The world’s oldest active sailing ship is named after India - Star of India. She began her life at Ramsey Shipyard in the Isle of Man in 1863. Iron ships were experiments of sorts then, with most vessels still being built of wood. Her first name was Euterpe, after the Greek muse of music and poetry. This was the name she bore on her six voyages to India between 1864 and 1870.
Kevin Sheehan, Librarian and Manager of Collections at the Maritime museum San Diego, shared with CSP the story of the majestic Star of India. “She was named Star of India in 1906, a name change that was requested by the Alaska Packers Association of San Francisco. All of the Association’s vessels bore the name “Star”, e.g. Star of Finland. Euterpe was renamed in recognition of her first career as a cargo vessel in the India trade. The Maritime Museum of San Diego conserves her logs from 1884-1923. Earlier information is found in the archives of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich,” says Sheehan.
The most accessible account of her voyages to India are found in Jerry MacMullen’s Star of India: The Log of an Iron Ship. Sheehan adds “Possibly the most notable event on board occurred in November 1865 when she was almost wrecked in a Cyclone off the coast of Madras.”
Euterpe was a full-rigged ship and would remain so until 1901, when the Alaska Packers Association rigged her down to a barque, her present rig. Sheehan says that after such a hard luck beginning, Euterpe settled down and made four more voyages to India as a cargo ship.
This image Courtesy Ted Walton Photography represents a landmark memory when the Maritime Museum of San Diego Companion sail was done November 2018 with Star of India celebrating 155 years and sailing with MMSD vessels Californian, official tall ship of the state, and galleon replica, San Salvador. All of these vessels are included in the Maritime Museum of San Diego fleet and can be expired dockside with general admission ticket purchase.
“In 1871 she was purchased by the Shaw Savill line of London and embarked on a quarter century of hauling emigrants to New Zealand, sometimes also touching Australia, California and Chile. She made 21 circumnavigations in this service, some of them lasting up to a year. It was rugged voyaging, with the little iron ship battling through terrific gales, “laboring and rolling in a most distressing manner,” according to her log.
Sheehan adds that each year 100,000 people visit the Star of India. Among them are tourists from all over the world, including India.
Last year, the 1863 made ship celebrated 155 years, sailing after a gap of 5 years through San Diego bay, and headed out off Point Loma.
(Interview courtesty Theresa Amos Smullen, Director of Marketing, Maritime Museum of San Diego. Featured Image by Chris Szwedo)