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'HM s.s. ORPHEUS'
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. The tragedy cost the lives of 188 British sailors and marines out of a complement of 256.
Otago Witness March 7 1863 page 7
The HMS Orpheus, 1,706 tons, man-of-war, drew 20 to 23 feet, was lost on the Manukau Bar, New Zealand, on the 7th February. One hundred and ninety lives were lost, and seventy saved. The Orpheus left Sydney on February 1, and made Manukau Bar. The day was fine and clear. On taking the bar she struck on a sand bar, and heeled over, the sea making a clean breach of the ship and waves sent the mainmast by the board.
The boats were launched, and from sixty to eighty got into the launch, which filled, drowning all but three. Commodore Burnett was standing on the poop, with a number of officers, when a heavy sea swept all into eternity. Though in full view of Pilot Station, no signal of disaster was made by the vessel; and a number of seaman, collected about the bows, were one by one washed away. The coasting steamer Wonga Wonga came up in time to save several. The Harrier lay at anchor at Onehunga, and steamed to the scene of the disaster. The news was brought to Melbourne (Argus 8th Feb. Melbourne) by HMs. Miranda.
THE WRECK OF THE ORPHEUS
"Quis cladem illius, noctis, quis, funera fando
Explicet, aut possit lacrimis oequare labores."
Upon New Zealand's bold and sea-grit shore
Full many a gallant craft has oft been thrown;
But none that ever have been wrecked before
Have cast around such sorrow and such gloom.
For none of these did loss of life record,
Till this, the last, a contrast sad and real,
The crowning link to this disastrous cord:
List while I speak the horrors of the tale.
The Orpheus sails, with prospects fair and bright,
Freighted with noble youths and honest tars;
Hoping, perhaps, when foremost in the fight,
To laurels gain in scaling Maori pahs.
O zephyrs, do ye blow with friendly gales,
Assist her o'ver the wide and trackless main,
Direct her course, and fill her swelling sails,
And bring her once more safely back again.
Five prosperous days an eastern course she steers,
The sixth fair morn now dawns upon the sight;
A rugged line New Zealand's coast appears,
Rough with hard rock, with foaming billows white.
Fair is the breeze, she owns the gentle sway,
That rapidly impels her to the shore;
Alas! alas! too surely to obey
Her cruel Fate's irrevocable law.
Smoothly she skims the ocean's broad expanse,
Nearing the treacherous bar of Manukau;
The sparkling sunbeams o'er the waters dance.
When suddenly fierce breakers lash her bow,
Upon the deck collect the excited crew,
And from the group a man steps boldly forth;
Directs his steps to the Lieutenant, who
Regards him not, but sends him back in wrath.
The Master them immediately he seeks,
And shows to him the dangers that are near,
"Full speed astern!" he cries. Again he speaks,
And tell the Commodore how wide they steer.
She strikes a shoal; then, lightened, passes o'ver.
But quick again she touches: on her side
She rolls; and o'er her decks the waters pour,
Upon whose bosom ne-ver again she'll ride.
The boats are lowered, and for aid they go.
The sea breaks on the deck, the spray mounts high;
Up in the rigging offices and crew
Gaze on the Wonga Wonga, anxiously.
Alas! how few that vessel went on board;
Soon was the Orpheus a total wreck,
Embedded in the sand; the waters roared
Over her timbers and heaving deck.
Oh! weep for the departed brave. No more
Shall they return to their dear native land;
Their buried place is on New Zealand's shore,
Unmarked by aught save memory's graphic hand
Weep, too for those poor aching hearts, still left
To mourn the loss of those they loved so well;
Wives of their husbands, mothers of sons bereft,
The story of a desolation sad can tell.
O gracious Lord! pour thy compassions down
Upon those whom Thou chastenest in Thy love;
Husband the widow; and, to those who mourn
A father's loss, more than a father prove.
May we remember, too, as we lament
The fate of those called early to the tomb,
That to this goal our steps are also bent-
That this sad world can never be our home,
And teach us, Lord, to guide our steps aright,
By giving heed to Thy Word, which alone
Can make us meet for that pure land of light,
Where sorrow, sin, and partings are unknown.
A College Boy
Nelson, April 1863.
