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An Ouless painting of Wonder passing Elizabeth Castle

The paddle steamer Wonder was a regular operator in Channel Island waters in the second half of the 19th century. She was renowned as a fast vessel, although her crossings were not without incident

Wonder in St Helier Harbour

On 5 May 1845 the Wonder brought mail to Jersey from Southampton, following in the footsteps of Transit and South Western. Built in 1844 by Ditchburn and Mare of Blackwall, she was an iron paddle steamer of 250 tons, 158 feet in length, 20 feet beam and 10 feet depth, and her paddle wheels were 19 feet in diameter. Wonder was one of the fastest paddle steamers of her day, attaining the high speed of 14 knots. She was commanded by the famous Captain Goodridge. Wonder is out of records after 1874.

Collision at sea

4 May 1858 report: [1]

At 4 o'clock in broad daylight and perfect conditions Paddle steamers Havre and Wonder collided. Both passenger vessels belong to the London and South Western Railway Company.

Havre struck the Wonder on her starboard side with such violence that the stern of the Wonder was completely torn away. One man had a grazed face. The Havre stopped her engines and quickly took the passengers off the stricken Wonder.

Havre then took the Wonder in tow. The location of the accident (which took place on 29 April) is uncertain.

Captain Smith was in charge of the Havre, Captain Clement had gone to bed at 3.30pm. Smith had altered course a quarter mile from the Wonder. Clement immediately ran up on deck when he heard the crash and looked after his passengers and crew.

Second mate Robert Woodcock was in charge of Wonder, which did not alter her course until he reacted to the danger of the Havre. Woodcock had not called his captain as it was daylight and he was continuing on a straight course.

Havre hit between two timber heads on the starboard side. If Wonder had been hit midships she would have been cut in half.

One of Wonder's lifeboats was cut in half and her saloon was ripped open across the width of the ship. The only damage to Havre was a broken bowspirit.

Fast crossing

3 June 1859: [2]

The South Western Steam Packet Co steamer Wonder has made a rapid passage from Weymouth to Jersey. She has crossed the channel in 7½ hours with an 18-minute stop in Guernsey. Built in 1844, this has come as no surprise as she is renowned for her speed.

Notes and references

  1. From Facebook group Maritime Jersey, by Mark Pulley
  2. From Facebook group Maritime Jersey, by Mark Pulley
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