A whale of a time for the clipper ship City of Adelaide

In 1877 the City of Adelaide’s Adelaide to England journey was disastrously interrupted when its rudder was destroyed. The likely cause? A whale!

This unfortunate incident has meant a piece of Adelaide has travelled with the City of Adelaide Clipper Ship ever since.

In 1877 the rudderless ship took three days to sail back to the mainland, dragging chains over the sides to steer the ship. Once back in Adelaide the permanent physical link to our city began.

Director of the Clipper Ship ‘City of Adelaide’ Ltd, Peter Christopher, says “here in the Port River on Fletcher’s Slip they built a new rudder using local wood in 10 days so the ship could continue its journey”.

“The rebuilt rudder still exists and is with the ship today.”

The journey of the City of Adelaide Clipper Ship spans 150 years throughout which it has provided passage to many Australian settlers, been used as a floating isolation hospital on the River Thames, seen naval service and has now come to rest at its final home in Port Adelaide.

A spectacular community event at the Port celebrated the 150th birthday of the City of Adelaide Clipper Ship with more than 15,000 people experiencing the joy of the ship up close.


With around 250,000 descendants from the settlers the City of Adelaide brought to South Australia currently living in Australia, the ship has had an obvious and lasting impact on Australian history.

But it is not just Australians who have a soft spot for the splendid Clipper Ship.

The Director of the Scottish Maritime Museum, Jim Tildesley, was in Adelaide to represent the Scottish Government at the event.

“I can’t go anywhere in South Australia without finding information about the key people in the setting up of the state or institutions within the state or exploration around the country, which can all be traced back to people arriving on this ship.”

In fact, Jim jokes he is approached almost hourly with locals keen to share family stories about the ship.

“So much is known about this ship, and its passengers, and its cargoes and its crew,” Jim says.

“It is an incredibly well-researched ship and you’re going to find interesting stories wherever you turn.”

The City of Adelaide was originally used for English immigrants but there were also German, Scandinavian and Irish passengers. It was also used as an isolation hospital in the Victorian era and a Royal Navy Drill ship before being taken under the care of the Scottish Maritime Museum in 1992.

The birthday bash included a huge birthday cake, information sessions, speaker’s tents, music, food, and family-friendly entertainment including a ferris wheel which allowed people a better look at the ship.

DSC_5802fb DSC_6054fb DSC_6155fb


Already have an account?

Back to top