The  Success is arguably the most famous sailing ship in history. During an extraordinary 106 years afloat she served as a merchant ship, emigrant ship, prison or penal hulk, boy’s reformatory, women’s prison, and defense store before touring the world on exhibition. When she was falsely advertised as a “convict ship” the Australian government tried unsuccessfully to have her stopped. Convict Ship Success, Prison Ship Success, Prison Hulk Success, Penal Hulk Success, Exhibition Ship Success, Floating Hell, World’s Most Hated Ship, Wax Figures, teak, teakwood, Moulmein, Burma, show ship, oldest ship afloat, Houdini, D.H. Smith, Joseph C. Harvie, E.W. Nottingham, Frederick Mangles, Cockerell & Co., Phillipps & Tiplady, emigrant ship, immigrant ship, Swan River, ship wreck, Lake Erie, Port Clinton, Sandusky

The Sailing Ship Success


Common myths of the Ship ‘Success’

Left: Crew photo circa. 1922. Although he often wore a British naval uniform, D.H. Smith, pictured far right, was no sea captain.

Here are some of the more common myths about the Success and the true facts.

Myth: The ‘Success,’ having been built in 1790, was the oldest ship afloat.

Fact: The ‘Success’ was launched in 1840. She was not the oldest ship afloat.

Myth: The ‘Success’ was a ‘convict ship,’ having transported convicts from England to Australia.

Fact: ‘Success’ was never a convict ship in the accepted sense of the term. She served as a floating prison, or penal hulk, from 1853 to 1858, and then was a prison for women and naval deserters, and later a boy’s reformatory, but she never transported convicts.

Myth: The hulks were ordered to be broken up but due to a ‘clerical error’ the Success escaped this fate.

Fact: There is no evidence whatsoever for this claim. Some of the hulks were broken up in 1885 because they were no longer of any use but the government still found the Success useful. She was finally sold at auction in 1890 and was placed on exhibition.

Myth: The ‘Success’ was sunk at Sydney, Australia and remained submerged for five years.

Fact: The ‘Success’ sank in Kerosene Bay, Sydney, in 1892 and was submerged for about 6 months. She was grounded or stranded on numerous other occasions and was partially submerged at a dock in Sandusky, Ohio, for almost two and a half years.

Myth: Captain D.H. Smith sailed the ‘Success’ across the Atlantic to Boston.

Fact: Smith was a professional salesman, not a sea captain. The Success was sailed across the Atlantic by John Scott, a Canadian.

Myth: The ‘Success’ left England on the same day as the ill-fated liner RMS ‘Titanic.’

Fact: ‘Success’ departed Glasson Dock, near Lancaster, on the afternoon April 15, 1912. ‘Titanic’ left Southampton on April 10. She struck an iceberg shortly before midnight on April 14 and sank sometime in the early morning hours of April 15, before the ‘Success’ left port.

Myth: The ‘Success’ was used as a training ship by the Coast Guard. (This one has been floating around for a long time.)

Fact: Not true.

Myth: Due to shipping shortages during WWI, the ‘Success’ was pressed into service as a merchant ship.

Fact: This is false.

Myth: The ‘Success’ caught fire and sank.

Fact: The ship was intentionally run aground and burned to the waterline almost a year later.

Myth: The ship was accidentally set on fire and destroyed.

Fact: The fire was set by an arsonist, probably someone in the local community. This person has never officially come forward.