Notice of the death of Robert Maughan in the form of a letter was published in the Toronto newspaper the Globe on May 22, 1854. Robert Maughan of Toronto at that time, was Captain of the steamer La Perlita (spanish for perlite, a form of obsidian characterized by spherlulites formed by cracking of the volcanic glass during cooling, used as insulation) which was last seen on September 2, 1853 and thereafter deemed lost with all hands in the Straits of Magellan. The ship, being 140 tons, was owned by the Pacific Steam Navigation Co. of Liverpool England and built for the S. A. coastal service. The ship was on a delivery voyage.
From the Globe:
PACIFIC STEAMSHIP 'LA PERLITA'
The La Perlita, one of the Pacific Steam Navigation Company's Vessels which sailed from Rio Janeiro about the end of August last, for Valparaiso, and Panama, is supposed to have foundered in the Straits of Magellan, where she was last seen, on the 2nd of September 1853. She was commanded by Captain Robert Maughan, eldest son of Mr. Maughan, Commissariat Department, Toronto. The following extract from a letter received by Mr. Maughan, from the Secretary of the Pacific Steam Navigation Company of Liverpool, is published for the information of his numerour friends in Canada:
Liverpool, 28th April, 1854
Dear Sir - your letter of the 3rd instant has come to hand, and, inreply, I am extremely sorry to say, that in consequence of the length of time which has elapsed since the steamer La Perlita, of which your son, Capatain Robert Maughan was commander, was spoken with in the Straits of Magellan, and of the unsuccessful search made by the Company's steamer New Granada, which had been sent from Valparaiso to look for the missing vessel, the Directors of the Company are now constrainted to abandon all hope of her safety, as well as that of her crew.
It is indeed a most distressing case; your son was a very promising officer, and I am to espress the sincere sympathy of the Directors and of myself, on the severe loss which you and all his family have sustained by the early and unexpected casualty which (there is every reason to believe) has taken place.
I remain, &c,
William Taggart, Secretary.
Pacific Steam Navigation Company - formed in London in 1838, the company commenced operations on the West Coast of South America in 1840. In 1852 they were granted the British Government Mail contract to the area. In 1877 a joint P.S.N.Co / Orient Line service to Australia was started and lasted until 1905 when P.S.N.Co sold their Australian route interests to Royal Mail S.P.Co. In 1910 P.S.N.Co itself, was taken over by Royal Mail S.P.Co but continued to operate as a separate company within the group, although ships were often transferred between the two companies. In 1931 the Royal Mail group collapsed, but P.S.N.Co was allowed to continue operations under the control of it's creditors until it discharged it's financial obligations. In 1938 Royal Mail (now Royal Mail Lines) again took control of P.S.N.Co but again kept the two organisations separate. Furness Withy took over the Royal Mail / PSNC group in 1965 and ships were frequently switched between different companies within the group. By 1984 the name of Pacific Steam Navigation Co. disappeared into Furness Withy Shipping. Routes:
La Perlita was built in 1853 by Bank Quay Foundry Co. at Warrington with a tonnage of 140grt, a length of 106ft, a beam of 17ft 5in and a service speed of 9 knots. A simple side wheel paddle steamer she was built for the Buenaventura (Colombia - Panama service) but on 17-Jun-1853 she left Liverpool on her delivery voyage under the command of Capt. R. Maughan and disappeared without trace. The journey, via the Straits of Magellan, was over 11,000 miles and an incredible undertaking for a vessel so small.
The Panama was built in 1854 by John Reid and Co. at Glasgow with a tonnage of 270grt, a length of 128ft 6in, a beam of 21ft 2in and a service speed of 9 knots. Iron hulled, she was built as a replacement for the La Perlita but after commencing her maiden voyage from Liverpool in April 1854 she struck a rock and sank near Point Tamar.