Kaipara Harbour is a bar harbour on the west coast of Northland situated to the north-west of Auckland. Has with its various arms a water frontage of 2000 miles. Width at the entrance is five miles. Settlements: Helensville, Port Albert, Batley, Kanohi, Pouto, Wharehine. Has a lighthouse. In 1840 The Aurora, a 550-ton barque, was the first European ship to be wrecked at the entrance. The Sophia Pate was wrecked at the South Head in 1841 and all her passengers perished.
Auckland Star, 14 February 1931, Page 4 (By Lee Brace.)
In the early days o£ New Zealand's shipping industry no port in the Dominion was looked upon with greater suspicion than Kaipara Harbour. To some extent this reputation was undeserved, because up to the year 1860 there were no reliable charts available to assist shipmasters in navigating the shifting channels at the bar. And again, the reputation was earned in the days when sailing vessels were solely engaged in the freighting of timber, which meant that if the wind failed them when making the entrance it was almost a certainty that the strong tides would swing them on to one or other of the numerous sandbanks and spits that stretch for several miles out from the Heads. The shipmaster of to-day, with high-powered engines under his decks, thinks no more of making into the Kaipara than he does of entering the Waitemata, which, by the way, is considered to be one of the safest and easiest approached harbours in the world. Even on the calmest of summer days the sight that meets the eye of a stranger coming up from the sea and approaching the Kaipara Bar is an awe-inspiring one. Especially is this the case when the tide is on the ebb and running against a westerly wind. The pent waters of the vast Wairoa River come rushing out from the Heads like a mill-race, and, being confined to three channels, a tremendous sea is set up which breaks in all directions as it sweeps over the sandspits.
The harbour did not come under Government control until 1876, and shortly afterwards the port was buoyed and beaconed. Prior to Government control the harbour was under the direction and care of the Auckland Provincial Government, but that body could never be brought to see that there was any port in New Zealand other than the Waitemata. Shortly after Government control was established, in I884, the lighthouse on the North Kaipara Head was erected, and this innovation proved to be a great boon to seamen. A system of bar signals was established, which gave strangers confidence in knowing that the bar was passable. As said in a previous article, the records of the wrecks at Kaipara, prior to 1871, have been lost, and to get a true record to-day one would have to spend much labour in looking through the old files of the Southern Cross or Star. I have in my possession particulars of many of these old wrecks, but I shall not publish them until the compilation has been verified. The following wrecks have been verified from the year 1871 up to date:—
1871—December 4, Midge, Captain D. A. Stuart, total loss on Pouto Point.
1874—March 23, Hercules, Captain G. Smith, total loss on Pouto Point.
April 18, Albion, Captain J. Robinson, total loss at Kaukapakapa Creek.
1875—June 4th: Ship Telegraph, Captain Jones. Total loss on Kaipara Heads.
1876—July 3rd: Ship Lady Franklin, Captain J. Eaton. Total loss on Catherine Bank.
September 30th Barque Strathnavar, Captain McDonald. Capsized on bar, total loss. One life lost.
January 15th Ship Melaine, Captain B. Bowse. Total loss on North Sandspit.
1877—May 16th: Feronia, Captain J. M. White. Stranded inside bar and became total loss.
1878—July 9th: Barque Merlin, Captain A. Creig. Stranded on bar, later salvaged but condemned. Two lives lost.
October 5th Ship King Oscar, Captain A. Black. Stranded on Tory Shoal. Salvaged, but badly damaged.
1879—September 3rd Clara Hargrave, Captain J. James. Stranded on Middle Bank. Badly damaged.
January 3rd: Barque Prairie, Captain Hiscock. Stranded on South Head. Total loss.
October 7th: Ship Jas. A. Stewart, Captain McCelland. Stranded, on North Spit. Total loss and seven members of crew drowned.
1881—July 8th Wild Wave, Captain Hurley. Stranded on North Spit, salvaged but condemned later.
1882 —January 17th: Ship East Lothian, Captain Bropley. Stranded on Tory Shoal, salvaged later, badly damaged.
March 29th Vindex, Captain J. Stolling. Stranded on North Spit. Total loss.
May 11th: Ship Grasmere, Captain French. Stranded inside harbour. Salvaged but badly damaged.
July 1st: Torea, Captain Grundy. Stranded in harbour. Salvaged but little damaged.
