Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Andrew Sinclair R. N.,

Convict Ship Surgeon-Superintendent

Date of Seniority Royal Navy 23 June 1829

Andrew Sinclair, M.D., was a surgeon in the Royal Navy. He entered the service about the year 1824, and was promoted to surgeon's rank in 1829.

Surgeon Superintendent

Andrew Sinclair was employed as Surgeon Superintendent on two convict ship voyages to Australia:

Asia to VDL in 1841

Asiatic to VDL in 1843.

Early Career

Andrew Sinclair was appointed surgeon to H.M.S. Sulphur on 26 September 1835. H.M.S. Sulphur, barque, was a surveying vessel built at Chatham in 1826, 375 tons. He was appointed to the surveying expedition to the Pacific coasts of North and South America, under the command, first, of Captain Beechey, and afterwards of Sir Edward Belcher, and has long been known in botanical circles from the collections he then formed, and an account of which has been published, partly in the Supplement to Hooker and Arnott's 'Botany of Beechey's Voyage,' and partly in Bentham's 'Botany of the Voyage of the 'Sulphur.'

Convict Ship Asia 1841 - 1842

In 1842 he was employed as surgeon of a convict-ship, and visited several Australian ports, collecting diligently everywhere.

New Zealand

From Australia he went to New Zealand for the purpose of spending some weeks with the Antarctic Expedition, in which his friend Dr. Hooker was then doing the duty of Naturalist. During a second voyage to Australia in the same capacity, he met with Captain (now Admiral) Fitzroy, who was on his way to New Zealand as Governor, and who took Dr. Sinclair on with him as his private secretary. Not long after his arrival he succeeded to the post of Colonial Secretary, which he retained during the governments of Captain Fitzroy, Sir George Grey, and Colonel Brown.

Botanical Collections

During all this period his delight was in botany, to which his leisure was almost entirely devoted, although he still found time also to make considerable and valuable collections, more especially of Sponges and Zoophytes.

On the establishment of parliamentary government in New Zealand, Dr. Sinclair visited England, and soon after received a pension from the colony. But being still bent on the exploration of his favourite island, and being especially desirous to collect materials from the Middle and Southern Islands for a Supplement to Dr. Hooker's ' Flora,' he returned in 1859. After several months sojourn in Auckland and in Nelson, he latterly repaired to Canterbury and made arrangements with Mr. Haast for visiting Mount Cook, the intention of crossing the glacier-bound central range to the west coast - an arduous journey for a man at his age, but one of the most interesting, geographically, geologically, and botanically, that could be undertaken in New Zealand. From this he was destined never to return.


The intelligence of his death was first received from his companion Dr. Haast, the geologist to the party, and afterwards, in more detail, from his old and attached friend and fellow-botanist, C. Knight, Esq., of Auckland. He was drowned in an imprudent attempt to cross the swollen Rangitata River on foot, at a ford where the stream is divided by an island. Dr. Sinclair appears to have crossed with his horse to the island; but the animal having there escaped from him, he proceeded on foot into the second branch, when, the current proving too strong, he was carried down ; and the body was discovered, some time afterwards, lying on a spit of sand. Thus was lost a valuable friend to science and a most amiable and excellent man.

He was remarkable for shrewdness of character, ardent love of knowledge, readiness in communicating it, and as an assiduous collector of plants and animals. He made no pretensions to a knowledge of scientific subjects, though he read largely and often observed well. Of ancient and modern history and belles lettres he was extremely fond, and on these subjects his stores of information were both varied and great. He had a keen relish for society, great love of music and art, and was a most engaging companion in the bush or at sea, and to old or young in the drawing room or school-room.

He was never married; but many will mourn his loss, as that of a most judicious, disinterested, and warm-hearted friend; and his name will ever be prominent as one of the pioneers of botanical discovery on the Pacific coasts of America and in New Zealand, and as the active promoter of all branches of science in that colony. - Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, Volumes 6-7 By Linnean Society of London

Notes and Links

1). Tasmanian Journal of Natural Science, Agriculture, Statistics etc.

2). Andrew Sinclair was a brother of John Sinclair of Glasgow. The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser 10 Jun 1893

3). Sydney Mail 25 Feb 1925 Page 21 An Old Colonist : Lady Hay

4). Portrait of Andrew Sinclair - Encyclopedia of New Zealand

[5] Haultain, C. (compiled), The New Navy List, 1840, p. 220