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The new yacht ‘Galatea’

Wednesday 11 July 2012

On this day in 1868 The Illustrated London News ran a picture of the Galatea, the lighthouse yacht I have already mentioned. The launching of such a vessel, associated with such a noble purpose (and such noble personages), was a typical subject for celebration in the popular illustrated press in the nineteenth century.

The Illustrated London News was the first illustrated weekly newspaper (founded 1842). It was followed in England by The Graphic (1869), in America by Harper’s Magazine (1850), and in Australia by the Australasian Sketcher (Melbourne, 1873). At their best, these mass-circulation illustrated papers brought high quality illustrations of current events into the homes of middle class people.

Wood engraving of a steam yacht 'Galatea'
the new yacht galatea, for the corporation of the trinity house, a wood engraving published in The Illustrated London News, 11 July 1868.

The Galatea picture is of average quality. The un-named artist has drawn the vessel in profile, with plenty of detail but without the drama and action of Christmas papers for the lighthouse. This is a mugshot, not a portrait. I think the engraver deserves credit for doing his best to render a rather dull drawing.

Detail of the yacht's funnels

Here’s the article that went with the engraving:

A handsome vessel, named the Galatea, has lately been built, by Messrs. Caird and Co., of Greenock, for the Honourable Corporation of the Trinity House. She combines high speed and comfortable accommodation with great strength and carrying capacity. The former qualities are required to enable the Elder Brethren to perform their special duty of attendance on her Majesty when afloat, and the latter for the conveyance of stores and supplies to the different lighthouses and stations on the coast, for the arduous duty of towing and shifting light-vessels and their moorings, and for carrying and handling heavy buoys; this last being a most difficult task in a sea way, and requiring solid construction to enable a vessel to perform the work without damage to herself. Sufficient accommodation is provided for a committee of the Elder Brethren when out on their duties at sea, and a suite of cabins has been especially arranged for the use of the Duke of Edinburgh, Master of the Trinity House, when he is pleased to accompany the Elder Brethren, The decks are roomy and able to carry a large number of buoys, and on the quarter deck is a large deck-house, where charts and surveying instruments are kept, and where, in all weathers, the Elder Brethren can go on with their work. The vessel is steered either from the bridge, or abaft. She carries six boats, and one of them a steam life-boat cutter, which is found of great use in surveying, and will serve to economise time by towing boats with stores when conveying oil and supplies to stations round the coast. The vessel has been named the Galatea, in compliment to his Royal Highness’s first command of the frigate so named.
        At the trial trip on Thursday week, when the Elder Brethren were accompanied by a large party of their friends, including those officials of the Board of Trade closely connected with the Lighthouse Department, a mean speed of nearly 14½ knots was obtained. The dimensions of the vessel are​—​Length from stem to stern-post, 220 ft.; length over all, 231 ft.; breadth, 26 ft.; depth of hold, 13 ft. 8 in.; gross tonnage, 507 tons, and registered tonnage, 319 tons ; her draught of water is 9 ft. 6 in. She has a pair of oscillating marine engines of the collective power of 200 horses nominal or 1516 effective. The coal-bunkers will carry 120 tons.
Detail of the Trinity House flag on the mizzen mast
Detail showing the Trinity House Jack flying from the mizzen mast. Note for flag spotters: The engraving shows another Trinity House Jack flying from a staff on the bowsprit, the Trinity House Ensign on a staff at the stern, and two other flags on the fore mast. For what that’s worth.

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