Index | Ship History | Scherzer Diary | Expedition Narrative | Sydney | Selleny | Bibliography | Novara Expedition
Hochstetter I | Blanche Mitchell Diary | Minnie Mann Diary | Hochstetter II | FitzRoy Dock | Scherzer in Sydney
Frauenfeld Diary | Incident at Sikyana | Sydney Chronology | Appendicies
| Lissa 1866 | Ferdinand Maximillian

The Austrian Imperial Frigate SMS Novara


A History of "the most magnificent vessel"

Compiled byMichael Organ

10 April 2007

The Austrian frigate Novara docked in Sydney Harbour, November 1858. Original photograph, published in L. Lind (1988). Picture most likely taken by local photographer and fellow Austrian Wilhelm Hetzer.

Table of Contents


Construction in Venice 1843-51

Ship of the Line 1851-7

Round-the-world Scientific Expedition 1857-9

Steam Cruiser 1861-5

The Battle of Lissa 1866

Death of Ferdinand Maximillian 1867

Final Years 1868-99



"...the most magnificent vessel..." - thus wrote 16 year old Australian Mary Caroline "Minnie" Mann in her diary on 16 November 1858 in reference to the Austrian Imperial frigate Novara, then in port at Sydney. The sentiment most like arose out of a guided tour of the vessel given Minnie earlier in the day by the ship's captain, Baron Frederick von Pöck. At the time the Novara was engaged in a round-the-world scientific expedition which was to last from April 1857 through to August 1859. A brief stopover in Sydney during November - December 1858 provided an opportunity for repairs to the ship, rest and recreation on the part of the crew, and some socialising with the young ladies of the Colony.

Miss Mann,despite her youth, was well qualified to make an assessment or otherwise of the magnificence of the Novara. She lived on the harbour foreshore, and was the daughter of Gother Kerr Mann, engineer-in-chief of Sydney's Cockatoo Island dockyard. Prior to her personal tour of the Austrian frigate that November morning, she had acquired a deal of knowledge about the structural and other details of contemporary warships, being privileged to view them at close proximity as they underwent repairs in the recently opened (1857) FitzRoy Dock on Sydney Harbour. She had also participated in guided tours of the English frigates then operating out of the Australia station. The Austrian Novara was forced to avail itself of dockyard facilities whilst in Sydney due to having sustained damage in a South China Sea typhoon encountered on 18-19 August en route to Australia out of Shanghai. As the frigate entered Port Jackson the pumps were working hard and it was said the vessel had a decided list.

Frontispiece to the German edition (Scherzer, 1861-3) of the three volume account of the Round-the-world voyage of the Novara between 1857-59, showing the vessel under full sail. The various localities visited during the expedition are listed within the ornate surrounds.

From her residence 'Greenwich House', located on the northern shore of Sydney Harbour overlooking Cockatoo Island, "Minnie" Mann was in a position to observe many of the grand passenger and trading vessels and men-o'-war which visited the Colony's premier port during the 1850s. Sea traffic had increased markedly over the previous decade due to the discovery of gold in New South Wales and Victoria in 1851. The resultant goldrushes brought thousands of fortune hunters to Sydney from all corners of the globe, and whilst the Novara was not seeking fortune in 1858, she and her crew were nevertheless in search of those equally valuable commodities - knowledge, experience and reputation.

This Austrian frigate was also undoubtedly one of the finest of her class to have passed through Sydney Heads and tied up off Cockatoo Island since the English penal colony of 'Botany Bay' had been founded back in 1788. During November 1858 the Novara, though somewhat bruised and battered, stood out among the rag-tag fleet of British naval vessels, immigrant and cargo ships, and small coastal trading barques and steamers then frequenting the many coves and docks in this most picturesque of all harbours. She was the seagoing embodiment of the Habsburg monarchy, rulers of the vast Austro-Hungarian empire which, at the time, extended from the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea and Venice and Italy in the west, south through Bosnia-Herzegovena towards the Baltic and Turkey, north to the German States, and east as far as Rumania and Russia.

The circumstances which marked the Novara as the first Austrian man-o'-war to visit New South Wales, and the largest vessel to have entered FitzRoy Dock up to that point in time, can be traced back to the occupied Italian territory of Venice in 1843, when the Austrian monarchy ordered a new vessel for its small, though ever-expanding, navy. Built during what was to be the last phase of the wooden warships era - during the late 1850s and early 1860s ironclad and steam-powered warships would taken their place - the Novara was, upon completion in 1851, a state of the art, three-masted sailing frigate. Fast and sumptuously fitted out with fine carpets and furnishings to serve the officers and crew of the Austrian navy, she also carried substantial armaments for protection against enemy fleets. The need for such firepower was real, as the Novara went on to participate in one of the most famous sea battle of all time, namely that which took place between the Austrian and Italian fleets off the Adriatic island of Lissa on 20 July 1866 (see below).

The Novara was built using the finest Adriatic timbers, and was meant to accommodate the various Habsburg princes, barons, dukes and counts who would sail on her as cadets, fully fledged naval officers, or free passengers. During the 1850s and 1860s she played an important role as a flagship of the Austrian fleet, carrying the Austrian ensign and the aspirations of the Habsburg monarchy to all corners of the globe, whilst in waters closer to home serving as a sail training vessel, gunnery ship, and close fighting frigate.

The Novara was something of an oddity to the colonials when she arrived in Sydney late on the afternoon of 5 November 1858. This magnificent vessel was sailing under a flag rarely seen in Australia - composed of bold horizontal red-white-red stripes, it featured at its centre the Austrian crest of a double-headed eagle. Whilst this was the official flag of the Austrian Empire, the official ensign of the Austrian navy was similarly red-white-red barred, though with ducal crown and seal at its centre.

The British colonists would have been largely unaware that the Austrian Empire possessed a naval fleet, and that SMS (Seiner Majestät Schiff) Novara was one of the flagships of the Austrian Kaiserliche und Königliche Kriegsmarine (Imperial and Royal Navy). At the time Austria was not recognised as a sea power in the same way as Great Britain or France, both of whom had long and proud naval traditions. The Austrian monarchy had only started to develop a navy in earnest during the late eighteenth century, however by the 1850s the Habsburgs possessed the strongest fleet of the German Confederation of States.

This period of expansion during the early to middle part of the century was largely due to the enthusiastic support of two Habsburg aristocrats. Firstly, the young Archduke Frederick who, in 1837 - when aged just 16 - joined the navy and subsequently made it fashionable for other members of the aristocracy to do likewise.

