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Life in Early Poverty Bay

Local Marine Disasters

page 83

Local Marine Disasters.

The first wreck I remember was the barque “Lochnagar,” 444 tons, which vessel took our total shipment of wool Home in those days. The next was the “Arcadia,” a schooner which put in here dismasted. The U.S.S. Co.'s s.s. Taupo got on the rocks on Kaiti Beach one misty night, the lights of the Maori pah being taken for the town lights. I also saw the wreck of the s.s. Sir Donald on the Wainui Beach. She was blown away from Napier in a southerly and all hands were lost. Of course we often had the Pretty Jane, the Go Ahead, and other small vessels holed on the bar. I was on the beach having a dip when the s.s. Wairarapa landed our little launch the s.s. Snark. I was also on the beach when the Wairarapa came in on fire and was gutted. The fire broke out in the linen locker just after leaving Napier. All her cushions and movable fittings were jettisoned and she was filled with water by our fire brigade and her own pumps. Our old manual was taken out on the “cattle punt.” The steamer later left for Auckland under her own steam but all her passengers remained here.

The wreck of the Tasmania, which occurred one night off Mahia, near Table Cape, will not be forgotten by those old residents of the day—September, 1897. My brother Walter was a passenger and he was landed with others at the boat harbor, near Cook's monument, at daylight the next morning. All were saved except one boat load, which tried to land over near Whareongaonga, the boat being upset in the surf, and I believe all were drowned. As I was not here at the time, I am not too sure of the details. I have my brother's boat pass, which was handed to him that night when the steamer anchored in the Bay, but as a s.e. moderate gale was blowing the tender did not go out. The “Tasmania” slowly steamed out of the Bay on her way to Napier, but was wrecked later in the evening and went down in deep water. The owner of a hand-bag containing some diamonds worth several thousands later engaged a ketch and diver to try and recover the bag, but it was never found. Capt. McGee was master of the “Tasmania” and I have heard that the night of the wreck his wife in Sydney was awakened by a crash and, on rising to find out the cause, found that the cord holding an enlarged photo of her husband had broken. The picture fell and was smashed by the fall; next morning she heard of the wreck.

The Union Company's Arahura was also holed in the roadstead and beached near the groyne, eventually getting away all right. An old ship's boat that lay at the wharf bottom up was bought by two men who went fishing in her and never returned. The small barque Rio Grande became a total wreck near the groyne, also the cutter Spray near the end of Grey Street. I remember the loss off Waipiro Bay of the Aotea with all hands. Capt Nicholas was in command. Also the upsetting of the surf boat belonging to the s.s. Australia with loss of life off Tolaga Bay. I was present at the City Rink when Constable Stagpole received the R.H.S. silver medal for bravery in saving life on that occasion.

I must not forget to mention the s.s. Star of Canada, whose bones rest beneath the waves off the Kaiti beach.