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Illawarra Steam Navigation Co. steamship KEMBLA

Date: c 1861
Overall: 550 x 745 mm, 2.5 kg
Medium: Watercolour on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Painting
Object No: 00003698
Place Manufactured:Sydney Harbour

User Terms

    Watercolour painting by Frederick Garling about 1861, of the Illawarra Steam Navigation Company's paddle steamer KEMBLA passing South Head on its way out of Port Jackson. The Macquarie Lighthouse, the signal station and the Hornby Light are shown in the background. The ship flies the Red Ensign at the stern, and the company's house flag on the mainmast. PS KEMBLA, 325 gross tons and 185.1 feet (56.4 metres) long, was built in Scotland in 1860 for the Illawarra Steam Navigation Company to serve ports south of Sydney on the New South Wales coast. The ISN Company sold it In 1874.
    SignificanceThe painting is an example of the maritime watercolours of eminent colonial artist Frederick Garling, characterised by thin washes creating light, with even tones, and fine detail from his close knowledge of ships. The ship represents the paddle wheel technology which preceded screw propulsion in the first 50 years of steam. The painting also represents the New South Wales south coast trade in the 19th century, and the importance of coastal shipping before the development of other forms of transport overtook shipping.
    HistoryThe Illawarra Steam Navigation Company was formed in 1858 from a merger between three smaller companies serving the cargo and passenger trades for ports south of Sydney on the New South Wales coast. It operated until 1955 when it was liquidated as other forms of transport superseded coastal shipping.

    The ISN Company's fleet was widely known as 'the Pig and Whistle' fleet, because of its reputation that a ship would wait an hour for a pig, but not a minute for a passenger.

    The company ordered the paddle steamer KEMBLA for the Wollongong trade. It was built by J Reid and Co, Glasgow, completed in 1860, and delivered to Sydney in 1861, where it was registered. It was an iron-hulled steamship with a two-cylinder engine developing 165 indicated horsepower giving a speed of 14 knots. It had two masts and a schooner rig of auxiliary sails. An attempt was made to bring it to Sydney under steam, but after a gale south of Ireland the ship turned back to Cork where the paddles were removed and stowed on board. The ship continued the voyage under sail, arriving at Eden, New South Wales, on 26 May, where the paddles were refitted. It then steamed to Sydney arriving on 8 June. The Sydney Morning Herald reported its arrival and noted that the original master had been dismissed for drunkenness at Ascension.

    The KEMBLA was one of the largest vessels in the ISN Company's fleet and proved expensive to operate on the south coast because of its large coal consumption. In September 1861 the company sent it on a cargo and passenger voyage to Otago, New Zealand, where a gold rush was in progress, and attempted unsuccessfully to sell it there. The ship returned to the regular services to New South Wales south coast ports until 1874, when it was sold to C J Stevens for the Newcastle service. In 1876 it was bought by the Newcastle Steamship Company and from 1890 had several owners until 1917 when the New South Wales Government bought it and hulked it. It was scuttled off Sydney in 1936.
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