Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Captain John Austen - 1823 to 1899

I've been doing some research lately into the various sides of my family tree. One of which is my grandmothers family who are Austens originally from Suffolk in England. Back about 4 generations is a sea captain called John Austen born 1823 died 1899. Here's what I found out about him:

John married Anne Willcox on the 12th October 1858 in the St Barnabas Church in Auckland. Anne was 17 years old whereas John is listed as 28 on the marriage certificate but was actually 36. He is also listed as a "widower". The marriage seems to have been a happy one and they had 9 children, 5 boys, and 4 girls, (information from Capt Austen's blog) one of which was my great grandfather Alfred Edward Austen.

John Austen is listed in paper's past as being a well known sea captain and various advertisements for cargo proves this, however one particular article from NZ Historical Data states that the ship Sea Breeze was wrecked through fault of Mr Austen:

Ship "Sea Breeze"

AJHR 1872 Return of Wrecks

Date of Casualty : 25 Oct 1871
Name of Master : John AUSTEN
Age of Vessel : 10 years
Rig : Schooner
Register Tonnage : 70
Number of Crew : 6
Number of Passengers : 1
Nature of Cargo : Guano
Nature of Casualty : Stranded; total loss
Number of Lives Lost : None
Place of Accident : Reef at NW end of Staarbuck Island
Wind Direction : ESE
Wind Force : 5

Finding of Court of Inquiry
Master blamed for wreck. Loss believed to have been caused either by drunkenness (as in case of "Marwell", lost by him on Tiri Tiri
about 3 years ago, and for which his certificate of service was taken away) or from a desire to show off the capabilities of his
vessel, which had the reputation of a smart sailor.

However the West Coast Times 24th January 1872 at Papers Past says this:


It sounds like Captain Austen is free of blame and that the heavy rollers on the starboard side of the ship were so huge that they rocked the vessel over which cause it to shipwreck.

In fact several newspapers such as the Evening Post 1880 state that Captain Austen went on to take charge of other vessels like the Schooner "Marion" and the Wanganui Herald says as captain he left for Onehunga in the boat "Glenelg". Back then I would've thought that if he'd been found responsible for drunkenly wrecking a boat thereby endangering lives and cargo, he would have been fined and/or jailed.

There are more newspaper articles and journeys by Mr John Austen but I will share those in another post.

1 comment:

Juliana & Greg said...

Hi Amy. I am Greg Austen. My grandfather Arthur Austen was your grandfather's brother. My wife and I created the blog you have been following on Captain John's adventures. I am currently compiling a "book" to record what I so far know about John Austen. If you would like to email me at greg.austen@gmail.com We can perhaps exchange some information and help complete the family history.

Regards,Greg.