From the book Colonial Clippers:
"Carmichael’s Superb Wool Clipper “Mermerus.”
This beautiful ship was one of the finest and most successful of all the iron wool clippers, and as a specimen of an iron sailing ship she could hardly be beaten, either for looks, speed or sea worthiness. Barclay, Curle never turned out a more graceful and handsome ship as looks; and like all Carmichael’s, she was most beautifully sparred, crossing the main skysail yard, which was so characteristic a feature of their ships. I give her spar plan below.
This is her original spar plan. Barclay, Curle planned her spars for three skysails, but the fore and mizen were not sent aloft. Mermerus had a poop 54 feet long, and a foc’s’lehead 32 feet long. She carried a cargo of 10,000 bales of wool, representing the fleeces of a million sheep and worth £130,000 more or less as wool varied in price.
She never made a bad voyage under the Golden Fleece house-flag, and the regularity with which she arrived every year in time for the February wool sales caused her to receive the most out-spoken praise. On one occasion, when as usual she had arrived in time and several notable ships had missed the sales, Mr. Young, of the Australian Mortgage Land and Finance Company, greeted one of the Carmichaels in Cornhill with the heart-felt remark:—“That ship of yours is the most satisfactory ship in the wool trade.”
Most of those connected with the Mermerus regarded her with great affection and spoke of her as a living thing. Mr. John Sanderson, a well-known Melbourne merchant, was often heard to say:—“The Mermerus is a wonderful ship, I can always depend on the Mermerus.”
The Melbourne people, indeed, looked upon her as the pride of their port; and Lord Brassey, when Governor of Victoria, heard so much about her that he paid her a special visit and inspected her with the approving eye of a seaman.
Captain W. Fife commanded her until 1888, and then Captain T. G. Coles had her until she was sold to the Russians. Except for her third voyage she was always in the Melbourne trade, but in April, 1874, she went out to Sydney. On this passage she took out a dozen South Sea Island missionaries as passengers. Whilst in the North Atlantic she happened to be becalmed for a few hours, and several turtle were noticed lying asleep on the water close to her. Captain Fife, who was a great fisherman, immediately launched a boat and succeeded in capturing six of them.
The Mermerus duly arrived in Sydney early one morning in June after a splendid passage of 72 days. The passengers, on the morning of her arrival, were229 joined at breakfast by a troop of friends, who so enjoyed themselves that they all returned, sky-pilots and friends as well, to the mid-day shipboard dinner, and at its finish declared that they would all return again for supper. This was too much for Captain Fife and he plainly said so. The parsons thereupon began grumbling at his meanness, whereat the irate skipper fairly boiled over:—“You are the greediest lot I ever carried,” he thundered; “on a 70-day passage you have eaten up 140 days of cabin stores and six turtle besides—and you call me a stingy Scottie. Now clear out and never let me see you again.”
This voyage she did not come home with wool, but went up to Newcastle, N.S.W., and loaded coal at 24s. for San Francisco. After making the passage across the Pacific in 56 days, she loaded 2420 tons of wheat at £4 1s. 3d. for Liverpool. She finally arrived in the Mersey on the 25th May, 104 days out from Frisco. This must have been a good voyage for her owners, as the freight on the outward passage to Sydney alone came to £5000.
On her next voyage she left Liverpool Docks on 21st July, 1875, and went from the Tuskar to Melbourne in 69 days; this time she loaded wheat home.
She made her best passage out in 1876; leaving London on the 25th June, she took in gunpowder at Gravesend, and arrived in Hobson’s Bay on 30th August, exactly 66 days from the Gravesend powder buoys to Melbourne. The powder was only just 66 days on board, being landed on the 67th day. She crossed the line on 17th July and the Cape meridian on 6th August. Her best homeward run was made the following year, when she was 71 days to the Lizard, and then was held up by head winds. And in230 1886-7 she docked in London only 78 days out from Melbourne.
And as she grew older, her splendid average in no way deteriorated. In 1896 she went out to Melbourne in 76 days, and in 1897, her last voyage under the British flag, she went out in 77 days. She was then sold to the Russians, but they kept her going. On 4th February, 1902, she arrived at Port Adelaide from Cardiff only 73 days out, whilst in 1904 she made the best passage home from the Antipodes of the year, from Adelaide to the Wight in 69 days.
This beautiful ship came to her end at the beginning of December, 1909. She had sailed from Frederickstadt on 29th November, timber laden for Melbourne, and stranded near Christiansand in a heavy fog; she was floated again, but was found to be so damaged that it was not thought worth the money to repair her, so on 28th April, 1910, she was sold to the shipbreakers.
Captain Coles from the Mermerus was one of the captain signant the 1896 petition.
wool clipper, mermerus, captain t.g. coles, victoria dock, petition, captains' petition