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The Ship Thieves
As dusk came down on the evening of 13 January 1834, James Porter and nine other convicts, transported at His Majesty's Pleasure to Van Diemen's Land, captured the newly launched barque the Frederick from their British masters. James Porter had spent the majority of his days since transportation planning how he would escape. Though he had mastered the art of fleeing his captors, he had not ever managed to stay free for long. He hoped he and his fellow ship thieves would fare better on this occasion. Rather than aim for a new life on the harsh islands of Bass Strait or the isolated coasts of New Zealand, the men decided to make their way to Valdivia, on the coast of Chile. Six thousand miles away on the other side of the Pacific, surely they could evade the British and assume new identities as shipwrecked mariners? But the might of the British Empire was not to take the piracy and escape of ten convicts lightly and after surviving the perilous journey (an amazing feat of seamanship) and starting to make a new life in a small town on the edge of the South American continent, James Porter's freedom was cruelly snatched away.Taken back to Britain under chains, Porter shuffled aboard a waiting prison hulk and was again transported to Australia. Eventually, after further attempts to escape, he ended up on Norfolk Island, a place more inhospitable and brutal than any place he had been before. On the island many a convict's spirit was broken but the tenacious attitude of James Porter survived.
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