- Wilson, Graham, Warrant Officer Class Two, Australian Intelligence Corps
- History - general, Ship histories and stories
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- December 1997 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Calliope left the Australia Station at the end of 1889 returning to English waters. She remained on the strength of the Royal Navy for another twenty years, being finally sold out of the service in 1909 or 1910. Her steering wheel was presented to the government of Western Samoa in 1953 but now resides in a museum in New Zealand.
The fate of Samoa and its eventual history under the various rulerships of Germany, America, Britain and New Zealand is beyond the scope of this article. The aim of the article was to recount the story of O le Afa, the great hurricane of 1889 and to particularly detail the skill and gallantry of the captain and crew of Calliope, a ship firmly connected with the early naval development of Australia.
The hurricane itself was a tremendous disaster. Four warships were totally lost while 144 of their crewmen died. The death of the Samoan Tui brought this to 145 while two merchant seamen were also killed, bringing the grand total to 147. On the other hand, the hurricane did succeed, at least for a time, in defusing an extremely tense diplomatic and military situation, one which according to some commentators could actually have led to war. Had the colonial powers not been so concerned with squabbling over an `unclaimed’ portion of the South Pacific, it is probable that the warships would not have been in the harbour at Apia on that fateful day. Of all the players in the drama, the only ones to come out of it with any credit were Calliope and her crew and, most especially, the Samoans who cast aside their enmity and anger to go to the rescue of their enemies in their hour of distress. In the end though, as Robert Louis Stevenson wrote, ‘not the whole Samoan Archipelago was worth the loss in men and costly ships.’
Bach, John, 1986, The Australian Station A History of the Royal Navy in the South West Pacific 1821-1913, New South Wales University Press, Sydney.
Field, Michael J., 1991, MAU Samoa’s Struggle for Freedom, Polynesian Press, Auckland.
Markham, Sir Clements and Mahan, Captain A.T., USN, 1903, The Royal Navy A History From the Earliest Times to the Death of Queen Victoria Vol. VII, Sampson Low, Marston & Company, London.
Meleisa, Malama, 1987, The Making of Modern Samoa Traditional Authority and Colonial Administration in the History of Western Samoa, University of the South Pacific, Suva.