Otago Witness May 2 1863 page 8
The Daily Southern Cross Monday February 9 1863
The H.M. s.s. 'Orpheus', 21 guns, carrying the board pennant of Commodore Burnett, C.B., was a total wreck on the Manukau bar. The 'Orpheus' left Sydney on Saturday week at half-past four on the morning of the 31st January, and made the Manukau bar at about one p.m., on Saturday last, February 7th. The day was fine with a fresh sea breeze blowing. The vessel was under sail up till noon when a gun fired at twelve o'clock for a pilot. She was steering an east course till her bearings were taken, when she steered N.E. by East, keeping the Nine Pin rock on the Paratutai, in accordance with Drury's directions. Steering by Drury's chart, the ship was kept too far to the northward, and at half-past one she struck on the sand-spit by the head. Stream had been got up before this, simply as an auxiliary. The Commodore gave the order "full speed astern" when she touched, but the vessel had too much way on her, and the screw was powerless. She could not have been going at less than eight knots an hour, under all plain sail and weather foretop-mast studding sail. The wind was then on the starboard quarter. The men were aloft at the sails and the topsails were lowered, the other sails being clewed up. The foretopmast stay sail was retained to keep her steady. Some of the weather guns were hove over to lighten her, as was also shot and other heavy matters.
The Commodore ordered the first cutter to be manned, and Mr Fielding, midshipman, and a crew of eight men were put on board, to go ahead of the ship. About half-an-hour after the ship broached to the order "boats out" was given; and the pinnace was the first launched. She was in charge of Lieut. Hill and Mr Paymaster Amphlett, with instructions to pull ashore for assistance, especially to procure whale boats. The Commodore directed Paymaster Amphlett to save the ship's papers and money, which Mr Amphlett succeeded in doing. Mr Amphlett was sent in the pinnace with Lieut. Hill, because he knew the place, and was most likely readily to obtain the requisite help. The pinnace and cutter succeeded in landing their men. The proper crew of the pinnace would be thirteen and the coxswain. She would carry thirty, but only took fifteen. The officers could not get any men to take the pinnace.
The launch, was then got out, Lieut. Jekyl in charge, and a crew of thirty hands. She was made fast bow and stern, but unfortunately the hawser was twice let go abaft, and on the second occasion she forged ahead and swamped, drowning the Lieut. in charge, the boat's crew, and eight men who had jumped in, all but three men. The second cutter was stove in on the davits. A man fell overboard forward, and a life-bouy was thrown to him, but this he failed to reach, and he was drowned. The life-bouy was broken up by the violence of the waves. The Commodore refused to go off in any of the boats, and died with his officers, at the post of duty. There were no hatches on until after she struck. She appeared to fill from the top. The engine-room hatchway was not covered at all. She heeled over and the sea at once made a clean breach over her.
Those in the front part of the ship were principally among the saved. When she struck and heeled over a rush was made to the rigging, and those on the main and mizen masts were washed off almost immediately into the surf and drowned. The foremast soon followed the other spars, and as it fell, many of the men jumped off and swam to the bowsprit, from which they dropped either into the boats, or into the sea, and made their way to the boats as best they could. Many were drowned in the attempt.
While all this was going, 26 miles from Onehunga, a seaport town, in broad daylight, and in full view of the pilot station, no signal was given. Her Majesty's ship 'Harrier,' 17 guns, Commander Sullivan, was lying at her moorings at the Bluff, within 23 miles of the disaster; the Colonial steamer 'Avon' was also unemployed at the Onehunga wharf; and the 'Moa,' Admiralty tender, was available in such an emergency at the Bluff.
We do not blame the pilot, for he was doing his duty on board the 'Wonga Wonga,' which sailed at half-past twelve on Saturday, and we suppose there was no one to telegraph for assistance. The noble ship was left to her fate, and her gallant crew to the mercy of the waves, without a helping hand being stretched out to safe a life, although help in such abundance was at hand.
We have not been able to ascertain the exact number of officers and men on board the 'Orpheus.' We have been informed 275 souls, and all told, and of these only 69 have been saved. The rest perished, victims of official neglect. It has been for a long time known to nautical men that the channel laid down in Drury's chart has shifted considerably, and that to steer strictly in accordance with the directions would ensure the destruction of any large vessel. The ship stuck fast on the western end of the Middle Bank, which has shifted full three-quarters of a mile since Captain Drury's sailing directions were published in 1853. Commodore Burnett and Master Strong (a more than efficient mariner did not hold a commission under Her Majesty) - were strangers to the Manukau harbour, and as the change in the channel had never been officially notified, the ship's course was kept in accordance with the Admiralty chart. The fearful calamity, which has cast such a gloom over this community, and inflicted such a heavy loss upon the nation, was the result.
