Established in 1851, the French steamship company Messageries Maritimes of Marseilles had an extensive fleet by the time they acquired their Natal in 1882. Built nearby at La Ciotat, she was registered at 4,016 tons gross (2,451 net) and measured 429 feet in length with a 39 foot beam. Fitted with 3,400hp. engines to make 15 knots and rigged as a barque, she had accommodation for 90 First, 44 Second 75 Third and, eventually, 1,200 Steerage passengers, and was crewed by 11 officers and 185 men. Intended for the company's new Australian mail service, work began on her in January 1881 and she was handed over in February 1882 ready for her maiden voyage the same month. After almost a year on other routes, Natal then inaugurated the Australian service in December but after three round trips was transferred onto the China run where she remained until 1897. Afterwards employed on sailings to India and Madagascar, she was requisitioned as a transport in 1914 and used to ferry troops to the campaigns in Gallipoli (1915) and Salonika (1916). Thereafter put back into civilian use, she ran on scheduled services for several months until tragedy struck her in 1917. On the evening of 30th April, when just clear of Marseilles bound for Madagascar, she was sailing without lights due to the submarine danger when she was hit by the inbound steamer Malgache and sank in ten minutes with the loss of 105 lives.