Demise of the "White Wings"
The worst maritime disaster in New Zealand history was the sinking of the British man-of-war HMS Orpheus as she tried to enter Manukau Harbour on February 7, 1863.
Each beaching or wreck was the focus of an inquiry by the Marine Commission and from such reports a wealth of information can be obtained regarding the cargoes, landing place, conditions and ships concerned. The 'Marine Inquiry' was often reported in NEWSPAPERS throughout New Zealand. Wreck chart 1875
Please read the introduction. An alphabetic list of ships that served Australia and New Zealand and foundered, with brief descriptions, compiled by the Genealogical Computer Group of the New Zealand Society of Genealogists. zip A-K L-K
Delaware 1863 | s.s.
Bruce 1875 | s.s. Tararua
1881 | s.s. Taiaroa 1886 |
The Auckland Island Wrecks | The Antipodes Is. Wrecks | Chatham's | Kaipara Hrbour Wrecks | Fire Afloat | NZ Shipwrecks 1886 -1899
The first shipwreck in New Zealand was probably the schooner Parramatta, 102 tons, John Glen, master, Sydney 14 April 1808 for Fejees, for pork then went missing. Report by Jn Besent, ex whaler King George, 1812, living with Maoris at Bay of Islands, says schooner put into Bay in distress, assisted, but crew ungrateful and when subsequently lost near Cape Brett in a gale, all eleven on board were massacred. Logs of Logs, Vol. 1
TRANSCRIBED FROM THE OTAGO WITNESS SATURDAY 9TH AUGUST 1879 SHIPPING DISASTERS FOR THE PAST TEN YEARS (Sydney Morning Herald, July 2nd) United Kingdom to Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand To ports in New Zealand 1874 Surat sh (port of departure: London) wrecked Coast of Otago, NZ 1874 Cospatrick sh (port of departure: London) burnt at sea 1875 Strathmore sh (port of departure: London) wrecked Crozet Islands 1877 Queen Bee sh (port of departure: London) wrecked Massacre Bay, NZ 1877 Avalanche sh (port of departure: London) sunk in collision, English Channel 1878 Ann Gambles bq (port of departure: London) wrecked entrance Bluff Harbour, NZ 1878 City of Auckland sh (port of departure: not listed) wrecked off Otaki, NZ
To Ports in Victoria 1868 Royal Standard sh (port of departure: London) wrecked near Cape St Thomas, Brazil 1869 Hurricane sh (port of departure: Liverpool) foundered Pt Phillip Bay 1869 Victoria Tower sh (port of departure: Liverpool) wrecked near Cape Schank, Victoria 1869 Formoss sh (port of departure: Glasgow) wrecked P Phillip Heads 1871 Mary Shepherd sh (port of departure: London) burnt Hobson's Bay 1871 Underley sh (port of departure: London) wrecked Isle of Wight 1871 Rangoon (P&O) ss (port of departure: London) wrecked Galle Harbour 1871 Sussex sh (port of departure: London) wrecked Barwon Heads, Victoria 1873 Fidelia sh (port of departure: London) wrecked C Good Hope 1873 Denmail sh (port of departure: London) wrecked English coast 1874 British Admiral sh (port of departure: not listed) wrecked King Island, Bass' Straits 1875 Culzean Castle sh (port of departure: not listed) missing 1876 Loch Laggan sh (port of departure: not listed) missing 1876 Galtwood bq (port of departure: London) wrecked Rivoli Bay, S. A 1876 City of S'ringpt'm ship (port of departure: London) wrecked C. Verde Islands 1876 Gt. Queensland sh (port of departure: not listed) missing 1877 Cairo sh (port of departure: not listed) missing 1877 Jessore sh (port of departure: Liverpool) sunk in collision Irish Coast 1878 Loch Ard sh (port of departure: London) wrecked Moonlight Head, Victoria 1878 Cleopatra bq (port of departure: London) wrecked Brazilian Coast To ports in N.S. Wales 1870 Walter Hood sh (port of departure: Liverpool) wrecked near Cape St. George. NSW 1870 Camden bq (port of departure: London) wrecked Clyde River, NSW 1872 Arlel sh (port of departure: not listed) missing 1872 Royal Adelaide bq (port of departure: London) wrecked English Channel 1874 Kingsbridge sh (port of departure: London) sunk in collision 1874 Jaspon sh (port of departure: London) burnt in River Thames 1875 Cambridgeshire sh (port of departure: London) wrecked Night Island, Bass Straits 1875 Blencathra bq (port of departure: Glasgow) wrecked Bass' Straits To ports in S Australia 1872 Dhollerah sh (port of departure: London) burnt at sea 1874 Iron King sh (port of departure: London) wrecked Towbridge, Shoal, SA 1878 Alice Davis bq (port of departure: Liverpool) sunk in collision, Mersey To ports in Queensland 1869 Early Dawn bq (port of departure: London) wrecked Brazilian Coast 1875 Norseman sh (port of departure: London) wrecked Bunker Gro, Q To ports in Tasmania 1873 Northfleet sh (port of departure: not listed) sunk in collision, English Channel
Wellington Ship Wrecks in an article "Post Missing" are
detailed in the "Evening Post"
20th April, 1929 pg10 covers wrecks occurring between the years 1865 - 1895.
Where lies the land to which the ships would go?