As a sailor, Archduke Frederick was involved in successful actions at Syria and Palestine during 1839, and in 1844 was made Commander-in-Chief of the navy. During this period he was able to engender an enthusiasm for the development of the fleet amongst a ruling bureauracy which had long focussed its attention on the build-up of the Austrian army. This group was slow to answer Frederick's calls for a modernisation and expansion of the fleet. Nevertheless, in 1843 an order was placed with the shipwrights at the Venetian Arsenal (a large shipbuilding complex) for the construction of a new fighting frigate to service the Austrian navy. It was unfortunate that Archduke Frederick was not around to see that vessel launch as the Novara in 1851. He died prematurely in 1847, when aged just 26, and left the navy without leadership or influence during a period when revolution was sweeping Europe. His eventual replacement was to be Archduke Ferdinand Maximillian (1832-67), younger brother of the Emperor Franz Joseph I (1830-1916). Though a person of power and influence in aristocratic Austria, Ferdinand Maximillian, in his attempts to build up the fleet during the 1850s, also faced opposition from a cash-strapped bureaucracy and sections of the Empire - including Hungary - which saw no need for a substantial naval presence. With a landlocked capital (Vienna), and forced to rely on Adriatic coastal ports containing populations or ethnic minorities actively opposed to Austrian 'occupation', the idea of a navy for the Empire was not widely supported, unlike the circumstance in countries such as Great Britain or even the United States of America, where the practical considerations of securing sea-going trade routes and maintaining a naval fleet were inextricably linked to the welfare of the nation. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the volatile political climate of the day and Austria's involvement in a number of wars with her near neighbors, added weight to Archduke Ferdinand's (and later Maximillian's) efforts to build up a modern, battle-ready fleet.

As we look back on this period of nineteenth century history from a vantage point some 150 years later, we now see Austria as a landlocked state, having lost its long-held Adriatic seaports of Trieste and Pola. The Austro-Hungarian navy is likewise just a memory. Its once proud fleet - which in 1914 was the world's sixth largest - last saw action during World War I. Following on the defeat of November 1918, its vessels were dispersed to the victors as war reparations, or ignominiously scrapped. The tale of the sailing frigate Novara therefore takes us back to a grander period in the history of the Habsburg monarchy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire - to a time when her splendour, both on land and at sea, rivaled that of the other great powers of the day; to a time now all but forgotten.

Construction of the Novara, Venice 1843-51

The story of the construction of the Novara is one of incident and interruption, tied in with the political turmoil of the time and the push for Italian unification. The frigate was first laid down at the Arsenal shipyard, Venice, as the Minerva on 20 September 1843, with her sides pierced to accommodate 42 guns. At this point the Austrian Empire did not have its own naval yards, but instead made use of the long tradition of shipbuilding in Venice and the skills of the Italian shipwrights. This was to change in the late 1850s when a local industry was created, and ships for the Austrian navy were subsequently launched from yards such as the Stabilimento Tecnico Triestino in Trieste (a private yard founded in 1857), and the nearby Pola naval yard. Both facilities were located on the eastern Adriatic coast, somewhat removed from the increasingly hostile Italians.

Vertical section of the Austrian frigate Novara at the time of her round-the-world voyage, 1857-59. Extratced from Scherzer (1861-3).

The building program of the Minerva / Novara was an unusually lengthy one, brought about by the Empire's continuing conflict with Italy and its various semi-independent states, most notably Sardinia in the south and Venetia in the north. Austria had acquired the Venetian territory in 1797; lost it briefly to Napoleon the following decade; then regained it again in 1814. Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo in 1815 resulted in a lengthy period of relative peace, however in 1848 revolutionary fervour again spread throughout Europe, impacting upon both Austria and its Italian neighbour. The period of construction of the Novara (1843-51) corresponded with a developing sense of Italian nationalism amongst the disparate states and principalities then extending from the Alps south to Sicily. Austria, as aristocratic overlord and oppressor, was an obvious target for Italian patriots as they fought to unite the peninsula. Venetia was a focus for their efforts, and events there a trigger.

After some fifty years as an occupied territory, on 17 March 1848 Venice rose up against Austrian rule, as did Milan to the west later in the month. The Venetians expelled the Austrians and, in a bid for Italian independence, set up a republic. Three Austrian corvettes, many smaller naval vessels, along with the associated shipbuilding yards, arsenal, and stores all fell into rebel hands. The resultant disruption to the Novara building program was one of a number which took place between 1843-50.

Partially completed, the Minerva was renamed Italia by the Venetian revolutionaries, reinforcing their rebellious attitude towards the Austrians and in direct defiance of orders forbidding the use of the word. Up until this fracture, the Austrian navy had a strong Italian character, however following the events of 1848 it was to become more multicultural, with the Austrians forced to draw sailors from other parts of the Empire, especially eastern Adriatic coastal provinces such as Montenegro and Dalmatia.

Early in 1848 the momentum was definitely with the rebels. During April and May the Austrian army suffered a series of defeats at the hands of the Italians at Goito and Pastrengo. It was not until July-August that the Empire was able to mobilise its forces under the command of Field Marshall Joseph Radetzky and retake Milan and parts of Venetia from the Sardinians. An armistice (truce) was signed on 9 August 1848, and the Sardinians were expelled from Venice on the 11th, though the city continued to maintain her independence from Austria. The armistice ended on 12 March 1849 and on the 23rd Radetzky's army was victorious over King Charles Albert of Piedmont (Monarchy of Sardinia) at the battle of Novara, in the northwestern part of Italy. Despite this, Venetia continued to hold out. A siege of Venice began on 20 July, though it only lasted until the 28th, when the ancient city submitted to Austria, due in no small part to local starvation, the outbreak of disease, and Austrian naval bombardment. The Peace of Milan was signed shortly thereafter on 2 August 1849, thus ending the war between Sardinia and Austria.

Following the Austrians' retaking of Venice, Field Marshall Radetzky visited the shipyard there and officers petitioned him to have the nearly-completed Italia renamed in honour of his victory over King Charles Albert. The ship was subsequently christened Novara and work restarted in earnest under Austrian supervision. Her hull was finally ready to leave the slipway by November of the following year (1850).

Events back home were also to have an effect upon the future career of the yet to be completed frigate. 1848 - 'the year of revolution' - was a tumultuous time for Austria and her European neighbours. Revolutions in Vienna during that year saw the ousting of Emperor Ferdinand I, followed by the temporary installation of responsible government, the abolition of serfdom, and the introduction of an Austrian constitution. Despite this initial promise of change, the revolution was short-lived. The end of 1848 saw a return to the old ways, with the abdication of Ferdinand I in favour of his 18 year old nephew Franz Joseph I. Following installation as Emperor - a position he held until his death in 1916 - Franz Joseph immediately appointed the Dane Rear Admiral Hans Birch von Dahlerup to the position of Commander in Chief of the Austrian navy. With the Emperor's support, von Dahlerup spent the next two and a half years reorganising the fleet along the lines of the British navy, setting it in good stead for the years ahead. He put the fleet into action as part of the Venetion blockade early in 1849, and restarted the construction program which had stalled during 1848. After his resignation in 1851 - brought about by lack of support from the ruling aristocracy and political bureauracy who sought to replace the Dane with an Austrian - von Dahlerup was replaced two years later by Archduke Ferdinand Maximillian, who went on to serve as Commander-in-Chief from 1854 through to 1862.