Help was available if a proper pilot establishment had been at Poponga to make known the disaster. At the time she struck the Commodore and Master were on the bridge, and orders for steering were given by the Master through the second quarter-master, who repeated them to the quarter-master engaged steering.
Mr Wing had gone on on board the 'Wonga Wonga' from the Onehunga Wharf about one o'clock. He had been a pilot of the Manuka for about five years. Previously pilot-master and assistant harbour-master at Port Philip for three or four years. Mr Wing, the pilot said 'After leaving the ' Wonga Wonga' and when I was about half way across the channel to the signal station, I saw the ship roll towards land. No signals were up then. Feeling the vessel must be aground I went ashore for information. I observed the 'Wonga Wonga' run up an ensign also seeing the situation. I then got back into my boat again and came down towards the wreck. I got as far as the Orwell bank, and saw two boasts amongst the surf. Mr Amphlett with others was in the boat, and he asked me to lend him my boat to go to the 'Harrier.' I did so, and afterwards took charge of the man-of-war's boat. I went towards the wreck. I had not gone far before I observed the 'Wonga Wonga' coming back, and I went back to the south channel that she might take me in tow which he reached about five o'clock. She was hailed with difficulty, being then far inside the heads; The captain 'Wonga Wonga' did the best he could have done in coming back by the south channel to render assistance. He had no boat of his own, but two small dingies, not fit in use for such service. The pinnace returned to the 'Orpheus' in tow of the 'Wonga Wonga' about five o'clock. We picked five men up on our return, and conveyed them on board. These men had jumped in the sea. The 'Wonga Wonga' lowered one boat when the mainmast fell overboard and endeavoured to save the seamen. We heard cries for help.
Whilst I was away in the 'Wonga Wonga' my son, Edward, aged 21, was in charge of the signal station. He could not tell where the vessel struck, the distance would be too far. No wreck ever occurred before there. He first saw the 'Orpheus' at nine o'clock in the morning. He signal her at eleven o'clock to take the bar. Then he put up a signal No. 10 signal, implying that she was to keep north. The 'Orpheus' did not obey the signal. He made use of a glass before signaling her. As far as he could see the vessel did not acknowledge any of the signals. It is usual for ships coming into the channel to indicate that they have seen the signal. The signal "Keep the vessel more off shore" was hoisted.
Lieut. Hill and Mr Amphlett in the pinnace at the Orwell bank met Captain Thomas Wing, the pilot, in his whaleboat going out to their assistance; that was shortly after four. Mr Amphlett proceeded in the pilot's boat with three other men to report the casualty to the 'Harrier,' which he succeeded in doing about ten p.m., the tide being against him. Although the 'Orpheus' struck at half-past one o'clock on Saturday, it was ten o'clock at night before the intelligence was communicated to the 'Harrier,' Commander J.W. Sullivan at once despatched an officer, Midshipman Jerningham, to Auckland, to report the event to the senior naval officer on the station, Captain Jenkins of the H.M.S. 'Miranda' and a letter to General Cameron also to desire the colonial steamer 'Avon' to get up steam; and at one a.m. On Sunday morning, the fact was reported to Captain Robert Jenkins, who left for Onehunga, after apprising his Excellency the Governor. At 50 minutes to midnight Mr Hunt, master of the 'Avon' came on board the 'Harrier' for orders. At one o'clock the ship was unmoored.
