No, we're not talking about Ludwig's voyage out to Australia, but we have found some interesting stories about ships bearing the name Leichhardt. Curiously, three of them appear to have been at sea, in different parts of the world, around the same time in the 19th century!

Following his disappearance in 1848, his name was commemorated most significantly in Queensland and the Northern Territory. One steamer, built in Australia, served east coast ports from Sydney to to the far north in the 1860s-1870s. Another was a government schooner, which serviced isolated homesteads and settlements along the banks of the remote rivers in the Top End. So far, we have not been able to establish any information about their fates.

A third Leichhardt ~ about which information is also lacking, except for the circumstances of her sinking! ~ was run down by another vessel while at anchor in the river Thames in October 1868. You can read a facsimile version of one of the many newspaper reports of the time below. What type of ship she was is unclear; all we know from the reports is that she was preparing for a passage out to  New Zealand.

More recently,  the explorer's name was given to a 'roll-on-roll-off' (RoRo) container-carrying coastal vessel, which serviced ports around the tip of Cape York and Gulf of Carpentaria. Her place in the history books was made by the misfortune of her going aground, briefly, on a shoal in the Torres Strait in December 1987, while on a voyage to Weipa. There were no injuries, nor pollution damage, according to the ATSB report, and we don't (yet) know what became of this Leichhardt. 

A 21st century addition continues to make a sterling contribution to the economy of far north Queensland. In May 2010, the PB Towage group added a purpose-built, 28m-long tug named PB Leichhardt, to its Australian fleet of more than one dozen tugs. This sturdy little working vessel is based out of Townsville, and works ports in the far north according to need.

It would be misplaced to ascribe the explorer's chequered history ~ and uncertain fate ~ to the ships which later bore his name, but many of them seem to have been both notable and vexed as well. You can read a little more about each of them below (click on the thumbnail images to open larger versions) ... and if any of our visitors can shed any more light on any of these ships, please get in contact.

Leichardt on Victoria River NT PH0734-0053 300pxW thumb  

This undated image of the government schooner Leichhardt shows her alongside the banks of the Victoria River, somewhere in the northwest of the Northern Territory. Remote properties, homesteads and mission stations could rely on seaborne supplies and mail only when the rivers were not in flood during 'The Wet'. 

(NT government archives image PH0734-0053)

Click on the image to see larger.

1869.01.02 MTG BorderWatch article 300pxW thumb  

The curious case of the loss of another Leichhardt, run down by a ship in the Thames on the night of 23 October 1868, was reported some months later in many Australian newspapers. Here is a facsimile of the article in the Mount Gambier "Border Watch" of 2 January 1869. 

It appears that both negligence and "liquor" were involved in the collision, but it is the fate of one of the Leichhardt's passengers - Mrs Tone - and her worldly possessions which most excited the reporter's diligent grasp of the traqedy!


Click on the image to read the PDF (1.9MB) of the article.

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