Opium clipper Red Rover on river Hooghly, Calcutta, c1830s


হুগলি নদীতে আফিংবাহী রেড রোভার  জাহাজ, কলকাতা, আনুমানিক ১৮৩০ দশক
Opium was grown in large quantities in Bengal. East India Company had been granted the monopoly in trading the drug in 1773, and the right to grow it in 1793. They were looking for something that the Chinese would accept instead of silver, to pay for the goods they bought at Canton. Opium was a valued medicine which could deaden pain, assist sleep and reduce stress. But it was also seriously addictive and millions Chinese became dependent on the drug. By 1839, illegal opium sales to China were massive. In 1842, the Opium War came to an end after the signing of the Treaty of Nanking giving England control of Hong Kong. From this base of operations, opium smuggling grew with each passing year using these sleek opium clippers. Red Rover was the first British opium clippers. Built in Calcutta in 1829, Red Rover was a rakish bark of 254 tons, 97 feet long, 24 feet wide. The voyages of this vessel were quite astonishing and unparalleled, and “until now considered incompatible from repeated failures of the finest men-of-war to make passage up the China sea against the monsoon”. This clipper proved to be fast, making a noteworthy passage from China to Bengal in 1834 in only 23 days, 19 hours. The vessel was skippered by Captain William Clifton, a pioneer of the British Opium Traders, and finally lost in sea in early 1870s. See and also
The above oil painting shows the ship Streatham of the Honourable East India Company, with the opium clipper Red Rover at anchor in the Hooghly River, Calcutta. The buildings of Calcutta dominate the skyline in the background. Two thirds of the painting is sky which emphasise the vast scale of India. The artist of the oil painted in British style remains unknown. The date of the work is presumably 1830s.

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