London News: Convict Shipwreck Disaster

31st August 1833

On this day, 31st August 1833, while Allan Cunningham was living at Strand-On-The-Green, in London, a ship, Amphitrite, carrying convicts sank.((Granville Allen Mawer Most perfectly Safe – Convict Shipwreck Disasters of 1833-1842))

Mr Cunningham would have read the news from the comfort of his home or when he visited his favourite coffee house in London. His thoughts about the dangers of sailing to Australia and the safety of his friends who sailed back and forth must have been at the forefront of his mind. It was only a short time since he had farewelled his brother Richard, who sailed to Australia on Mary III.

Of the 136 people onboard the Amphitrite only three survived.

The news reported in The Observer was as follows:

A Full, true and Particular Account of the Melancholy Loss of the british Convict Ship AMPHITRITE, on the evening of Saturday last, the 31st August 1833, off Boulogne, when 108 Female Convicts, 12 Children and 13 Seamen met with a watery grave, in sight of thousands, none being saved out of 136 Souls but Three!

The Observer ((Read the complete article: National Library of Scotland – The Word On The Street ))

The loss of the Amphitrite had a big impact on the British public. The tone of this report reflects the sympathy and anger that was felt at such a loss of life and implies suspicion that proper safety procedures may not have been observed because the ship carried convicts rather than passengers:

The British public demands that an inquiry be instituted into the conduct of all the parties concerned in this deplorable affair.

This was one of the first major losses of a convict ship bound for Australasia, but within two years two more vessels, the ‘George III’ and the ‘Neva’ had also sunk with major losses of life.