Place of Publication: Shipboard Mary Catherine, out of Sydney en route to California (1851)
Volume and Issue Data: No. 1, May 31, 1851
Size and Format: Unknown
Editor/Publisher: “Some of the women passengers aboard”
Title Changes and Continuation: None
General Description and Notes:
The Flying Fish was published by women passengers aboard the ship Mary Catherine out of Sydney, Australia, en route to the gold fields of California. The only known issue was dated May 31, 1851. The captain of the ship recorded in his log that to pass the time, some of the women passengers began writing a shipboard newspaper and published it on the day of the captain’s 32nd birdthday. He described it as “a little journal of fun and merriment.”
Two things are noteworthy about the Flying Fish. First, it is the only known shipboard paper produced exclusively by women. No doubt other shipboard papers had women contributors and scribes, but this is the only one, according to the sole remain independent documentary evidence from the voyage, founded, edited, and produced exclusively by women at sea.
Second, the fact that the captain consider the publication of the Flying Fish nothing more than something “to pass the time,” suggests that it was primarily a literary and humorous publication. The fact that Australia had been a British penal colony since its first settlements in 1788 may also indicate that the women were less than well educated or well read. The passengers on board the ship who were seeking their fortunes in California gold likely included former convicts, men and women. In such a context, the women’s journalistic and literary skills were probably not of a high caliber.
Bibliography: Captain Henry Thomas Fox, Log of Mary Catherine, in possession of Mrs. F.G. Marginson, Hamilton, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, cited in Charles Bateson, Gold Fleet for California: Forty Niners from Australia and New Zealand (Auckland: Minerva Ltd., 1963), pp. 47, 136, 138; Roy Atwood, “Shipboard News: Nineteenth Century Handwritten Periodicals at Sea,” Paper Presentation to the History Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Annual Convention, Chicago, IL, 1997.
Locations: None located