Published: May 13th 2010April 21st 2010
The “Mermerus” was a fully rigged three-masted sailing ship. A wool clipper built specifically for the Australian wool trade. Built of iron by Barclay, Curle & Co of Glasgow, she was launched in 1872 for A.&J.H. Carmichael & Co.’s “Golden Fleece Line”. Other ships in this line included:- Medea, Golden Fleece, Jason, Argonaut, Thessalus. Mermerus was a character in Greek mythology. He was the son of Jason and Medea and was murdered, together with his brother Pheres, by his mother. Jason was the mythological hero who together with the Argonauts, is famous for the quest for the Golden Fleece.
"In the 19th century, Australia’s prosperity was dependent on sailing ships to deliver the wool to the overseas markets. The huge emigrant ships were not fitted for transporting wool to London as they were far too big with equally large repair bills. The British built wood and subsequent iron clippers, were half the size with no heavy repair bills. They could fill up their small holds quickly, carry passengers outwards and wool homewards." The Mermerus would have carried a cargo of around 10,000 bales of wool representing the fleeces of a million sheep.
"The London Wool Sales drove the schedule of the wool clippers. The aim of every ship’s captain was to get his ship home in time for the first wool sales which took place in January, February and March. The sales lists closed as soon as sufficient cargo had arrived or had been reported in the English Channel. If the Captain missed the sales, the cargo would have been put into storage for perhaps 2 or 3 months until the next sales. This would then incur extra expenses, loss of interest and the possibility of a fall in the price of wool." (extracts from “The Colonial Clippers” by Basil Lubbock).
The Mermerus was the finest and most successful of the wool clippers. In 1876 she sailed from London to Melbourne in 66 days whereas almost 100 years before in 1787, the European convicts sailed the 20,000 kilometers (12,000 miles) in 250 days. The commander of the Mermerus from 1873 until 1888 was Captain William Fife, mentioned here in this dairy.
In December 1909 the Mermerus was on her way from Norway to Melbourne when she ran aground just off the Norwegian coast. She suffered severe damage and was condemned after an inspection.
The Mermerus sadly ended her days sold at auction as a wreck.