Niger/Basilisk trials



In order still further to test the comparative value of the screw, one paddle-wheel vessel, the

, was ordered to be built on the same lines as the Niger, and to be fitted with engines

of the same power. The result of the trials recently made between these two vessels may be

shortly stated. In fine weather, when equal engine-power was exerted, there was little

difference of speed, and when sail could be used, the advantage was in favour of the screw.

There was no opportunity of trying the vessel's head to wind in heavy weather, an important

point which hitherto remains undecided by actual experiment.

The expenditure of coal was much greater in the Niger than in the Basilisk, but this

disadvantage arose from the construction of the boilers and engines, and not from the

difference between the propelling instruments.


On naval warfare with steam ..., Sir Howard Douglas, 1860

In two trials made in the Channel, in 1849, between the 'Basilisk' paddle-ship and

the 'Niger' screw-steamer (on board of which at the time was the author's son, now

Capt. Douglas, R.N.) both vessels under steam and sail, the wind being abeam

during one trial, and aft during the other, the 'Basilisk' gained over the 'Niger' in the

first case, 1796 fathoms, and in the second 3360 fathoms. The next day, both ships

being under sail only, and on a wind, the 'Niger' gained over the 'Basilisk' in one trial

5756.6 fathoms, and in the other 5258 fathoms.

On another occasion the two ships were set to tow one another ahead, when, in

two trials, the 'Basilisk' (paddle) had the advantage; the rates of towing and the

consumption of fuel being as follow:--

The ships were subsequently made to act against one another stern to stern; and

in this operation the power of the 'Niger' (screw) was found to be the greatest:

this vessel drew the 'Basilisk' at the rate of 1.466 knots per hour, while the 'Basilisk'

drew her at the rate of 1 knot only per hour.

In these trials the 'Niger' laboured under many disadvantages; her furnaces and

boilers were defective, and the valves were frequently out of order. Her

consumption of fuel was so great that she could not steam so far as the 'Basilisk'

in the same time.* It is stated that, whenever the 'Niger' could get the steam,

she always beat the 'Basilisk'.

*Her consumption of fuel was about 62 tons while that of the 'Basilisk' was only about 24 tons

in 24 hours.


A Dictionary of Science, Literature, & Art:

 By William Thomas Brande


A very detailed account of the trials between paddle and screw propulsion can be

found in Chapter IV of
A treatise on the screw propeller: with various suggestions

of improvement
, John Bourne, 1852.

A history of naval architecture, John Fincham, 1851

pages 361-2