Far, far ahead is all her seamen know And where the land she travels from?
Away, Far, far behind is all that they can say.
SHIPPING DISASTERS FOR THE PAST TEN YEARS. Otago Witness, 9 August 1879, Page 7 Colony. No; of Sailings. No. of Losses. New Zealand 308 7 1.15 Percentage of fleet NZ bound. New Zealand 106 7 .66 Percentage of English bound fleet. NZ to UK Vessel. Yr. Nature of Casualty. From Ports in New Zealand to UK Ports Matoaka, ship 1869 missing Blue Jacket, ship 1869 burnt at sea Hera, barque 1869 burnt Pt Underwood Ida Zeigler, ship 1869 wrecked Hawke's Bay Glenmark, ship, 1872 missing Cora Linn, barque 1875 wrecked Humber River, Eng. Ocean Mail, ship 1877 wrecked Chatham Is., N Z UK To Ports in New Zealand Surat sh 1869 wrkd Coast of Otago, New Zealand Cospatrick .. sh 1874 burnt at sea Strathmore .. sh 1875 wkd Crozet Islands Queen Bee .. sh 1877 wkd Massacre Bay, New Zealand Avalanche .. sh 1877 sunk in collision, English Channel Ann Gambles .. bq 1878 wkd entrance Bluff Harbour, N.Z. City of Auckland sh 1878 wrecked off Otaki, New Zealand
Evening Post, 16 October 1880, Page 2
Return of Vessels which are known to have turned over through ballast shifting or want of sufficient ballast, or being too heavily masted. Charlotte, Clanalpin, Clematis, Duncan Cameron, Dove, Day Dawn, Emerald Isle, Emma, Ebenezer, Edward Stanley, Florence, Firth of Thames, Glympse, Hawk's Head, Jane, Maori Queen, Ocean Bird, Nomai, Polar Star, Rapid. Randolf , Sunbeam, Trade Wind, Twilight, Thistle, Uira, William and Mary, Wave, and Wild Wave. Total, 29
Evening Post, 16 October 1880, Page 2
Return of Steamers Wrecked in Now Zealand, the first being in 1857, giving the name of steamer, where wreoked, probable Value, and name of master. Alexandra, White Cliffs, 14,000 pounds, Williams
Alma, Sumner Bar, 2000 pounds
Airedale, Waitara, 12,000 pounds , Kennedy
Ada, Motinua, 1500 pounds
Ahuriri, Jones Bluff, 9000 pounds, M'Kinnon
Aphrasies, Bay of Islands, 3000, Stewart
Ballarat, Hokitika, 2000 pounds, McMeckan
Bruce, Grey River, 6OOO pounds, Hepburn
Bruce, Otago Heads, 16,000 pounds, Jones
City of Dunedin, Cook Strait. 15,000 pounds,
Boyd Cleopatra, Cape Palliser, 1500 pounds, Palmer
Eleanor, Grey River, 1000, M'Lean
Emu, Motutapu, 1000 pounds, Kreeft
Express, Riverton, 5OOO pounds , Christian
Favorite, Ahipara, 4OOO pounds Adams
Guiding Star, New River, 5OOO pounds, Fraser
Gundagai. Patea, 6OOO pounds, Fox
Geelong, Wangape, 3000 pounds, Keane
Halcyon, Foveaux Straits, 1500 pounds, Duckrass
Lord Worsley, Opunake, Bowden
Lionel, Wangape, 2OOO pounds, Stewart
Lady of the Lake, Nugget Point, 25OO pounds Holloway
Maid of Yarra, Hokitika, 4OOO pounds, M'Lellan
Matau, near Westport, 6OOO pounds, Urquhart
New Zealand, Hokitika, 10,000 pounds
Nelson, West Wanganui, 8OOO pounds, Dillon
Oscar, New River, 1,000 pounds
Otago, Chatland's Mistake, 25,000 pounds, Calder
Orpheus, H.M.S., Manukau Bar, 70,000 pounds, Burnett
Oberon, New River, 6000 pounds
Pride of the Yarra, Otago Harbor, 1000 pounds, Adams
Phoenix, Auckland Wharf , I500 pounds, Hardcastle
Pioneer, Manukau Bar, 12,000 pounds, Breton
Pirate, New River, 10,000 pounds
Paterson, Waitara, 10,000 pounds , Mundle
Persevere, Hokitika, 4000, M'Meckan
Queen, Cook Rock, 15,000 pounds, Kreeft
Rangitoto, Jackson's Head, Mackay
Rangatira, near Taranaki, 7000 pounds, Harvey
Ruby, Hokitika, 1000 pounds
Sturt, Kaiapoi, 1500 pounds , Dyason
Samaon, Hokitika, 2000 pounds
Star of the Evening, Gable End, 4000 pounds, Turner
South Australia, Coal Point, 25,000 pounds Mackay
Scotia, Bluff Harbor, 25,000 pounds, Gay
Tasmanian Maid, Taranaki, 4500 pounds, Suter
Titania, Hokitika, 3000 pounds
Thane, Grey River, 1000 pounds, Francis
Taiaroa, Molyneau, 3000 pounds , M'Kinnon
Tauranga, near Kawau, 3000 pounds, Bolger
Taranaki, Kerawha, 16,000 pounds, Malcolm
Taupo, Tauranga, 26,000 pounds, Cromarty
Una, Napier, 1500 pounds, Warns
Uno, West Coast, 1000 pounds, M'Meckan
Victory, Wickcliff Bay, 12,000 pounds, Togood
William Denny, North Cape, 12,000 pounds , Mailar
White Swan, Flat Point, 10,000 pounds, Harper
Wonga Wonga, Grey River, 3000, Mundle
William Miskin, Timaru, 4000 pounds , Hepburn
Wakool, Hokitika, 1000 pounds
Woodpecker, Patoa, 1000 pounds, Morris
Yarra, Hokitika, 2000 pounds
Total lost, 62. Value, 521,000pounds.
