20898 | Marco Polo
John Lars Johnson
About 1930, 20th century
Oil on canvas
Gift of the artist, 1933
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum
Keys to History
In 1852 the Marco Polo was purchased by the Black Ball Line, and was refitted for the emigrant trade. That year she astonished the world by smashing the record for the quickest round trip from Liverpool, England, to Melbourne, Australia. Commanded by Captain "Bully" Forbes, the Marco Polo completed the voyage in five months, twenty-one days. Known as "the fastest ship in the world", she remained in the Australian trade for more than fifteen years. The Marco Polo could carry 950 passengers, thirty crewmen and thirty people working their passage.
Many years later the Marco Polo was rigged as a coal barque and used to haul coal and coke. In 1880 the once grand vessel was condemned and sold to a Norwegian company. At the end of her life, the Marco Polo was refitted once again for the timber trade, for which she was originally designed.
Source : The Golden Age of Sail [Web tour], by New Brunswick Museum (see Links)
As part of her refit, the Marco Polo's bottom was sheathed in copper and various cabins and compartments were installed.
Upon arriving in Australia, Captain Forbes trumped up charges of insubordination against his crew so he would not lose them to the gold fields.
In 1861, the Marco Polo collided with an iceberg.
John Lars Johnson, a sailor born in Stockholm, Sweden, painted this oil portrait of the Marco Polo in 1925.