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Mail Steamer Leaving Port Melbourne, circa 1903
Mail Steamer Leaving Port Melbourne, circa 1903

Suez Royal Mail Steamers 1869 - 1915

Towards the end of the 1860s two major changes occurred in sea travel to Australia, with the opening of the Suez Canal (in 1869) and the introduction of compound steam engines. The latter represented a major technological step forward, at last providing sufficient fuel economy for a ship to steam all the way to Australia with only 1 coaling stop. Most vessels built during this period were primarily steam-powered, but many also carried a limited compliment of sails in case the engines broken down or to provide an extra turn of speed under favourable winds. At the same time, voyages became more regular and predicable in length and the main shipping lines at last settled down to something resembling a regular schedule. By 1883, the P & O Steam Navigation Co. and the Orient Steam Navigation Co. were sharing a weekly mail and passenger service with Britain, with alternating departures. Typical ships of the period include the Orient (5,386 tons gross, 1879-1909) and the Osterley (12,219 tons, 1909 - 1930).


Contextual Information
The Route

Shipping Information
Ship First Voyage Last Voyage
Orient NOV 1879 SEP 1909

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