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- Early warships, Ship histories and stories, History - pre-Federation
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- September 1975 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
THE LAST QUARTER of the 19th century saw a wild scramble by the European powers to annex unclaimed islands in the Pacific. During this period ships of the Russian, Austrian, German, Italian and the United States Navies cruised from the Aleutians to the Solomons. In the March issue of Naval Historical Review we related the story of the Apia hurricane in which the United States and German Navies each lost a squadron of ships. Rynda’s cruise did not result in territorial gains for Russia but did excite the Australian public.
Friday, January 20th 1888.
More than usual excitement was manifested in Newcastle yesterday afternoon, about 4.30 o’clock, when the signal of a man-of-war was run up at Fortification Hill, and people wondered what armed vessel the stranger could possibly be, as she hailed from the northward, and many were of opinion that she was an addition to the Australian squadron. The German ensign was hoisted at the Signal hill, the officials evidently being under the impression that this was her nationality, but as she entered the port, about half-past five, it was seen that the stranger was a Russian man-of-war, and her name turned out to be the Rynda. The stranger signalled for a pilot, and Pilot Melville proceeded off to her, and piloted her safely to No. 5 horseshoe buoy, where she was moored. HIRM Ship Rynda is a steam corvette, carrying twenty-three guns, ten large forty-pounders and thirteen of small calibre, and has come on here for the purpose of replenishing her bunkers, which are rather empty, although a quantity of coal was taken in at Port Moresby (New Guinea), where the vessel called. The Rynda is the first Russian warship that has ever visited Newcastle.
Dr Morgan, health-officer, proceeded onboard, and after inspecting the stranger, granted her pratique, as there was no sickness onboard. Captain H. Newton, Harbourmaster, visited the Rynda in his Government steam launch, and waited upon Captain Avellan, proffering him his services and officially welcoming him to the port. The ship Lancaster Castle, which is lying in the Horseshoe, saluted the stranger by dipping her flag, and the compliment was immediately responded to.
The Rynda is certainly not a very formidable looking vessel externally; in fact she has more the appearance of a pleasure yacht; still, for all that, she is said to be a first-class weapon of war, and one that would prove a formidable rival in the event of her services being called into requisition, as the best of material has been used in her construction, whilst she has been built on the most improved principles, as far as purposes of defence are concerned.
The Rynda is almost a brand-new vessel, only having seen two years service. She was built in St. Petersburg, in 1885, and has a net register of 1,800 tons and a gross measurement of 3,000 tons. Her dimensions are: Length 365 ft; beam 42 ft; and depth 18½ feet. The engines are of the most modern construction, of 3,000 horsepower, and are capable of maintaining a speed of 16 knots per hour on a moderate consumption of coal. The Rynda is barque rigged, and is said to be able to sail 14 knots per hour under canvas. Her guns are of Obonhoff cast-steel. The Rynda has an elliptical stem and straight stern. Her full complement of officers and men numbers 350, the former as follows:- Commander Berkmann, Lieutenants A. Ebeling, C. Niloff, Count N. Tolstoy, J. Lang, Prince M. Pontiatine; Sub- Lieutenants G, Falk, Count M. Apraxine, P. Tirtoff, V. Thatelaine, J. Kolnstrom, Prince S. Shihmatoff, A. Astasheff; navigating Lieutenants B. Jakubovsking, V. Grogorieff; chief engineer, J. Boleslavskin; lieutenant, A. Fedoraff, L. Strathonovich, J. Ossossoff; physician, P Bourtzoff; and clergyman, P. Agathangel.
The arrival of the Rynda can certainly be considered otherwise than an important event, from the fact of there being onboard the cousin of the Czar of Russia, the Grand Duke Alexander Michaelovich, son of Princess Olga, who holds the position of Lieutenant. His Imperial Highness is a wellbuilt young fellow, twenty-two years of age, exceedingly good-looking and of dark complexion. He stands about five feet ten inches in height. The Grand Duke speaks English sufficiently well to converse in that language, and is of a most unassuming and quiet demeanour.