The Inter-Provincial Mail Steamship 'Wonga Wonga,' Captain Renner, with the boats in tow, made the wreck about seven o'clock, p.m. The pinnace came within a few yards of the jib-boom end, and men jumped off and swarm to it and were picked up. Others were drowned in the attempt. No effort was made to pass a rope from the 'Wonga Wonga' to the 'Orpheus.' The 'Wonga Wonga,' still with boats in tow, steamed off to nearly a mile distant, and anchored for the night in a safe place outside the breakers. Up to that time, except the men who were drowned in the launched, and one man who fell overboard, together with a few who perished in the attempt to reach the boat, no lives were lost. The stern posts and the port bulwarks had long gone, but the decks and spars were standing good. It was flood tide and things were becoming to look more critical. About eight o'clock the guns broke loose and the deck began breaking up. The crisis was at hand. In another half hour the mainmast went carrying with it the foretopmast and all who were on it perished hurrying to an untimely end Commander Burton, Lieut. Mudge, Mr Strong master, Mr Broughton, midshipman, and about fifty of the men. Commander Burton was in the foretop when it went with the main-mast, and his head was caught between the shrouds as the ship lurched, killing him instantly. The mizen-mast went shortly after the main-mast. Commodore Burnett was between the top and futtock rigging of the main-mast. The top fell upon him and stunned him and he went over-board. He rose at once, but immediately sunk. The guns were knocked from their carriages and maimed several, besides killing one man instantly. The men as they fell, with one voice, hailed the 'Wonga Wonga,' which rode at anchor within sight. It was a cry for help; a thrilling appeal to the best sympathies of man's nature. The men died like brave men, but there was nothing bravo in this final scene of the acted drama of their lives. The surviving men, who clung to the fore and mizen rigging echoed the death cry of their companions, and in a few minutes most of them slept, with their fellows, the still sleep of death. Mr Hunt, midshipman was washed away from the foretop and afterwards supported himself on a capstan bar for several miles floating ashore. He was picked up by the first cutter, along with Mr Barkly, midshipman, and a man named Hall. This boat's party was taken on shore to the pilot station.
Meanwhile steam had been got up on board the 'Harrier,' but it was found that the tide too low for her to turn, and she did not get under weigh till non yesterday (Sunday). The s.s. 'Avon,' left the Wharf at three o'clock on Sunday morning and reached the heads at daylight, when she met the 'Wonga Wonga' returning with the survivors, who were transferred to the 'Avon' and fetched up to Onehunga.
The boats managed to pick up thirty-three men. One poor fellow was picked up inside Poponga yesterday by the 'Matilda', schooner, after being eight hours in the water. He had floated with a piece of a spar, but his life was in danger. The constant friction of a piece of copper which was attached to the spar, cut his chest completely open. He was placed in an ambulance cart that had been sent from Auckland for use of the survivors. John Davy, captain of the foretop, met his death by hanging. When descending from the maintop to the foretop, the stay was carried away, and the coil caught him round the neck and strangled him.
A seaman, named Frederick Butler, who had been quarter-master of the 'Harrier,' and who deserted in Sydney, was being brought on in the 'Orpheus' to join the ship he deserted. He was acquainted with the entrance through the channel, and states that he was looking through the bow ports a few minutes before the dread calamity, and saw that the vessel was not far enough north; he mentioned it to some of his mates, and they desired him to go aft and tell the officers. He informed the first lieutenant that the channel was further north. Mr Mudge took no notice of what I said and afterwards urged by the crew to go aft and tell the master, Mr Strong, that the vessel was going wrong. Mr Strong asked him why he did not mention it before, he was making an apology for not doing do. His information was too late. He was led to this conclusion by the colour of the water and the bearing of the channel.
The following is the list of officers and men lost so far as we could ascertain:-
Commodore William Burnett, C.B.
Mr Strong, Master
Lieutenant Hill, Royal Marine Artillery
Rev. Mr Hazlewood, Chaplain [Haslewood]?
Mr Gillham, Commodore's Secretary
Mr Johnston, Assistant Paymaster
The Surgeon, Dr. Clarkson. formerly of H.M.s.s. 'Fawn.' (17 guns)
Chief Engineer, Mr W. Stephens
Mr Hudson, Gunner
Mr Verner, Midshipman
Mr Broughton, Midshipman
Mr Mallock, [Mallack?] Midshipman
Mr Fielding, Midshipman
Mr Tozer, Master -assistant
Mr Aylan, Assistant Clerk
Mr Vickery, Engineer
Mr Miller, Engineer
Mr Adams, Engineer
Mr Gossage, [Gessage?] Engineer's assistant
John Davy, Captain of the foretop
John Pascoe, seaman
three petty officers, ninety-five seamen, twenty-six boys, and forty-five marines. Total 190.
