British Peer (ship)

The British Peer was a 1428-ton, 247.5 feet (75.4 m) long, 36.4 feet (11.1 m) wide and 22.5 feet (6.9 m) deep, three-masted iron sailing ship, built at the Harland and Wolff yards in Belfast, Ireland, in 1865 for the British Shipowners Company. In 1883 she was bought by the Nourse Line. Originally she was the fastest vessel in fleet until the British Ambassador was commissioned. Alterations to increase her tonnage by lengthening her hull by 32 feet (9.8 m) in 1878 completely spoiled her sailing powers however as she was never as fast again. Excluding her master she carried a crew of 22.

The British Peer, like other Nourse Line ships, was involved in the indentured labour trade. On 23 April 1892, she carried 527 Indian indentured labourers to Fiji. Two months late, on 11 June 1892, she arrived in Suriname with Indian indentured labourers. She also repatriated 450 Indians who had completed their indenture from St Lucia to India in September 1894.

The British Peer had first visited South Africa in 1886 while on a voyage carrying indentured labourers. In November 1894 she again stopped in at the Cape of Good Hope, carrying a cargo of salt and 471 Indian indentured labourers. On 8 December 1896, she struck a reef in Saldanha Bay, South Africa and was destroyed with only four survivors. A Court of Enquiry, on 7 January 1897, found that “the loss of the ship was occasioned by reckless navigation on the part of the master”. The wreck of the British Peer itself still lies in about 9 metres (30 ft) of water in Saldanha Bay.

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