The Topaze Log Books of John Warde Osborne

It has been very good to see how much interest and information our earlier inquiry about HMS Topaze and the log books of John Warde Osborne, has produced. Mike Pitts has kindly sent us a message: and Peter Klein has sent us photographs and details of an album.

From Mike Pitts:

The Topaze’s brief visit to Easter Island is of historical interest, partly because any such recorded early trips there are quite rare and help us fill in the island’s unwritten history. But its special interest comes from what they took back to England with them, most notably the large statue that now stands in the British Museum, known as Hoa Hakananai‘a.

A surprisingly large number of lectures, reports, logs and albums were made by members of the Topaze crew about their experiences on Rapa Nui (Easter Island). Many were published at the time, or have been so since. Among things we know of that remain unpublished (by which I mean, peer-reviewed transcriptions in specialist journals), are a journal recording James Harrison’s experiences on seven different ships, one of them HMS Topaze (the original I believe is with descendants in Canada); JL Palmer’s Pacific albums, in the collections of the Royal Geographical Society in London; a logbook and notes kept by C Dundas, in the National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh; the log book of Midshipman John Warde Osborne, which you feature on your website (I’m pretty sure the paintings you illustrate are by Palmer); and a photo album, in poor condition, owned by Peter Klein, apparently a photographic record of a naval career which included a stint on HMS Topaze at the time she visited Rapa Nui. Klein’s album has photos of the Topaze crew, which I reproduced in my Rapa Nui article.

In 2010, Taylors Auction Rooms in Montrose, Scotland, sold what was described, in full, as “Photograph Album, HMS Topaze In The South Pacific 1866–9 including HMS Topaze a 3 masted steam ship Valparaiso, Chile, Lima, Kanakas, Marquesas, Tahiti, Peru, the devastation and shipwrecks after the earthquake of 13th August 1868, Easter Island taking a statue and artefacts & natives of the Marquesas Islands, leather-bound.” It was Lot 1488, and went for £54,000 to an unknown party. Although sold for its photos, the album was illustrated by the local press with an image said to be from the album, that is clearly a painting of HMS Topaze, again by Palmer. On the face of it, a pretty good buy!

Thank you Mike.

MIke Pitts’ article, with photographs and diagrams about HMS Topaze and the Easter Island statues, can be read in the Rapa Nui Journal 43 Vol. 28 (1) May 2014

From Peter Klein:

Peter Klein has kindly sent us two photos of the Topaze crew. He has also given us details of the unique photograph album he possesses:

Powell & Topaze

Junior Officers Topaze

I bought the album many years ago in an auction at Ludlow, the lot including other photographic items, and it may have belonged to a family called either Dawson, or Pudsey Dawson. The book is practically disbound, only the spine survives, and is frankly in a sad state, but it does seem eminently worth investigating, and it is also just of the period that you are interested in. I don’t know that there is much there to “transcribe” exactly, but I have attached my list of the album’s contents so you can see what it holds. I don’t feel much significance can be attached to the order of the images, as they appear not to have been inserted chronologically at the time, and may indeed have been pasted in some years after the owner’s various tours of duty. He does seem to have used the Suez Canal at least twice – 1871 and 1875 – and have been aboard both Thistle (1872/73) and Elk (perhaps about 1875). One of these days I may have the opportunity to check the ships’ musters for Topaze, Thistle and Elk, as I’m sure there will be a name common to all three – but indeed perhaps more than one.

Thank you Peter


c. 1865 – 1875

51 folios, 14¼ by 10¼ inches, no hard covers remaining, but fragments of gilt-tooled red leather spine, and the folios are gilt edged. All the photographs are albumen prints, and generally in excellent condition.


Folio 1. Grubby and damaged. Five portrait studies of Arab subjects, by Luigi Fiorillo of Alexandria, each 10.5 x 7.0 cm., with numbered titles:
64. Sakie Arabe; 71. Négresse; 7. Pauvre Arabe; 65. [? Prestidigitateurs] Arabes [faded, but certainly Arab street conjurors]; 12. Arabes Priant.