Second Lieutenant Charles Hill
Lieutenant Duke D. Yonge
Paymaster Edward H. Amphlet
Mr H.M.Barkly, Midshipman
Mr Bernal W. Fielding, Midshipman
Mr Hunt, Midshipman
Mr W. Mason, Boatswain
Mr John Beer, Carpenter
James Kennedy, a seaman
Frederick Butler, a seaman
Petty Officers 12
Fifty three seamen, seven boys, two marines, boatswain and carpenter. Making in all a total of 70. officers and men. Of the total number of men saved 33 were picked up by the boats, and the remainder were the boat's crews.
The survivors were conveyed to Auckland yesterday evening by the military - all being put on board the 'Miranda.' Several were severely injured, Dr. Mouatt, V.C., was in attendance at Onehunga, to render the necessary surgical aid. His Excellency Sir George Gray, attended by his Private Secretary, Capt. Bulkeley, rode to Onehunga yesterday, and remained until the survivors came up in the 'Avon.' Dr Neadles of Onehunga went down to the 'Avon' on Sunday morning to see if he could any assistance. Among these was Mr Barkly, son of Sir Henry Barkly, K.C.B., Governor of Victoria, who rode into Auckland with his Excellency. General Cameron, C.B., Colonel Gamble, Assistant Quarter-Master General, and other military men were likewise out to learn the extent of the disaster, and render what assistance lay in their power.
H.M.S. 'Miranda' and the guns at Fort Britomart, fired minute guns in the evening. The flag was hoisted half-mast at the Fort yesterday evening. The 'Harrier' was still at the scene of the wreck. Allusion was made to the shipwreck in most of the pulpits of this city last evening, Sunday.
We are enabled to give a slight sketch of the performance of the 'Orpheus' through the kindness of one of the officers who came out from England in her. She was put in commission on Friday (an unlucky day with seamen), for the Australian station; but, owning to the Trent affair, was ordered to America. She left England in December, 1861, and conveyed the 'Melbourne,' transport ship, with troops, to Halifax. Encountered very severe weather in the Atlantic, having nearly foundered in a gale. When at St. John's N.B. she went ashore. After peace had been assured between England and America, the 'Orpheus' made the passage to Sydney by way of Bermuda and Cape of Good Hope. Since her arrival on the Australian station, Commodore Burnett and his officers and men appear to have been favourites both in Sydney and, Melbourne and Hobart Town when they touched. She was the largest and finest man-of-war we have had on this station, and her loss is a public calamity, quite apart from the greater one of so many valuable lives being sacrificed. A subscription was commenced towards relieving the immediate want of the survivors from the shipwreck, before their departure for England at twelve o'clock on the H.M.S. 'Miranda', a steam sloop with canvas, 15 guns. The poor fellows have lost all their personal effects.
The Daily Southern Cross Feb. 14 1863
Onehunga. The natives have picked up and buried fifteen bodies at a place seven miles north of the wreck. The bodies were recognized by their uniforms as those of 2 officers, 2 marines and 11 seamen. One other body was found Saturday morning, a seaman. A native had found and buried a body nearly twenty miles north of the wreck. The bar where on the ship struck is about 2� miles from Paratuti, the nearest point of land and a very strong current runs between.
The Daily Southern Cross Monday 16th Feb. 1863
Tuesday 17th Feb. 1863 to be observed as a day of morning by the citizens of Auckland. The public offices will be closed and businesses generally suspended. Sermons suited for the occasion to be preached at Divine serviced in the fornoon. Collections to be made in each church on behalf of the widows and orphans of the men who were drowned. The public are invited to attend on Tuesday in Auckland the funeral of John Pascoe, the late boatswain's mate of the 'Orpheus.' to be buried with with military honours prescribed for the rank he held in Her majesty's service. He had been buried about 2 miles to the north and was exhumed for an inquest. The body was recognized by means of marks on the arm and one on the breast from a wound received in the Crimean war. His named was discovered on his trousers when his body was washed. The Inquest of John Pascoe was held at the Provincial Council Chamber at noon on Monday 16th February 1863. W.J. Hutchins, Lt. Co. Assist. Military Sec. Invites all offices off duty in Auckland and its vicinity to attend the funeral of this seaman as a tribute of respect to the memory of those who perished with him in the wreck of H.M.s.s. 'Orpheus.' The pall-bearers and firing party will be furnished by the 40th Regiment and the procession will leave Albert Barracks at three p.m.