Ship of the Line 1851-7

Having survived revolution and some seven years on the stocks, the Novara was officially launched from the Venetian slipway on 4 November 1850. At the time she was rated a three-masted sailing frigate, 42 guns, length 165 feet, weight / displacement 2107 Austrian tonnes (2630 English tons), and able to accommodate a complement of 403. The superficial area of the principal sails amounted to 18,291 square feet. The precise dimensions of the vessel would change during her lifetime, especially following a major rebuild in 1861-2 to facilitate the installation of a steam engine. However, at the time of the vessel's 1857 refit in preparation for a round-the-world scientific expedition, wherein no major changes to the original dimensions were made, she was described as follows:

Length between perpendiculars - 165 ft 5 1/2 inches
Length of water line - 156 ft 5 inches
Greatest breadth - 44 ft 11 1/2 inches
Greatest breadth on water line - 43 ft 2 inches
Depth of hold - 19 ft 3/4 inches
Draught of water aft - 18 ft 9 inches
Draught of water fore - 17 ft 2/3 inches

The home port of the Novara was nominally Trieste, though she would be serviced from the Venetian Arsenal and later the Pola naval yards. A notable feature of the vessel was the Venetian gondola which served as one of her auxiliary boats, and was perhaps included as a tribute to her builders. The gondola traveled with the Novara during her round-the-world voyage between 1857-9. A young Australian girl - "Minnie" Mann - was to record in her diary during November 1858 the thrill of cruising Sydney Harbour aboard this exotic gondola, manned as it was by sailors from the frigate. This was undoubtedly the first such Venetian craft to have visited Port Jackson since it was first colonised in 1788.

The 'Novara' Room, Miramar Castle, Trieste. Built for Archduke Ferdinand Maximillian as a reminder of his years as a naval cadet aboard the Austrian frigate.

Though the Novara had left the slipway in November 1850, fitting out was not completed until June of 1851. Undertaking her first shakedown cruises on the Mediterranean, she proved a speedy vessel, and by 1857 was noted as the fastest of the fleet. During her first year in service, the 19 year old Archduke Ferdinand Maximillian saw time on board as a fledgling naval officer. He was to develop such a fondness for the vessel during this period that when he built his residence Miramar Castle on a bluff overlooking the Adriatic Sea near Trieste, he included within it a study room which resembled his quarters on board ship in precise detail. Daylight entered the room through a round scuttle in the ceiling, like that on the Novara's own deck. The room also featured richly carved wooden beams, centrally located to imitate the cramped and crowded condition of the rooms on board the Novara which, during the course of a normal cruise, would be called on to accommodate anywhere from 400-500 sailors.

Upon her initial period of service, the Novara acted as a sail-training vessel and ship of the line. European powers such as Britain and France used their naval cruisers as station ships to protect colonial possessions (e.g. the British frigates HMS Herald and HMS Iris were both serving at the Sydney station during 1858 at the time of the Novara visit). The Habsburgs had no such colonial aspirations and, as a result, the duties of the Austrian fleet were relatively limited to sail training, patrol duties upon the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas, fighting, or putting up in port in order to save expense and extend the naval budget. Due to a large amount of indifference on the part of the Habsburg bureaucracy, this latter activity occupied many vessels of the fleet for an inordinate period of time, resulting in an unacceptable state of preparedness when called on to defend the Empire in battle. Archduke Maximillian fought to overcome this, and was somewhat successful in his efforts. For example, a report in the London Times of 2 September 1852 noted that some 2400 workmen were then employed in the Venice Arsenal 'building new ships' for the Austrian navy, or 'rendering old ones fit for war service.'

The opportunity to show off her naval prowess came early in 1853 when a conflict broke out between Austria and Turkey over the latter's despatch of troops into Montenegro. The Novara and a squadron of Austrian naval vessels was despatched to the Montenegran coast to show the flag and ward off further Turkish incursions. No action took place at this time, and the vessels eventually returned to port and extended duties of a less exciting nature.

A Round-the-World Scientific Expedition 1857-9

Circumstances were to change for the Novara, however, when in 1856 she was selected for duty in connection with a round-the-world scientific expedition to be sponsored by Ferdinand Maximillian and the great German scientist Alexander von Humboldt. Instead of gathering barnacles in port, the frigate would be dispatched on an extended voyage of discovery to the Far East and the Pacific. This was indeed a noble task for any vessel during periods of war or peace, and one which placed the Novara among that distinguished list of ships of exploration which includes Captain James Cook's Endeavour, HMS Beagle with Captain FitzRoy and Charles Darwin on board, the French Astrolabe, America's USS Peacock, and HMS Challenger, to name but a few.

"Te Deum" Mass on board the Novara, 1857, officiated by Father von Marochini. Engraving after original drawing by Joseph Selleny

The idea of an Austrian flag-waving exercise combined with a scientific expedition came at a time of relative security for the Empire, and a lull in fighting on its borders. This followed on the Italian uprising and internal revolutions of 1848-9, and a series of smaller conflicts during the first half of the 1850s. When the Novara was launched from the Venetian stocks in 1850, Austrian and Bavarian troops were in the process of occupying parts of Hanover, and tensions had developed with neighbouring Prussia, the strongest of the Germanic states. However these conflicts were resolved by 1851 when the Novara was commissioned, and there was relative calm for a number of years. During 1853 tensions began to mount - the Montenegro conflict flaired; there was insurrection in Milan; the Kosta affair at Smyrna was a severe embarrasment to Austria and its navy, pointing to the simmering Hungarian indpeendence movement; and there was an assassination attempt carried out on Franz Joseph during that year.

Early in 1854 the Crimean War broke out. Austria tried to stay out of any direct involvement in this conflict, though it was aligned with Great Britain and France, in defense of Turkey against a Russia advance which sought control of the Baltic Sea and hoped to profit from the breakup of the Ottoman Empire. Hostilities continued in the Crimea until February 1856, at which point the allies claimed victory over the Russian incursion.

