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Tortoise
H.M.S.Tortoise Loading Spar Timber off Tairua, New Zealand.
Oil on canvas (101x50)cm
Prints available

From 1841 to 1843 H.M.S.Tortoise voyaged from England carrying soldiers and convicts to the penal settlement to  Van Dieman’s Land, and then proceeded to New Zealand to cut down and load timber, mostly kauri spar timber, for the voyage back to England, departing New Zealand in June, 1843.

After loading a small part of her cargo at Great Barrier iIsland she was sailed to the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula where, in early January 1843, she anchored near Tairua in the lee of Slipper Island. A timber camp was set up ashore at Te Karo Bay, and with the help of the local Maori she loaded the rest of her spars, completing her cargo in April, 1843.

While at anchor the sails were unbent and most of the running rigging and topgallant masts had been sent down. The painting depicts the ship near the end of her stay off Tairua in April 1843. The last of the spars are being loaded through the bow ports and the hands are busy loading supplies, sending up the topgallant masts and crossing the topgallant yards. The large boat on the right is possibly the ship's launch although it does seem a bit large. It is included in the painting as it was clearly illustrated in a drawing done at the time by Thomas Laslett, the timber purveyor employed on the voyage by the Admiralty. He was meticulously accurate in the representation of the Tortoise.

The Tortoise (969 tons) was originally the Sir Edward Hughes, an East Indiaman launched in Bombay in 1784. She was taken over by the British Navy in 1806.  Although rigged as a ship she was designated a barque as it was usual to differentiate between vessels by their hull shape in the 18th.century.


An account of the voyage is presently being written by Don Armitage of Whangarei, New Zealand. It is due to be published in 2013.