A menagerie at sea

It is said that good company makes a journey seem shorter. But what if you are at sea for a month, travelling with a large collection of exotic Indian fauna?

Andy Duncan booked passage on the S.S. Janus, a steamer that sailed between India and Australia transporting whatever would turn a profit. Regular cargo on the Australia to India run was brumbies for the Indian army. The ship was fitted to carry over 1,000 horses on four decks.

In December 1911 the Janus’ 900 tons of cargo included zoological specimens for Perth, Melbourne and Sydney.

NEW ARRIVALS AT PERTH ZOO (1912, January 3), Great Southern Herald, p. 1. Newspaper article found in Trove reproduced courtesy of the National Library of Australia.
NEW ARRIVALS AT PERTH ZOO (1912, January 3), Great Southern Herald, p. 1. Newspaper article found in Trove reproduced courtesy of the National Library of Australia.

Also on board were

  • a porcupine
  • a mongoose
  • toucans
  • two spotted deer
  • two Arabian sheep, “said to be double-tailed”
  • “some 60 members of the simian race”, including four barefaced monkeys and two baboons
  • Indian tea and jute fabric
  • 876 bales of branbags

Andy was one of forty-nine passengers and crew.

Imagine the trip to Australia. The smell of horse sweat and manure probably remained from previous journeys. Screeches from the caged monkeys would have punctuated the air, over the rhythmic clanking of the steam engine.

A later traveller on the Janus recalled,

It was a big steam engine that rattled all the time… Some damned steam pipes that went through our cabin gave off an everlasting bang, bang, bang!  But you get used to anything if you’re with it long enough and are tired enough

On reaching the Australian coast, the final weeks of the voyage must have dragged, docking at Fremantle then Adelaide then Melbourne before finally arriving in Sydney. At each port Andy probably said a fond farewell to the birds and animals as they were unloaded.

S.S. Janus voyage timeline

Dec 5 1911  Left Calcutta

Dec 14 1911  Left Colombo

Dec 28 1911  Left Fremantle

Dec 30 1911  Passed Breaksea Island (near Albany Western Australia) heading East

Jan 2 1912  Arrived Adelaide. Arrived at the Semaphore anchorage on Tuesday evening and berthed at McLaren Wharf on Wednesday morning

Jan 4 1912  Left Adelaide

Jan 6 1912  Arrived Melbourne

Jan 12 1912  Arrived Sydney

Sources

Schultz, C., 1995. Beyond the Big Run. University of Queensland Press.

Featured image: S.S. Janus photograph by Allan C. Green. State Library of Victoria. H91.108/1923

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