The Lightning on Pacific Rollers

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Object Description

Marine painting featuring the ship Lightning

Object History

Frost & Reed, London (No. 54565)
Private collection
Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City

Object Literature

The Lightning was designed and built by Donald McKay in Boston for James Baines of the Black Ball Line in Liverpool in 1854. She cost £30,000 to build, and Baines put in another £2,000 in interior decoration, adding fine woods, marble, gilding and stained glass. It is said that her rooms rivaled those of the later Queen Mary. An on-ship newspaper called the Lightning Gazette was published for the passengers and crew.

Lightning set a number of records: she sailed from New York to Liverpool in 13 days, 19½ hours; On March 1, 1854 she sailed 436 miles (702 km) in 24 hours, doing 18 to 18½ knots (the longest day’s run recorded by a sailing ship). In 1854–55, she made the passage from Melbourne to Liverpool in 65 days, completing a circumnavigation of the world in 5 months, 9 days, which included 20 days spent in port.

Lightning caught fire at Geelong in Australia on October 30, 1869 while she was fully loaded and ready to sail. Attempts to control the fire were unsuccessful and later that day she was towed out to the shoals in Corio Bay where she sank. The shoals became known as “Lightning Shoals”.

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