Sunday, March 16, 2014

Around the World with Steam Power - The HMS Driver

HMS Driver
On March 16, 1842, the HMS Driver started the first voyage around the Earth for a steamship.

HMS Driver was a Driver-class wooden paddle sloop of the Royal Navy of 1.058 tons with machines perfoming about 280 horsepower. It was equipped with four big guns, two of them weighing 68 punds ans the others about 34. However, there are resources stating that the ship was equipped with two further canons, but this is not quite proven. The crew consisted of about 175 commissioned officers and lower ranked crew members. The ship's figurehead caused quite a scandal back then, since it depicted a coachman of the post, carrying a whip and wearing only a large coat.

Driver was designed by the Surveyor of the Navy Sir William Symonds, who gained his first experiences in naval architecture in the 1820s and devoted much time of his life to royal yacht building. In 1840, Driver was ordered from Portsmouth Dockyard. Her hull cost £19,433, with the machinery costing another £13,866.

In its early years, the HMS Driver was part of suppressing piracy in the waters of Eastindia and was stationed in China for quite a while. On 4 December 1845, the ship arrived as the very first steam ship the city of Fremantle on Australia's westcoast. When the Australian's sighted the smoke on the far horizon, they first mistook the Driver for a burning ship. They only realized what happened when the ship came closer and closer to the port. In January of the following year, Driver reached Sydney, where the crew intended to refill fuel and provisions. Unfortunately, the needed amount (500 tons) of coal was not available in Sydney and smaller ships had to organize coal from smaller ports nearby.

Driver left the city on 15 January and supply ships had to bring more coal to Auckland for another refill. Auckland was reached five days later where it was used for military purposes. However, the presence of the military ship caused much discomfort at New Zealand, wherefore the city of Wellington increased their military presence as well. The HMS Driver was the very first steamship ever reaching the ports and many came to look at this amazing piece of technology, fighting the winds and (almost) all weathers with fire.

At yovisto, you may be interested in a lecture charts the development of new modes of communication during the Victorian Era, from the railway to the radio, the telegraph to the telephone, the steamship to the motor-car and examines their efforts on perceptions of time and space.

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