Ocean (1788)

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Career (UK) East India Company Ensign
Name: Ocean
Owner: William Fraser (principal managing owner)
Builder: Wells
Launched: 1788
Fate: Wrecked February 1797
General characteristics [1]
Tons burthen: 1,198 (bm)
Length: 136 ft 41 in (42.49 m) (overall), 132 ft 2 34 in (40.303 m) (keel)
Beam: 41 ft 1 12 in (12.535 m)
Depth of hold: 17 ft 0 in (5.18 m)
Sail plan: Full rigged ship
Complement: 125 men[2]
Armament: 26 x 6-pounder guns[2]
For other ships of the same name, see Ocean (East Indiaman) and Ocean (ship).

Ocean was an East Indiaman launched in 1788, which made four trips for the Honourable East India Company between February 1789 and February 1797, when she was wrecked on the island of Kalatea in the East Indies.


East Indiamen traveled in convoys as much as they could. Vessels of the British Royal Navy often escorted these convoys, though generally not past India, or before on the return leg. Even so, the Indiamen were heavily armed so that they could dissuade pirates and even large privateers.

Voyage #1

For her first voyage, Ocean sailed to Madras and China under the command of Capt James Tod. She left Torbay on 26 February 1789, and 10 March she reached Madeira. She then left Madras on 24 June, reaching Whampoa on 26 September. She crossed the Second Bar on 10 January 1790, and reached Saint Helena on 15 April. She arrived back at the Downs on 6 June.[1]

Voyage #2

For her second voyage, Ocean was under the command of Captain Andrew Patton, who would remain her captain for the next three voyages. This was his fifth voyage to the east for the company, and his second on Ocean, as he had been her first lieutenant on her previous trip under Tod.[3] On this voyage, Patton sailed her for St Helena, Madras and China. She left the Downs on 17 December 1791 and reached St Helena on 27 February 1792. From there she went on to Madras, which she reached on 10 May. By 23 June, she was at Penang, and one month later, on 25 July, she was at Malacca. She reached Whampoa on 16 August, and on her return trip she crossed the Second Bar on 3 November. She reached St Helena by 12 February 1793, and the Downs by 17 April.[1]

Voyage #3

For this voyage, Patton left Portsmouth on 2 May 1794, bound for China. Ocean arrived at Whampoa on 27 September. She crossed the Second Bar on 3 December, homeward bound. She arrived at St Helena on 13 April 1795, and the Downs on 23 July.[1] Because this voyage began after the start of the French Revolutionary Wars, Ocean sailed under a letter of marque issued to Captain Andrew Patton on 22 February 1794.[2] The letter authorized her to take prizes should the opportunity arise.

Voyage #4

Ocean's fourth voyage was again to Madras and China. Patton left Portsmouth on 17 May 1796, and arrived at the Cape of Good Hope on 2 August. From there she sailed to Madras, which she reached in November. She arrived at Colombo on 7 December.[1]

She next sailed to China in company with four other Indiamen: the Woodford, under Captain Charles Lennox; the Taunton-Castle, Captain Edward Studd; Canton, Captain Abel Vyvyan; and Boddam, Captain George Palmer. On 28 January 1797, they had cleared the straits of Bali, and were off the east end of Java. Here they encountered Admiral de Sercey and his squadron of frigates. Lennox realized that he could not outrun the French force and instead decided on a bluff. He hoisted the flag of Commodore Rainier, the British commander in chief in the East Indies, and made his other ships hoist pendants and ensigns to correspond. Lennox then detached two of his ships to chase and reconnoitre the enemy. As these advanced towards the French reconnoitering frigate, the Cybèle (commanded by Captain Thréouart), the latter crowded sail to join her consorts, with the signal at her mast-head, "The enemy is superior in force to the French." Fear of being unable to repair his frigates and his express orders to avoid giving battle sometimes led de Sercey to behave with discretion rather than valour; in this case, he withdrew.[4] The bluff made Lennox a celebrity and was greeted with rejoicing by the British press.[Note 1]

On 1 February, Ocean struck reef off Kalatea (7°9′S 121°0′E / 7.150°S 121.000°E / -7.150; 121.000Coordinates: 7°9′S 121°0′E / 7.150°S 121.000°E / -7.150; 121.000).[5][Note 2] Patton sent the ship's cutter to contact the locals.[6] The crew scuttled Ocean on 5 February; in the evacuation, the ship's boats, except for the longboat, were lost, and two crewmen drowned. The crew then camped on the shore. On 15 February, locals attacked the survivors, killing seven and wounding four. On 18 February, the British left the island in the long boat and three hired proas.[6] Patton and his men reached Amboina on 28 February,[1] after having sailed some 500 miles.[6]

Captain Patton went on to command a second Ocean for the company. He died in Bombay in 1803 at age 42, and while on his second voyage in her.

Notes, citations, and references[edit]

  1. ^ Some six years later a second fleet of British East Indiamen, including a new Ocean, would pull a similar bluff, though with some exchange of fire, in the battle of Pulo Aura.
  2. ^ This seems to be Pulao Kalaotoa, one of a four-island group that lie between Sulawesi in the north and Flores, some 70 miles to the south.
  1. ^ a b c d e f National Archives: Ocean (1) - accessed 2 December 2014
  2. ^ a b c "Register of Letters of Marque against France 1793-1815"; p.80.[1]
  3. ^ Hardy & Hardy (1811), p.131.
  4. ^ James (1837) , Vol. 2, pp.79-80.
  5. ^ Biden (1830), pp.117-143.
  6. ^ a b c Grocott (1998), p.48.
  • Biden, Christopher (1830). Naval Discipline: Subordination Contrasted with Insubordination. J.M. Richardson. pp. 117-145.
  • Grocott, Terence (1997). Shipwrecks of the Revolutionary & Napoleonic Eras. Chatham. ISBN 1-86176-030-2
  • Hardy, Charles; Hardy, Horatio Charles (1811). A Register of Ships, Employed in the Service of the Honorable the United East India Company, from the Year 1760 to 1810. London: Black, Parry, and Kingsbury.
  • James, William (1837). The Naval History of Great Britain, from the Declaration of War by France in 1793, to the Accession of George IV. R. Bentley.