17th century - how long did it take for message of safe/unsafe passage from the colonies.

News stories about people waiting around for reports of what happened to the passengers on the plane caused me to wonder – in the 17th century when the Europeans sent a shipload of colonist to sea, how long until reports of a safe passage made it back to the home country?

If lost, how much time passed before the home country issued a statement that the ship was lost?

Crews would leave messages at convenient locations for ships travelling back on the same route to take back home - this allowed progress to be tracked, and obviously no news is bad news. Sometimes these “post offices” would be colonies (all the trading nations generally had at least one colony or allied colony along their route), sometimes, especially early on, they’d be a boot in a tree.

But generally, there were seasons for voyaging, and then seasons for the return voyage. So 6 months, minimum, would be my WAG.

You can also read about various shipwrecks and work it out from there - sometimes people would make it back, even if a year later, but I’m sure sometimes no-one did.
But overall, the length of a trip was known, and at least early on, ships didn’t travel alone, so the other ships would know.
If not, well, if a ship that left afterwards rocks up at the next port without the leading ship having arrived, that would be a big clue…

It depends on how far away the colony was.

The First Fleet (to establish the British penal colony in New South Wales) left Portsmouth on 13 May 1787. En route they stopped at Tenerife (3 June 1787), Rio de Janiero (5 August 1787) and Cape Town (13 October 1787), and presumably word that they had made it to these places in due course got back to Britain. The 11 ships of the fleet arrived at Botany Bay on 18, 19 and 20 January 1788.

On 24 January 1787 two French ships arrived at Botany Bay; those ships sailed on 10 March 1787, but never made it back to Europe; they were shipwrecked in the vicinity of Vanuatu. So this contact did not result in word of the First Fleet’s safe arrival getting back to Britain.

In fact, confirmation of safe arrival did not get back to Britain until the Prince of Wales, one of the First Fleet vessels, arrived back in Falmouth on 25 March, 1789, more than twenty-two months after the fleet had first sailed.