Following cessation of the war, the Austrian navy and scientific establishment could now proceed undistracted with its plans for a round-the-world scientific expedition, no longer fearful that her naval vessels would be attacked or confiscated by a hostile fleet. How long this state of affairs would last remained unclear, however a window of opportunity opened in 1856 following the closure of the Crimean War.

When Archduke Ferdinand Maximillian received permission from his brother the Emperor Franz Joseph to mount a round-the-world scientific expedition and sail-training exercise, he immediately contacted Alexander von Humboldt, seeking support and guidance. Replying to the request in December 1856, Humboldt was enthusiastic, as were other European scientists such as English geologist Sir Roderick Murchison. All saw the opportunity to build upon the work of previous non-Austrian expeditions in expanding the realms of scientific knowledge and acquiring specimens of natural history from far off lands. It was agreed that Austria should mount an official expedition to not only widen the skills of her most distinguished scientists and allow them to gather items for study and display in local museums, but also to carry the Habsburg banner to all corners of the globe, thereby proclaiming the Empire's existence as a world power. A further task, as noted by the expedition's historiographer Karl Scherzer, was "the practical instruction of our young and rapidly increasing navy."

Commodore Bernhard von Wüllerstorf-Urbair was given general commander of the expedition. Archduke Ferdinand Maximillian selected the Novara to carry out this task, not only because of his personal attachment to the ship, but also due to the practicalities of using sail as opposed to steam on such a long voyage. A sailing frigate offered greater disposable storage area on board, in comparison with the steaming equivalent, which required a large amount of area below decks for coal and machinery. Also necessary on this occasion was room for the scientific contingent, their supplies and equipment, and storage space for the many specimens to be acquired during the course of the expedition. This was on top of the extra sailors and marines who would also be on board. As the vessel was travelling to areas of the globe where it was known that the winds blow freely and supplies of coal could not always be easily obtained, sail won out over steam. The Novara was therefore given the honour of transporting a contingent of scientists, naval officers, diplomats, sailors, marines, and even a musical band on a two-year cruise around the world.

In order to prepare for the voyage ahead, the Novara was laid up at the Pola naval yards for a refit early in 1857. The ventilation of the lower decks was improved and the number of cabins increased in proportion to the number of individuals to be accommodated. The gun room was converted into a reading room and provided with a well-selected library and various charts and maps for use by the officers and scientists as they went about their respective tasks of researching, recording, calculating and drawing. The store rooms for the sail and tackle were enlarged so as to take double the normal quantity. A distilling apparatus was installed on the gun deck, and shower-bath facilities were improved so that the health of the crew could be maintained over a long period. Such precautions proved effective, with no major outbreaks of disease occurring on board during the length of the expedition.

The refit was completed on 15 March 1857, at which point the Novara, accompanied by the corvette Carolina, headed north for Trieste, the expedition's official point of departure. Final farwells took place amid much fanfare and cannon fire on 30 April 1857. Both vessels left Trieste not under sail, but in tow, courtesy of the steamer St. Lucia. They were taken south as far as Sicily and the Straits of Messina, before sails were unfurled and the ships headed west into the Mediterranean, past the Straits of Gibraltar and out into the Atlantic Ocean. The Novara was accompanied as far as Rio de Janiero by the Carolina, and thereafter traveled on alone to Africa, India, China, the Philippines and Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, and various South Pacific islands. Her precise itinerary was as follows:

SMS Novara Itinerary 1857-9


Library and former Gun Room on board the Novara, 1857. Engraving after original drawing by Joseph Selleny.

April 30 - Departs Trieste

MAY 2-=30 Gibraltar 20-30

June 8-17 - Madeira

August 5-31 - Rio de Janeiro

October 2-26 - Cape of Good Hope, South Africa

November 9 - Islands of St Paul and Amsterdam

December 7 - Departs Amsterdam Island, southern Indian Ocean


January 8-16 - Ceylon

January 31 - Madras

February 10 - Leaves Madras

February 23 - Nicobar Islands

March 26 - Departs Nicobar Islands

April 15-21 - Singapore

May 5-29 - Java

June 15-25 - Manila

July 5-18 - Hong Kong

July 25 - Shanghai

August 11 - Leaves Shanghai

Geologist Ferdinand von Hochstetter in his cabin on board the Novara. Engraving after original drawing by Joseph Selleny.

September 17 - Island of Puynipet

October 17 - Sikyana (Stewart) Island

November 5 - Sydney

December 7 - Departs Sydney

December 21 - New Zealand


January 2 - Departs New Zealand

February 2-23 - Tahiti

April 24 - Valparaiso

August 1 - Gibraltar

May 3 - Santiago, Chile

August 26 - Arrives at Trieste

The officer corps for the expedition included:

Commodore Bernhard von Wüllerstorf-Urbair as Commander of the Expedition

Captain Baron Friedrich Pöck, who transferred from the corvette Carolina to the Novara on 2 December 1857

First Lieutenant Bela Gaàl de Gyula

Lieutenants - Moriz Monfroni de Monfort, Count Alexander Keilmannsegge, William Lund, Robert Müller, Ernstest Jacoby, Eugen Kronowetter, Gustavus Battlogg and Antonio Basso (Purser)

Principal Surgeon Dr Franz Seligmann, Assistant Surgeons Dr Karl Kuziczka, Dr Eduard Schwarz and Dr Ave Robert Lallemant

Chaplain - Fr. Eduard von Marochini

Midshipmen - Heirich Fayenz, Joseph Natty, Gustavus von Semsey, Baron Richard Walterskirchen, Louis Meder, Alexander Kalmar, Baron Augustus Scribanek, Count Andreas Borelli, Baron Franz Cordon, Baron Friedrich Haan, Eduard Latzina, Michal de Mariassi, Prince Eugen Wrede, Joseph Berthold

Engineer Wenceslas (Wenzel) Lehmann

The scientific commission comprised geologist Dr Ferdinand Hochstetter, botanists Dr Eduard Schwarz and Anton Jellinek, zoologists Georg Frauenfeld and Johann Zelebor, ethnographer Dr Karl Scherzer and artist Joseph Selleny

Additional crew - 315

The entire compliment, including sailors, marines, gunners, servants, and the ship's band, amounted to 352 individuals. The vessel's itinerary would prove to be a hectic one, with stopovers lasting anywhere from a few days to up to 4-5 weeks, depending upon the needs of the vessel, of its scientific contingent, and any political or diplomatic considerations.

During the course of the expedition the Novara covered some 51,686 miles, and spent 551 days at sea and 298 at anchor or on shore. Some 23,700 individual natural history specimens were collected, comprising: 440 minerals, 300 reptiles, 1500 birds, 1400 amphibians, 1330 fish, 9000 insects, 8900 molluscs and crustaceans, 300 birds' eggs and nests, numerous skeletons, and 550 ethnographic objects, including 100 human skulls.

