aborigine from Port Jackson who had sailed with Capt. FLINDERS.
  • When the fitting out was completed towards the end of December Lieut. KING sailed from Sydney Cove for the Bass Strait.
    A few days out much of the bread was found to be spoiled by damp, so that article had to be rationed.
    As they rounded Cape Leeuwin on 1 February 1818 and set their course to the northward all hands were attacked with dysentery and only four men were able to keep watch when things began to improve the following day.
    After passing North-West Cape they only had one anchor so the coast could only be approached with caution but the 250 miles between the Cape and Depuch Island were explored before 6 March and more of the coast to the eastward visited until 31 May.
    On 4 June MERMAID anchored at the Dutch settlement of Coupang on Timor where Capt. KING sent a report to the Admiralty by a vessel sailing for Batavia.
    (News had reached England that MERMAID had been wrecked with the loss of all hands)
  • The crew were again attacked with dysentery after leaving Coupang and, from 13 to 26 July while crossing the Great Bight, they were constantly wet with the continual seas breaking over the tiny vessel.
    One of her seamen died as they re-entered the Bass Strait on the 24th. She anchored again Sydney Cove at midnight on 25 July after 31 weeks and 3 days.
    The working up of the results and the fitting out of MERMAID occupied Capt. KING until December.
    On the 24th., accompanied by the LADY NELSON colonial brig, he sailed for Tasmania to survey the entrance to Macquarie Harbour on the western coast and returned on 14 February 1819.
    However the re-fitting of MERMAID was delayed by unusual heavy rains over the next four weeks and it was not until 8 May that she was able to sail from Port Jackson on her next voyage.
  • This time Capt. KING turned north for the Torres Strait and in the next 11 weeks they made a running survey of some 900 miles of the north-east coast and recorded their track within the barrier reefs between the Percy Islands and Cape York.
    At Endeavour River they built a boat.
  • On 24 July they stood in to examine Newcastle Bay where, before they they could avoid it, the vessel struck a shallow shoal.
    Although the helm was put up at once, she continued to strike the ground violently every time the swell passed since the depth of water was only ten feet.
    Fortunately she soon reached deep water but during the night an anchor ring broke.
    The following day the ring broke on a second anchor leaving them, as on the previous voyage, with only one bower anchor.
  • Between Cape Grafton and the Torres Strait the weather was thick with frequent rain and the continual dampness below caused a lot of sickness but this soon cleared up when they passed through the strait into temperatures in the upper seventies.
    On 30 September they reached Cape Londonderry and over the next two weeks Capt. KING determined the position of at least forty islands and inlets between Cape Bourgainville and Cape Voltaire in the bay he named Admiralty Gulf.
    On 16 October he set course for Timor but contrary winds prevented arrival at Coupang until 1 November.
    He returned to Port Jackson on 12 January 1820 after making a detailed survey of 540 miles of the northern coast.
  • Only two of MERMAID's crew wished to remain with her and it was June before she could be remanned.
    A surgeon, Mr James Hunter, volunteered to join her. She sailed on the 14th. and eight days later lost her bowsprit.
    The voyage was resumed on 13 July and, although she was badly damaged by going aground near Port Bowen on 20 July, she passed through the Timor Straits on 16 August and reached Cape Voltaire on 5 September.
  • Due to the earlier damage MERMAID was now making about eight inches an hour so, on 23 September, she was warped up the beach at a place they called Careening Bay and left high and dry as the tide went out.
    When the copper was stripped off the keel and stern post were found to be separated from the frame.
    Four 24 inch bolts were driven through to secure them and an iron brace fitted was under the keel but many of the nails fastening the copper sheets were found to be decomposed.
    As they did not have enough nails to replace them they only removed copper from the areas which appeared most suspicious.
    The repairs were completed on the 30th. and on 5 October MERMAID floated off. She was still leaking so Capt. KING decided to return to Port Jackson.
  • On 4 December a gale caught them on a lee shore, flashes of lightning showing breakers close to.
    They struck a rock with such force that the rudder was nearly lifted out of the gudgeons but, although the seaman at the tiller was knocked down, he recovered in time to ensure that they cleared the rock before the next wave swept from under them.
    The next flash showed that they were between the heads of Botany Bay and within half an hour they were safely at anchor.
    On the 9th., when the weather cleared, they went round to Port Jackson.
    When MERMAID was run on shore and the copper stripped off, the tide flowed into her, showing that the sheathing alone had kept her afloat.
    A new brig, BATHURST

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© 1995, 2007 Michael Phillips