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NEW ZEALAND DISASTERS AND TRAGEDIES
SS WAIRARAPA
29 OCTOBER 1894

From the 1983 Centennial issue of Salvation Army Magazine ‘The War Cry’ .

(Thanks to John Billing for this.)

Salvationist Heroine

On Monday 29 October 1894, the SS Wairapapa, with more than 230 passengers aboard, besides the crew, crashed on to rocks at Miner’s Head on Great Barrier Island in the Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand.   Captain McIntosh, the master, and 134 passengers and crew, perished.  

There were four Salvationists on board including Captain Laura Flavall aged 27, and Staff-Captain Annette Paul.

The SS Wairapapa left Sydney pm Wednesday, 24 October, bound for Auckland.   On the Sunday, after some days at sea, at a heavy fog descended and lay all day.   When evening closed in, apprehension grew.

A few minutes after the watch through he saw a dark shape looming right ahead and a minute later gave the alarm.   The engines were thrust into reverse, but it was too late and the ship drove into the base of the cliffs, which rose 800 feet above.

Tossed by the sea, the stranded ship gave a severe lurch and some 60 people were thrown into the sea and drowned.

Before Captains Paul and Flavall left their cabin, according to a fellow passenger, they said, “Don’t be afraid, Miss Dickenson, God will look after us.   We are prepared to die.”   Captain Flavall then knelt on the floor and prayed before they went up on deck into the tragic darkness, pulsating with a life-and-death struggle.

The War Cry of 10 November 1894 records:  “The Salvationists, with others, clung to the rails for 12 hours.   In that position the lasses sang to the passengers ‘Jesus, Lover of my Soul’, ‘My Father God is at the helm’ and ‘I do believe’.   Between the singing, they talked to the passengers about their souls.”

Several vain attempts were made to get a line to shore, before a steward succeeded.   A thick rope was then secured to land and many were rescued by that means.

“Captain Flavall’s hands were cut and bleeding as she hung to the rigging.   She got hold of the line to the shore, when the sea dashed against her and swept her off: she caught hold again.   The third time a tremendous wave swept her right off and Captain Flavall’s spirit went off to Glory.”


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