HMS Porpoise (1799-1803)
HMS Porpoise was a 12-gun sloop originally built in Bilbao, Spain, as the packet ship Infanta Amelia. On 6 August 1799 HMS Argo captured her off the coast of Portugal. Porpoise wrecked in 1803 on the North coast of what was then part of the Colony of New South Wales, now called Wreck Reefs, off the coast of Queensland, Australia.
Porpoise was commissioned in October 1799 under Lieutenant William Scott as a storeship for New South Wales. She sailed in April and arrived on 7 November 1800 in Port Jackson.
She carried a selection of useful European plants, arranged by Sir Joseph Banks and provided by Brentford nurseryman Hugh Ronalds, to replace those lost in HMS Guardian. George Suttor was engaged as gardener to prepare the plants and care for them on the voyage. In return he received free passage for himself and his family.
On 10 August 1803, Porpoise left Sydney under the command of Lieutenant Robert Fowler and in the company of Cato, under Captain John Park, and the East Indiaman Bridgewater, under Captain Palmer, bound for India. On 17 August the three ships got caught near a sandbank, 157 north and 51 miles east of Sandy Cape.
With shrinking leeway, both the Cato and Porpoise grounded. Both ships beat on the sharp coral, with the result that they sank quickly. Bridgewater sailed on and later reported both ships lost with no survivors. The crew and passengers of Cato and Porpoise were able to land on a sandbank as both ships broke up.
Matthew Flinders, who was returning to England as a passenger on Porpoise, together with his charts and logbooks, believed that Captain Palmer sailed on despite knowing that the other two ships had come to grief. Another passenger was the artist William Westall, many of whose works were damaged in the wrecking.
On 26 August 1803, with no sign of rescue, Flinders and Park took the largest cutter, which they named Hope. Together with twelve crewmen they headed to Sydney to seek rescue.
Through marvelous navigation, Hope made the 800 mile voyage to Port Jackson by 8 September. Three lives had been lost in the joint shipwreck but the ship Rolla and the Schooners Cumberland and Francis were able to rescue all the remaining passengers
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