Argo (1800)

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For other uses, see Argo (disambiguation).
United States
Name: Argo
Owner: Robert Berry
Fate: Wrecked January, 1800
General characteristics
Type: Schooner
Propulsion: Sail
Island of Vanua Levu

Argo was an American schooner that was wrecked in Fiji during January 1800. She was owned by Robert Berry.[1]

Argo's sailing career was not a smooth one. A contemporary account of its 1798 arrival in Port Jackson (Sydney, Australia) said:

The Argo, an American schooner, arrived from the Isle of France, having on board a cargo of salt provisions, French brandy, and other articles on speculation; which, as usual in this country, found a ready sale, much more to the advantage of the owners than the colonists. As this ship came from the Mauritius, the Governor entertained some jealousy, certainly founded on probability; and, as it was not any ways impossible, that, under neutral colours, a spy might be concealed, he thought it requisite to put the battery on Point Maskelyne, into a more secure state, and to construct two redoubts in proper and convenient situations for offensive and defensive warfare, should it prove requisite.[2]

In January 1800, Argo was on her way from China to Sydney when she was wrecked on Argo Reef, south-east of Fiji. Her crew reached Tongatapu where all but two were killed by natives. In 1802 the two survivors were rescued.[3]

An alternative account of the capture of the crew, told from the point of view of the natives in Fiji, gives the date as 1802 or 1803, and says that the name of the reef prior to the shipwreck was Bukakatanoa.[4]

One of the survivors of the wreck, Oliver Slater, spent the two years after the wreck on Vanua Levu, which has also been called "Sandalwood Island". This sailor is credited with spreading the news, upon his arrival in China, that led to the development of the sandalwood trade in Vanua Levu, near Bua Bay.[5]


  1. ^ Australian Shipwrecks - vol1 1622-1850, Charles Bateson, AH and AW Reed, Sydney, 1972, ISBN 0-589-07112-2 p30
  2. ^ Barrington, George (1810). The History of New South Wales, 2nd ed. London: Printed for M. Jones. pp. 238–239, 410–412. 
  3. ^ Australian Shipwrecks - vol1 1622-1850, Charles Bateson, AH and AW Reed, Sydney, 1972, ISBN 0-589-07112-2 p30
  4. ^ Thomson, Basil; Bolton Glanvill Corney; James Stewart (1908). The Fijians: a study of the decay of custom. London: W. Heinemann. pp. 25–26. 
  5. ^ Dodge, Earnest S. (1976). Islands and Empires: Western Impact on the Pacific and East Asia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press,. pp. 62–63. ISBN 978-0-8166-0853-9.