Sixty-nine officers and men saved, belonging to the 'Orpheus' and Butler taking passage to join his ship. He was paid �10 out of the 'Orpheus' funds.
The Daily Southern Cross
Inquest February 17 1863
The 'Wonga Wonga' was bound for Taranaki that morning. Came down the south channel as the 'Wonga Wonga' was bound southwards. Mr Wing deposed 'We first saw the 'Orpheus' a little after three o'clock. She appeared to be under steam, with her sails clewed up, standing for the northward. When outside the South Head I left the 'Wonga Wonga.' I omitted to state that the signal was put up at the signal station for the 'Wonga Wonga' to take the South channel. There is no distinctive mark to indicate to a vessel coming in, that the signal hoisted would apply to one coming out of harbour. It is generally known that a ship of large size would not attempt he South channel. There was a large black ball hoisted at the mast head of the signal station. On reference to code signals that meant the signal was meant for a vessel proceeding inwards. Mr Wing said we have not Marryat's code of signals at the station. When the station was blown away, eighteen months ago, the signals were lost, they have not been replaced but I have ask them repeatedly. We had not the slightest suspicion whilst I was on board the 'Wonga Wonga' that anything had happened to the 'Orpheus.'
February 24 1863 page 3
Inquest resume. Captain Renner, of the 'Wonga Wonga' was in Sydney, and possibly it might be a month or two before he returned.... Government inquiry planned.
Wednesday February 25 1863 page 3
Funeral of Commodore Burnett, C.B.
Yesterday afternoon the remains of Commodore Burnett, C.B. were deposited in their last resting place at the Church of England burial ground...military funeral listed. The grave was immediately in front of the entrance gate to the burial ground and adjoining the one in which John Pascoe was interred on the preceding Tuesday. The coffin was made of Kauri, covered with dark blue silk velvet. The following was the inscription on the plate:
William Farquharson Burnett, C.B.,
Commodore Royal Navy,
Commanding officer Australian Station
Crowned February 7th, 1863
Aged 46 years.
Otago Witness May 9 1863 page 4
Every vestige of the ill-fated Orpheus is said to have disappeared from the scene of the late catastrophe. Until quite lately portions of her masts were visible above water.
Otago Witness May 21 1864 page 15
Memorial Tablet Hobart Town
Otago Witness May 14 1864 page 15
H.M.S. Curacoa. Lieutenant Hill, late of the Orpheus died from a gunshot wound at Rangiriri on the 29th ultimo. 103 officers and men killed and wounded.
1863 H. M. S. Orpheus [Timeframes]
The Huia Settlers Museum, a small museum, at Huia, has many relics from the wreck.
The HMS Orpheus Exhibit which was formerly housed at New Zealand National Maritime Museum in Auckland can now be found at the Navy Museum in Devonport.
Hetherington, Roy M. The Wreck of HMS Orpheus, New Zealand's Worst Sea Disaster Auckland. 1975 Cassell. 1st ed. 1968 158 pp with 1 map & 24 b/w illus. The most tragic shipwreck in New Zealand waters, on 7th Feb. 1863. Appendix with 58 pages on wrecks in NZ. The author has based his account on the personal narratives of three people involved in the wreck. ISBN: 0726937037. 1975 edition 157pp also contains a tabloid of sea disasters in which lives were lost.
Byrne, T. B. Wing of the Manukau : Capt. Thomas Wing : his life and harbour 1810-1888 / T. B. Byrne. Imprint : Auckland : T.B. Byrne, 1991. Wing, Thomas, 1810-1888
Orpheus, 21 (16 � 8, 1 � 7, 4 � 40pdr.) ; 1860
Date from: 23 Jun 1860 ; Date to: 5 Feb 1863 ; Wreck on Manukau Bar, N.Z. ; Commodore Wm. Farquharson Burnett, C.B, Com. Robert Heron Burton.
