During the voyage there was a newspaper published on board the “Somersetshire”, a copy of which survives in the Latrobe collection of the State Library of Victoria. The following are some extracts from this surviving copy.
A SHIP NEWSPAPER,
Issued on Board the S.S. “ Somersetshire,” on her Passage from
PLYMOUTH to MELBOURNE
SANDS & McDOUGALL, PRINTERS, COLLINS STREET WEST
Facsimile of the cover of the Somersetshire Gazette
THE SOMERSETSHIRE GAZETTE
No.5 Monday October, 29 1871
During the long voyage the monotony so paralyses the energies of the passengers, that the slightest break in the daily routine was eagerly welcomed, and those sights and amusements that fail to draw attention on shore, here attract numbers. Draughts chess, cards, music, quoits, single stick, boxing, are all resorted to for a pastime.
Therefore when it was announced an auction was to be held on Thursday 24th amidships, on the cuddy or poopdeck at 11 that day, it caused great excitement.
There was a queer assortment of goods put up - from stereoscopes to second hand clothes, from binoculars to yellow soap, and from sponge baths to scented herrings, cocoa and other little luxuries of that kind brought extraordinary prices, groceries were bought up at good prices; one individual buying almost all of them, which some to come to the conclusion that he intended to open a grocery business in the colonies.
THE SOMERSETSHIRE GAZETTE
No.6 Monday December 18, 1871
On Saturday the 9th inst., Mrs. Blackwell (2nd class passenger), of a daughter. Not withstanding the fearful opinions expressed by “ a bachelor” in an early number of our journal on this subject, another baby has had the hardihood to intrude itself upon the community to which the bachelor belongs. We have not yet had an opportunity of ascertaining to which class of babies ( as classified by our bachelor) the infant in question belongs, but there can be no doubt that it is endowed with a considerable amount of courage. The enterprising infant and its mother are reported as doing well.
THE SOMERSETSHIRE GAZETTE
No. 7 Wednesday December 27, 1871 Page.1
Abstract log of the “Somersetshire”. 2342 tons
October, November, December.
The “Somersetshire” left the docks and proceeded to Gravesend on October 21st; Left Gravesend on the evening of the 23rd but was obliged to anchor after about an hour and a half on account of dense fog. Started again on 24th, at 11 a.m., and after a fine passage down the channel arrived at Plymouth on the night of the 25th.
We had hoped to get away on the 27th, but the barometer was falling, Captain Atwood decided on waiting to see how the weather would turn out. The wind freshened during the day, and by midnight we had a strong S.W. gale, which continued until the morning of Monday, 30th, when the wind having moderated and drawn to southward, we weighed anchor, and proceeded under steam, the pilot leaving the ship at 11-20 a.m. We had evidently started at the right moment as we had the wind round to the S.E. by 4 p.m. after which it dropped very fast.
Experienced light easterly, and strong S.W. breezes, until the morning of November 4th, when the wind having got into the N.W. we made sail, and discontinued steaming for 24 hours.
Passed Madeira, under steam on Sunday 5th, going to the eastward of the island. Next day it was the Captain's intention to pass through the Canary group, but the weather having come on thick in the afternoon, we altered course to go to the westward of the islands, and passed Palma about midnight the next morning (7th) the island of Ferro was in sight on the port beam; this was the last land we saw until we sighted Moonlight Head, on December 27th, at 3-30 a.m.
We continued steaming with light winds, until the evening of the 8th, when we stopped and made sail to a moderate N.E. trade, in Lat. 23º N.. The trade wind did us but poor service, only carrying us as far as Lat. 15º N., when we again had to resort to steam, having averaged 190 miles per day for the three days we had been under sail. It must be borne in mind this ship is an exceptionally good sailor, and the eight knots per hour (or 192 miles per day) is the result of a very moderate breeze.