August 24th: Barque Caberfeidh, Captain Olilson. Stranded on Tory Shoal. Was swept, off next morning into deep water and found to be undamaged.
1883—January 19th Mary Mildred, Captain Horne. Stranded at Tauhoa Creek. Total loss.
1885—January 2nd: Annabell, Captain McDonald. Stranded Tory Shoal and became total loss.
January 2nd Camille, Captain Helgeson. Stranded on Inner Shoal. Salvaged badly damaged.
January 17th: Wave, Captain Christian. Stranded on Inner Shoal and became total loss.
February 29th: Mary Ann Annison, Captain Carpenter. Stranded on North Spit and became total loss.
March 26th: Mathieu, Captain Magnussen. Stranded on North Beach and became total loss.
August 24th: Western Star, Captain Hamsen. Stranded on Outer South Head. Salvaged, but badly damaged.
1886 —May 29th: Defiance. Captain McKay. Stranded Tory Shoal. Got off undamaged
1887—August 24th: Recamia, Captain Hoist. Capsized when crossing the bar. Five lives lost.
1888—June 5th Sophia R. Luhrs, Marks Stranded North Spit and became total loss.
1889—May 22nd Caberfeidh, Captain Thow Stranded at harbour Got off badly damaged.
July 27th: Sarah Pile Captain Watt. Stranded Tory Shoal. No damage.
1890—February 7th: Splendid, Captain Dillner. Stranded in harbour and came total loss.
May 8th: Wild Wave, Captain Bull, Stranded North Spit, but got off later badly damaged.
1891—December 17: Rebecca, Captain Isaac. Stranded on May Catherine Bank. Very badly damaged
1895—December 16th: S.s. Osprey, Captain Rawson. Beached on South Head to avoid foundering. Salvaged later.
1898—March 21st: Cuthona. Captain Pearson. Stranded on North Spit and became total loss.
1899 —August 24: S.s. Sterling, Captain Robertson. Stranded on Pouton Point. Badly damaged.
1900—August 3rd: Lark, Captain McDonald. Stranded at Heads. Badly damaged.
October 2nd: Lord of the Isles, Captain Armit. Stranded at Heads. Total loss.
Beads. 1901—February 22nd: Eliza Firth, Captain G. Brown. Stranded North Sand Spit. Badly damaged
February 25th Lady St. Aubyn, Captain McDonald. Stranded at harbour entrance. Total loss.
1902—July 10th: Schooner Huia, Captain McKenzie. Stranded on Tory Shoal. Got off undamaged.
September 1st: S.s. Hinemoa, Captain Rollons. Stranded on bar. Got off damaged.
September 18th Emerald, Captain Walle. Stranded on inner shoal. Got off badly damaged.
1903—January 9th: Opotiki, Captain Barry. Stranded on Franklin Bank. Total loss.
1904 August 14th. Schooner Huia, Captain Mckenzie, Stranded near Omawhare River. Got off damaged
1905—January 19th: Lark, Captain Stenhouse. Stranded Tory Shoal. Got off little damaged.
May 14th: Neptune. Captain Cliffe. Stranded North Spit. Total loss.
May 29th: Elverland, Captain Savonny. Stranded Troy Shoal. Got off damaged.
June 17th: Emerald, Captain Bushell. Stranded North Spit. Total loss.
1906 —August 27th: Defiance, Captain White. Stranded north Spit. Towed off damaged.
September 20th: Cape Corrientes, Captain Jones. Stranded Egg Bank. Towed off undamaged.
1907—March 15th: Isabella de Frain__. Captain Wood. Stranded at entrance to harbour. Towed off damaged
1908—Aucrust I8th: Waratah, Captain Watchlin. Stranded on Troy Shoal. Towed off badly damaged.
1910—October 11th: Sterling and Eliza Firth, collided on bar. The latter badly damaged.
1912—December 4th: Tangihua. Stranded at Beacon Point. One life lost.
1914—September 26th: Barque Anglo Norman, Captain Jeremiassen. Stranded on bar and became total loss.
1915—July 1st: Schooner Eliza Firth. Captain Ipsen. Stranded on Troy Shoal. Towed off seriously damaged.
September 20th: Waihora. Captain Showman. Stranded Pouto Point. Got off undamaged.