There was a strict regimen on board ship during the term of the expedition. The vessel's decks and equipment would be cleaned every day and an orderliness and discipline was maintained to assist the officers and sailors in carrying out their duties while the scientific contingent also went about its work. During visits to port, or at anchor off South Sea islands, the scientists would scurry about on shore investigating the local flora, fauna, geology and geography, and collecting all manner of objects. The ship's artist Joseph Selleny busily sketched and recorded all he saw - landscapes, peoples, botanical specimens - his images later being reproduced in the official published accounts of the voyage.

The Novara would take on supplies where needed, or dispatch the numerous items acquired by her scientific contingent upon vessels heading home to Europe, to be deposited in various museums and research institutes. As the cruise was also a flag-waving exercise, the officers and scientists on board were often involved in social functions with local politicians and members of expatriate Austrian and German communities. This tended to lighten the home-sick hearts of those on board, while improving the spirits of German immigrants in faraway countries such as Australia and New Zealand. The vessel itself largely survived the trip unscathed, apart from suffering damage in a typhoon after leaving Shanghai on 11 August 1858. This required her putting into dry dock in Sydney. A contemporary newspaper report noted the following with regards to the work carried out there:

The Austrian Frigate Novara

This fine ship which was received into the Government Dry Dock on the 13th instant, was again floated on the 20th after receiving a thorough overhaul, under the superintendence of Mr. Cuthbert. Her decks and wales have been caulked throughout, her copper repaired, and several new spars supplied; great satisfaction being expressed by her officers at the excellent quality of the timbers obtainable in the colony for this purpose. This is the largest ship of war yet docked in Australia, and the resources and capabilities of this splendid establishment have been fully developed on this occasion. The Novara carries, when fully armed, 44 guns; she was built at Venice about eighteen years since; the timber used in her construction being entirely live and Adriatic oak...(Shipping Gazette and General Sydney Trade List, 29 November 1858)

After leaving Sydney on 7 December 1858, the Novara sailed easterly towards New Zealand, then on to Tahiti and South America. Meanwhile, back home in Europe, hostilities had broken out in April 1859 between old foes Austria and Sardinia (Italy). France joined in and declared herself at war with Austria on 3 May. In June the Austrian army was defeated by the French at Magenta, and shortly thereafter at Solferino by a combined French and Sardinian force. Austria hastily concluded an armistice at Villafranca on 11 July 1859, whereby she gave up some of her Italian territories, though held on to Venice.

The Novara was on the high seas when hostilities broke out, and faced the real possibility of attack or confiscation by French or Italian vessels. Diplomatic efforts were immediately put into place to arrange her free passage through the then hostile waters of the Atlantic and Mediterranean, with all parties agreeing that the vessel's cargo of scientific treasures, and scientists, warranted such protection. The Novara therefore arrived back in her home port of Trieste amid much fanfare on 26 August 1859.

The celebrations were tinged with a sense of relief at her safe return, and made more sombre by the fact of the recent defeats in the war with Italy. This mood was compounded by the precarious nature of the Empire's finances at that time, and the fear of revolution in the Hungarian and Slavic states. Whilst the frigate's work in regard to transporting the scientific expedition was now complete, it was only just beginning for the scientific contingent. They would spend the next 17 years supervising the published findings of the expedition and the dispersal of its various collections to local museums and scientific institutions. The successes of the Novara scientific expedition were unfortunately overshadowed by the political turmoil of the period and the slow breakup of the Austrian Empire. By the turn of the century and with the fall of the Habsburg dynasty during World War I, Austria would come to be remembered best for her musical heritage rather than any scientific endeavours or the feats of her navy during the nineteenth century, though the fleet did occasionally bathe itself in glory.

Steam Cruiser 1861-5

In 1860, with the success of the Novara expedition behind him, Vice-Admiral Ferdinand Maximillian pushed forward with the task of modernising the Austrian navy. His grand plans were as ever limited by financial constraints. Nevertheless, a three-decked wooden battleship the Kaiser (5194t) was commissioned in 1860, even though the future lay in steam propulsion and ironclad warships. During 1861 the Novara was set down for a rebuild as a steam screw frigate at San Rocco's, Trieste. An auxiliary steam engine was added by Stabilimento Tecnico Triestino, and the hull was cut in two to accommodate the addition of several extra hull frames, along with a new bow and stern. This work increased the length of the vessel by some 15 metres, though she did not undergo iron-cladding as was common for the time.

The conversion from sail to steam and sail was completed on 10 July 1862. The new displacement was 2615 tons (2865 tons full load), with an armament of 53 guns. Dimensions were:

Length overall - 252 feet overall
Length between perpendiculars - 221 feet 10 inches
Greatest breadth - 47 feet
Depth of hold - 19 feet

She was powered by a single-shaft 2 cylinder 400hp engine, which gave her a top speed of 12 knots. The compliment was increased to 558.

Following the refit, in October 1862 the Emperor ordered a naval division under the command of Captain Baron von Pöck and comprising the Novara, the corvette Archduke Frederick, and 2 gunboats, to proceed to Greece in order to protect Austrian commerce and citizens there. By the following year (1863) the Novara's armaments comprised: 2 x 24 pounder breech-loading guns; 4 x 60 pounder Paixhans shell guns; 28 x 30 pounder Novara guns; 1 x 12 pounder landing gun; 1 x 6 pounder landing gun.

In April of 1864 the vessel had the important task of carrying Archduke Maximillian and his wife Charlotte to Vera Cruz in the Americas, for their installation as the new Emperor and Empress of Mexico. The Novara arrived in Mexico on 28 May 1864 with its valuable cargo. Approximately one year later it returned to Europe to rejoin an Austrian fleet which had, in the meantime, been uncharacteristically active.

The Novara at Martinique in 1864, with Ferdinand Maximillian and his entourage aboard, en route Santa Cruz, Mexico, where he and his wife were to take on the title of Emperor and Empress of Mexico. Reproduced in Aichelburg (1976, 92).

The years 1860-4 were a period of relative peace for the Austrian Empire. However in February 1864 Austria and Prussia entered into a war with Denmark over the territories of Schleswig and Holstein in northern Germany. Though the dispute was settled within the year, and Austria was granted Holstein, the repercussions would be felt almost immediately as an expansionist and distinctly militaristic Prussia sought to make Schleswig-Holstein part of a greater German nation, under the leadership of Count Otto von Bismark.

