The Edwin Fox was built at Sulkeali on the Ganges Delta, India in 1853, as a Moulmein Trader, she was the last of her type. Similar to those built for the East India Company she was constructed exclusively of teak and saul timber in just 9 months. She was sold to Sir George Hodgkinson of London prior to her launching and he named her Edwin Fox.
On her maiden voyage to London via the Cape of Good Hope she carried 10 passengers and a general cargo. Less than a year later she was purchased by Duncan Dunbar and was immediately put into service with the British Government as a troop ship for the Crimean War, reputedly carrying such illustrious passengers as Florence Nightingale.
After the fall of Sebastopol she was refitted out to again carry civilian passengers and general cargo.
Edwin Fox made her first voyage to the Southern Ocean on 14 February 1856 carrying 5 passengers and some cargo arriving in Melbourne on 28th May.
The Edwin Fox then spent a period trading between various Eastern ports culminating in a contract to carry 300 coolies from what was then Swatow in China to Cuba where they were destined to work in the cane fields. Large amounts of extra water had to be taken on this voyage.
In 1858 she was again chartered by the British Government to transport convicts to Freemantle in Western Australia.
Between 1858 and 1872 Edwin Fox was used primarily for 2 purposes:
- to sail between England and the East as a trader carrying a range of cargoes including several trips to India carrying a pale ale earning her the nickname of “Booze Barge”.
- as a troop ship again, making several voyages with troops from the UK to Bombay. The return voyages were with casualties: many dying en route. As far as is known these voyages ended Edwin Fox’s role as a troop transport.
Duncan Dunbar died in 1863 and Edwin Fox was sold to Gallatly, Hankey & Company of London.
In 1873 the Edwin Fox was chartered by Shaw Savill Company to carry immigrants to New Zealand from England.
She was to make 4 such voyages carrying a total of 751 passengers to the new colony. A number of ‘incidents’ around this period have been recorded in the ships log.
- On the first voyage she ran into a storm in the Bay of Biscay and was severely damaged.
- The ships crew got into some of the spirits being carried as cargo and created a significant amount of turmoil.
- The ships doctor was killed having been impaled on a metal rod.
- A seaman was killed trying to secure one of the ships boats
- and a young girl was swept overboard only to be swept back onboard again by the next wave.
There were many other incidents on subsequent voyages.
By the 1880′s the age of steam had arrived and the sheep industry in New Zealand was booming. Edwin Fox was fitted out as a floating freezer hulk and was used as such in several South Island ports.
She was finally towed to Picton arriving 12th January, 1897 where she has remained ever since initially as a freezer ship, later as a coal hulk and now preserved under cover as a prominent tourist attraction.
In 1965 the Edwin Fox society was formed and the ship was purchased for one shilling, she lay derelict in Shakespeares Bay for 12 years subject to the ravages of the weather.
Attempts were made to move the ship to Picton and volunteers worked for weeks to clear out her holds and refloat her. By Oct 1986 all statutory approvals had been granted and she assigned a permanent berth in Picton. Despite many problems building her dry dock she finally came to rest on 18th May 1999.
August 12, 1869
The [Edwin Fox] ran aground on the Coromandel Coast at 2 a.m. With assistance unavailable, the Master ordered 107 tons (446 hogsheads) of India Pale Ale jettisoned. The ship then drew herself out of the mud and reached port the next day.
That’s the equivalent of nearly THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND BOTTLES OF BEER THROWN OVERBOARD – If any New Zealand breweries are interested in Bringing Back the Beer by branding an IPA as Edwin Fox Coromandel IPA, to help the Edwin Fox raise funds for the ship, please contact Karen McLoud, Manager on 03 573 6868.