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"Africaine" (Barque ) - Colonists to South Australia in 1836

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Africaine 1836 with Captain J.T. Duff, arriving Nepean Bay on Kangaroo Island on November 4th and Holdfast Bay on November 14th 1836.

  • The Africaine was the first vessel to bring paying immigrants to South Australia. She was a barque of about 300 tons, and carried a crew of seventeen and about eighty passengers.
  • 1836 14 November: 1st pioneer settlers arrived on the mainland at Holdfast Bay aboard the Africaine and was the first passenger vessel to anchor in Holdfast Bay.
  • The captain, John Finlay Duff (1799-1868) settled in Adelaide and became a ship owner trading between Australia and the Mauritius.
  • Carried the equipment for the first newspaper in the colony.

The colonising fleet consisted of 10 vessels which had gathered at Nepean Bay before being directed to Holdfast Bay.

Some of the passengers

  • Robert Thomas (1782–1860) and his wife Mary Harris. Robert was a printer and on 28 of December 1836 he printed the proclamation of the establishment of government in South Australia as a British province. He and George Stevenson established R. Thomas & Co. to publish the South Australian Gazette and Colonial Register.


Robert Thomas's wife Mary (1787–1875) published The Diary of Mary Thomas, in which she described the journey on the Africaine and the early years in South Australia. An extract from the diary reads:

"About December 20th 1836, we built a rush hut a short distance from our tents for the better accommodation of part of our family... and in this place (about 12 feet square) the first printing in South Australia was produced."

One of the children of Robert and Mary Thomas was a surveyor who assisted Colonel William Light in the survey which led to the founding of the City of Adelaide. Another son, William Kyffin Thomas, inherited from his father the newspaper of the time, The Register, which his parents had set up. William had a son, also called Robert, who became senior proprietor of The Register. He was knighted by King Edward VII in 1909 when President of the first great Press Conference in London. A majestic statue of that king stands prominently outside the South Australian Institute building in North Terrace, Adelaide.


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