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

The Bebington

page 173

The Bebington.

Collision in Channel—16 Deaths from Fever.

Very few passengers of the many hundreds who came out in the Bebington had a good word to say for her. In addition to being one of the slowest ships afloat in the early days, she was constantly dogged by ill-fortune. the Bebington, a ship of 924 tons, was built in 1859, and later purchased by the Shaw, Savill Co. the Bebington was spoken of as an "old tub" by many of the settlers who arrived by her in New Zealand. To say the least of it, conditions on board were rough. The ship made unusually long passages, as will be seen from her records. On her run out to Port Chalmers in 1873 Captain Bruce reported favourable winds almost throughout the passage, and she took 106 days to reach port under these conditions.

Two of the passengers, Mr. H. Jones, of Onehunga, and Mr. T. Buckton, of Mount Albert, Auckland, have supplied me with some details of the remarkably unfortunate voyage out to Auckland in 1876, when the ship took 160 days from London docks to the Waitemata.

A Bad Start.

"After leaving Gravesend on February 14, 1876," writes Mr. Buckton, "we had very good weather and light winds, and everything promised a pleasant trip, but the night after sailing we had a collision with another ship and the Bebington had a big hole punched right in her bows. Everyone thought she was sinking, but after a while the officers got things quietened down, and the ship was headed for Portsmouth, which we reached late on the following night. the Bebington must have been pretty badly knocked about as it was ten days before she was ready for sea again. While the carpenters were busy the passengers were kept on board, but were allowed to go ashore in relays.

Typhoid Breaks Out.

"We had been only three or four days at sea after leaving Portsmouth, when typhoid and typhus broke out amongst the immigrants, and we had a very bad time of it for a while. Then food and water and coals ran short, and after passing the Cape of Good Hope, Captain Holdrich decided to put into Port Elizabeth, Algoa Bay, for fresh supplies. So short were we of fuel that the day we made the bay the crew had to saw up some of the spare spans on deck to keep the condensers going."

The rest of the run was fairly good, and Auckland was reached on July 15, 1876. The barque was met at Rangitoto Reef by the port health officer, and as there were then some cases of typhoid, and 67 cases of measles aboard, she was sent into quarantine at Motuihi, where she remained for five weeks.

During the voyage from England to Auckland there were no less than 16 deaths on the Bebington, and the passage was generally such an unlucky one that it is no wonder the passengers remember it as a very grim episode in their lives.

the Bebington in 1879 made another long voyage of 135 days to Wellington. The ship Dunedin, sailing a week after the Bebington, met with similar weather conditions during the passage, Which was generally favourable, and sighted the New Zealand coast forty days before the Bebington. the Lutterworth, sailing also from London for Wellington, exactly a month after the Bebington, arrived a day before her.

During the voyage of the Bebington to Napier in 1874 some of the crew were aloft on one of the yardarms. One of their number, when spoken to, made no reply. Upon examination it was found that he was clinging to the spar, and was quite dead. His comrades said that he "died in harness." The ship put into Dartmouth on August 2 to repair condenser, leaving the following day. On October 29, during a severe gale, a heavy sea broke on board, injuring two of the sailors at the wheel and causing damage to the ship.

the Bebington had another stormy passage to Lyttelton in 1884. Shortly after sailing on February 11 she encountered a fierce gale, during which a heavy sea broke aboard and seriously damaged the steering gear. With great difficulty a jury wheel was rigged, and the vessel was able to proceed. The gale continued, and on the following day some cases of acid broke adrift and had to be jetti-page 174soned. The ship strained continuously throughout, the cabins were flooded with water, and other damage sustained.

the Bebington's records outwards were:—

To Auckland.
Sailed. Arrived. Captain. Days.
Feb. 14 July 15, '76 Holdritch 160
To Wellington.
July 1 Oct. 25, '72 Peck 116
Aug. 13 Dec. 27, '79 Carden 135
To Lyttelton.
Sailed. Arrived. Captain. Days.
Oct. 12, '78 Jan, 20, '79 Roberts 99
Feb. 13 May 25, '81 Carden 101
Feb. 3 June 30, '84 Reid 146
To Dunedin.
June 13 Sep. 26, '73 Bruce 106
To Napier.
July 26 Nov. 20, '74 Knight 117