Little-known was another fine sailing ship of this period, the Collingwood, also built by Walter Hood and also finally Norwegian owned but initially operated by Devitt & Moore of Scotland:


Almost every time the sailing ships left port they were in competition. Much has been written about the Cutty Sark, preserved at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Maritime Greenwich, London, but now look at her best passages compared with those of Salamis and Thermopylae:

Best 4 passages
Total passages
Cutty Sark
72, 73, 72, 72, 76
75, 79, 79, 79
77, 83, 84, 85

Four Best Wool Passages, 1874-1890 – Port to Port Best 4 Days Average Total Passages Passages Cutty Sark 72,73,72,76 293 73 7 Thermopylae 75,79,79,79 312 78 10 Salamis 77,83,84,85 329 82 13

Cutty Sark was built to rival Thermopylae. Although Cutty Sark was undeniably the fastest ship of the Clippers it is interesting to note that the average of all her wool passages between 1874 and 1890 came to 77 days from port to port and Thermopylae’s best was 78 days!


Salamis was launched in May 1875, a year that saw the finest of iron clippers built in Scotland. Salamis was an enlarged version of its predecessor Thermopylae. Essentially it was a wool and tea clipper and was not designed for passengers albeit it was recognised as the fastest of the Thompson fleet. She was named from the Greek island of Salamis with reference to The Battle of Salamis, 480BC.


GRT: 1130. NET: 1079. NET UNDER DECK: 1021.
Dimensions: 221’6” X 36’ X 21’7”.
British Registration # 70443.
Wool Clipper – not fitted for passengers.
Iron ship and an extended version of her sister ship, Thermopylae.
Equipped with H.D.Cunningham patented lower yard braces developed post 1861 which tighten the luff of the sail, from the deck.


Capt Holmes on maiden voyage to Melbourne, best passage of 68 days; London - Port Phillip Heads.
1875-1894 Capts Phillips, Senior & Junior. 1st & 3rd Mates were also sons of Capt Phillips at one time or another.
1894-1898 Capt.R.B.B.McKilliam.


1898: Sold to Leif Gundersen of Porsgrunn, Norway and used to run guano cargoes from the South Pacific to Europe.


20th May 1905 on the atoll of Malden Island, South Pacific, 4 degrees S 155 degrees W. Kiribati Group.



GRT: 991 NET: 948 NET Under Deck: 927.
Composite construction of iron and wood.
Keel laid: 16th Sept 1867.
Outer planking completed: 26th June 1868.
Launched: 19th Aug 1868.
Finished & equipped: 17th Sept 1868.
Decks: Yellow Pine. Ceilings: Teak.
Sails: 20 with studding, staysails, royals, single topgallant and double topsails.
Has an ‘Aberdeen bow’.
Dimensions: 212’ X 36’ X 20’9”.
British Registration: 60688 LLOYDS 17A1. Signal: WPVJ


Thermopylae, was named after a narrow pass in Greece. The white figure-head is of a male and represents the young King Leonidas.

1868: Maiden voyage: 8th November under Capt.Robert Kemball broke all records: 63 days Gravesend to Melbourne.

Model Shipwrights

The Science Museum, London, has a copy of a plan dated 1932, of Thermopylae. At the Power House Museum, Sydney, Australia nothing but the finest of models is held and was completed in 1979 by the well-known Australian maritime historian and modeller, Cyril Hume (1900-1984). He said of this ship that it was “flawless and represented the pinnacle of clipper ship design and perfection.”


1889: Sold through W.Ross & Co, Brokers, London to Canadian owner: Redford of The Mount Royal Milling & Manufacturing Co, Victoria, British Columbia for £5,000/-.

1890: Reduced rig to Barque. Norway often reduced the rig of the iron sailing ships to conserve both operating costs and manpower. The picture below shows her rigged as a barque:


1895: Sold to Portuguese Navy and renamed: PEDRO NUNES.
1903: Converted to Coal Hulk.


13th October 1907; deliberately sunk. She was towed out of the Tagus and given a formal Naval Funeral watched by the Queen of Portugal and sunk by gun fire. The wreck lies at a depth 30m off Cascais, Lisbon and the dive site records the wreckage below:


The City of Victoria, Canada, struck a $1 coin (below) to commemorate this valiant ship:


Collingwood was a typical clipper of similar period and intended use as Salamis and Thermopylae but like so many other clippers was not so well known. She was also a fast ship making good passages on every occasion. It is a tribute to her builder, Hood of Scotland (1839-1881) that she sailed so well. It was to her owner, however, that we turn to learn how differently she was employed.


Collingwood was commissioned by Devitt & Moore who operated out of their London premises to largely meet the government passage of convicts (State Prisoners) from London to Australia – Adelaide and Sydney. Separately on lesser occasions she also conveyed fare-paying emigrant passengers to New Zealand. Collingwood was also Devitt & Moore’s first venture into the Melbourne wool trade on the return passage.

Devitt and Moore began ship owning in 1863 and it was to Sir Thomas Devitt that leadership is recognised in establishing nautical training of suitable cadet officers for the maritime trade. In 1909 Devitt & Moore’s Ocean Training Ships Ltd was formed and ran successfully. Soon it was seen that a shore-based college was essential and coupled with the use of his sailing ships in this role.

Sir Thomas, in 1917, bought a large country house, below, and founded the Pangbourne Nautical College. Pangbourne is a small village on the banks of the River Thames outside west London.

Sea training continued right up to 1969 when it was resolved to drop the nautical syllabus and focus upon a broad academic base. Today, known as Pangbourne College, up to 400 boys and girls aged 11-18 years are provided a private education steeped in the traditions of the sea.


Built and launched: June 1872 *
GRT: 1064 tons
NET: 1015 tons
Dimensions: 211’1” X 34’8” X 21’

Captains and Surveys

1873-74: Capt. S. Calthrop (London-Australia)
1874-75: Capt. A.P.C. Ross.
75: March; surveyed.
76: May; surveyed, Dublin.
79: October; surveyed, London.
1880-81: Capt. H.N. Forbes.
81: November; surveyed, Melbourne.
83: surveyed, Adelaide.

An Eventful Passage - 1875

“The New Zealand Times” of 12th July 1875 chronicles the story of a passage from London to Wellington, New Zealand 13th April – 10th July 1875, during which 20 deaths occurred. 18 were of children and one adult who suffered various diseases mainly of typhoid and enteric fevers and one adult jumped overboard in a state of depression brought on by his sick family! It was to be expected that on these long passages over 80 days that deaths and births would eventuate among children.


In 1893 ownership transferred to Skibs – A/S Fremad, J M Jacobsen & Co then of Sandefjord, Norway. The ship was reduced in rig to that of a barque, above, and upon survey was registered at 1042 GRT.


Collingwood’s last passage was from the Port of Rasario in Argentina, picture above of that time, bound toward Kristiania with a cargo of maize. Sadly, after 45 years of service Collingwood was sunk by the German submarine U-62 under command Kapitanleutnant Ernst Hashagen (24th August 1885-12th January 1947) on the 12th March 1917 some 100-120 miles west of the Scilly Islands; location 49.13N 09.39W. It is recorded that the officers and crew of the U-Boat were drunk with champagne and cognac sourced from the French ship, Jules Gommes which they had sunk two hours previously! Collingwood’s crew were given ten minutes to get clear of the ship; there were no casualties.

Wing Commander Roly PARSONS, RNZAF & RAFO (Rtd), FRGS, psc.,
28 A Duthie Street,
Wellington 6012