Sophia Jane

Sophia Jane was the first paddle steamer to operate in the coastal waters of New South Wales (NSW). She was launched on the Thames in 1826 and arrived in Sydney in May 1831.

Sophia Jane
Sophia Jane
Builder: William Elias Evans
Launched: 1826
In service: 1828
Out of service: 1845
Fate: Scrapped
General characteristics
Type: Paddle steamer
Tons burthen: 153, or 154[1] (bm)
Length: 126 ft (38 m) (deck)
Beam: 20 ft (6.1 m)
Installed power: 50 hp (37 kW) steam engine
Sail plan: brig

Sophia Jane was an auxiliary steamer, like all the early steamers, using her paddle wheels only when winds were inadequate or contrary.[2]

Sophia Jane arrived at Sydney on 13 May 1831, having come by sail, with her paddle wheels stowed and her engine not yet commissioned.[3]

She was tried on a Sydney-Parramatta service however she was too deep in the draft and found more use coastal services including Newcastle and later the first run between Sydney and Wollongong.[4]

On 12 June 1831 Sophia Jane towed Lady Harewood down the harbour as Lady Harewood set off for England. This was the first application in Australia of steam power to such a task. The reason for the tow was that weather conditions were miserable and squally.[3]

However, at the same time there was a report that the ship's agent was under instructions to send her on to India unless she could be profitably sold in Australia.[5] Sophia Jane advertised in the Sydney Herald on 13 June the first Australian steamship cruise to be held on 17 June .[6]

Captain Biddulph, master and owner of Sophia Jane sold shares in her; by August he had sold 54 of 64 shares.[3]


In 1845 Sophia Jane grounded on a reef off Wollongong. She was gotten off, but later that year her owners, facing more extensive repairs, decided to lay her up. Her engine, however, was still operational and was installed in Phoenix.[3]


  1. Register of Shipping (1833), Seq.№699.
  2. Lee, Robert (2003). "Linking a Nation: Australia's Transport and Communications 1788 - 1970". Australian Heritage Commission. Chapter 2: Ports and Shipping, 1788-1970.
  3. "The first Australian tugboats" (June–August 2012), Signals, Issue №99, pp.36-40.
  4. Andrews, Graeme (1982). A Pictorial History of Ferries: Sydney and Surrounding Waterways. Sydney: AH & AW Reed Pty Ltd. p. 10. ISBN 0589503863.
  5. Sydney Herald (13 June 1831), p.4, "Domestic Intelligence".
  6. MacAuslan, Duncan (July 2001). "Sources of Timetables for Sydney Ferries" (pdf). The Times. Australian Association of Time Table Collectors. 18 (7): 13. Retrieved 17 August 2006.
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