The melancholy loss of HMS Sirius off Norfolk Island 19 March 1790, by the on-board artist George Raper
Builder: Watson, Rotherhithe
HMS Sirius was the flagship of the First Fleet, which set out from Portsmouth, England, in 1787 to establish the first European colony in New South Wales, Australia. In 1790, the ship was wrecked on the reef, south east of Kingston Pier, in Slaughter Bay, Norfolk Island.
Sirius had been converted from the merchantman Berwick. There has been confusion over the early history of Berwick. A note about her by future New South Wales governor Philip Gidley King, describing her as a former ‘East country man’, was interpreted for many years as relating to the East Indies trade; however, analysis of the maritime nomenclature of the time suggests that this description referred instead to ships participating in the Baltic trade.
Berwick was likely built in 1780 by Christopher Watson and Co. of Rotherhithe, who also built another ship of the First Fleet, Prince of Wales. Berwick had a burthen of 511 /83/94 tons (bm) and, after being burnt in a fire, was bought and rebuilt by the Royal Navy in November 1781, retaining her original name.