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

The Schiehallion

The Schiehallion.

Story of a Tragic Wreck.

the Schiehallion, a smart little iron barque of 600 tons, was built in 1869 for the Shaw-Savill Company. She had a rather short career, as she was wrecked in the English Channel when on a passage from Auckland in 1879. She visited all the principal ports of New Zealand, and on one occasion ran out to Wellington in 84 days from port to port.

Leaving Auckland in 1878 under the command of Captain Levack, with thirteen passengers and sixteen of a crew the barque made an unusually long passage Home of 113 days. Nothing eventful, however, occurred until she had passed Ushant Light. She was running before a ten-knot breeze in very thick weather, and at 6 a.m. on January 13, 1879, ran ashore. There was a heavy ground sea running at the time, which lifted and bumped the ship on the shingle; but, fortunately, she did not go to pieces for a couple of hours. The cook, David Moore, a brave and strong swimmer, jumped overboard with the lead line, and by a supreme effort reached the shore. By means of the lead line a hawser was pulled ashore and made fast to the rocks. By this means the majority of those on board gained the land, hand over hand through the breakers, many being half drowned at the end of their perilous journey. Mr. Beetson, the popular second officer, exhausted by his efforts to save the women and children and by loss of blood, his thumb having been crushed off, was stunned against the side of the ship as he was making for the land, and was carried out to sea and drowned. When most of the crew had reached the shore, the coastguards arrived with the rocket gear, and the children were got off, lashed to one another, or to the backs of sailors.

Before this the wreck had begun to break up. The mainmast had gone over the seaward side, as subsequently did the other masts. the Schiehallion lay broadside on to the shore, and was canted to seaward, the port bulwarks, to which those on board clung, being high out of the water. To the after rail, on the land side, the last three souls to be rescued clung. One was a woman, a Mrs. Storey, who had refused to leave the ship before her children were safely landed. She was clad onlypage 104 in a linen nightdress. Her companions, old men both, one being the captain, were too exhausted and benumbed to even fasten the life line around her waist. There was a loud report like an explosion, when the iron plates of the hull parted from one another, and the ship broke in two amidships, the fore and mizzen masts going by the board. The wreck was lifted bodily up and heeled further to starboard, as if about to turn turtle and sucked down into the sea. For a few seconds it seemed as if all were over, but a shoreward sea lifted the vessel back, and the three pathetic figures were seen still clinging to the rail.

Mrs. Storey was at last fastened to the rope and was pulled through the waves, but when near the beach the line jammed and she was held under water. A cry went up of "Cut the rope," but no knife was available, and the men tore at the rope with their teeth, scarcely knowing what they did, and at last the line was severed, and Mrs. Storey was hauled ashore more dead than alive. The old man was the next to be hauled a shore, and last of all the captain was brought from the wreck in the lifebuoy cradle—the only one rescued by this means—nearly lifeless.

The story of the only other person drowned besides the second officer is a very sad one. He was a boy of 14 years, by the name of Butt, and was the only child of Captain Butt, living in Auckland. He was holding on to the bulwarks when one of the men sent him to fetch some money from a chest. He was washed over the starboard side of the ship, and though he struck out bravely for the shore, he was never seen alive again. The bodies of the second mate and the boy were found some days after.

the Schiehallion made the following passages to New Zealand:—

To Auckland.
Sailed. Arrived. Captain. Days.
Feb. 26 June 4, '70 Levack 98
Mar. 16 June 25, '78 Levack 100
To Wellington.
Apr. 13 July 9, '72 Levack 87
Apr. 21 July 14, '73 Levack 84
July 3 Oct. 9, '77 Levack 98
To Lyttelton.
Sep. 13 Dec. 27, '76 Levack 105
To Dunedin.
Aug. 28 Dec. 16, '75 Levack 110
To Napier.
Feb. 18 May 26, '74 Levack 97
Karori Rock Lighthouse, Wellington.

Karori Rock Lighthouse, Wellington.