HMS DRIVER, a 180 foot paddlewheel sloop, was the first steam vessel to circumnavigate the world. The voyage took five years and commenced from Portsmouth in 1842. Her record, despite the time required to achieve it, was to stand for many years. Strange to relate, most of the voyage was made under sail because in the 1840s bunkering facilities were few and far between.
Driver was built at Portsmouth Dockyard of 1058Bm and was fitted with a 280 nominal horsepower ‘Gorgon’ engine, a direct action engine which took its name from the fore-runner of the type first fitted in HMS Gorgon in 1837. The sloop was fitted with boilers which were fed by a mechanical stoking apparatus which, despite its unreliability, was many years ahead of her times. The apparatus was landed at Capetown.
HMS Driver sailed from England in 1842 and made a slow passage to China via the Cape and the East India Station. Soon after her arrival in China she was despatched to Port Jackson to join the fleet assembled for the First Maori War. The handsome vessel remained in service until August 1861 when she was wrecked on Mariguana Island in the Bahamas.
Note: In 1846 the ‘Gorgon’ type engine for the packet Caradoc which was also designed by Seaward was arranged with a cross-head guide in place of the parallel-motion hitherto fitted in the ‘Gorgon’ type.