Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Neptune to VDL - 1838

Embarked: 200 men
Voyage: 104 days
Surgeon's Journal: yes
Captain W.J. Ferris
Surgeon Joseph Steret

The Neptune was built at Calcutta in 1814. She departed Sheerness bound for Van Diemen's Land on 7 October 1837.

Military Guard

The Guard consisted of Ensign Paget, 2 sergeants and 27 soldiers of the 51st regiment, 8 women and 6 children under Captain Mainwaring who was accompanied by his wife and 2 children.

Surgeon Joseph Steret

Joseph Steret kept a Medical Journal from 15th September 1837 to 31st January 1838. Below is an extract -

On 10th November we fell in with the convict ship Waterloo, James Ellis Esq., Surgeon Superintendent and on the 13th November we crossed the Equator and by the 30th having had an excellent run we were in Latitude 31 S, the weather again growing cold, the thermometer being in three days about 65. On 11th December we crossed the Meridian of the Cape of Good Hope and continued running down for the remaining part of the month. The weather upon the whole favourable till Christmas Day and the cold generally much more severe to the sensations than as shown by the thermometer.

The ship as I expected sails very well, much superior to any merchant vessel I ever was in before, at the same time she rolls very much before the wind and consequently ships a very considerable quantity of water in her waist, but she is well found.

On the night preceding Christmas Day it commenced blowing a heavy gale from the North from which we had hardly any respite for thirteen days. The wind occasionally shifting to the Westward. Even where we occasionally had a day tolerably moderate the gale kicked up such a rattling that the 'old Neptune' was rolling, tumbling and toiling as if the boisterous sea and a party of Tritons were playing football with her. Nevertheless our fellows got on tolerably well. They were not able to be much on deck except a few of the most active but I mustered them every day to their wine which was now served out daily and kept them pretty busy below drying up the prison, holy-stoning the bottom boards of their sleeping berths. They had hardly time to be sick, it required all their energies.

This state of the weather continued till the sixth January. We had a few cases of disease and some accidents this month. Two of the men also had complaints, one with ophthalmia and one rheumatism but generally the diseases had neither novelty nor severity. When the weather became moderate the effects of the damp and confinement below began to appear; some slight cases of scurvy began to show themselves. I did not find it necessary to send any one to the hospital after our arrival; but after the prisoners had been mustered and the usual police forms had been gone through I sent two men, neither of whom were in a fit state to be assigned.


The Neptune arrived in Hobart on 18 January 1838.

Notes and Links

1). Frederick Strange arrived as a convict on the Neptune. He was born at Nottingham, England. By trade he was a portrait painter and house painter. On 22 June 1837 he was tried at the Quarter Sessions, Colchester, Essex, for stealing a watch and sentenced to imprisonment for life. - Australian Dictionary of Biography

2). Joseph Steret was also employed as surgeon on the Camden in 1833 and the Bardaster in 1836.

3). This is a different vessel to the Neptune that sailed with convicts to Port Jackson arriving 2 January 1838


[1] Journal of Joseph Steret on the voyage of the Neptune in 1838. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857 Original data: The National Archives. Kew, Richmond, Surrey.