Historical information

This shipwreck artefact is a section of wood from the vessel “Success, a former immigrant ship, and later a convict hulk at Melbourne.

The sailing ship “Success” was a teakwood vessel built in Natmoo (Natmaw), Tenasserim, Burma (now Myanmar) in 1840 for Cockerell & Co., Calcutta. Over its lifetime of 106 years, it was used to trade in the Indian subcontinent, to transport free emigrants to Australia, as a prison hulk in the Port of Melbourne for both hardened criminals, and later for women and boys, as a storage vessel for ammunition, a reformatory, and as a floating museum sent around the world to tell the tale of the convict era.

During the time “Success” was used as a museum, pamphlets were distributed to paying customers advertising erroneously, that the “Success” was the oldest ship in the world.

The “Success” sank and was re-floated twice: the first in Sydney in 1885, the second in the USA in 1918, before it was finally burned and sank July 4, 1946 in Lake Erie, near Sandusky, Ohio in 1946.

Although the “Success” was home to prisoners while berthed in the Port of Melbourne, it was not used as convict transport. There has been speculation that Ned Kelly’s infamous armour was displayed on the “Success”, but this cannot be verified. Another link to Ned Kelly is Henry Johnson, an Irish prisoner on the Success, who was implicated in the murder of the ship’s warder, and later Johnson was supposedly a bushranger with Ned Kelly. It is also rumoured that Ned Kelly’s father John was a passenger on the Success, but this is also unverified.

There are over 16 other ships named “Success”, although one in particular causes some confusion when researching “Success” in Australia. This other ship – the “HMS Success” was a 28 gun frigate built in1823, which was broken up in 1849. It also sailed to Australia.


Statement of Significance:
This piece of wood from the “Success” is connected to the ship Success, built in Burma in 1840. The “Success” is connected to the history of Australia because she was used as a merchant ship to transport immigrants to Australia, as a prison ship in Melbourne, a storage vessel, and as a floating “convict” museum, which travelled the world.

Physical description

Section of wood from ship “Success”. Wood appears to have been partially burnt, saw marks faintly visible on wood, remnant of a label with handwriting in black ink

Inscriptions & markings

label marked in script handwriting “Convict ship / “Success””