+ one view, 15.6 x 10.9 cm., titled: Europa Point, Gibraltar

2. 21.3 x 15.2 cm. View titled: Rock of Gibraltar

3. 21.5 x 16.4 cm. View titled: Signal Staff. Rock of Gibraltar.

4. 21.5 x ’16.4 cm. View titled: Esplanade. Gibraltar.

5. Three portrait studies of Arab subjects, by Luigi Fiorillo of Alexandria, each 10.5 x 7.0 cm., with numbered titles:
50. Bouriquier; 41. Famille Bédouine; 63. Fille Bédouine

+ one view, 16.7 x 10.9 cm., titled: Old Harbour & Moorish Tower. Gibraltar.

6. 19.4 x 24.7 cm. View titled: Street in Valetta. Malta.

7. 25.2 x 19.6 cm. View titled: Opera House. Malta.

8. 25.8 x 19.0 cm. View titled: Dockyard Creek & H.M.G.V. “Elk”. Malta.1

9. 21.4 x 13.4 cm. Titled: Officers & Crew of H.M.G.V. “Elk”

10. 25.5 x 19.3 cm. View titled: Entrance to Canal. Port Said.

11. Seven untitled group and individual portraits of Arabs, including 6 soldiers mounted on camels. All 9 x 5.3 cm. approx.

12. 24.7 x 16.8 cm. Titled: Port Said. Mediterranean Shore.

13. Six untitled portraits of Arabs, one of two women. All 9 x 5.3 cm. approx.

14. 25.5 x 18.4 cm. View titled: Square. Port Said. 1871.

15. Five untitled portraits of Arab tribesmen and women. All 9 x 5.3 cm. approx.

16. 20.2 x 26.0 cm. View titled: Square. Port Said. 1875.


  1. HMS Elk is known to have been at Malta in April/May 1875


  1. Hello Dr. Jones. I trust all has been well with you during this last year?
    Further to our previous correspondence about my photographs of Commodore Powell and his crew aboard HMS Topaze, I was noting with interest the log books of midshipman John Warde Osborne.
    I’m uncertain whether you might have possession of it, or at least have access to scans of its contents? My enquiry relates to a Lieutenant L. G. Kell, who served aboard Topaze on the Rapa Nui expedition in 1868/69, and I am curious to know whether there is any mention of him, in particular if there is some indication of what his initials might have stood for, or where he might have come from. If you can help with any of this, I would be most grateful indeed to know.
    With my best regards and all good wishes,

    • Peter, I would love to know if any of the photos in your album identify Osborne specifically?

      Thank you!

      McLean W

  2. Good evening! I happen to own Captain Osbornes 1918 Naval uniform when he was the Head of Naval transport for London Port.

    I would very much like to see scans of the logs as well for my own research and to tell his story.

    Mclean W

  3. Tony Eccles, Curator of Ethnography, RAMM

    Dear Peter,
    I’m looking for information pertaining to Richard Sainthill, one of the Topaze crew members ’68/69. He deposited some artefacts from Rapa Nui and Chile at the Exeter Museum in 1875, items with a strong connection to the MJ Harrison collection at the British Museum. I would be grateful for some help.
    Many thanks,

  4. Good day,

    I’m conducting research on Matthew James Harrison, who immigrated to Canada in 1909, and built his retirement home and a church in Crawford Bay, B.C. The church is currently being offered for sale by the Anglican Church of Canada, and a group of concerned residents is trying to purchase it for use as a cultural center. The Harrison Memorial Church is dedicated to his three sons (two who died in the First World War), and his wife Lucy, the great granddaughter of the founder of Wedgwood and the niece of Charles Darwin.

    If you could direct me to any primary research material on Harrison’s naval career, I would be thankful.



  5. My three times great grandfather George West corporal in the 23rd company in the second division of Royal Marines embarked on board HMS Topaze in Portsmouth harbour on 26th October 1807.
    The family have a diary that George kept between boarding Topaze until 5th August 1811.
    My cousin and I are trying to transcribe it as it is quite difficult to read in the hope that it will be of interest to other people.
    Have you any suggestions as to who we should contact to pass on the information contained in the diary

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