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NEW ZEALAND DISASTERS AND TRAGEDIES
SINKING OF THE BRIG PAKEHA
SATURDAY 11 JUNE 1881
OFF LAKE ELLESMERE, CANTERBURY.

The brig Pakeha, 170 tons, bound from Kaipara to Dunedin and laden with timber, was wrecked on Saturday 11 June 1881 at 9.00am on Taumutu Beach, near Lake Ellesmere, Canterbury. Seven men lost their lives, and one was saved. Christian PETERSEN was washed ashore with deck cargo.

The names of the lost are: -

- Frederick Second Mate
- Alfred AB
ANDERSON - AB
CARLSON Charles AB
MOORE (or BREWER) - Captain
SMITH Christie Cook
WALKER John First Mate

If anyone has further information on the above names I would be most pleased to hear from you.

From the Ellesmere Guardian:

The brig Pakeha, Captain MOORE, left Kaipara on Wednesday, June 1, bound for Dunedin, having on board a full cargo of timber, consigned to the owner of the vessel, Mr FINDLAY, timber merchant, Dunedin. All appears to have gone well until Friday last, June 10, when a heavy gale veering from S to SW was experienced with a very high sea running, accompanied with blinding sheets of rain. As the day advanced the gale increased in violence and the sea was literally mountains high, causing the vessel, which we may mention, was rather an ancient one – to labour very heavily. When the brig was within about twelve miles, dead reckoning of Dunedin Heads – as far as her position could be ascertained, which it was difficult to do, owing to the thick weather – she sprang a leak and became almost unmanageable. A regard for the safety of life and property then induced Captain MOORE to the put the vessel before the wind, his intention being to seek shelter under Banks’ Peninsula. Accordingly she was put about and kept running before the furious gale at a tremendous rate all Friday night and a portion of Saturday morning. During some fearful gusts about half-an-hour or so before the wreck took place, which was about half past six am, the two lower topmast staysails, foresail and foretopmast staysail were blown clean out of the sheet-bolts and the vessel became entirely unmanageable. Seeing his extremely dangerous position, the captain decided to let the craft drift ashore, and with this view the braces were cut, causing one of the masts to go over the side. All this time the sea was making clean breaches over here, and all hands were swept off into the raging foam. Out of eight hands on board, seven have met that fate which befalls so many of those who ‘go down to the sea in ships’. The only survivor – Christian PETERSEN, seaman – when he was washed overboard managed to get hold of a floating spar, to which he clung until it drifted ashore.

When the beach had been reached, PETERSEN attempted to walk but he was in such a thoroughly exhausted condition and so bruised owing to contact with some floating timber from the wreck that he fell three different times and at last, was unable to get up at all, but lay in a semi-unconscious state until picked up shortly afterwards by one of the lake fisherman, who speedily had him conveyed to his hut, where his necessities were administered by the fishermen. Dr MAJOR, having heard of the wreck and that the only person saved was in a very critical state, immediately volunteered his professional services, and proceeded through a pitiless storm of wind and rain to the Lake. On arrival there, he kindly did all that lay in his power for the relied of the unfortunate castaway, who, we are glad to hear, is progressing favourably towards recovery. He will probably be in Southbridge today. PETERSEN we may remark was the only one of the crew who could not swim.

The place where the Pakeha came ashore is the same exactly as that where some two years and four months ago (we write from memory as to the time) the schooner Clyde was beached during a heavy gale, similar to that which raged on the New Zealand coast during Friday and Saturday last. The Pakeha is a total wreck, having smashed into a thousand pieces and the beach for many miles is strewed with timber and debris from the wreck.

Yesterday being a gloriously fine day, a large number of persons from Southbridge and surrounding district took the opportunity to visit the scene of the wreck. Mrs MITCHELL, of the Royal Hotel kindly send down yesterday a parcel of necessary clothing for the unfortunate man PETERSEN, having lost all his effects.

Thanks to Beverley Evans of Christchurch for this.

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