Ships, 1900s–20s

Watercolour of the Orient
Watercolour of the Orient, signed 'C. Dickson Gregory 1927'.
Image: Charles Dickson Gregory
Source: La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria

Orient, 1879–1909

When it was launched in 1879, the Orient was the largest steamship built for transporting immigrants to Australia. It offered comforts unheard of for the period, including a promenade deck, refrigeration, and later, electric lighting.

On its maiden voyage from London to Adelaide via the Cape of Good Hope, the Orient set a new record, making the journey in just 38 days.

The Orient originally carried an auxiliary sailing rig, but eventually became totally steam powered. Its bunkers held 3,000 tonnes of coal, and this was fed manually into the boilers to power the huge steam engines. At the stopover ports, loading coal by manual labour often took a few days.

Her extensive decks provided accommodation for 120 first-class, 130 second-class and 300 third-class passengers. The first-class saloon was fitted out with ornate brass furniture and elaborate wooden carvings, whilst the music saloon boasted a grand piano and an organ amidst profusely growing ferns and dracaenas. There was an ice-making plant and other electrical equipment for the vast galleys (kitchens). On the aft-deck were stables for horses and cages for pigs, sheep and cows—destined to become fresh meat for diners in first-class. More importantly, there were plenty of lifeboats.

One of the longest serving steamships of its era, The Orient remained in service on the Australian run for thirty years.

Ormonde, 1919–52

The Ormonde was originally built for the Orient Line in 1918 and served on its regular passenger and mail service between Britain and Australia until 1939.

After the Second World War, the Ormonde was chartered to the British Ministry of Transport and brought the first shipload of assisted post-war British migrants to Australia in October 1947. It continued this service over the next five years, transporting some 17,500 British migrants to Australia.

Jervis Bay, 1922–39

The Jervis Bay was the last of five large passenger cargo liners built for the Australian Government after the Great War. Launched in January 1922, the Jervis Bay offered mainly third-class accommodation for more than 712 passengers.

Large refrigerated holds provided 360,000 cubic metres of space to carry exports of frozen meats and dairy products for the voyage from Australia to England. On the way out from Britain the holds were fitted out with temporary partitions and bunks for extra accommodation.

The Jervis Bay continued as a migrant liner until the outbreak of World War II, then was sent to London to be fitted out as an armed Merchant Navy cruiser.


Search the Internet to find out a few more facts about the Orient or Jervis Bay. You will need to enter 'Orient steamship', 'Orient steamer', or 'Jervis Bay steamship' 'Jervis Bay steamer'.

Can you find out what happened to the Jervis Bay in 1940?

Image Gallery

The Jervis Bay