North Otago Times, 7 February 1879, Page 2
SHIPPING CASUALTIES AT OAMARU FROM 1860 TO 1878
The following list of shipping casualties which hare occurred during the period of eighteen years has been compiled by the Harbor Board. Of a total of 33 casualties during the period mentioned, 20 resulted in the total loss of the vessels, and in 13 cases they were launched. But the most interesting item of information is, that during the past three years not a single casualty has occurred. In the preceding year, 1875, the breakwater could scarcely be said to have come into general use, but notwithstanding this, only one vessel met with misfortune (the Elderslie) in that year. Since 1876 it may be said that the breakwater has afforded material shelter to vessels whose capacity did not exceed 300 or 600 tons. At the present time coasting steamers can run in, discharge and load at the wharves, and put to sea in all weathers. It is well known, too, that our " dangerous open roadstead " is harbor of refuge for any and all of the small sailing craft plying between the principal ports. The list is as follows :
1860 Oamaru Lass, sch, 35 tons, stranded and launched.
1861 Robert and Betsy, brigantine, 170 tons, total loss ; Star of Tasmania, sch, 50 tons, stranded and launched.
1862 Brisk, sch, 97 tons, stranded and launched.
1865 Gazehound, barque, 383 tons, total loss.
1866 Banshee, sch, 70 tons, stranded and launched ; Cora, sch, 45 tons, do.
1867 Vistula, brigantine, 133 tons, total loss ; Highlander, brig, 196 tons, do ; Caroline, sch, 37 tons, do ; Stately, sch, 87 tons, do ; Vixen, sch, 20 tons, stranded and launched; Midlothian, sch, 15 tons, do.
1868 Star of Tasmania, ship, 632 tons, total loss ; Water Nymph, ship, 585 tons, do; Fly, cutter, 15 tons, do ; Hope, cutter, 21 tons, stranded and launched ; Otago, ketch, total loss.
1871 Premier, barque, 296 tons, total loss.
1872 Our Hope, brig, 237 tons, total loss ; Onehunga, ach, 61 tons, do.
1873 Margaret Campbell, 3-masted sch, 122 tons, total loss ; Emile, brig, 214 tons, do ; Scotsman, brig, 231 tons, do ; Mary Ogilvie, sch, 72 tons, stranded and launched ; Oreti, sch, 66 tons, do ; Jane, cutter, 25 tons, do ; Fanny, ketch, 25 tons, do.
1874 Ocean Wave, 3-masted sch, 118 tons, total loss ; Richard and Mary, sch, 44 tons, stranded and launched ; Emulous, brigantine, 157 tons, total loss ; Brothers, sch, 30 tons, do.
1875 Elderslie, 3-masted sch, 203 tons, total loss.
1876, 1877, 1878 Nil.
Evening Post, 5 June 1913, Page 8
STRANDED VESSELS REFLOATED The following list of vessels which have been refloated in New Zealand after being stranded :
Steamer Triumph, with immigrants , from London. Went ashore in daylight on Shearer's Rock, under Tiriuri Lighthouse, just after leaving Auckland for Wellington, on 29th November, 1883. Refloated some weeks later, and towed stern first to Auckland, where she was repaired by Fraser and Tiune, who had bought her. A few years later she sank in Bristol Channel.
Ship Pleione, belonging to the Shaw, Savill, and Albion Company. Stranded on Otaki beach 16th March, 1888.
Barque Weathersfield, Otaki beach, 8th April, 1888.
Barquentine La Bella, 363 tons. Went ashore, at Happy Valley, near Island Bay, on 13th October, 1904, when on a voyage from Dunedin to New Plymouth with produce. Refloated five days later, and towed into Wellington.
Union Company's Mawhera. Struck when entering Greymouth, 29th November, 1886. Was launched over the mole into the river by Mr. J. Daniel, the company's expert.
Taviuni, also belonging to the Union Company. Went ashore at Westport on 23rd April, 1908, and was got off on 25th November, 1909.
Mapourika, s.s., another of the Union Company's fleet. Stranded going into Greymouth on 1st October, 1898, and was got off in March of the following year.
New Zealand Shipping Company's old Ruapehu. Grounded on Farewell Spit at dusk on 1st January, 1897, when coming from London to Wellington. Was refloated a few days later.
Barque Hudson, 797 tons. Bound from England to New Zealand, Went ashore on the Ninety-mile Beach, 12 miles north of Timaru, on 26th November. 1883, and was towed off by the tug Lyttelton.
Barque Lochnagar, 464 tons. When loading wool at Gisborne for London her cable parted in a big gale and she drifted ashore on 27th October, 1880.
Barque Gladys. Also went on the beach at Gisborne on 31st January, 1903.
