HMS Surprise
Master commander hms surpri
Ship from Aubrey-Maturin novels
Type 6th Rate Post Ship
(small frigate)
Captains Jack Aubrey
Armament 28 Guns
First Apperience HMS Surprise (3rd novel)

HMS Surprise is a frigate of the Royal Navy, and Jack Aubrey's favorite ship, as well as the one he commands the longest (all together); he served on her as a midshipman and later as a Captain and Admiral.

She is a sixth rate frigate with 28 guns. Surprise is an important element of the series, both due to her importance to the running plotline, and because of the emotional attachment she has earned among fans of the series.

Surprise is also the main setting of the movie adaptation Master and Commander The Far Side of the World.

History Edit

Surprise began her life in 1794 as a French ship, under the name of Unité. Captured by HMS Inconstant she was renamed (since the Royal Navy already possessed a ship called Unité, taken just a week previously). Aubrey served on her as a Midshipman, before being presumably promoted to Lieutenant. Later in her career, she was under the command of Captain Edward Hamilton, and the crew of the Surprise under Hamilton succeded in capturing the HMS Hermione after her crew mutinied.

Jack Aubrey takes command of the ship in 1805, as he sails her to India, and helps save a whole East India Convoy from a French Squadron. Jack once again takes command of her after he commands the HMS Worcester, and he battles two Turkish ships and wins. This action wins promotion to Commander for Thomas Pullings. Jack is worried in later dates about having to take the Surprise back to England, possibly to be broken up, but a new mission was given to him in Gibraltar, and Jack is ordered to take the HMS Surprise around Cape Horn in pursuit of an American frigate USS Norfolk, which is harrassing british whalers. After a long pursuit, the Surprise finds the Norfolk foundered and wrecked, with her crew shipwrecked ashore. As Jack takes a portion of his crew and Marines ashore to capture the Americans, the Surprise is blown away. Just as a battle is about to break out between the two crews, the Surprise returns, forcing the Americans to surrender. Jack sails her back to England, where she is sold out of service.

Jack's problems and fate of the Surprise interwine as Jack is accused to stock fraud (due to the actions of a highly placed enemy), and is dismissed from the service. Stephen Maturin buys the Surprise, and allows Jack to use her as a privateer. Jack sets about trying to regain his place on the Navy list, and captures a large French frigate in the process. Jack eventually buys the Surprise from Stephen with his prize money, and once he is put back on the Navy list, he leases her to the Navy, ostensibly as a survey vessel but in fact to carry Stephen to South America for secret dealings with anti-Spanish forces there; a theme which runs from The Thirteen Gun salute to the end of the series. The Surprise is last heard sailing back to England with Jack's despatches.

Tech Edit

She was designed by Pierre-Alexandre Forfait, who was in charge of her construction at Le Havre. She was launched on 16 January 1794 and was armed with 24 eight-pound and 8 four-pound long guns. The French rated her as a corvette. The British rated her as a 6th rate Frigate. As such she was very out of date during the time. Most frigates were 5th rates or larger and carried longer guns and more of them. HMS Surprise was deemed obsolete by many Admirals. However, as Aubrey says, she is very fast and is a very handsome frigate.

Film Edit


Surprise in battle with Acheron

For the 2003 film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, the role of HMS Surprise (and disguised under a false flag as a whaler named Syren) was filled by the replica of HMS Rose, which was purchased by the film studio and modified for the role. It was eventually renamed Surprise in real life as well, and later appeared in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tidesas the privateer ship, HMS Providence.

Inconsistencies Edit

The film however shows that Aubrey had served aboard her as a midshipman in 1785, impossible since the real Surprise had not yet been launched at that time. (Note that the book HMS Surprise also mentions Aubrey being a midshipman aboard Surprise, but does not indicate a date for that event - which is still suspect given the chronology of the series.)

At the beginning of the film, the Surprise is stated to be a 28 gun ship. On her gun deck, she has 22 nine pounder long guns. On her top deck she has 6 more guns: 2 carronades on the forecastle, 2 carronades on the quarterdeck, and 2 long nines on the poop deck. The 2 nine pounders (which appear to be bronze) also can be moved to serve as stern chasers, as seen when the Surprise runs from the Acheron in the beginning of the film. They also appear to be bronze, likely to protect against the increased exposure to the elements on the weather deck.

External links Edit