The Article I found in the Australian Newspaper is also in the N Y Times July 1881, you no doubt have read this.
Since he talked of being arrested for desertion I am thinking he may have changed his name.
I have found this twice in Australia in the 19th century by sailors jumping ship to stay in the country.
Looked to see if he took his mother's name , but no sign of that. Checked the LDS IGI for all Sylvanus with any surname and any christian name with Compton and there are no matches.
Found a Sylvanus Compton dying in the UK 1905 aged 56 in Clutton , but then found his birth in 1849 in nearby Bath as Silvanus.
Found a death notice in the Watkins Express 1871-1900 , Schulyer County NY (On Rootsweb) for Sylvanus , Mrs Sylvanus Compton and Aimee Compton - have you checked out that one ?
Checked Canada and could not find anything , South Africa is difficult.
Our State Archives has Passenger Departures for that period , but it is not indexed. It also has Immigrant arrivals online to 1896 , he is not there , but he could have arrived as crew , or not especially as an Immigrant.
When I next go there I will try to find something for you , finding other names (Wife & Child) would be helpful
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