Historical information

Madagascar was a large British merchant ship built for the trade to India and China in 1837 that disappeared on a voyage from Melbourne to London in 1853. The disappearance of Madagascar was one of the great maritime mysteries of the 19th century and has probably been the subject of more speculation than any other 19th-century maritime puzzle, except for the Mary Celeste.
Madagascar, the second Blackwall Frigate, was built for George and Henry Green at the Blackwall Yard, London, a shipyard that they co-owned with the Wigram family.
A one-eighth share in the vessel was held throughout her 16-year career by her first master Captain William Harrison Walker Walker. Madagascar carried freight, passengers, and troops between England and India until the end of 1852. In addition to her normal crew, she also carried many boys being trained as officers for the merchant marine. Known as midshipmen from naval practice, their parents or guardians paid for their training, and they only received a nominal wage of usually a shilling a month.
Due to the Victorian Gold Rush, Madagascar, under the command of Captain Fortescue William Harris, was sent to Melbourne with emigrants. She left Plymouth on 11 March 1853 and, after an uneventful passage of 87 days, reached Melbourne on 10 June. Fourteen of her 60 crew jumped ship for the diggings, and it is believed only about three replacements were signed on. She then loaded a cargo that included wool, rice, and about two tonnes of gold valued at £240,000, and took on board about 110 passengers for London.
On Wednesday 10 August, just as she was preparing to sail, police went on board and arrested a bushranger John Francis, who was later found to have been one of those responsible for robbing on 20th July the Melbourne Private Escort between the McIvor goldfield at Heathcote, Victoria and Kyneton. On the following day, the police arrested two others, one on board the ship and the other as he was preparing to board. As a result of these arrests, Madagascar did not leave Melbourne until Friday 12 August 1853. After she left Port Phillip Heads Madagascar was never seen again. When the ship became overdue many theories were floated, including spontaneous combustion of the wool cargo, hitting an iceberg and, most controversially, being seized by criminal elements of the passengers and/or crew and scuttled, with the gold being stolen and the remaining passengers and crew murdered. There have been many rumors as to what happened to Madagascar over the years but what really happened is still a mystery.


The lithograph was made around 1950 from an original painting of Madagascar a Vessel with a notorious past and is interesting and a significant item for the ships part in early Victorian history. The picture is it’s self not valuable or can be associated with a significant person in history. The interest lies in the events that are linked to the ship in the mid 19th century.

Physical description

Lithograph of the ship Madagascar, in a wooden frame

Inscriptions & markings

The Madagascar East Indiaman 1000 tons