Whilst the Novara was engaged in her mission transporting Ferdinand Maximillian to Mexico, on 9 May 1864 the Austrian fleet - with assistance from some Prussian gun boats - was involved in an encounter with the Danish squadron at Heligoland Bight, off the German port of Hamburg. The prize was control of North Sea shipping lanes and trade with Germany. The battle was a notable one - it was the first on the high seas since Trafalgar in 1815, and the last to be fought solely between squadrons of wooden ships. During the encounter, the Austro-Prussian flotilla suffered more damage and casualties than their Danish counterparts - most notably the foremast of the Austrian flagship Furst Felix Schwarzenberg was burnt to a stump. However the Austrians justly claimed the strategic victory as they succeeded in lifting the German blockade. The reputation of the young Austrian commander Post-Captain Wilhelm von Tegetthoff (1827-71), was also made as a result of the encounter. He was immediately promoted to Vice-Admiral by the Emperor.

Though the Novara had departed for Mexico on 14 April 1864, she was not to return to Trieste until May 1865. In the interim, the frigate was stationed off Mexican waters as a precaution should the Mexican situation deteriorate and Ferdinand Max be required to quit the country. It is also possible that the vessel visited the American east coast during this period. After retuning from Mexico, the Novara was laid up at Pola, awaiting new orders. Now entering her third decade since being laid down in Venice during 1843, the ship was rapidly approaching the end of her time as a front-line fighting frigate. Though she had been involved in the build up of the fleet and a round-the-world scientific expedition, her guns had never been fired in anger. This situation, however, was to change rather quickly.

The Battle of Lissa 1866

Having returned to port in May 1865 after an extensive period of activity, the Novara could look forward to a period of rest and refit. Unfortunately this was not to occur at the usual leisurely pace, for two events were to dramatically effect the frigate over the following twelve months - firstly, a fire on board whilst in port, and secondly, the war with Italy. A contemporary engraving of the fire, published in an Italian illustrated newspaper during 1866, perhaps reveals the fire to be worse then it was, for the vessel was repaired in time to take part in the battle of Lissa during July of that year.

The Novara on fire at port during a refit. Contemporary engraving from an Italian illustrated newspaper. 1866.

During April of 1866 Prussia concluded an alliance with Italy against Austria, sweetened with the promise of passing on the Venetian territory if the allies should defeat the Austrian army in battle. Italy subsequently declared war with Austria on 20 June. Things began to move rapidly, and on the 24th Austrian troops defeated the Italians at Custozza. The victory was short-lived, however, as on 3 July the Prussian army defeated the Austrians at the battle of Königgrätz. Facing the enemy on two fronts, the picture looked grim for the Austrian military forces and they were ready to capitulate. However the navy supplied a temporary morale boost when, just over two weeks after the devastating defeat at Königgrätz, it was victorious over the Italian fleet.

The Battle of Lissa, 20 July 1866. View of the triple-deck Austrian battleship Kaiser ramming one of the Italian ironclads.

On 20 July 1866, off the island of Lissa in the eastern Adriatic, the Novara was one of 27 Austrian warships, carrying some 532 guns and commanded by the 38 year old Rear Admiral Wilhelm von Tegetthoff, which defeated the Italian fleet of 37 ships (645 guns) under the command of Admiral Persano. This was the first major naval battle on the high seas since Trafalgar, and the first between squadrons of ironclad vessels. The largely wooden fleet of the Austrians was forced to take on both wooden and ironclad vessels of the Italian navy - a navy which had specifically been built up over the previous 6 years to take on the Austrian fleet. The Novara's commander, Captain Erich von Klint (actually Swedish officer Erik af Klint), was killed by a cannonball during the early stages of the engagement. The London Times newspaper of 26 July reproduced a lively Viennese report of the encounter, as follows:

Vienna, 22 July 1866

"Admiral Tegethoff, the same who on May 12, 1864, had to retire before the brave little squadron of Danes in the action off Heligoland, was on board the armour-plated frigate Archduke Maximillian, lying off the port of Pola, when a signal from a sloop which had been sent out to cruise denoted some movement of importance. There were then under steam only two wooden ships of the line, the Kaiser, three-decker, and a two-decker, and an iron-plated frigate. With this moderate force the Admiral put to sea, and was joined soon after by several armoured gunboats.

When in sight of Zara he received intelligence that the Italian fleet, comprising 23 vessels, most of them iron-plated, were about to attack Lissa. Three other vessels, of which two had belonged to the fleet of the Austrian Lloyd's, but had recently been converted into vessels of war, and an armoured corvette, joined the Admiral's squadron. This force, of which the three-decked Kaiser formed the centre, took up its station at some distance from Lissa, the guns of which town had on the previous evening crippled an Italian armoured frigate.

Upon the squadron coming into sight the firing both on sea and land became appalling. Four Italian armoured vessels, two frigates, and two corvettes bore down under full steam upon the Austrian three-decker. The action became furious, the three-decker, enveloped in smoke, appeared like some monstrous animal standing at bay against a pack of hounds. Her gunners, nearly all Dalmatians, and who were not under fire for the first time, replied to the broadsides of their antagonists by a fire less rapid, but better aimed. The admiral, seeing the danger in which that ship was placed, went to its aid and directed his own vessel at full speed upon one of the large Italian frigates. This frigate, already damaged at the water line, was stove in a little above the deck. A great cry was heard, a loud clamour, an immense gulf seemed to open amid the waves, and then wide spreading circles were seen upon the surface of the water which had again become smooth. The frigate had been swallowed up. Its engulfment was, however, marked by a glorious episode. A half battalion of Bersaglieri, who were on board, climbed up on to the tops, and, while holding on by the ropes, shouldered their rifles as on a parade ground and sent a final volley upon the deck of the Archduke Maximillian. The parting farewell produced terrible effects - 20 killed and 60 wounded falling around the Admiral, who seemed to be invulnerable.

Scarcely had this event been concluded, when a fearful explosion was heard. A shower of iron and wooden fragments, mingled with portions of human bodies, fell upon the decks of the vessels, and an immense wall of water appeared to rise up near the Kaiser. The Austrian Admiral then found that a hollow shot from one of the guns of the three-decker had caused the explosion of a second Italian frigate. Thus, two vessels were destroyed, two crews lost, besides other serious damage to the fleet. On board the Austrian ships the killed were numerous, among them being one of the most distinguished officers of the Austrian marine, the Irishman, Captain Eric O'Klin.

Trieste has been illuminated; Spalatro, Zara, and Ragusa, which have furnished the fleet with many of its combatants, have been decked out with flags. This battle will have a great moral effect, for it is no mystery that in all the towns just mentioned there exists a party which is seeking to promote annexation to Italy."


