Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

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

The Edwin Fox

page 44

The Edwin Fox.

A Record of 32 Years.

Lying in shallow water near the freezing works in Picton Harbour there is an old hulk that is picturesque even in her decrepitude, and, like a brokendown aristocrat, she bears about her unmistakable signs of having seen better days. Her eliptical stern, which once boasted square windows—a style that sufficiently suggest her age—still has the remains of the elaborate scroll-work with which the builders used to adorn
the Edwin Fox Formerly Used As A Landing Stage.

the Edwin Fox Formerly Used As A Landing Stage.

the old wooden ships, and the name "Edwin Fox, Southampton," is still legible. Dismantled and stripped of everything, the old barque has defied the hand of time, and is likely to do so for many years to come, for she is built of good solid teak, and now, seventy years after she left the launching ways in Calcutta, which was her birth-place, her timber is as sound as a bell. She has been in her present position for 24 years, and is now used as a storage hulk for coal and other materials of a non-edible nature for the New Zealand Refrigerating Co. She lies alongside the land, and a railway line has been run through the width, and an opening made on the seaward side at the railhead. This allows small coastal vessels to come alongside and load or discharge cargo through the opening. Large coastal vessels of the coaling type come alongside and discharge their cargoes on the top deck by means of a winch hoist.

For thirty-two years she sailed the seas, and if the old hull could speak it would be able to tell some interesting yarns. She was a full-rigged ship of 836 tons, built to the order of the famous East India Company. In 1878 her rig was changed to a barque. About the year 1873 she was bought by the Shaw, Savill Company, and in that year she made her first trip to New Zealand, Lyttelton being her port of call, with 140 immigrants. She arrived on June 27, after a rather tedious passage of 114 days from Brest. Captain Johnston, who was in command, reported that on the voyage there had been six deaths—Dr. Langley, an A.B. killed when the Bay of Biscay was being crossed, three adults from fever, and one infant. When the ship arrived at Lyttelton she was placed inpage 45quarantine, as four of the deaths reported were from fever.

In 1874 the Edwin Fox sailed from London on December 23, and arrived at Wellington on April 18, 1875, bringing 259 immigrants. She originally left London on November 24, but during a gale at Deal lost her anchor and put back. The vessel was then in command of Captain Walpole. On resuming her voyage again she ran into and sank a collier schooner, the Edwin Fox drifting on to the rocks at Deal. She was towed off and docked, and finally left on December 23 in command of Captain Davis.

In 1878 the barque sailed for Nelson with 244 Government immigrants, and
the Edwin Fox Used As A Hulk At Picton.

the Edwin Fox Used As A Hulk At Picton.

arrived at her destination on November 18. She was then 25 years old.

Another passage was made to Lyttelton in 1880. The barque sailed from London on January 7, and arrived on May 3, in command of Captain J. Phease, making the run in 115 days. She brought out 20 saloon, 12 second-class, and 77 steerage passengers. For the most part fine weather was experienced, light winds prevailing. There were many complaints over the sleeping accommodation. Some of the quarters were almost in darkness, and some berths wet from water finding its way down the side of the ship. The passengers also complained of the scantiness and quality of the food. This was the case with a large number of the ships bringing immigrants in the early days. Some of the passengers were booked for Auckland, and came on by steamer.

The same year, on December 31, the Edwin Fox sailed from London for the Bluff, and arrived there on May 19, 1881, making a long passage of 139 days.

the Edwin Fox came once more, in 1885, to Port Chalmers, under the command of Captain Paterson, the run out having occupied 116 days.

During her long sea life the Edwin Fox saw some stirring times. On one occasion, in the English Channel, she had a close call in a furious gale. The crews managed to get at some cases of spirits, and were nearly all drunk, so the passengers had to turn to, man the pumps, and do what they could to save the ship. Eventually, leaking badly, she was towed by the steamer Copernicus into Brest. On another occasion she grounded on the Goodwin Sands, but was successfully refloated from that grave of gallant ships and towed back to London for repairs.

Once a Freezer.

With such a sound old hull the Edwin Fox did not suffer the usual fate of the wooden craft, and she played rather an important part in the early days of the freezing industry of New Zealand. As those who have followed the history of the industry are aware, there were no land freezing works when the industrypage 46started. The freshly-slaughtered carcases were taken straight aboard the ship, and there frozen. Refrigerating plant was fitted in the Edwin Fox in London by the Shaw, Savill Company, and she was sent out to Dunedin to act as freezing and store-ship to the other vessels of the company that had been fitted up to carry frozen meat Home. This was in the year 1885.

Still living in Auckland is Mr. H. Weatherilt, who came out in the Edwin Fox on this voyage to Dunedin as engineer-in chief for the Union Steamship Co. He fitted up all the machinery in the ship, and had the entire management for five years, until she went to Napier. Subsequently Mr. Weatherilt was appointed senior superintendent of machinery and surveyor of ships for the New Zealand Government. He held this position for many years, and retired in June, 1912. Mr. Weatherilt, it will be remembered, was one of eight survivors rescued from the raft sent out from the ill-fated Elingamite, wrecked on the Three Kings on November 9, 1902. He with seven others were 5½ days on the raft before being picked up by H.M.s. Penguin.

Mr. J. Gibb, who was employed on the Edwin Fox in her new capacity, is also alive, and living at Napier in good health. Mr. Gibb had then been in the employ of the company for several years, sailing in the seventies as boatswain of the Nelson and the Canterbury. When the Edwin Fox arrived at Port Chalbers in 1885 Mr. Gibb was sent aboard to dismantle the superfluous gear and assist in getting her ready for the ensuing season's freezing. After being used at Port Chalmers for a few years the Fox was sent up to Lyttelton, then to Gisborne, and later to the Bluff, and then finally she was sent to Picton under engagement to freeze for the Wairau Company. After two seasons the Christchurch Meat Company, now the New Zealand Refrigerating Co., bought the Fox, and Mr. Gibb went with her. A season later the company built works ashore, and the old vessel was stripped and hauled up in shallow water, where she now lies, and is used as a coal hulk for the works.