Ship City of Perth, 1189 tons. Stranded at Timaru in May, 1882. The same day the Benvenue went ashore. She was afterwards bought by the New Zealand Shipping Company and renamed the Turakina. Subsequent owners renamed her the Elida.
If you are looking for a Master Mariner who apparently went down with his ship somewhere between New Zealand and
Australia, you might have some problems finding him, it's a great, big piece of water out
The Times, Saturday, Apr 13, 1968; pg. 4
Lost ferry death toll still in doubt
Easter 1968. A cyclonic storm, Cyclone Giselle, from the Coral Sea struck the area as the Wahine approached the Wellington harbour. Captain H.G. Robertson, appeared to accept that it was safe to enter. The passenger's first hint of trouble came when the ferry was caught on a reef just inside the harbour entrance. The high seas later washed her free but by then the engines were out of commission. Holed and listing, she was swept across the harbour. The Wahine was driven on to the rocks by a 120 mph gale. Her anchors dragged. Suddenly the Wahine started to roll. Minutes later she sank, in full view of those who were waiting to greet friends and relatives on board. Because of the angle of the starboard list the port lifeboats could not be lowered. Families were split up. The last people off were Captain Robertson and the chief officer and the pilot. Captain Robertson reached shore, where he walked alone, shocked and dazed. Mr F.K. Macfarlane, managing director of the Union Steamship Company, owners of the 9,000 ton Wahine, said that though the ship had hit the rocks early in the morning there was no reason to suggest that there was any danger of her sinking until she began listing badly about six and a half hours later, and the master gave the order to abandon ship. The first urgent message came from the ship at 1.30 p.m., he said. Pumps were wanted to ease flooding on a lower deck. 744 believed to been on board. Loss of 51 passengers and crew. A total of 727 passengers and crew survived. The vessel capsized as thousands on the mainland watched. Lifeboats and a fleet of small craft picked up hundreds of exhausted survivors from the sea but one lifeboat was over turned by a huge wave. Some survivors came ashore after hours in the water.
On board was the Lincoln University cricket team heading up for a summer tournament in Palmerston North. "There was a hell of a thud and we thought `we've hit the wharf a bit hard and we didn't think anything of it really. Then they were told to grab a lifejacket. They were on the F deck of the ship and made there way up to the B deck and it was quite scary going through the corridors as they weren't very wide. It was hard to see and very rough. The waves kept crashing down on top of us. At about 1pm the boat started to lean and objects began to fall off the tables, and then suddenly everyone was thrown across the room. We were told to go to the starboard side but nobody knew which way that was. It was like being in a white-out. Passengers made their way around the deck, which was on "quite a lean". It was wet and raining and as rough as hell. It wasn't easy for older people. We went down to the C deck and got on to the portside of the ship. There were big rafts and I pulled myself up on to one and a lifeboat was going by just then and I got on it. Looking out you could and see hundreds of people bobbing up and down in the water, floating away. There were three of us in the lifeboat then; by the end there were 96. Other survivors were pulled on board by the passengers. Half-way across the rough sea to safety, the Wahine sank. We sang all the way and it was so freezing. I stood up the whole way holding the side of the boat and when we got on to shore I couldn't open my hands. The lifeboat was aided, by rope, on to Seatoun Beach."
The Dominion Post 05 April 2008
The Union Steam Ship Company's two-year-old ship had left Lyttelton for Wellington at 8.40pm on Thursday with 610 passengers, 123 crew and a stowaway. As the Wahine closed with the heads about 6am, its radar failed. Violent gusts caused the ship to sheer and spectators on shore saw the Wahine side on to the harbour entrance. As Captain Robertson fought for 30 minutes to control the ship and make his way back into the strait. The ferry, which had been pitching violently, lost way whenever its props cleared the water, and when the wave that passengers described as high as the ship's upper works, slammed into the ship, it rolled. The contact of Wahine's hull with Barrett Reef at about 6.40am was fatal. As the ferry ground on the reef, water rushed in through gaping holes. Lowering the anchors and closing watertight doors made little difference.
The Wahine remained a feature of Wellington Harbour. It took another four years for scrap cutters to remove it. A formal inquiry into the disaster cleared Captain Gordon Robertson, though said he could have made a decision to go about earlier. He retained command of Union ships, and died in December, 1973. The Wahine drifted slowly out of the mist toward Steeple Rock, with an increasing list to starboard. The order to abandon ship was given about 1pm. With its bow parallel to Seatoun's Marine Parade, at about 2.30pm the ship rolled on to its side and settled on the harbour bed in 10 metres of water. Most of its port side, lifeboats included, remained clear of the water. Last to leave were Captain Robertson, and the assistant harbourmaster, Captain Bill Galloway, who had risked his life when scrambling aboard to lend a hand.
The twin screw turbo electric steamer Wahine was built at Govan, Scotland in 1966 for the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand Ltd by Fairfields Ltd of Glasgow. Referred to as a "Steamer Express" by the company's publicity department, at 488 feet (149m) long she was one of the largest ferries in the world. The ferry sailed from Lyttelton on the 9 April 1968 in the mid evening. On board were 610 passengers and a crew of 125, though the Wahine was easily capable of carrying 928 passengers. Early morning of the 10 April, as she approached the Wellington Harbour heads, a tremendous storm, blowing from the south, was at its height, with 100kph winds gusting to 155kph. She struck Barrett's Reef just after 0640. 51 people lost their lives; 44 passengers, six crew members and one stowaway. Two more people died later as a result of their injuries. There is a Wahine Memorial in Seatoun's Churchill Park, Miramar peninsula with a memorial plaque, the Wahine's anchor and chain, and replica ventilation pipes. A plaque to the rescuers on the Wahine orange fore-mast at Frank Kitts Park on the central Wellington harbour front was unveiled 10 April 2008.
