Independence (schooner)

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The Independence , a 35-ton schooner, was the first ship constructed in South Australian waters. She was built between April and August 1803 at what is now known as American River on Kangaroo Island by the crew of the visiting American sealing ship, The Union, under the command of Capt. Isaac Pendleton. Daniel Wright, the ship's carpenter was in charge of the construction of Independence.

On 15th June 1805 the Independence set sail from Sydney for the Antipodes Islands and was never seen again. The Sydney Gazette reported the loss on 16th March 1806.


In 1802, Capt. Isaac Pendleton, of Stonington, Ct, USA, was commissioned by Fanning & Co of New York to sail the brig Union to the waters of New Holland in search of a cargo of seal skins. "Her commander (Captain Isaac Pendleton) was …left unrestricted, and at perfect liberty to act on all occasions as his judgment should direct, to make the most profitable voyage he could of it for his owners."[1] In early 1803, whist sealing near what is now Albany, W.A., Pendleton met the French explorer, Nicolas Baudin who recommended Kangaroo Island as a place where seals could be found in plenitude.

Arriving in what is now known as Eastern Cove on the north coast of Kangaroo Island, Pendleton took the decision to winter here and, presumably to increase the quantity of skins that could be taken to Sydney, construct a smaller vessel to work alongside Union in its sealing activities.


As was common practice at the time, Union carried the frame of a small schooner. This, possibly with the addition of some locally sourced timber, was used to build a smaller vessel. It appears[2] that Baudin had lost a longboat whilst surveying the coastline of Kangaroo Island and his carpenters had found suitable timber to rebuild the longboat near what is now the town of American River. As the new vessel was to be smaller than Union it would have better access to shallow waters. Thus was born Independence.

No plans of Independence are known to exist. In fact, it is possible the original Independence was built without plans.


In May 2013 The Rebuild Independence Group, a volunteer group based in American River, was formed to set about reconstructing the Independence.


  1. ^ Fanning 1989:230-231 quoted in Dappert & Moffatt 2007
  2. ^ Dappert & Moffat 2007