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Otago

History

  • The Otago, c.1900

    The Otago, Port Adelaide, c.1900
    (Archives Office of Tasmania)

  • Otago

    Wreck of the Otago as it stands today

  • Otago

    Hulk of the Otago, c.1910
    (Archives Office of Tasmania)

The Otago was three masted iron barque that was built by A. Stephen at Glasgow, Scotland, in 1869. The vessel measured 147' x 26' x 14' and was 367 tons register. In 1872 the barque was transferred from Glasgow to Adelaide, South Australia, under the ownership of James Simson and various associates.

The Otago's chief claim to fame is that the vessel was the only command of the famous novelist Joseph Conrad. On 4 December 1889 Captain John Snadden had died in the Gulf of Siam and the Otago was forced to put in at Bankok where the first mate was placed in command. Conrad captained the vessel to Singapore, Sydney, Melbourne, Mauritius and finally back to Adelaide.

At the end of its sailing career in 1903 the Otago was purchased by Huddart Parker and Co. and subsequently converted to a coal lighter. The vessel arrived at Hobart in July 1905 to replace the condemned hulk Frederica. In January 1931 the Otago was sold to local shipbreaker Henry Dodge and towed to its present location. The hulk was partially dismantled for scrap metal in 1937 and more completely in 1957.

Parts of the vessel were souvenired over the years with the ships wheel at the Headquarters of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners located on the HQS "Wellington" on the Thames in London, and a section of the stern going to Los Angeles. The timber structure of the companion hatchway was retained in Hobart and may be seen at the Maritime Museum of Tasmania.

The Site

The remains of the Otago may be seen on the eastern shore of the Derwent River in what is now known as Otago Bay. The bow of the vessel rests on the shoreline with the stern lying in approximately two metres of water. The iron hull has been cut back to the waterline and the bow and stern have disappeared entirely. The remains can easily viewed from the shore as the interior of the hull and the surrounding area contain a quantity of debris that make closer examination hazardous.The Otago lie close to the remains of the steamship Westralian that was also abandoned and cut down in the 1930s.

Further Reading

Bulletin Magazine. 12/12/1995 pp.54-55.

Stronham, D., 2005. Conrad's Command: The Barque Otago. World Ship Review, 24: 1, 4-7.