Ships don't wreck at sea but on land.
THE WAHINE DISASTER
On April the tenth of 1968
While the winds were strong and the waves were great.
Through the harbour of Wellington Wahine sailed,
But avoiding the rocks Wahine failed.
Barrett's Reef stood like an untouched nest
And there the vessel made to rest.
The passengers numbered five hundred or more
Plus the crew, seven hundred and twentyfour.
Drawing level with Fort Dorset at ten o'clock
Then sadly heading towards Steeple Rock,
Where later the ferry 'Wahine' went down,
Leaving memories with folk in every town.
From the shore the observers could see through the mist
The unfortunate vessel began to list.
In lower regions of the ship
Were gallons of water right up to the hip.
Five hours had passed when a tug came to tow
The stricken ship which was headed below,
A line from the tug was thrown on board
But was snapped in two like a fragile cord.
The listing was worse than ever before:
'Abandon ship!' was the Captain's roar,
'To the right' a steward was heard to say:
But to slide with the ship was the only way.
The ferry heaved and swung to the wind,
The miraculous calm and misty air thinned:
To the starboard side all passengers went
A prayer to God at random sent.
A prayer for help, a prayer to arrive
Triumphantly facing the waves to survive.
There's not much room for things to go wrong in the Tory Channel and when they do go wrong, they happen very quickly. The channel is less than 600m wide at the entrance. Cook Strait ships should be hand-steered within harbour limits, because of its history of disasters, including the sinkings of the Wahine in 1968 and the Russian cruise ship Mikhail Lermontov in 1986. The Mikhail Lermontov Enigma by Michael Guerin, 13pg, pib. 1998.
NZ Shipwrecks [Ingram] - Traill's Index to Persons and Vessels n.e.i. - an index which William E. Traill has put together from all the editions of the following book: New Zealand Shipwrecks 1795 - 1982 Ingram, Chas. W. N. Pub: A.H. & A.W. Reed Ltd. rev. c1990. Available from the author, W. Traill [Upper Moutere], at a cost of $5 for 1 fiche. n.e.i. stands for "not elsewhere included"
Johnson, David Triumph, The Ship that hit the
Lighthouse. Palmerston North. NZ. 1981. The Dunmore Press.142 pp.
Dj. The steamer
shipwrecked on 29 Nov., 1883 at the foot of the Tiritiri lighthouse which guides shipping
into Auckland Harbour. Her subsequent refloating & career. ISBN: 0908564589
Kirk, Allan A. The Story of the Holm Shipping Company. Published
by A. H. & A. W. Reed, Wellington, 1975. First Edition. Hardback in
dustjacket. 260 pages. Illustrated in b&w. The author tells the story of
the Holm Line from sail to steam. The Holm Line of New Zealand was
founded in 1880, when Swedish-born Ferdinand Holm bought a share in the
barque Malay. In time he and his sons built up a fleet of sailing
vessels, that not only served coastal waters, but also traded with
Australia, the Pacific Islands, and even ventured into the Antarctic.
Their blackest year was in 1959 when Holmburn caught fire at Lyttelton
and two lives were lost, and Holmglen mysteriously disappeared with all
hands off Timaru. Other severe losses include, the sinking of Holmwood
in 1940 by a German raider, and the wreck of the Holmbank in Peraki Bay
in 1963. These and other historical matters are herein covered.
Lambert, Max and Hartley, Jim, The Wahine Disaster, Wellington 1970 (reprinted). 221pp. B/W photos. First published by A.H. & A.W. Reed, of Wellington, Auckland, Sydney & Melbourne in 1969. On the morning of 10 April 1968 during a storm with zero visibility, the Wahine, a 8,948 ton inter-islander ferry, pride of the Union Steam Ship Company's fleet, was battling her way northwards to Wellington through weather that was bad, though not abnormally so, went aground on the jagged rocks of Barrett Reef, ripping a hole in her hull. She drifted off the rocks, only to founder soon after. 735 passengers and crew on board. Fifty-one died. The book written by two journalists covers her last moments and the survival of many of her passengers. Men in ships big and small risked their craft and their lives to go to the rescue in the storm. It is amazing that, in such conditions, the toll was so light.
Larns Shipwreck Index of the British Isles
Locker-Lampson & Steve and Francis, Ian. Eight minutes past midnight : The wreck of the S.S. Wairarapa. Wellington, NZ : Rowfant Books, 1981. 160 pp., 8 p. of plates. 28th Oct. 1894. The Wairapapa was dashed to destruction in a dense fog on October 29, 1894. 126 lives were lost. Three days elapsed before the news reached Auckland. Contains a passenger list of those missing and saved.
