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White Wings Vol I. Fifty Years Of Sail In The New Zealand Trade, 1850 TO 1900

The Jessie Readman

page 97

The Jessie Readman.

Stranded at the Chathams.

the Jessie Readman, a sister ship to the Christian McCausland, would have completed her twenty-third voyage out and home but for the disaster which befell her in 1893, when homeward bound from New Zealand. the Jessie Readman was an iron ship of 962 tons, built by Scott, of Greenock, for Patrick Henderson, and later sailed under the
Stranded At Chatham Islands.

Stranded At Chatham Islands.

Shaw, Savill flag. She was a speedy and comfortable ship, and brought many thousands of immigrants to the Dominion. Captain Burton, who was in command when the vessel was wrecked at the Chathams on her homeward voyage, had a very anxious time on the previous passage out to Dunedin, which port he reached on Sept. 22, 1892. the Jessie Readman, like many other vessels arriving from Home during the latter part of 1892, had to contend with large quantities of ice, which was first seen at midnight on August 8, in Latitude 37.30S., Longitude 29W. She sailed between icebergs for 130 miles, which ranged from one quarter to one and a half miles in length, and from 100ft to 450ft in height. Fifty large bergs, besides several small ones were counted, the last seen being on August 9. The ship also encountered a heavy gale from S.S.W. on August 12, attended by a very high sea, during which she lost several sails, and suffered other damage.

After discharging her cargo and loading wool at Dunedin and Napier she sailed early in December, 1892, from the latter port for London, and all wentpage 98 well until the Chatham Islands were reached. She experienced mainly northerly winds after clearing the New Zealand coast, and when approaching the Chathams met with foggy weather. Captain Burton believed he had given the Island a wide berth, but during the night the ship struck the land on Tuapeka beach. The foggy weather and tide had hove her about six miles from her true course in passing the Island. She became a total wreck, but the officers and crew were safely landed. the Jessie Readman was the only ship stranded on the Chatham Islands to save the whole of her cargo. The wool was landed on the beach practically undamaged, but it suffered greatly afterwards. It was first landed on the beach and then carted to a level piece of grassy land free from the tide, as unfortunately no dunnage could be procured. The only dunnage available was the fence of a sheep farmer, which meant pulling up the fence to be used as posts. The owner asked an exorbitant price, which Captain Burton declined, the result being that the ground tier absorbed the damp, and naturally the wool was badly damaged. Then the steamers chartered to convey the wool to New Zealand carried deck loads, and running into bad weather, the cargo suffered enormously.

The residents at the Chathams made a big haul out of the salvage. They charged one pound per bale to shift the wool from where it was landed to the top of the beach—only about one hundred yards. Nearly all the horses on the island were taken over to the wreck, so all the settlers participated in the harvest. The illustration accompanying this article was kindly supplied by Mr. Russell Duncan, of Napier, who happened to be at the Chathams a couple of days after the wreck.

Referring to the loss of ships at the Chathams, Mr. J. G. Eugst, who in the early days owned and sailed vessels at the Chathams, and had lived there for many years, stated:—"I have been a great deal (in my own vessel) round this island, and by experience I can speak about the tide. It is not a general ocean tide, but a tide which is caused round the shores by flood and ebb, which influence extends from ten to fifteen miles either way. The flood tide splits on the south side, and runs on the east and west shore till it joins again on the north side. The ebb tide splits on the north side and runs reverse on the two shores till it joins again on the south side. Any sailing ship which comes into these limits by foggy weather or calm, or by night, most surely comes to grief. In this way the flood tide sets a vessel northwards, and the ebb tide southwards; as is to be seen in the case of the Ocean Mail and Jessie Readman. These two ships by the ebb tide came some miles to the south. This is not my opinion alone but the masters'. I had on my vessel many years ago fully agreed to what I have stated here. It should be made known to masters of ships that when leaving New Zealand and taking route towards Cape Horn they should give these islands a wide berth.

"I can state instances when on my vessel falling in with a calm on the S.E. side between Owenga and 44 degrees in the evening, by daylight we found ourselves up by the Sisters—that means from 30 to 40 miles."

Here follow the records of the Jessie Readman:—

To Auckland.
Sailed. Arrived. Captain. Days.
June 27 Sep. 26, '79 Gibson 89
Aug. 8 Nov. 5, '85 Gibson 105
To Wellington.
Sep. 22 Dec. 15,'71 Strachan 84
Aug. 10 Nov. 20, '78 Kennedy 102
Oct. 4, '86 Jan. 17, '87 Gibson 105
Sep. 14, '88 Jan. 1, '89 Gibson 109
To Lyttelton.
July 25 Oct. 24, '80 Gibson 91
To Port Chalmers.
Dec. 17, '69 Mar. 11, '70 Strachan 84
Jan. 4 Mar. 23, '71 Strachan 78
Land to land 74
Nov. 30, '71 Feb. 23, '72 Strachan 85
Aug. 28 Dec. 1, '73 Mitchell 95
July 28 Oct. 26, '74 Mitchell 90
July 8 Oct. 1, '75 Muir 85
June 26 Sep. 27, '76 Kennedy 93
Land to land 88
July 4 Oct. 1, '77 Kennedy 89
Land to land 79
July 15 Oct. 24, '81 Gibson 100
July 26 Nov. 2, '82 Gibson 99
July 11 Oct. 15, '83 Gibson 97
Nov. 11, '87 Jan. 31, '88 Gibson 80
Land to land 75
July 20 Oct. 29, '89 Gibson 92
June 7 Sep. 21, '90 Gibson 104
May 7 Aug. 1, '91 Burton 86
June 18 Sep. 22, '92 Burton 94