Marco Polo Project Saint John New Brunswick

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Transcript: The Illustrated London News,
Feb. 19th, 1853: The "Marco Polo".

   When the tide of emigration from this country first set in towards the Gold Regions of Australia it experienced a great check, which is the length and tedium of the voyage. The ships which had previously been engaged in the trade to Australia were generally better calculated for carrying cargo than for speed, or the capability of affording comfortable accommodation for passengers; whilst from 100 to 120 days were actually consumed on the voyage out. An improved class of vessels very soon appeared, which, it was confidently predicted, would reduce the voyage to eighty days. A few clippers even promised greater things; and, from the beauty of their models and the perfection of their equipments, the promise appeared by no means unlikely to be realized. Still it was contended that a necessary amount of reliable speed for the voyage out and home could not be secured without the addition of steam power.

   In the meantime, however, a noble British ship –the Marco Polo– had already sailed from the Mersey, and was destined to achieve a triumph over both sailing vessels and steamers greater than, had ever before been considered possible by nautical men. The Marco Polo sailed from Liverpool, with a complement of passengers, on the 4th of July, for Port Phillip, and made the voyage out in the unprecedentedly short space of sixty-eight days! and the passage home in seventy-four days ! Allowing for twenty-eight days spent in unloading and loading at Port Phillip, only five months and twenty-one days elapsed from her leaving and regaining the shores of Great Britain.

   On the 10th of August, the Marco Polo was in lat. 32 west, bound for Port Phillip by the Cape of Good Hope; and on the 11th of November she was again in lat. 32 west, on her return by Cape Horn, having thus sailed round the world in two months and eight days.

   The distinguishing feature of the Marco Polo is the peculiarity of her hull. Her lines fore and aft are beautifully fine, her bearings are brought well down to the bilge; thus, whilst she makes amidships a displacement that will prevent unnecessary "careening", she has an entrance as sharp as a steamboat and a run as clean as can be conceived. Below the draught line her bows are hollow; but above she swells out handsomely, which gives ample space on the topgallant foc's'le — in fact, with a bottom like a yacht, she has above water all the appearance of a frigate.

   The Marco Polo is a three-decker, and having been built expressly for the passenger trade is nothing short in capacity or experiment. Her height between decks is 8 feet, and no pains have been spared in her construction to secure thorough ventilation. In strength she could not well be excelled. Her timbering is enormous. Her deck beams are huge bulks of pitch-pine. Her timbers are well formed and ponderous. The stem and stern frame are of choicest material. The hanging and lodging knees are all natural crooks and are fitted to the greatest nicety. The exterior planking and ceiling is narrow and while there has been no lack of timber there has been no profusion of labour.

   The length of the Marco Polo from stem to stern (inside measurement) is 185 feet; her beam is 38 feet; her depth of hold from the coamings 30 feet. Her registered tonnage is 1625, but her burthen will considerably exceed 2000 tons.

   On deck forward of the poop, which is used as a ladies' cabin, is a "home on deck" to be used as a dining saloon. It is ceiled with maple and the pilasters are panelled with richly ornamented and silvered glass — coins of various countries being a novel feature of the decorations. Between each pilaster is a circular aperture about 6 feet in circumference for light and ventilation; over it is placed a sheet of plate glass with a cleverly painted picturesque view in the centre with a frame work of foliage and scroll in opaque colours and gold. the whole panels are brought out slightly by the rim of perforated zinc, so that not only does light from the ventilator diffuse itself over the whole but air is freely admitted.

   The saloon doors are panelled in stained glass bearing figures of commerce and industry from the designs of Mr. Frank Howard. In the centre of the saloon is a table or dumb-waiter of thick plate glass, which has the advantage of giving light to the dormitories on the deck below. The upholstery is in embossed crimson velvet. The designs have been prepared and their execution superintended by Mr. Rainford., of Liverpool; the stained and decorated glass by Messrs. Forrest and Bomiley, also of that town.

   The berths in separate staterooms are ranged in the 'tween decks and are rendered cheerful by circular glass hatch-lights of novel and effective construction.

   Messrs. James Baines and Co., of Liverpool, are the enterprising owners of the Marco Polo, which was built by Mr. Smith, of St. John, N.B. She is commanded by Captain Forbes, and is announced to sail for Melbourne on March 5.

The Illustrated London News,
February 19th 1853.