Locker-Lampson, Steve and Francis, Ian. New Zealand's Shipwreck Gallery / Wellington, NZ :with b/w photos of fifty ships wrecked on the NZ coast between 1809 and 1982 and an accompanying brief description. Dj. Rowfant, 1983. 55 p. Hb
Locker-Lampson, Steve and Francis, Ian. The Wreck Book : rediscovered New Zealand shipwrecks. Wellington NZ: Millwood Press, 1979, Halocyon Press 1994. 149 pp. Text c. 300 wrecks in NZ waters is limited, but sufficient to give some historic background, location and diving information. b&w photos in text, col. photo plates.
Authentication by a major museum is required by NZ law before historic artefacts can be sold.
Shipwreck-L@rootsweb.com is a mail list primarily concerned with listing, compiling and re-sourcing the search for those who have been "lost at sea" and /or shipwrecked. Threaded Archives
Where to find books:
In 1861 there were about 2,400 shipwrecks.
In 1864 there were about 1,7401 shipwrecks.
Otago Witness Jan. 12 1866 page 1 BT Wreck Register
There was a total of 1,487 shipwrecks during the year of 1860.
The Southern Cross, 10 December 1863 pg5
The Goodwin Sands
The parliamentary return giving the names of the ships wrecked on the Goodwin Sands, occasioning loss of life, for twelve years ending in December 1862. 16 sailing vessels and one steamer were lost from 1851 to 1862, with a sacrifice of 89 lives. Only two of the vessels exceeded 200 tons register. The average wrecks on the coast may be taken at 1,300 vessels with 800 deaths from drowning, yearly. Out of 17 vessels, eleven were foreigners. But six British vessels lost in the 12 years, with 56 persons. Total lives lost on the coast, 6,883. The spits or sandbank are accountable for a very small per cent age. Collisions, striking on rocks, driving ashore in gales of wind, and stranding in fogs, are the chief causes of the destruction of life and property. A glance at the wreck chart betrays the fact that the majority of ships are lost in the vicinity of lighthouses. The coasts of the United Kingdom are well lighted up, and as ships are steered for the lights, a large proportion of the vessels are no doubt wrecked through steering for, and not observing the, till too late to avert the consequences, or from the state of the atmosphere, the look-out men not seeing the lights on land, from the altitude at which the are place. The light-vessels are stationed at distances close enough at each other to make wreckage on the Goodwin Sands a crime. A ship well found in ground tackle ought to ride out the heaviest wind and seas that are to be met with off our shores. Our lightships are never lost, and simply because their chains are good, and there mushroom anchors heavy enough to hold on by. - Steamship Gazette.
From The Graphic, October 31st, 1874
Wreck Register, January to June, 1873shows a total number of 967 wrecks, casualties, and collisions off the British coast, being an increase of 246 on the number for the corresponding period of 1872. The number of ships thus damaged or lost were 1,206, being 311 more than 1872. The loss of life was 728, being actually 138 more than during the whole of the previous year. From this return, however, 119 must be deducted for those lost in wrecks, of which the returns were not included in the 1872 register, while 293 lives were lost in the Northfleet. Of the 967 wrecks, &c., 233 were collisions. Of the remaining 734, 212 resulted in total loss. The greatest number of casualties occurred, as usual, on the east coast. During this disastrous period, the lifeboats did gallant service, rescuing no fewer than 2,301 persons from a watery grave.
Timaru Herald May 7th 1881
The Bureau Veritas published the following statistics of maritime disasters reported during the month of January 1881.
187 Sailing vessels reported lost: 71 English
1 Republic Nicaragua
2 of which the nationality is unknown
In this number are included 27 vessels reported missing
Steamers reported lost:
18 English, 2 Spanish, 1 French, 1 Dutch, 1 of which the nationality is unknown. In this number is included 1 steamer reported missing.
Otago Witness 30 April 1886 page 16
The number of British vessels loss during the month of February 1886 reported to the Board of Trade
Otago Witness January 30 1896 page 36
During the month of Nov. 1895 the number and tonnage of British vessels whose loss was reported to the Board of Trade, and the number of lives lost wee as follows:
Sailing vessels, 77, 14,690 tons, 112 lives
Steam vessels, 17, 11,659 tons , 81 lives
Otago Witness Thursday 28 May 1896 page 38
Returns of vessels totally lost (by name)
The Star Monday 27th February 1899
The number and tonnage of British vessels respecting whose loss reports were received at the Board of Trade during the month of December, 1888, and the number of lives lost are as follows:
Sailing vessels, 49, with 11,017 tons and 95 lives
Steamers, 20, with 19,924 tons and 94 lives
Total - 64 vessels, of 30,941 tons with 189 lives.
It could simply be that a lifebelt or name board from the vessel had been washed up and a Lloyds agent had jumped to the conclusion that the vessel was lost. This happened all too often in the days before radio.
The 'City of Dunedin' was a little schooner rigged paddle steamer of 463 tons that had been built Dumbarton and arrived in Dunedin in 1863. On May 20 1865 Capt. Boyd, 25 crew, 14 passengers sailed from Dunedin, via Wellington, for Hokitika, and was never heard of afterwards. Wreckage was found at Palliser Bay and Pencarrow Head. Probably lost near Karori or Tom's Rock. The night was quite clear with a fresh north-west wind. Otago Witness Sept. 9th 1865. page 9 details
Loss of the Steamer City of Dunedin
'Tis winter, and the daily chilly breeze
Sweeps by with fitful moan,
It battles with fast rising seas,
Whilst trembling forests groan;
The angry send o'er dark'ning skies
Flits on in weird-like form,
Proclaiming, as it onward flies,
The advent of a storm.
