By Tony Somerville
That’s how much gold the Blackwall frigate Madagascar was carrying, along with 156 passengers and crew, when she sailed out of Melbourne on Friday, August 12th, 1853, bound for England. She was never heard from again and her disappearance was one of the great maritime mysteries of the 19th century and probably the subject of more speculation than any other 19th century disappearance except for the Mary Celeste.
The Madagascar was a large British merchant ship built in 1837 in London’s Blackwall Yard for the trade to India and China. She carried freight, passengers and troops between England and India until the end of 1852 when, as a result of the Victorian gold rush, she was sent to Melbourne with emigrants under the command of Captain Fortescue William Harris. She left Plymouth on 11th March, 1853, and, after an uneventful passage of 87 days, reached Melbourne on 10th June. Fourteen of her 60 crew jumped ship for the diggings and it is believed only four replacements were signed on. She then loaded a cargo that included wool, rice and gold valued at £240,000, and took on board 110 passengers for London.
The full article can be found in the February 2011 issue of Gold Gem and Treasure. Subscribe now.