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South Australian shipping lines

Introduction 

In the earliest days of South Australia, ships arriving at Port Adelaide came from overseas or from the eastern colonies. Ketches and other coastal traders maintained contact and trade between Port Adelaide and the small scattered coastal towns, a number of which in time would grow into substantial ports. As the colony prospered and the number of exports of wool, wheat and copper ore increased and as Port Adelaide itself increased in size, masters and owners of a single vessel began to think of expansion. Syndicates formed to run ships along the coast and to the other colonies.

The Melbourne based firm of McMeckan, Blackwood began operating to Port Adelaide, carrying flour from South Australia for the Victorian goldfields. At around the same time a syndicate, Adelaide & Melbourne Steam Ship Company commissioned the steamer Admella which operated successfully against McMeckan, Blackwood until she was disastrously wrecked in 1859. The intercolonial trade between Melbourne and Adelaide was aggressive, but there was still no large shipping company operating out of Adelaide. Individual ships and their owners continued to ply the waters; McMeckan, Blackwood had a virtual monopoly.

Samuel White, a flour miller at Aldinga entered the shipping business in 1861 with Havilah. From small sailing vessels to ship his flour out of nearby Port Willunga, he expanded into steamers and competed directly against McMeckan, Blackwood on the run to Melbourne, with his ship South Australian which could carry 200 passengers as well as her cargo. White's shipping venture bankrupted him in 1867 and he lost his mills in addition to his ships.

Joseph Darwent, a shipping agent and broker at Port Adelaide was another who ventured more directly into the shipping business and operated steamships from Port Adelaide to the coastal ports. He and his syndicate ran the 197 ton steamer Marion to the gulfs. Later Darwent's syndicate added the long-lived Lubra to their small fleet and operated successfully for a number of years.

However a more aggressive company finally emerged on the Port Adelaide scene, one which would progressively swallow local and interstate rivals. In 1875 the Adelaide Steamship Company was floated. For the next 96 years this company would dominate the Adelaide shipping scene and beyond.

Mount Gambier steamers
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