All sea-gulls now, with rapid baste,
Their brine-washed pinions ply,
And swiftly o'er the wat'ry waste
Their course they shoreward bie,
There was a ship--a noble ship,
A ship of gallant mien-
Which oft had made a coasting trip.
propelled by wind and steam.
The time has come -she must away;
The pondrous wheels move round:
She sails on this eventful day-
For Nelson she is bound.
But now the storm hath broken forth
In its terrible force,
To stay her on her course.
Dark night succeeds the parting day-
The trembling steamer quakes,
As o'ver her drives the dashing spray,
Hissing like angry snakes.
The tortured vessel rolls;
While o'er her shrieks the whirring breeze
Like moans from doomed souls.
Each wheel alternate spins in air,
And next is buried deep;
The engine scare the strain can bear-
None in that ship dare sleep;
Yet still she nobly struggles on,
Till with tremendous crash,
Proclaiming something now has gone-
A paddle goes to smash!
No longer can the engines strive-
the sea its effort mocks;
Fast doth the fated vessel drive
Towards adamantine rocks.
"Quick, loose the sails!" the captain cries.
Alas! of what avail;
To ribbons in the gale.
Assaulted by the angry deep.
What can men do or say?
the treach'rous waves exultant leap
To claim their waiting prey
Cape Terawiti's rocks appear
Amid the boiling foam;
And souls are going home!
Home to the God who gave them breath,
They're speeding on their way;
Their bodies sleep the sleep of death
Until the final day;
For not a soul is left to tell
The horror-striking tale
Of all that on that night befel
In that terrific gale.
Some portions of the wreck that float
Are washed upon the shore,
And, in dumb silence, they denote
The vessel is no more.
"In midst of life we are in death."
So let us humbly pray,
When God doth take our vital breath,
We may not fear the day.
Christchurch, June 6th, 1865
spelling as is
THOUGHTS ON READING "THE LATE SHIPWRECK.
They call'd her City of Dunedin !
A paddle-boat, to coast Zcalandia's shore,
And bring her merchant-owners hordes of gold !
A costly boat, with maple-painted doors,
White cornices, and ceilings gilded o'er,
And couches velvet-green, luxurious.
How doat they on the venture how count up
Her earnings, and the yield of prosp'rous trips
From port to port for many a year to come,
And transits off with Hokitika's gold.
Go to ! go to ! you wind, now hissing through
The craggy headland clefts, yon snow-fring'd waves
Now dashing wild o'er Terawiti's rock,
For action dire have rous'd. Each beckons each,
And rushes, shipwreck-clad, and girt with force
Almighty, in the fated steamer's wake,
The fiat of a God to execute,
And sound, once more, aloud in ev'ry ear,
" 'Midst life, we are in death."
Stand on yon cliff,
And, as she rounds the headland wild, one last
Long look bestow. Thou ne'er shalt see her more !
Spellbound she sails ! Karor's steeple-rock,
Or fierce midchannol storm, or yondor bay,
Where breakers in their midnight revels dance,
May mark that scene of anguish and despair,
When gurgling waters rouse from slumbers deep,
When infant cries are heard, and wailing notes
Clash with discordant sounds of falling masts,
And sprinkling beams, and tempest's booming roar.
Vain quest, the cause to learn ! 'Tis hid in dark
And solemn mystery. Enough for thee,
To gaze on relics cast on yonder beach
Of golden sand. Enough to know that she,
And all who in the missing transport sail'd,
Are gone, and gone for aye ! But, no, not all !
For strange, that two, who in that fated ship
For Nelson's port embark'd, changed boats before
That last and fatal stage from Wellington,
And thus a watery grave escap'd ! Whoe'er,
Where'er they are, God grant them grateful hearts,
And us, to learn the lesons He would teach.
Nelson, June, 1865.
Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, 24 June 1865, Page 4
Evening Post, 30 May 1899, Page 4
" W.A." (Greytown). 1. The steamer City of Dunedin, Captain Boyd, left Wellington on 20th May, 1865, for Nelson and Hokitika. She was never afterwards heard of, and is supposed to have struck on Cook's Rock, near the Brothers, and foundered with all bauds. A portion of a figurehead supposed to have belonged, to the ill-fated steamer was picked up in Palliser Bay. A barrel of tar, which was identified us part of her cargo, a saloon cushion, binnacle, portions of Crimean shirts, and some light wreckage were also found. 2. The Queen was wrecked on Cook's Rock five minutes before midnight on 5th April, 1867. Part of her cargo came ashore at the Pilot Station, and it is said that some from the City of Dunedin was washed on the beach at the same time, which confirmed the general impression that the latter steamer had struck on Cook's Rock. " L.C."
