Wrecked on the Auckland Islands in 1907
The Dundonald was a steel, four masted barque, 2205 tons, built at Belfast, in 1891 for T. Dixon & Sons. Lbd 284.2 x 42 x 24.4 ft. At the time of her loss the Glasgow owned barque was owned by Kerr, Newton & Co. Captain Thorburn. She had sailed from Sydney, Australia, on 17th February 1907 for Falmouth, England with a cargo of wheat. Things went wrong from the start. Contrary winds were followed by fierce gales then came calm when three sharks were caught. Her crew hoping to bring fair wind nailed a shark's tail on to the end of the jibboom. Then her compass started to behave erratically.
At one bell (12:30 a.m.) on the17th day out while under sail, during a squall, came the cry "Land on the starboard bow!" from the lookout forward and then seconds later "Breakers ahead!" She struck rock again and again. Daniel McLaughlin, second mate, and the sailmaker served out lifebelts. Anderson was at the wheel. The crew took refuge on the fo'csle-head. but a big wave swept many away. One man, a Russian-Finn, managed to get ashore from the jiggermast. Two others got on to a ledge half-way up the 200' cliff, by means of the mizen upper topsail yard. The only other survivors crawled up into the foretop. Charles Eyre, an apprentice and John Judge, an Irish seaman, reached the fore upper topgallant yard, and succeeded in throwing one of the topsail spilling lines to the Finn, who made it fast to a rock, and by this means the survivors working hand over hand were able to gain the cliff.
The Dundonald sank on 7th March 1907 after running ashore on the west side of Disappointment Island, in the Auckland group on 6 March 1907. Her foremast remained standing for twelve days during which time the castaways salved as much canvas as they could. Disappointment Island is five miles from the north-west end of the Auckland Islands and 180 miles south of New Zealand. Twelve drowned including Captain J.T. Thorburn and his son. There were sixteen survivors. The mate, Jabez Peters, died 25 March 1907, eighteen days after the wreck from exposure and was buried in the sand on Disappointment Island. In November 1907 his body was exhumed by the Hinemoa crew and reburied at the Hardwicke cemetery [Timeframes] at Port Ross, Auckland Islands.
The survivors ate raw mollyhawks until they got a fire going. It took three days for the matches to dry out then they lit a fire which they kept going for seven months. A canvas tent could not withstand the constant storms so they needed a stronger shelter. There was no timber on the island they were forced to burrow holes in the ground and roof them over with sods and tussocks for shelter through the severe winter, existing on mollyhawks, sooty albatrosses, mutton-birds, whale-birds and an occasional sea lion cooked in clay ovens. The men lived mostly on mollyhawks for seven months. There only vegetable plant was the root of a plant called stilbo-carpa polaris. The men never gave up. They made what ever they needed. Ropes from grass fibre, shoes from seal skin, wooden spoons, wooden hooks, and oars of the crooked veronica elliptica, the only wood on the island, with canvas sewn around the forked sticks for the oar blades. They even tied messages to albatrosses. They made blankets and pieces of clothing from the canvas by sewing using sharpened bone for a needle with a hole bored in it. A sou'wester served as a cup.
The men knew there was a food depot on Auckland Island, five miles across a rough strait. The crew manufactured a coracle out of the salvaged canvas, lashing the sticks together with wire and rope. [A coracle is a small rounded boat made of waterproof material stretched over a wicker or wooden frame and is still used by fisherman in Wales and some parts of Ireland] This canvas boat was made and three men crossed to the main island in the group eight kilometres away, Auckland Island, but failed to find the food depots placed there by the New Zealand Government so they returned to Disappointment Island on August 9th. A second boat was built, but was smashed in launching. In October they built a third and four men, K. Knudsen, Charles Eyre, Walters and J. Gratton, crossed to the main island, but it was smashed in landing. They had with them a piece of lighted turf but the fire was put out. However, this time on the fourth morning, after struggling through fifteen miles of bush and scrub to the other side of the island, they found the food depot at Port Ross and a boat but the boat had no sails so the undefeated castaways cut up their clothes and made them into sails. They had found clothes, tinned meat, ship's biscuits and an old blunderbuss was found at the depot and later on with this gun they hunted cattle on Enderby Island. There was a piece of paper in the depot stating that the Tutaneki had called there on February 1, and that another Government boat would call in six months. The depot had been rifled for its tea, butter, sugar and coffee. They returned to Disappointment Island and this time the whole party of sixteen was ferried across in two trips.
Otago Witness Dec. 18 1907, pg 49. The depot at Port Ross and a survivor.
The Dundonald survivors lived in the depot hut at Port Ross for six weeks.
