Ganges b. 1794The ship ‘Ganges’ was a large, three tier ship built in India in 1794 and operated under charter or licence to the East India Company.

Commissioned to transport convicts to Australia, she arrived in Portsmouth, UK, on the 15th October 1796 in preparation for the voyage to Port Jackson (now known as Sydney).

She was amongst the first of the convict ships to be inspected by Sir James Fitzpatrick:

“Surgeon Fitzpatrick to Under Secretary King

 Sir, Portsmouth, 23rd October, 1796.

Your manner of receiving me when embarked on the part of a poor miserable convict emboldens me to state to you, for his Grace the Duke of Portland’s information, the matters which have been done here, and those which I pray may be done at Cork, for Health of the accommodation and health of the convicts embarked on board the Ganges.

My first object was, in as much as the mode of the original fitting of the ship would allow, to favour the perpetual admission of as much pure air as possible.  Then it became my concern to pay that attention to the poor women, which their conduct deserved, by placing them under the protection of their husbands, their merit in a conjugal sense being nearly unparrelled, sacrificing their all, and subjecting themselves to an ignominious banishment, thereby fulfilling the great and essential obligation of the marriage vow.

I railed off a part of the vessel where the convicts were confined and allotted it to the married men, their partners, and innocent orphans.  By this alteration the poor women, in place of being subject (as they were before) to the insult of the ship’s crew and the military guard, are now protected, and the space which they inhabited is now converted into an hospital apartment, well aired.  I put on board ventilators and water-purifiers, also vitriol and nitre for fumigation, and such medicines as were required by Mr. Mileham.

The ‘Ganges’:

  •      – departed Portsmouth, UK for Australia:  10th December 1796
  •      – arrived Port Jackson, Australia:  2nd June 1797

The List of Transports would suggest that 281 convicts departed, though the documents do not include the number of crew or convict families that joined the voyage.

The following excerpts of a book written by Lieutenant-Colonel Collins provide a little more insight into the passage of the ‘Ganges’:

June 1797

On the 2nd of June, the ship Ganges arrived from Ireland, with convicts from that kingdom, and a detachment of recruits for the New South Wales corps.  This ship had touched at the Cape of Good Hope, and was commanded by Mr. Patrickson, who had visited the settlement in the year 1792, in the Philadelphia, a small American brig.  The convicts in this ship were observed to be in much better health than those on board of the Britannia.  These people, indeed, complained so much of having been treated with great severity during the passage that the governor thought it right to institute an enquiry into their complaints.  It appeared, that they had been deserving of punishment, but that it had been administered with too much severity, in the opinion even of the surgeon who was present.  As these punishments had been inflicted by the direction of the master, without consulting any of the officers on board as to the measure of them, he was highly censured, as was the surgeon, who could stand by and see them inflicted without remonstrating with the master, which he declined because he had not been consulted by him.

Source:  Excerpt – “An Account of the English Colony of New South Wales from its First Settlement in January 1788, to August 1801… “ – Volume II – by Lieutenant-Colonel Collins – published 1802 – pp 32


August 1797

The Britannia and the Ganges sailed on their respective voyages.  The commander of the latter was permitted to take on board several convicts who had become free, and some of the marine soldiers who had been discharged from the New South Wales corps, having completed their second engagement in that regiment.  They had talked of becoming settlers, and remaining some years longer in the country; but the restless love of change prevailed, and they quitted the colony by this opportunity.

Source:  Excerpt – “An Account of the English Colony of New South Wales from its First Settlement in January 1788, to August 1801… “ – Volume II – by Lieutenant-Colonel Collins – published 1802 – pp 35


An account of the demise of the Ganges on the 29th May 1807, off the Cape of Good Hope, was published in the book “The Mariner’s Chronicle or Interesting Narratives of Shipwrecks” published in 1826.  Fortunately there was no loss of life . . .


View other important events in the history of Australia’s International Shipping . . .