New Zealand Spectator and Cook's Strait Guardian, Volume XX, Issue 2073, 14 June 1865, Page 4 LATE WRECK
A letter was received on the 80th ult. from a settler residing in the lower part of the Wairarapa Valley, in which it is stated that the figuirehead of a vessel, a cedar grating, broken cases, part of a boat and other pieces of wreck had been washed on shore on the 26th inst., and that there was a considerable quantity of wreck on the sand spit between the lake and the sea. The figure-head referred to is described as standing above five feet high, it represents a female painted white with a gilt mural crown on her head, her hand resting on a shield painted blue on which is a castle gilt. It is reported that a boat was seen in the Straits on Saturday night burning blue lights, which may perhaps have been the boat washed on shore in Palliser Bay. We understand that orders have been given by the Government to the steamer Sandfly to proceed to sea with a view to ascertain further particulars of the wreck, and if it is not too late to render such assistance as may be possible in the circumstances. The following the official report by Captain Fox, o the -colonial gun-boat Sandfly, of his cruise along the coast to obtain information respecting the recent wreck-: "I proceeded this morning (1st June) after daylight, along the coast to the westward to Sinclair Head, minutely examining the reef,.... In addition to the above we have been informed that portions of cabin fittings and part of a carpenter's chest have been washed ashore at Orongorongo. If seems now to be the general belief that the ill-fated vessel which has been lost was the City of Dunedin. The Sandfly left this morning for Palliser Bay with the view of prosecuting the search in that direction.
The Southland Times, Tuesday May 21 1878
Considerable anxiety exists with reference to a vessel named the Electra, which left London for Dunedin about four moths ago, and has not since been heard of.
The New York Shipping List bewails the excess of shipping in all parts of the world over the trade to be done by them. The chief cause of the deplorable condition of the ocean carrying trade is the over-production of tonnage by the leading marine nations. Turn in what direction we may, we find a super abundance of shipping. In our own port today there are about three vessels to one wanted and substantially the same excess is noticeable at all the great ports of the world - Calcutta, Manilla, Hong King, San Francisco, Melbourne, &c while the rates of freight at all these ports are ruinously low. Two much tonnage for the wants of commerce. How can we remedy this? Stop building for a time or at least very materially lessen the production of tonnage until supply and demand had been reached.
The crime of drunkenness, so often committed by masters of vessels and officers in charge, though frequently overlooked in these colonies, or leniently punished when through it some accident more or less serious has happened to the vessel of which they are in command, is likely to receive a check under the strict measures lately taken in England.
Iron gave way to steel and sail gave way to steam
Modern Ships and Modern Steamships
In a collision between a steam vessel and a sailing ship, the prima facie presumption of blame must always lie against the former; The constant recurrence of these disasters is most disquieting. You cannot have power of machinery without its defects; the more you dispense with the muscles of man, the less human mind and will must you be content to retain in your service. A ship, manned and handled by sailors, is one thing - an iron machine, with a stoker below and laborers on deck, is another. Both may have their peculiar merits, but you cannot get them dissociated from their special drawbacks. The qualities of readiness, resource, decision, called forth and strengthened by the constant hand to-hand struggle with the elements, are not exercised by the passive contemplation of wheels and values; they waste and dwindle, like all other human faculties, physical and mental, by disuse. The problem of combing human interest and human intelligence with the blind action of steam and iron has yet to be solved. Either the machine must not so readily get of gear, or that man must be more ready to take its place if it does. At present, it is to be feared. A patent self-acting leak-stopper does not happen to be in existence. (condensed from the Timaru Herald March 16 1876 page 4) Steam & Sail
But the steam came up and
the sail went down
And then tall ships of high renown,
Was scrapped or wrecked or sold away.
They mark our passage as a race of
Earth will not see such ships as those agen.
John Masefield (1878-1967)
Many were sold, resold and often renamed. Many were "sold foreign" to Norway, Russia, Portugal, Italy, Chile and Finland as well as other countries. They went from one dismal job to another.
Then there's the mystery - no witnesses and no survivors to tell why she went down.
The combination of big carrier and good sailer is rare.
Otago Witness Thursday June 18 1896 page 38
That the value of sailing ships is rapidly decreasing has recently been shown by the sale of the Dawson Hill, a ship well known in the colonies, which sold by auction at Liverpool lately and fetch 12,900 pounds. She was built by Harland and Woolf in the early part of 1893, and cost 22,000 pounds. This shows a depreciation of about 43 per cent. in three years.
Koputai built in 1876 in Scotland, and operating in New Zealand waters until 1917, the Koputai was an iron steam driven, paddle tug, 158 tons. #75216. Reg. Sydney, 10/1917. Lbd 112.2 x 20.1 x 9.6 ft. While steaming out to pick up a sailing vessel on March 5th, 1920, the Koputai sprang a leak and sank within five minutes, five miles south-east of South Head, Port Jackson, 5 March 1920. Crew of four saved. She now lies about 8 kilometres south-east of Sydney Heads at a depth of 78 metres.
- frozen mutton
- mail contract
The Old Colonial Clipper
The age of dear tradition has gone by
And steam has killed romance upon the sea,
The newer age requires the newer men,
And dying hard in corner of the world,
The old hands pass forgotten to their graves.
The old Colonial clipper is no more,
Denied the wool freights homeward, she must seek
Fore nitre on the South Pacific slope,
She need not go to China ports for tea,
She need not haunt the Hooghly for the jute,
Nor beat the Gulf of Martaban for rice,
Her time has come and she must pass away:
Yet still she holds the passage of the Horn,
And when the waterway of Panama
Makes islands of the Americas,
She'll hold headland for her own,
And round its pitch she'll fade away and die.
Nautical Magazine and Colonial Clippers
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