According to the official Austrian account, the battle had lasted some five hours, after which period the Italian fleet was forced to retire in the direction of Ancona, followed by the Austrian squadron. Those Italian vessels sunk during the action included the flagship ironclad Re d'Italia and the cruiser Palestro. The outcome was reported quite differently in the Italian papers, as the following notice from the same edition of the Times reveals:

Milan, 22 July 1866

"The [Italian] fleet has at last shaken off its immobility. After quitting the waters of Ancona it proceeded towards the island of Lissa, which it bombarded. The Austrian fleet, although inferior in number, offered battle to the Italian squadron. The information already received is very confused, but from dispatches recently arrived, we gather some interesting facts.

It appears that on board the Austrian ships were embarked a number of Tyrolese sharpshooters, whose fire inflicted much damage to the Italians. Two of the Italian vessels are lost, but one the Palestro - although the official account is silent upon the point - was captured by the enemy and blown up by its crew rather than haul down its flag. Besides the two vessels lost, three others were entirely hors de combat.

The action in its results was indecisive, but the retirement of the Austrians gave an appearance of victory to the Italians. One result of the action, however, was to demonstrate the superiority of the French ironplating over that of other countries. The Italian squadron comprised several vessels built and plated in France, not one of which has suffered, notwithstanding the terrible fire of the Austrians. On the contrary, all the vessels constructed in England are in a deplorable condition, and have their armour-plating pierced. The Re d'Italia, which sunk almost at a stroke, was a vessel of very large dimensions, quite new, and entirely constructed in English yards."

The official Italian account stated that, upon siting the Austrian fleet, Admiral Persano put out to meet them, whereupon he "... hoisted his flag on the Affondatore, and bore down upon the Austrian fleet under a heavy fire. The stern of the Austrian Admiral's vessel was destroyed. The fight was very severe. We lost the ironclad Re d'Italia, which the Admiral had left, and which sank from a collision with the enemy at the commencement of the battle. The ironclad gunboat Palestro caught fire, and the commander and crew refused to leave the vessel. She blew up amid their cries of "Long live the king! Long live Italy!" No other vessel was lost or fell into enemy hands. The Admiral renewed the attack upon the Austrian squadron, which retired to Lesina without waiting for our fleet to come up, and the Austrians continuing their retreat the Italian squadron remained mistress of the scene of action. The damages sustained by the enemy are considerable."


The initial Italian reports of the engagement were erroneous, and it was not until three days after the event that the true scale of their defeat was revealed. The Italian fleet was less than five years old, having been specifically built up to face the Austrians. Unfortunately Admiral Persano was not up to the task - he was old, and did not have the support of his officers. He also made decisions during the Lissa campaign - decisions often forced upon him by the government - which led directly to the defeat. For example, prior to the campaign he had all the Italian vessels painted grey. This made it easier for Tegethoff to identify the enemy during the heat of battle, as the grey stood out from the darker Austrian ships. As he late boasted: "It was hard to make out friend from foe, so I just rammed away at anything I saw painted grey."

In actual fact, the Italian fleet had been soundly defeated, in no small part due to the incompetent leadership of Admiral Persano, the ill-preparedness of the Italian vessels and crew, the absence of support from junior officers, and the tactical skill of Admiral Tegetthoff. On the other side, and despite losses of men and extensive damage to the fleet, Lissa was seen as an overwhelming victory for the Austrians. An Italian historian in 1895 spoke of their squadron's 'annihilation' at Lissa. A contemporary commission of inquiry put the blame squarely at the feet of Admiral Persano, though he was merely a scapegoat - an old man who never wanted the job anyway, and who had been forced to take on the Austrian fleet or loose his rank. The Austrian victory did much to secure a sense of camaraderie and allegiance to the Empire amongst the many disparate ethnic groups which made up the sailors of the fleet, right through until the time of World War I. Unfortunately the Austrian navy's glorious victory could not nullify the defeats of her land-based forces at the hands of the Italian and Prussian armies. A week after the sea battle of Lissa, Austria concluded a peace with Prussia and with Italy the following month. By the end of 1866 Schleswig-Holstein had been incorporated into Prussia and Italy had gained the Venetian territory. In 1867 the Habsburg Empire was split into the Empire of Austria and the Kingdom of Hungary, with a subsequent cutback in support for the navy as a result of Hungarian indifference towards the fleet. Unfortunately the navy's glorious victory at Lissa did not translate into a glorious peace.

Death of Ferdinand Maximillian 1867

While the Novara's fighting days were over following Lissa, other duties of import were on the horizon. At a time when the country's morale was at an ebb following on the loss of the war with Italy and Prussia, a further blow which hit hard at the navy came when their staunch supporter and late Commander in Chief, Archduke Ferdinand Maximillian, was executed by firing squad at Queretaro, Mexico, on 19 June 1867. His attempt to impose a European monarchy upon the Mexican people was doomed from the start. It ended most tragically with his execution by firing squad on the order of rebel leader Benito Juarez, and the descent into insanity of his young wife Charlotte. The Archduke's favourite ship theNovara was called on to perform the solemn task of bringing his body back to Austria for a State funeral. With Admiral Tegetthoff travelling on ahead to make the necessary arrangements, the stately frigate sailed to Vera Cruz to retrieve the former cadet and brother of the Emperor.

The Novara (left) at Vera Cruz receiving the body of Emperor Maximillian. The HMS Niger is seen at anchor in the right of picture. Engraving from the Illustrated London News.

Tegetthoff had a great deal of difficulty in retrieving the body from the Mexicans, and its condition upon receipt was far from ideal. Upon returning to Trieste on 16 January 1868, the Archduke's body was transferred to a funeral barge and, amid much ceremony, buried in the Habsburg imperial crypt under Vienna's Capuchin Church.

Thousands of people lined the piers and quays of Trieste as the Novara drew up on the evening of the 15th, followed by other vessels of the squadron. On hand to accompany Maximillian's body through the streets of Trieste was the Novara's former commander and late Austrian Minister for Commerce, Vice-Admiral Baron Wüllerstorf-Urbair.

The reception of the body of Emperor Maximilian from the Novara at Trieste harbour. Engraving from the Illustrated London News.

American Visit 1871

At the time of Ferdinand Maximillian's death the Novara was coming to the end of her period of active service. Modern ironclad and steam-powered vessels were taking her place as front-line fighting frigates. Despite this, in 1868 her armaments were again upgraded, and comprised: 13 x 24 pounder Wahrendorf breech-loading guns, and 32 x 30 pounder muzzle-loading guns.

