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

The Halcione

page 74

The Halcione.

Wrecked at Wellington Heads.

the Halcione, one of the first iron full-rigged ships built for the Shaw, Savill Company, in 1869, completed twenty-six voyages to Auckland, Wellington, Lyttelton, Nelson, Bluff, and Napier; and after making a good run of 89 days to Wellington Heads, on her eighteenth passage out, was totally wrecked.

the Halcione was never a flyer, but she made more than average runs. In 1886 she made the Bluff in 87 days, under Captain Parker. She also ran to Wellington, under Captain Bishop on three occasions in 87 days. The ship was built specially for the New Zealand
The Halcione.

The Halcione.

trade by Steele, of Greenock; her tonnage being 843. In 1888 the vessel's rig was changed to that of a barque.

On the voyage to Napier in 1874, while off Erith, in shipping the gangway it caught the water, precipitating the second officer, the carpenter, and a seaman into the water. Another sailor bravely dived, with a buoy, and rescued the two former, the latter being drowned. On May 31 Captain Bishop died from apoplexy, being found dead in bed, and the first officer, Mr. Croker, brought the ship to Napier. the Halcione landed 337 immigrants.

the Halcione came to grief in attempting to enter the port of Wellington on January 8, 1896, during a stormy night, and the captain and crew had a narrow escape of their lives. At the time of the wreck the ship was under the command of Captain Boorman, the chief officer being Mr. Joynt, of Christchurch. Captain Boorman had previously commanded the Lady Jocelyn, Lyttelton, Euterpe, Akaroa, and Oamaru, and was a skilful and popular commander. The day the disaster occurred the Halcione had come through Cook Straits with a fresh northerly wind, and was standing off about two miles from a little to the eastward of the entrance to the harbour, when suddenly the wind swept round to the south, blowing hard, with flashes of lightning. When the wind shifted, Captain Boorman wore ship and stood for the harbour. On nearing the heads the weather was so thick that only a few feet ahead could be seen. At 10.30, when the storm was at its height, and when the lightning was almost continuous, the discovery was made that the vessel was in dangerous proximity to the shore. Pencarrow Light, which had been obscured for some time, was loom-page 75ing right ahead. An effort was made to extricate the ship, but owing to the gale increasing it was impossible to get her off the land. Soon after she struck with such force that a tremendous hole was made in her forefoot, through which the water rushed in at an alarming rate. The point where she struck was one of the three rocky points at the head of Fitzroy Bay, situated between Pencarrow Heads, where the lighthouse is situated, and Baring Heads. A boat was lowered with considerable difficulty, and the chief officer and five of the crew reached Wellington and reported the disaster.

The steamer Mana, having on board Captain Bendall, secretary of the Underwriters' Association, was despatched as soon as possible, and when they reached the ship they found her full of water, with heavy seas breaking over her—a hopeless wreck. The vessel was standing upright with her sails still set—the crew having had no time to furl them. A second boat, containing the captain and remainder of the crew, was successfully launched, but on nearing the shore it was smashed against the rocks. All the occupants were thrown into the water, but managed with great difficulty to scramble ashore safely. They walked four miles to a small bay on the harbour side of Pencarrow Lighthouse, where they were picked up by the steamer Mana. Captain Boorman rescued the ship's papers, which he fastened to his waist. Two days later the Halcione had disappeared altogether, the heavy grinding on the rocks having torn the bottom out of her. The shore, for a considerable distance was strewn with over seven hundred tons of valuable cargo and wreckage. The crew saved only what they stood up in. During the following week, on the 10th January, an inquiry was held into the wreck, and the Court found that the accident was caused through stress of weather, without any neglect or default on the part of the captain and crew.

A curious coincidence relating to the wreck of the Halcione has been sent to me by a correspondent in Wellington. The writer, who came out in the ship from England on her first voyage, in 1869, writes:—

"Captain Bishop, who had made some fifteen voyages to Wellington in the old Wild Duck, was given command of the Halcione on her maiden trip to Wellington. The ship sailed well enough on a following wind, but nothing would induce her to 'stay' when beating to windward—whenever a head wind was met with on the voyage it was always a case of 'wear ship.'

"On arriving off Wellington Heads on September 1, 1869, a north-westerly breeze was blowing, and when the pilot came on board he had a look round the ship and then said to the captain, 'Well Bishop, how does she stay?' 'Like a bird,' said Bishop. 'Well,' said the pilot, 'we will beat her up the entrance and show what a new iron clipper can do.'

"Under topsails and courses the ship on her first tack stood straight for Pencarrow lighthouse, and when about half a mile away was put about, but instead of staying, she, as usual, paid off and wore round, and as she did so her head passed within a stone's throw of the rocks to seaward of the lighthouse. The pilot's language was lurid, and as the gale was increasing, he had his boat and crew hoisted on board, squared the yards and stood away to sea. Three days afterwards we again picked up the land near Cape Campbell, and soon afterwards sighted the steamer Tararua and were towed across the Straits and into Wellington."

Following are the voyages made to New Zealand by the Halcione:—

To Auckland.
Sailed. Arrived. Captain. Days.
May 29 sep. 10, '78 Parker 104
Mar. 17 June 25, '81 Parker 100
Jan. 1 May 1, '82 Parker 118
To Wellington.
May 28 sep. 3, '69 Bishop 98
June 2 Aug. 28, '70 Bishop 87
May 31 Aug. 24, '71 Bishop 85
May 1 July 27, '72 Bishop 87
April 18 July 14, '73 Bishop 87
*May 25 Sep. 5, '75 Croker 103
May 17 Aug. 19, '79 Parker 93
Jan. 6 May 1, '83 Parker 115
Nov. 28, '83 Mar. 12, '84 Parker 105
Dec. 5, '84 Mar. 29, '85 Parker 114
To Lyttelton.
May 19 Aug. 25, '76 Croker 98
Aug. 18 Nov. 28, '77 Croker 102
May 30 Aug. 29, '80 Parker 90
Nov. 8, '88 Feb. 14, '89 Kelly 98
Nov. 21, '89 Feb. 25, '90 Kelly 96
To Bluff.
Dec. 19, '85 Mar. 16, '86 Parker 87
page 76
To Nelson.
Sailed. Arrived. Captain. Days.
Feb. 25 June 14, '87 Kelly 109
Aug. 24, '91 Kelly 99
Nov. 16, '92 Boorman 100
Oct. 4, '93 Boorman 89
Nov. 8, '94 Boorman 105
To New Plymouth.
May 26 Sep. 2, '75 Croker 99
To Napier.
Mar. 20 July 4, '74 Croker 105

* Called at New Plymouth to land passengers.