We had six days continual steaming against light S.S.E. winds, making sail again on Friday, 17th, to S.E. trade in Lat 9º N., after an oppressively hot day, we had a squall from the S.E., accompanied by very heavy rain, supposed to be the fag end of a “Tornado”, the rain came down in torrents for about three hours, but the wind only lasted about 20 minutes, leaving us with a heavy swell from the S.S.E., which impeded our progress considerably.
These “Tornadoes”, which are prevalent on the coast of Africa, are seldom of more than a couple of hours duration, they blow terrifically hard while they last, then disappear as suddenly as they come. They always give sufficient warning to allow a sailing vessel to make all snug before the squall strikes her; at our distance from the land it had almost blown itself out by the time it reached us, and only having fore and aft canvas set at the time, a split staysail was our only damage.
“Neptune's Secretary” came on board on the evening of the 15th, bringing letters to old friends, and informing us that the King intended paying us a visit on the morrow.
Crossed the line at 2 a.m. on the 16th, in long. 18º 30', being 16 days 14 hours out at the time; 12¾ days of that period having been under steam.
“Neptune” boarded us in the afternoon and having marched around the decks, accompanied by his satellites, went through the usual ceremony of shaving those of the crew who were in sacred waters for the first time.
No. 7 Wednesday December 27, 1871 Page.2
We continued under sail from 17th till 21st. On the 20th, at noon, we were in exactly the same spot as the last voyage, when the same time out; we were further to the westward next day, and we never managed to get up to the last voyage again. We had to steam from 21st to 23rd, making but very little easting. At noon on 23rd, in Lat. 20º S, we fell in with a strong northerly wind, which is most unusual in this latitude, especially at this time of the year; it did us good service until midnight, when it drew round to the westward in a heavy squall, and by daylight it had worked round to the south; there was nothing left for it then, but to drive her at it under steam, which we did in the afternoon, making eight knots on a S.E. course.
We steamed without intermission until we passed the meridian of the Cape of Good Hope, on the morning of December 5th, in Lat. 41º S., being under steam at the time; our average, since leaving Plymouth, being 200 miles a day, 23 days out 22½ days under steam. We did not get anything of a westerly wind till the morning of 7th, after that, with the exception of 10th and 12th, we had fine breezes, and continued under sail until noon of 23rd.
On afternoon of 12th, when waiting for the steam in a very light wind, we caught an Albatross, measuring 15 feet 3 inches across the wings; superstitious people predicted nothing but foul winds afterwards; up to this time our average was only 200 miles per day. Next morning we got a good N.W. breeze, and our average from noon of the 13th until noon of the 23rd, was 272 miles per day; all that period
being passed under sail. I think that this ought to convince the superstitious that the death of an Albatross does not necessarily cause adverse winds.
We had a good S.W. breeze on the 19th, otherwise we had no heavy sea at all worth mentioning. On that day the main topsail and main royal both blew away; at noon we found our run to be 356 miles (knots), which was an average of over 15 knots per hour, considering the day was only 23 hours 28 minutes in length, we had passed through 8º of longitude since noon of the previous day; this is the greatest run ever made by this ship, the nearest approach to it being 352, which was made on her homeward voyage when off Cape Horn.
We found ourselves in longitude of Cape Leewin on the 21st, our average speed since passing the Cape of Good Hope on the 5th, being 262 miles for 16 days.
For seven consecutive days, i.e., from noon 13th till noon 20th, the average was 281 miles per day. Which is close on 12 knots per hour, considering the days to be shortened through going to the westward; five miles per day more would have given us 2000 mile run in a week.
On the morning of 23rd we lost our breeze, and at noon we had to get up steam; and with the exception of a few hours sailing on the night of 24th and morning of 25th, we continued under steam for the remainder of the voyage.
We sighted Moonlight Head at 3-30 a.m. on the 27th, passed Cape Otway at 8 o'clock. At noon we were in sight of Port Phillip Heads, being 57½ days out, averaging 220 miles per day (9.1 knots per hour), 29½ days having been passed under steam.
We took the pilot on board at 2-20 p.m., and passing up the south channel, arrived of Sandridge at 8 p.m.