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

The Star Of Tasmania

page 192

The Star Of Tasmania.

Wrecked at Oamaru.

the Star of Tasmania, at one time an Aberdeen clipper, of 632 tons, belonging to the White Star Company, was diverted to New Zealand in the early 'sixties. She completed seven voyages to Dunedin, and in 1868 was driven ashore when loading wool at Oamaru, and became a total wreck.

The Star had very good accommodation for about forty passengers, and she generally brought out from thirty to forty on each voyage. She made the run home in 1862 in 81 days, and in 1865 in 83 days. In the passage out in 1866 she was driven south of the Auckland Isles owing to a succession of gales.

Nothing eventful occurred on any of the voyages until 1868, when, after a long delay at Port Chalmers awaiting a cargo, she sailed for Oamaru to complete her loading for London. She had taken in a large quantity of wool, when a heavy easterly gale set in on the 7th February, 1868. During the afternoon the ship was observed drifting, having apparently parted her chain. She was moored with her own chain, attached to the swivel of the Government moorings. Having gone about 300 yards, she was brought up with the starboard anchor. She continued to drag this anchor, and the chain, which bad broken from the swivel, was being hauled in, when at 7 p.m. she parted from her anchor, her head canting inshore. Sail was set, but to no purpose. . . . After this she heeled over to starboard, and the seas went clean over her. Her deck was soon stove in, her masts went, and the sea came through her bilge, washing out the wool, of which there were over 2100 bales on board. During this time the crew were clustered on the upper or shore side of the forecastle. Captain Culbert had barely time to crawl forward before the after part of the ship gave way. He was seen holding Mrs. Baker, a passenger, whose two boys, aged three and five years respectively, were drowned in the forecastle, where their mother had put them for shelter and safety. During this time lines were being procured with the view of getting one on board, but the sea was so terrific that no person dared venture sufficiently near the vessel for the purpose, the "drawback" and pieces of the broken spars rendering it a service of great danger. Several persons having failed, a sailor fastened a line round his body, and took in his hand a line with a weight attached to the end. He ventured into the surf and made three unsuccessful attempts. If there had been daylight the last throw would have been successful, for the weight struck amongst the people on the ship, but through the darkness they did not see the line, and they did not know what was being tried until they heard the blow of the weight on the ship's side. After the throw referred to the sailor was knocked down by a sea, or by a floating bale of wool, and he was with difficulty hauled on shore. He was so exhausted that he was not again able to essay such an attempt. The crew were now hailed to hold on as the tide was receding. About 10 p.m. a surfboat man, Duncan Young, succeeded in getting on board with a rope, one end of which was fastened on board, and the other held by people on shore. It being now nearly low water the whole of those on board were passed safely ashore.

Shortly after the vessel struck, Mr. Stevens, the chief officer, fell, or was washed off the forecastle. He was tossed about for some time in the surf, and was then thrown on the beach, and was saved. A seaman was saved in a similar manner. One man who jumped overboard was last seen clinging to a bale of wool outside the line of surf. Brooks and Petrie, two seamen, were the only ones of the crew lost; and the other two sufferers were the children of Mrs. Baker. Several of the crew were injured but not seriously.

The wreck of the Star of Tasmania was sold for £40. and the wool for £1360 to a company at Oamaru.

During the same gale the snips Water Nymph and the schooner Otago were wrecked.

The records of the Star of Tasmania were:—

To Port Chalmers.
Sailed. Arrived. Captain. Days.
July 28, '62 Nov. 4, '62 Culbert 99
Aug. 17, '63 Nov. 23, '63 Culbert 98
Land to land 86
July 11, '64 Oct. 16, '64' Cuinert 97
July 7, '65 Oct. 7, '65 Culbert 92
Land to land 81
July 14 '66 Oct. 14, '66 Culbert 92
Land to land 80
July 11, '67 Oct. 14, '67 Culbert 95