BM: 1706 tons ; Disp: 2365 tons
Propulsion: Screw Complement:
Dimensions: 254 � 41 � 19 feet ; HP: ; 12 knots
Otago Daily Times Thursday, 27April 2000
Figurehead Hunt Widens
Auckland: The search for the figurehead from New Zealand's worst shipwreck has spread to England. The British navy frigate, HMS Orpheus, sank on the Manukau Harbour bar on February 7, 1863, drowning 189 sailors and marines. The sinking is the worst shipping tragedy in New Zealand waters. The New Zealand National Maritime Museum, which plans to open an exhibition on the tragedy soon, began a search earlier this year for the figurehead, believing there was a slim chance it still existed after it was mentioned in Thayer Fairburn's book, The Orpheus Disaster. Fairburn has since died but said in his book the figurehead was thought to be somewhere in Auckland.
Museum spokeswoman Vicky Spalding said the chances of the figurehead still existing were remote. However, the museum had asked a figurehead historian in England to search the Public Records Office there for a copy of the original drawing of the figurehead, produced before the ship was launched in 1860. "The drawing itself would be the artefact," she said. Because the ship sank so soon after it was launched there was little documentation on it, she said. The museum believes a female figurehead it has had for some time is not from the man-of-war, although there was speculation it was on the bow of Orpheus. The museum exhibition of the tragedy will include wooden pieces of the ship, an original painting of HMS Orpheus by English marine artist Admiral Richard Brydges Beechey, and a 3m model he made in the 1930s. NZPA.
Evening Post, 27 January 1914, Page 2
An interesting addition has just been made to the Auckland Museum in the shape of the figurehead of H.M.S. Orpheus, which was wrecked on 7th February, 1863, at the Manukau Heads, when attempting to cross the bar. The figurehead is a half-length representation of a woman, and is about 3ft high. It is made from a single block of yellow pine, with the exception of the arms, which arc made from separate pieces. The workmanship is good, every detail of the features, the hair, the necklace, and the flower decorations on the head being wrought in a delicate manner. At the base of the figure is a scroll, frequently seen on the figureheads of men-of-war. It was not until November, 1865, nearly two years after the wreck, that the Rev. J. C. Eccles � now Canon Eccles of Woodville was riding along the beach, several miles south of the Manukau entrance, when he saw the figurehead floating in the wash of the sea. He rescued it with considerable difficulty, and took it to Waiuku, where he was living at the time, eventually removing it to Woodville on his appointment to that centre. When found, the figurehead was in good state of preservation, considering the two years buffeting it had received from the waves, but it afterwards received considerable damage in a fire at Woodville. The nose was knocked off, and a portion of the head and shoulders was chawed, the coating of enamel being also melted and partly fused. The restoration was effected by Archdeacon Walsh, of Cambridge, and the bust is now free from blemishes. Canon Eccles has now presented the figurehead to the museum where it occupies a conspicuous position.
Te Aroha News, 22 November 1884, Page 3
It will be remembered that a point was made against "Sir Roger" because of his testifying that when the Bella was wrecked he was picked up by a three-masted American schooner called the Osprey, bound for Melbourne. Inquiries were diligently prosecuted at Melbourne, which proved that no such vessel had ever visited Port Phillip, and the story of rescue was therefore set down as a groundless concoction. It would appear, however, that this conclusion was rather hasty, and that such a schooner was actually in these seas about the time of Roger Tichborne's travels. A story reaches us from Wellington by telegraph, which though a palpable "mare's nest," is worth referring to, since it has been the means of calling to recollection certain remarkable evidence in Auckland. This story is to the effect that while removing a number of ammunition cases from Mount Cook Barracks, Wellington, some of these were found to be marked "transport Osprey," dated variously 1844, 1846, 1854, and 1856, and bearing the names of destination � " For Melbourne," "For Hobart Town," "For Sydney." To conclude from these facts that the transport Osprey was the vessel which saved the wandering Tichborneheir would be as unwarrantable as the former conclusion that no ship of that name had picked him up. The recollections of an old Auckland resident on the subject throw considerable light on the question, his statement in effect being as follow? : � He remembers that a British transport called the Osprey visited New Zealand with stores shortly after the settlement of the colony. That was a large vessel, and