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

The Ida Zeigler

page 218

The Ida Zeigler.

A Skipper who "Cracked on."

A very well-known vessel which brought many early New Zealanders to these shores was the ship Ida Zeigler, which for seven years was commanded by Captain Abraham L. Reynolds, and on the last voyage by Captain Sellars.

Captain Abraham L. Reynolds had the reputation of carrying on when he had a chance, but he was popular with his passengers. In 1864 Lady Wynyard (wife of Governor Wynyard), with her family, were passengers to England in the "Ida." On this occasion Mr. William Mann was chief officer, and Mr. Henry Neville second officer. In later years Captain Charles George Best, for
The "Ida," as she was affectionately called. This picture, which is from a photograph or a painting owned by Mrs. M. A. Whitcombe, shows the ship lying-to, waiting for the pilot.

the Ida Zeigler, A Favourite Ship.

some years harbour master at Tauranga and the Thames, was chief officer on the "Ida." Captain Best married a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds, of Parnell. She is still in Auckland, residing at Remuera.

The "Ida" was a comfortable ship, specially fitted up for carrying passengers, and she brought many hundreds to Auckland. Although not a record-breaker, her longest passage from London to Auckland was 96 days, and the shortest 85 days. She made some fast runs Home, on one occasion docking in London only 74 days from Auckland. She did not sail direct to any other ports in the Dominion.

The "Ida" had several eventful voyages when trading to New Zealand. During the passage out in 1865, after passing the Cape of Good Hope she encountered, on October 30th, a terrific gale, during which some heavy seas were shipped, which stove in all the skylights, washed away the quarter boat, and took most things on deck overboard. The gale lasted for 36 hours.

On September 19th, in 44 S. latitude and 84 E. longitude, she passed through another gale of hurricane force, during which a tremendous sea broke on board, carrying away a portion of her port bulwarks, washing away hen coops off the poop, seriously damaging a life boat on the davits, and filling the cabins with water, and washing to and fro everything movable on deck. On the same day another heavy sea struck the ship, which washed the second mate and two men from the wheel, stove in the after hatches, carried away the quarter boat, and started the poop, rent stanchions and mizzen channels fore and aft, thus causing the vessel to leak. When the sea struck the "Ida," she was thrown on her beam ends, and the forepage 219 topmast boom and all the gear of the foreyard were washed away. At midnight the ship rolled heavily, during which she carried away her fore and main top-gallant backstay lanyards. The officers' succeeded in at once getting preventives rigged on the mainmast. During the gale the ship was running before the wind, and at times, when in the trough of the sea, her head sails would hang close to the masts, there being no wind to fill them, the barometer falling to 29deg 20m.

During the 1867 trip the "Ida" went through another severe buffeting. Soon after leaving the Trades, the weather became boisterous, and on the 28th August a very heavy squall struck the ship. Sail was shortened, but later a very heavy sea struck the vessel, which sprang the mainmast all round immediately below the spider band. At this time the gale had increased to hurricane force, and the vessel was shipping large quantities of water. The men set to work, under great difficulties, in securing the mainmast by placing the spare main yard over end and lashing it on the after side of the vessel. Hardwood fishes were also secured around the mast, together with several stunsail booms. The weather continued boisterous for some days, and when abreast of the Cape another severe gale was met with from W.S.W., with a terrific sea. A tremendous heavy sea struck the vessel amidships, and washed overboard the sheep pen and several valuable pedigree sheep. A portion of the port bulwarks was also stove in, and the long boat severely damaged.

The Wreck.

On her eighth voyage to Auckland, the "Ida" was under the command of an old favourite in Auckland, Captain Sellars. After discharging passengers and cargo, she sailed for Napier to load wool during the month of February, 1868. She had taken in a portion of her cargo, when, with very little warning, she was driven ashore at low water about noon; at 4 p.m. the masts went overboard, and two hours later the ship was a hopeless wreck, the crew having a narrow escape of losing their lives.

Fortunately for the port of Napier prior to the building of the breakwater, "a black north-easter," such as that which blew during the night of February 26th and the morning of the 27th, 1868, was of rare occurrence, but when it did come, the danger to shipping lying in the roadstead was imminent. True it is that substantial moorings were laid, and they no doubt stood in good stead in saving many a fine vessel from the fate that befell the Ida Zeigler. It was during the night of February 26th the gale started which drove the "Ida" ashore. The following morning it increased with, heavy squalls. The ship had no anchor down at this time; she was attached to the moorings only by one chain, on which was fifty fathoms of cable, as well as forty-five fathoms of the mooring cable. The ship rode on the single cable till 9 a.m., when, finding the wind and sea increasing, Captain Sellars let go the port anchor, and veered away on both with about eighty-five fathoms on the starboard chain, and thirty on the port. During a heavy squall the ship parted her starboard cable. Efforts were made to heave this cable in, but while this was being done the ship struck the ground heavily aft five or six times. Captain Sellars had taken soundings both before and after letting go the port anchor, and had found the depth to be 4½ fathoms. The ship was drawing over eighteen feet. Referring to the disaster, the "Auckland Star" published the following details:—"It was during the night that the gale rose to its greatest intensity, and the morning showed the bay a mass of foaming waves, which were breaking high over the vessel till 11 o'clock, when she was observed to be drifting shore-wards. An attempt wag made to run her bows on to the beach, but it was not successful. Immediately on striking, the "Ida" turned broadside on to the shore, and being then at the mercy of the waves, speedily went to pieces.page 220 During this time rain was falling heavily, and the surf could be seen from the Spit to be dashing mast-high over the doomed vessel as she was rocking from side to side, until at length she held over on to the beach, and became fixed on her broadside.

"Captain Sellars and the first and second mates were the last to leave the vessel. A line was connected with the shore, by means of a hen-coop and a line, and Captain Sellars was hauled through the surf, being the last to leave the wreck. The ship's chronometer, valued at £100, was lost. The remainder of the crew arrived on shore by means of the main brace. The wreck was sold in five lots, the total amount realising £52 3s. The cargo was valued at about £45,000. the Ida Zeigler was insured in England, and the New Zealand Insurance Company had a risk of £5,000 on the cargo.

"Salvage operations commenced as soon as possible, and some portion of the wreck and about 400 out of 2,500 bales of wool were saved. Owing to a change of wind to the south, the greater portion of the wreck and her cargo was driven out of the bay. Mr. J. Robinson, while assisting in the salvage, was carried out to sea and drowned.

"At the official inquiry, the following decision was given:—the Ida Zeigler was lost in the roadstead owing to an error in judgment of the Harbourmaster in mooring the ship in too shallow water at the Government moorings, also in not shackling both ship's cables to the moorings, and his neglect in not examining the buoy and moorings, and taking soundings previous to the wool season."

To Auckland.
Sailed. Arrived. Captain. Days.
May 23 Aug. 21, '61 Reynolds 90
Aug. 24 Nov. 21, '62 Reynolds 89
July 3 Oct. 6, '63 Reynolds 95
July 26 Oct. 29, 64 Reynolds 95
July 19 Oct. 12, '65 Reynolds 85
July 26 Oct. 22, '66 Reynolds 88
July 11 Oct. 16, '67 Reynolds 97
Aug. 3 Nov. 8, '68 Sellars 97