|Gross Registered Tonnage||1,734 grt. 1,109 nett.|
|Builder||Scott & Co , Greenock. Yard No.222.|
|Hull||Steel, Clincher construction|
|Engine Builder||Greenock Foundry Co.|
|Engine Type||Steam, compound, inverted.|
|Engine cylinders||30 ins. dia. 60 ins, dia.|
|Engine stroke||3.5 ft.|
|Engine Power||185 nhp, 947 ihp.|
|Propulsion mode||Single screw.|
|Bale capacity||118,364 cu. ft.|
|Block coefficient (Cb)||0.72|
|Condenser cooling surface||1,800 sq. ft.|
|Steam expansion ratio||5.44|
|Boiler||2, oval type|
|Boiler pressure||75 psi.|
|Boiler dimensions (total)||15.77 ft H x 11.58 ft. W x 10.08 ft. L|
|Heating Surface (total)||2,977 sq. ft.|
|Grate Area (total)||107.2 sq. ft.|
|Steam space volume||809 cu.ft.|
|Furnace||3 per boiler|
|Furnace dimensions||3'3" dia. x 6'11" long.|
|Propeller||Right Hand, 14.5 ft. dia. 17.0 ft. pitch.|
|Propeller material||Cast iron.|
|Keel laid||May 25th. 1882.|
|Launched||Nov 18th. 1882|
|Delivered to||Dec 30th.1882|
|Disposition||Wrecked 20th Oct 1884|
Built for China Coast trade.
Events / Stories
The Loss of Changchow
A file of unremarkable press clippings are all that remain to tell the tale of the last voyage of Changchow in 1884 – a voyage that was in many respects an unusual one.
Changchow was at this time just two years old - the product of an energetic newbuilding programme for China Navigation’s rapidly expanding China coast trade. In 1883, less than a year after delivery, she was switched to the company’s new liner service to Australia - a trade which also employed her sister ship Taiwan, as well as the three-year-old (and somewhat smaller) Keelung, supplemented in the all-important tea season by Keelung’s two sisters, Hoihow I and Tamsui.
It was China tea that brought Changchow on her first, and last, voyage to New Zealand - an area that was very new to CNCo. Hoihow had pioneered the company’s first trans-Tasman crossing in 1883, and Changchow was only the third CNCo visitor. She was therefore regarded as something of an exotic migrant to these southerly waters: a “Flowery Land Trader”, said the Lyttleton Times of 5th October 1884, alluding to her China coast origins. The ship had left Foochow (Fuzhou) bound for Australia on 10th August, calling at Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines and Batavia (Java), and reaching Sydney on the 29th August and Melbourne on 2nd September. In addition to Foochow tea, her principal cargo was sugar. Raw sugar from the Philippines and (a landmark for Swire) refined Tai Koo Sugar produced by their newly opened refinery in Hong Kong - the very first consignment to reach the antipodes. The ship also carried an assortment of “Chinese goods”: ginger, spices and silk. It was in Melbourne, however, that Changchow embarked her most exotic cargo, becoming the first CNCo ship to list a live elephant on her cargo manifest. And not just an elephant: an entire circus, complete with acrobats and menagerie!
Chiarini’s Royal Italian Circus – Circo Chiarini - was, at that time, probably the most famous circus in the world. A descendant of one of the most ancient dynasties of the popular show, (the Chiarini name first appeared in connection with Italian popular theatre in the 1580s), the famous equestrian Giuseppe Chiarini (1823-1897) took Circo Chiarini to a global audience. While Barnum & Bailey, Ringling, Sells Brothers and the rest were still touring Europe and America, Chiarini’s company of cavallorizzi (horseback riders), funamboli (tightrope walkers) and his famous performing animals blazed the circus trail in Asia and the Pacific.
In 1853, Chiarini left Europe for Cuba, establishing the first circus in Havana. In 1855, he crossed the Pacific to Japan – where his troupe was one of the first foreign companies of any kind to perform during the late Edo period. On this and subsequent visits Chiarini had a lasting influence on the development of circus in Japan.
In 1864, Chiarini arrived in Mexico in the train of the newly crowned Emperor Maximilian. He remained there during the period of the “French Intervention”, also touring Chile and Argentina. After the defeat of Maximilian’s troops in 1867, however, Chiarini prudently switched allegiance to the victorious Benito Juárez. Marrying political expediency with thriftiness, he chose to lampoon the ousted dictatorship by outfitting his ringside attendants in now-redundant (and cheap) Imperial uniforms. The move greatly boosted his popularity, though inevitably the trademark orange jackets of Chiarini’s band led to the nickname “The Carrots”. In 1869, he returned briefly to Europe, before embarking on a series of ever more ambitious world tours to Brazil, South Africa, India, China, Singapore, Siam (Thailand), Java, Australia and New Zealand.
In September 1884, when the flamboyant Signor Chiarini’s three-ring circus arrived in Auckland via Changchow, the show was making its third visit to the antipodes, having previously toured in 1872 and 1879 to great acclaim. The week-long voyage had been far from pleasant, however: leaving Melbourne on 10th September, Changchow immediately ran into a gale off Port Phillip Heads. The circus wagons housing the menagerie threatened to break loose, and one can but imagine Chiarini’s anxiety for his precious horses, stabled on deck. The captain had no choice but to return to port until the storm abated. Bad weather continued to dog the trip, and it was no doubt a sorry band of performers who disembarked at Auckland on 17th September. But “the show must go on”, and within two days of arrival, as Changchow set sail for Wellington, the tents were erected and the New Zealand Herald reported that “Expectation [was] on tiptoe in anticipation of the opening of Chiarini's Royal Italian Circus.” As a measure of Chiarini’s fame, is interesting to note that the circus anticipated an audience of up to 5,000 for each performance: at the time, this represented more than a quarter of the entire population of metropolitan Auckland.
For Changchow, however the story has a less happy ending. From Wellington, the vessel continued south to Port Chalmers (Dunedin), and then retraced her steps north to Lyttleton (Christchurch). Here, she took on a general cargo that included butter, cheese, and honey, an enormous quantity of potatoes, carrots, peas and beans, wheat, oats and bran, as well as “fungus” (presumably for use in Chinese medicine), scrap iron and zinc, and ten horses for Australia. On 10th October, she began her return voyage to Hong Kong, via Sydney, Newcastle (where she bunkered) and Brisbane. But on 20th October, disaster struck: for reasons we do not know, Changchow went aground in good weather on a spit off Fraser Island, near the Sandy Cape lighthouse. Though the ship was briefly re-floated and beached, she proved to be beyond salvage and was eventually declared a total loss. Six passengers were drowned when one of the ship’s boats taking them ashore capsized.
The loss of Changchow had some far-reaching consequences for China Navigation. Just 11 days earlier, Keelung had also been lost off the China coast. The company abandoned its trans-Tasman ambitions, and not long after Changchow’s fateful visit, CNCo came to an agreement with the New Zealand Steam Ship Company to handle through-cargo from Australia. CNCo did not again attempt to serve Kiwi ports on a regular basis until after the Second World War. The company also bit the financial bullet and commissioned a wholly new class of four passenger/cargo liners – bigger than any of CNCo’s coasters to date - which would be dedicated to the Australian service. Thus came into being the famous Scott’s-built Changsha I class of 1886.