Ocean Chief (clipper)

Ocean Chief was a clipper ship used in a regular packet service and as a passenger ship for bounty emigrants to Australia between June 1854 and December 1861 at the time of the Australian gold rushes.

Name: Ocean Chief (1853)
Owner: James Baines & Co.
Operator: Black Ball Line
Route: United KingdomAustralia
Builder: Joshua C. Morton,[1] Thomaston, Maine, USA
Completed: 1853
Acquired: 1854
Fate: Burnt, 1862 Bluff Harbour New Zealand
General characteristics
Type: Clipper
Tonnage: 1,026 gross register tons (GRT)
Length: 182 ft (55 m)
Beam: 34 ft (10 m)
United Kingdom
Name: Wild Ranger
Builder: J. O. Curtis, Medford, Massachusetts, United States
Completed: 1853
Renamed: Ocean Chief, 1862
Owner: James Baines & Co. (1862-1866)
Operator: Black Ball Line (1862-1866)
Route: United KingdomAustralia
Acquired: 1862
Fate: Sank off Calcutta in 1872
General characteristics
Type: Clipper
Tonnage: 930 gross register tons (GRT)


The original Ocean Chief was built in the United States at Thomaston, Maine, by Joshua C. Morton (born 1789) and his son Charles, one of two clippers that they built.[2] Completed in 1853, she was a fast and consistent sailer and made an average passage of 74 days.

The Black Ball Line (founded 1852 – ceased 1871) owners James Baines & Thomas MacKay, Liverpool[3] purchased the vessel for a regular mail service between Liverpool and Melbourne. She also visited other ports including Hobart, Tasmania, and New Zealand.

In 1862, Ocean Chief arrived at Bluff Harbour, New Zealand, under Captain T. Brown, with a cargo of 4,000 sheep. On the morning of 23 January 1862, the crew burned ship, believing that they could get rich in the nearby Otago Gold Rush.[4][5]


England (Liverpool)23 May 1854Melbourne, Australia7 August 1854Thomas James Tobin77
Australia-England-Thomas James Tobin86
England11 January 1855Hobart, Australia26 March 1855Thomas James Tobin37075
Australia-England-Thomas James Tobin69
England8 October 1855AustraliaJanuary 1856-362
EnglandAustraliaMay 1858-
EnglandAustraliaFebruary 1859-
England5 September 1859Australia30 November 1859William Brown10986
England5 July 1860Melbourne, Australia2 October 1860-
EnglandMelbourne, Australia21 July 1861-
EnglandMelbourne, AustraliaDecember 1861-
Burnt New Zealand23 January 1862T. Brown


Another ship, named Wild Ranger – built in the United States in 1853 by J. O. Curtis at Medford, Massachusetts – was purchased in 1862 as a replacement ship and renamed Ocean Chief. This ship was slightly smaller, being of 930 tons. In 1866, she was sold to E. Angel, Liverpool. She went down in a large storm in the Bay of Bengal off Calcutta, India, in 1872.


  1. "The Ships List". www.theshipslist.com. Retrieved 22 August 2015.
  2. "The American Clipper Ships 1845–1920". McFarland and Company P71. Retrieved 22 August 2015.
  3. "Baines & MacKay / Black Ball Line, Liverpool". www.theshipslist.com. Retrieved 22 August 2015.
  4. "Fate – Fire Afloat". ancestry.com. Retrieved 22 August 2015.
  5. "Destruction of the "Ocean Chief" by Fire at the Bluff Harbour". Otago Daily Times (63). 28 January 1862. p. 2. Retrieved 15 March 2016.

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