HMS Megaera (1849)

HMS Megaera (1849)

HMS "Megaera" was originally constructed as an iron screw frigate for the Royal Navy, and was one of the last and largest ships built by William Fairbairn's London shipyard.

Launched on 1849-05-22, HMS "Megaera" was one of the first iron ships ordered by the Royal Navy. She was named after the mythological figure "Megaera", one of the "Erinyes" (or "Furies", in Roman mythology).

The Admiralty was at the time sceptical about iron ships in general and this slow ship did nothing to change its mind. "Megaera" never saw service as a frigate, the Admiralty instead ordering her to be converted to a troopship and storeship. On her maiden voyage as a troopship on 1851-06-07, she broke down and had to be towed back to port. "Megaera" was refitted and sailed again, ordered to use her sails to conserve coal. She became an operational ship and made several voyages to the Crimea but was not well liked.


In 1871 HMS "Megaera" was assigned to transport Royal Navy recruits to Australia to replace crew members on HMS "Blanche" and HMS "Rosario" and departed from England on 1871-02-22. She suffered damage in a storm and put in at Queenstown, Ireland, for repairs. The ship's officers complained that the vessel was overloaded with baggage and riding too low in the water; there was an article in "The Times", questions were asked in the House of Commons and eventually an inspection resulted in 127 tons of cargo being removed.

On 1871-05-28 HMS "Megaera" departed Simonstown, South Africa. Aboard her were 42 officers, 180 sailors, and 67 recruits en route to Australia. On 1871-06-09, sailors discovered 17 inches of water present in the hold, the ship's hull having sprung a leak. Use of the pumps lowered the level to 13 inches and the leak was found. Unfortunately it was a serious one, and the Captain, Arthur Thomas Thrupp, altered course on 1871-06-15 for the nearest land, which was the uninhabited St. Paul Island.

Two days later they anchored at St. Paul in 14 fathoms of water and a diver was sent to inspect the damage. However, the anchor cable broke and they were obliged to take the diver back on board before he could carry out any work. After snapping a second anchor cable, HMS "Megaera"'s divers were finally able to make an inspection. After hearing reports from the divers and the opinions of the ship's engineers regarding the extensive corrosion of the iron plates of the ship's hull, Captain Thrupp announced that HMS "Megaera" would sail no further and that they were shipwrecked on the island of St. Paul. The sailors and marines burst into applause.

Thrupp beached the ship and it was not completely abandoned for 11 days, when the Captain declared the dangerous wreckage to be off-limits. Two-thirds of the cargo had by then been unloaded.

On 1871-07-16 Captain Visier of the Dutch vessel "Aurora" spotted the flagpole which the Megaera's crew had erected and Lt. Lewis Jones sailed with her to Surabaya, Java, which they reached on 1871-08-02. He despatched telegrams to the British Consul in Batavia (Jakarta) and to the Royal Navy Commodore in Hong Kong, who ordered HMS "Rinaldo" to sail to the rescue.

On 1871-08-07 a second Dutch ship took five men from St. Paul, and on August 7 the captain of the English clipper "Mountain Laurel" wanted to be paid to rescue the crew of HMS "Megaera", claiming that he would have to jettison his cargo to accommodate so many people. Captain Thrupp declined this offer and on 1871-08-26 Lt. Jones arrived on the "Oberon" with supplies. On 1871-08-29 the ships "Malacca" and HMS "Rinaldo" arrived and took off the remaining survivors of the shipwreck.

Captain Thrupp and his crew subsequently faced a court martial in November 1871 at Plymouth and a Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into the loss of the ship. Thrupp was subsequently honourably acquitted when the court decided that the beaching of the ship was perfectly justifiable.



*Citation | last = | first = | author-link = | last2 = | first2 = | author2-link = | title = LOSS OF THE MEGAERA.; Official Dispatches Received at the British Admiralty | newspaper = New York Times | pages = | year = | format = PDF | date = October 9 1871 | url =

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • HMS Megaera — Three ships of the Royal Navy have borne the name HMS Megaera , after one of the Erinyes of Greek and Roman mythology, Megaera:*HMS|Megaera|1783 was a 14 gun fireship launched in 1783 and sold in 1817. *HMS|Megaera|1837 was a wood paddle sloop… …   Wikipedia

  • Megaera (disambiguation) — Megaera may refer to: Megaera, one of the Erinyes in Greek mythology. 464 Megaira, an asteroid named after the Erinye. Megara (mythology), the oldest daughter of Creon, king of Thebes, in Greek mythology. A taxonomic synonym for Trimeresurus, a.k …   Wikipedia

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