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White Wings Vol II. Founding Of The Provinces And Old-Time Shipping. Passenger Ships From 1840 To 1885

The Racehorse

page 174

The Racehorse.

The Racehorse was a large ship of 1,077 tons, in command of Captain Seward, when she arrived in Auckland, dismasted, on July 9th, 1868, 104 days out from London. She set sail from Gravesend for Auckland on March 27th, reaching the equator on the 21st April, with light winds and calms. All went well until June 15th, when she struck a very severe gale in latitude 40 deg. 4 min. longitude 125 deg. 5 min., which gradually increased to a hurricane, and the ship was soon in a serious plight. The next morning the storm was at its climax, and presently a tremendous sea struck her, pitching her on her beam-ends. The maintopmast went by the board, carrying away the fore-topgallant, mizen-top-gallant, and royal yards; the mizen-topmast was sprung, and much of her gear was carried away. The wreckage was at once secured with lashing and the vessel kept before the wind, the only possible chance; but the topmast, in coming down, had split the mainsail and caused other serious damage, while the old ship was labouring heavily in a frightful sea, and shipping large quantities of water. The vessel had now become almost a wreck, and both officers and passengers realised they were in grave danger. About 7 p.m., the boatswain, Charles Case, a daring and splendid seaman, was lurched overboard from the main rigging and drowned, any attempt to save him being an utter impossibility, as it would have further endangered the ship. On the 17th the whole crew were mustered by the Captain, and it was ascertained that most of them were disabled and unfit for duty. About noon the terrible storm began to moderate, with intermittent squalls, and from then on gradually subsided, the almost helpless ship steering straight for Auckland.

The captain and officers declared that it would be impossible to imagine three days of more terrific storm and seas than what they had come through, and it was the general opinion that nothing but their powers of endurance and skill had saved the ship and her human freight.

Fortunately there was no serious illness among the 54 passengers, all of whom were loud in their praise of the ship's officers and crew, and the attention they had received during the terrible ordeal.

The Racehorse, formerly named the Matilda Wattenbach, was the ship which brought out to Auckland the first lot of Albertland settlers.