Neva (1813 ship)

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United Kingdom
Name: Neva
Builder: Bunney & Firbank
Launched: 15 July 1813
Refit: Early 1830s as convict carrier
Fate: wrecked in Bass Strait, 13 May 1835
General characteristics
Tons burthen: 327 (bm)
Length: 104 ft 4 in (31.80 m)
Beam: 27 ft 1 in (8.26 m)
Height: 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)
Sail plan: Three-Mast Barque
Armament: 4 × 9-pounder guns[1]

Neva was a three-masted barque launched in 1813. that as a convict ship was wrecked in Bass Strait on 13 May 1835. Her loss was one of the worst shipwrecks in Australian history; 224 lives were lost.


Neva was built at Hull, England by Bunney and Firbank in 1813. She entered Lloyd's Register in 1814 with Bunney, master, Capt & Co. owner, and trade Hull-Saint Petersburg.[1]

Neva spent most of her career trading between England and Jamaica, but in the early 1830s was refitted to carry convicts sentenced to Penal transportation to New South Wales for owners S. Masters and J. Lachlan of London.

Final voyage and wreck[edit]

Neva sailed from Cork, Ireland for Sydney on 8 January 1835 carrying 150 female convicts with 33 children, and nine free women (probably wives of convicts) with 22 children, under the care of Surgeon Superintendent John Stephenson, R.N., and 26 crew under the command of Captain Benjamin Peck. With the deaths of a crewman, a convict and a free woman, and one birth, during the voyage, by the time she reached the Australian coastline Neva's total complement was 239.

About 5 a.m. on 13 May 1835 the ship hit a reef northwest of King Island in Bass Strait and broke up rapidly. Many of the women became hopelessly drunk on rum that was being carried as cargo and were unable to save themselves. Twenty-two survivors drifted ashore on the northern end of King Island on two rafts formed by the fore and aft decks of the collapsed ship, but seven of these died of exposure "aided if not abetted by the inordinate use of rum" during the first night ashore. The remaining fifteen survivors, including the captain and the chief officer, lived with local sealer John Scott and his aboriginal wives and children until a fortnight later the schooner Sarah Ann rescued them and then carried them to Launceston.

The cause of the disaster[edit]

Initial press reports state that Neva was wrecked on the Navarine Reefs, which lie northeast of Cape Wickham on King Island. An inquiry into the loss of the ship exonerated Captain Peck from any blame and attempted to demonstrate that the Navarine Reefs were not the location of the disaster.[2] A map by the master suggests that the vessel hit an uncharted reef well to the west of King Island, but modern reconstructions suggest Neva hit the Harbinger Reefs, because the captain had failed to allow for the set of the currents at the northern end of the island after land was first seen.

The wreck of Neva in fiction[edit]

The wreck of Neva was clearly the inspiration for a pamphlet The Particulars of the Dreadful Shipwreck of the Ship Tartar, Free Trader, With the Horrible Sufferings of Part of the Crew, Who were compelled to Eat each other to Support Existence, published by John Carmichael of Glasgow in 1840. It purports to tell the story of John M. Daniel of Galway, sole survivor of the ship Tartar of 837 tons (which does not appear in Lloyd’s Register) that sailed from Cork on 8 January 1839 for Sydney with 75 crew and passengers, including ten women and thirteen children, but was wrecked on an island west of King Island on 13 April. Twenty-two survivors landed on the uninhabited island, seven died soon afterwards, and the remainder built a raft on which they endeavoured to reach King Island. It was this party that was forced to eat each other until the raft drifted ashore, by which time only two survived. One of these, the vessel’s master J. H. Peck, died soon after landing.


A memorial plague is dedicated to the Neva at the Tasmanian Seafarers' Memorial at Triabunna on the east coast of Tasmania.[3]

The plaque contains the following text:


Convict Transport Barque of 327 tons
sailed from Cork, Ireland on 8.1.1835.
Captain Peck with 26 officers and crew,
150 female convicts with 33 children,
9 free women and 22 children bound for
Sydney. 13.5.1835 struck Harbinger Reef
north of King Island with 239 aboard.
22 made landfall where 7 later died.

~ Tasmania's second worst shipwreck. ~[4]

See also[edit]

Citations and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b Lloyd's Register (1814), Seq. №N321.
  2. ^ "King Island Maritime Trail: Neva 1835". King Island Tourism. 2014. Retrieved 28 October 2016. 
  3. ^ "Neva (1835)". Tasmanian Seafarers' Memorial. Retrieved 27 February 2017. 
  4. ^ "Neva" (Memorial plaque). Triabunna, Tasmania: Tasmanian Seafarers' Memorial. 
  • Broxam, Graeme; Nash, Michael, 1958- (1998), Tasmanian shipwrecks. Volume one, 1797-1899, Navarine Publishing, ISBN 978-0-9586561-5-3 
  • Mawer, G. A. (G. Allen) (1997), Most perfectly safe: the convict shipwreck disasters of 1833-42, Allen & Unwin, ISBN 978-1-86448-186-0 , pp. 78–94;