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History of Schooner Independence

By David Cowans

In 1802, Capt. Isaac Pendleton, of Stonington, Ct, USA, was commissioned by Fanning & Co of New York to sail the brig Union to the waters of New Holland in search of a cargo of seal skins.  "Her commander (Captain Isaac Pendleton) was …left unrestricted, and at perfect liberty to act on all occasions as his judgment should direct, to make the most profitable voyage he could of it for his owners." (Fanning 1989:230-231 quoted in Dappert & Moffatt 2007)   In early 1803, Pendleton met the French explorer, Nicolas Baudin who recommended Kangaroo Island as a place where seals could be found in plenitude.   It appears (Dappert & Moffatt 2007) that Baudin had lost a longboat whilst surveying the coastline of Kangaroo Island and his carpenters had found suitable timber to rebuild the longboat near what is now the town of American River.

Arriving in what is now known as Eastern Cove on the north coast of Kangaroo Island, Pendleton took the decision to winter here. As was common practice, he carried aboard the frame of a small schooner, and this was used to build a smaller vessel presumably to increase the quantity of skins that could be taken to Sydney.   As the new vessel was to be smaller than Union it would have better access to shallow waters.  Thus was born Independence.

Independence, a 35-ton schooner, was the first vessel constructed in South Australian waters. She was built between April and August 1803 on the shore of Eastern Cove at what is now known as American River on Kangaroo Island by the crew of Union. Daniel Wright, Union's carpenter was in charge of the construction of Independence

No plans of 
Independence are known to exist. In fact, it is possible the original Independence was built without plans. At left is a reconstruction based on similar New England schooners from the early 1800s. (Click on the image for the full size image.)

Little is known of the vessel's working life.   She was reported in Sydney on 2 July 1804 with a cargo of sealskins and left again on 28th August 1804 bound for the 
Antipodes Islands, 870Km south-east of New Zealand.  A party of sealers were left there to do their work and Independence is next reported by the Sydney Gazette as back in Sydney in April 1805 

In June 1805 the vessel set sail from Sydney to pick up the sealers left on the Antipodes Islands.  She did not arrive and was never seen again. The 
Sydney Gazette reported the loss on 16th March 1806.   The marooned sealers were collected in 1806 by the American vessel Favorite.

Some of the foregoing has been extracted from an 
article published in the Heritage Australia website and from the Sydney Gazette of 28th April 1805.