she was wrecked on the coast. Her figure-head, a large wooden representation of an osprey, was saved with other wreckage, and gave its name to a public-house situated in High street, Auckland. At the great fire over twenty years ago, the Osprey Hotel was burned down with a lot of other property, and the wooden figure-head which had escaped destruction by water perished by fire. It could not have been the ship which picked up young Tichborne, as could never have made the mistake of describing it as an American schooner. But the gentleman who informs us of these facts has a clear recollection of a three-masted American schooner called the Osprey arriving in Auckland Harbour. This was shortly after the breaking out of the Californian "gold-fever," and the Osprey was the first vessel to reach New Zealand direct from San Francisco, the circumstance being well remembered, through local merchants having sent goods to the " diggings," and being anxious to obtain direct information as to the markets, which the churlish skipper of the Osprey refused to give. This, then, conclusively establishes the fact that there was a vessel, exactly answering the description given by the Claimant, trading in these seas at a time corresponding very nearly with that of his alleged rescue ; and as there is some talk of the claim being prosecuted afresh, this evidence may have considerable effect in corroborating the story &o circumstantially told, but which was believed to be pure fiction. Other old Aucklanders will no doubt call to mind the visit of the Osprey, and may be able to confirm the tale told to us by an "old identity," which suggests the question � What if, after all, it should prove that the real Roger Tichborne has been imprisoned for asserting his claim to his own ? Since the above was written we have received the following particulars of the wreck from a correspondent : � " H.M. Ship Osprey, 18 guns, was wrecked near Hokianga in 1846. No lives lost. The crew marched overland, and were for some time stationed with the two companies of the 58th Regiment at Victoria Hill, Bay of Islands. The captain was tried and acquitted. Part of stores, guns, &c, were recovered by Sir Everard Home, R.N., and lodged in the magazines in the Britomart and Albert Barracks. The figure-head of the ill-fated brig was for many years decorating an inn in High street, and so the interesting discovery is explained. The Press Association has a romantic imagination."
Wellington Independent, Tuesday October 3rd 1865 page 5 column 6
In Memoriam - A handsome white marble tablet,
surmounted with a highly sculptured anchor and chain cable, fixed upon a slab of
Belgian black marble, has been erected in Kingston Chruchyard, Portsmouth, in
memory of the officers and men, late of the Harrier, who were killed in New
Zealand. The following is the inscription:
"To the memory of the following officers and men of the H.M.s. Harrier:-
Edward Hay., commander who died April 30, 1864, from wounds received in action at Te Papu, New Zealand
William Arthur Turner, assistant-surgeon, died at Wellington, New Zealand, May 7, 1862
Fitz Hugh D'Este Jerningham, acting sub-lieutenant, lost at Falkland Islands, January 10, 1965
Richard Harte, A.B., died at sea, October 3, 1861
Ambose Gear, R.M.L.I., died at Auckland, Sept. 27, 1861
S. Hooper, A.B., died at Sydney, May 4, 1863
F. Osborne, second captain foretop
David Downer, R.M.L.I., killed in action at Rangiriri, November 20, 1864
J. McTear, stoker, died February 22, 1864, on board H.M.s. Curacoa
J. Bew, leading seaman, died at Sydney, N.S.W., September 23, 1864
H. Clarke, O.S.
G. Young, A.B.
A. Greenham, stoker, killed in action at Te Papa, April 29, 1864
J. Dark, gunner, R.M.A., drowned at sea, January 11, 1865
J. Sheehan, A.B., drowned at sea, February 14, 1865
W. Jarvis, boy, 1st class, died July 23, 1864
T. Walden, boy, 1st class, died at sea, February 8, 1865
This tablet has been erected as a mark of respect and regard by the captain, officers, and men of the ship during the commission 1860-1865. On the anchor is engraved the name of the ship." This tablet was executed by A.W. Baker, statuary and sculptor, Steam Marble Works, Southsea, Portsmouth.
The Naval Hymn
Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep,
Its own appointed limits keep.
Oh hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea! Amen.
Eternal Father, lend Thy grace
To those with wings who fly thro' space,
Thro wind and storm, thro' sun and rain,
Oh bring them safely home again.
Oh Father, hear a humble prayer,
For those in peril in the air! Amen.
Oh Trinity of love and power,
Our brethren shield in danger's hour,
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them where so ever they go.
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea! Amen.
Written in 1860 by the clergyman William
Whiting after surviving a storm on the Mediterranean Sea.
Set to music by Jon B. Dykes to the tune of "Melita".