The Dundonald men erected a jetty and flagstaff at Ross Harbour. The castaways made a flagstaff of sticks and branches and a homemade flag with the word "Welcome". The word and anchors are in cloth, sewed on to the flag. On October 16th the New Zealand Government steamer Hinemoa was on a sixteen day cruise, partly scientific expedition arranged by the Canterbury Philosophical Institute, and partly to replenish stores at the Relief Depots in the Auckland, Bounty, Campbell and Antipodes Islands arrived and rescued the castaways, from Erebus Cove, only after completing their mission. They left two weeks of supplies with the castaways. Finally returned to them and retuned to Bluff with the fifteen survivors on 30th November. Officers of the Hinemoa: Captain John Peter Bollons, Chief Officer Mr Hamilton, Second Officer Mr Whitford. William Sanders was a member of the crew who kept a diary and photos. Scientists included Edward Kidson and Charles Chilton.
William Sanders wrote "Sunday October 14 1907. At anchor on the cove . Went down to Wreck Bay (named by the crew of the Grafton after the wreck) and had a look at what remains of the Grafton also had a look at the place where the crew lived for twenty months after the wreck. Found a post lying in the bush with the following inscription
H.M.S. Blanche 1870"
William Sanders wrote Thursday October 11 1907
Laying of Enderby Island and went ashore at 8-am to catch sea birds for the Christchurch Exhibition. Succeeded. Then bought off an old ships boat which had been left there by some settlers. At 1 pm landed at the boat shed and done a little painting. At 3 pm left for Ross Island landed and saw the punt built by members of the crew of the ship Derry Castle wrecked on Enderby Island. At 4:30 pm when we left for Port Ross. We anchored at 5 pm. After tea had a look at some grass along a track at the back of the depot, there were four crosses in a row* two having headstones one a wooden cross and the other a small piece of slate they were inscribed as follows -: The first a piece of slate with one word. ?Snhnown and the second one
Sacred to the memory of John Mahoney Master Mariner, second mate of the ship Invercauld wrecked on this island 16 May 1864. Died from starvation and the third one. Erected by the crew of the S.S. Southland over the remains of a man who has apparently died from starvation and was buried by the crew of the Flying Scud 3rd Sept. 1865.
The fourth one had just J.Y. died 22nd Nov. 1850 age 3 months.
We returned on board at 7 p.m.
*There are five now. Buried the mate of the ill-fated Dundonald it has the following transcription. In Memory of Jabez Peters late mate Dundonald wrecked on Disappointment Island where he died on March 18th 1907 R.I.P.
In recent years divers have located the remains of the Dundonald in about three fathoms off the western point of Disappointment Island. Relics of the stranding, including photographs, are in Canterbury Museum, Christchurch, NZ. The Southland Daily News Mon. 2 Dec. 1907 carried a report of the return of the GSS Hinemoa.
Jabez Peters b. 1826 was lost from the Harkaway on 20 Dec 1868 aged 42, in New Zealand waters. The crew were unhappy with the ship. In 1866 the crew were jailed, one after the other, for refusing to serve in what they considered was an unseaworthy ship. That even at anchor on a calm day, she shipped water to a depth of more than one meter in a day, and that it only finally left for the West Indies after a fifth crewman was taken on. Jabez's son, also called Jabez Peters, born 1853, was also lost in a shipwreck on Disappointment Island off the East coast of Auckland Island. Another son John Wentworth Dillon Peters b.1860, also was lost at sea serving in the Harkaway on 24 Oct. 1880 in New Zealand waters Aged 20.
Fifteen survivors. What were their names?Daniel McLachlan second mate K. Knudson (3rd Mate) Charles Eyre an apprentice R Ellis, A.B. Alf Findlow A.B. John Gratton (?Grattan) George Iveny of Southampton John Judge an Irish seaman Michael Puhl O.S. John Puhts A.B. Albert Roberts (cabin boy) Herman Ruerfeid A.B. John Stewart O.S. Harry Walters A.B. Santiago Marino A.B. (one of them is a Russian-Finn) photo of the survivors in the Otago Witness 18 Dec. 1907 pg 47.
Reference: Papers Past Otago Witness
Account of the disaster can be found in:
- The Wreck of the Dundonald by Albert Roberts. Recorded in 1976.
- Last of the Windjammers, Vol. 2, by Basil Lubbock.
- The Otago Witness carried photos Dec. 18 1907.
- The Annual Dog Watch No. 16  Wreck of the Dundonald by Capt. W.E. Eglen
- The Castaways of Disappointment Island was written by the Rev. Herbert Escott-Inman. 319 pages - reprinted by Caper. online
Rev. H. Escott-Inman: The Castaways of Disappointment Island. Being an Account of Their Sufferings. With six Illustrations by Ernest Prater. London, Partridge no date  Hardcover, illustrated covers, 319 pages plus 32 pages publisher's advertising, 6 b/w plates. The story of the shipwreck was told by Escott-Inman by Charles Eyre, one of the survivors of the Dundonald, shipwrecked on Disappointment Island in March 1907. 12 drowned and the mate died a fortnight later from exposure. The survivors were eventually rescued from Erebus Cove by the GSS Hinemoa after 8 months. The vessel was on route from Sydney to Falmouth with a cargo of wheat. In October 1907 some of Dundonald's crew manufactured a coracle and made their way to Port Ross returning with a boat left at the depot to rescue their companions.
The sea will provide.