In 1870-1 the Novara was refitted a final time. She could now accommodate a crew of 447, whilst her new armaments included: 20 x 24 pounder breech-loading guns; 10 x 24 breech-loading guns on deck; 2 x 24 pounder breech-loading guns on pivots; 2 x 3 pounder landing guns. Following the refit, she crossed the Atlantic to visit the American east coast, and was morred in New York harbour when news came through of the premature death of Admiral Tegetthoff on 7 April 1871. A memorial service in his honour was held on board the Novara on 1 May and attended by both naval and diplomatic dignitaries. The New York Times on 26 April published a brief history of the ship and of its present mission - a fitting epitath to a grand old vessel. It reads as follows:

Our Austrian Visitor

Honors to the Frigate Novara - Description and History of the Vessel - Her Officers and Equipment

As stated in the Times yesterday, the Austrian screw-frigate Novara, now lying at anchor off the Battery, arrived at this port on Monday, from Annapolis, and saluted the United States with twenty-one guns. The military authorities, through some misunderstanding, did not return the salute until noon yesterday. During the day a salute of nine guns was fired from the frigate in honor of the visit of the Austrian consul,and at 4 o'clock the flag of Port-Admiral Stringham was saluted, which was duly and promptly returned by the United States corvette Ticonderoga, Commander Oscar C. Badger.

The Times naval reporter visited the Novara yesterday, and was most courteously received by the officers, who furnished him with much interesting information. The Novara was originally a sailing frigate, but when the navy was reorganized she was converted into an auxiliary screw. Under canvas she has a speed of fourteen knots, while under full steam she makes twelve knots. her engines are of 500 horse-power. her battery consists of fifteen breech-loading rifles on the spar deck, and thirty muzzle-loading guns on the gun deck. the rifles are 52 pounders, while the smooth bore guns are 42 pounders. The hull of the vessel is 215 feet in length; 45 feet beam; draft, 20 feet 5 inches aft; 17 feet 9 inches forward. Her tonnage is 2.497 tons Austrian measurement.

The Novara is a fovorite ship in the Austrian navy, having distinguished herself in the famous battle of Lissa. The first shoot fired in this engagement was by the Italians, and that shot proved fatal to the commander of this ship. He was standing on the bridge; the shot struck him fair in the breast, and a brave and noble officer was no more. The identical spot is now marked on the bridge by a brass plate, inscribed as follows:

"Errik of Klint, Lissa, 20 Juli 1866"

To the officers this is a sacred spot, and is to them a constant reminder of the fate of war, and how a nation will preserve the memory of her brave men. The plate is polished bright and will ever be an object of interest to visitors.

The naval student, as well as the general visitor, will find much on board to interest and instruct him - among other things, a mechanical arrangement fro firing an entire or any combination of either battery at a given instant, which is under the control of the commanding officer on the bridge. The fifteen guns which have been previously trained upon an object can, at the proper time, be firedsimultaneously.

The ship possesses no little attractiveness and interest from the fact that it was on her decks that the lamented ex-Emperor Maximillian learned his rudiments of seamanship, and on whose books his illustrious name was for a long time borne. He made a cruize around the world and to the brazils in her, and one of the officers on board at the present time, Baron von Haun, was attached to his personal staff.

The vessel at the time of our visit was in fine order., considering the work going on. Her crew consists of 520 men, speaking no less than seven different languages. The official language is German, and the orders are transmitted in that tongue; still, comparatively few of the crew speak it, therefore the junior officers repeat the order in Dalmatian, Italian, and variations of other tongues. A finer or heartier set of men are seldom seen on a foreign man-of-war in our port. The following is a list of her officers:

Captain Josef Aucruhamer von Auconstein; First Lieutenant Frauz Tichisnatch; Lieutenant-Commanders Baron von Haun, Josef Wostag and Carl Barth; Watch Officers Arthur Muldner,Josef Telchl and Moritz Bachs; Surgeons Franz gregor, Josef Weil and Carl Marouschek; Paymaster Carl Masena; Midshipmen Archduke Ritter von Raunam, Adolf Gotz, Gustav Kork, Julius James Haflner, Josef C. Nemling, Herman Schruber, Euench Gyjerjso von Saint-Szepei Martonos, Max Kubscheva, August Marno Rebler von Eichenhorst, Rucien Zeigler, Carl Frees, Richard Tizzighelli, Richard Basso and Hugo von Balmote; Engineers jacob Furcho, Auben Frey, Carl Rehberger, Henrich Binger and Avdio Celbrecht.

The Novara was named in honor of the battle of Novara, fought and won by Redetsky in 1848. In 1856 she made a voyage around the globe, having on board Prince Maximillian, who was then a lieutenant under instructions. She has a class of active midshipmen, fifteen in number, on board; many of whom are from the noblest families in Austria. The midshipmen are all nominated by the Admirals. None of the officers have ever visited the United States before.

The Novara as a gunnery training ship at Pola circa 1890. Original photograph, reproduced in Aichelburg (1976, 3).

The Novara will remain in port about three weeks, when she will proceed to the eastward, and possibly will call at Boston. New York was visited by an Austrian man-of-war in 1832 and again in 1867, these times being the only ones, we believe, that a naval vessel of that country has been in our waters. Most of the officers speak English very fluently, and are a fine lot of gentlemen. It is understood that a veriety of festivities will takep lace on board the vessel during her stay here.


Gunnery Trainer: Final Days

Following the Novara's return to Pola from America, sail-training duties continued until 22 August 1876 when the vessel became a hulk. In 1881 her engines were removed and she was transformed into a gunnery training ship on 22 June 1881. The Novara saw out her final days in this role, before being stricken on 22 October 1898, and scrapped the following year.

Thus ended the career of a once grand sailing frigate of the Austrian navy. A favourite of the Commander-in-Chief Ferdinand Maximillian, she had been built to the highest standards by Venetian shipwrights, and as such during the 1850s was a seagoing personification of the Habsburg monarchy and Austrian society of the day. The Novara goes down in history as the first German warship to undertake a round-the-world scientific expedition, and for this alone is perhaps remembered before any other vessel of the once proud Austrian navy. Her association with the unfortunate Ferdinand Maximillian is also noteworthy; whilst she played a significant support role in the victory at Lissa in 1866.


Anon., 'The Naval Action of Lissa', The Times, London, Thursday, 26 July 1866.

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----, 'Reception of the Body of the Emperor Maximillian at Trieste', The Illustrated London News, 1 February 1868. [Includes an engraved view of 'Reception of the Body of the Emperor Maximillian from the Austrian Frigate Novara at Trieste']

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Index | Ship History | Scherzer Diary | Expedition Narrative | Sydney | Selleny | Bibliography | Novara Expedition
Hochstetter I | Blanche Mitchell Diary | Minnie Mann Diary | Hochstetter II | FitzRoy Dock | Scherzer in Sydney
Frauenfeld Diary | Incident at Sikyana | Sydney Chronology | Appendicies
| Lissa 1866 | Ferdinand Maximillian

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