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Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.

Toll of the Sea

Toll of the Sea

Disasters in Poverty Bay and Along the East Coast

Most of the marine casualties which occurred between Hicks Bay and Mahia took place in the days of sail, when a great deal of shipping used the East Coast route.

Several vessels which were wrecked on Mahia in the very early days were plundered. When the brig Byron went ashore at Table Cape in page 376 1833 (Polack's date) the natives stripped her and set her on fire. A chief, said to have been named Werowero (probably Te Wera), intervened to save the crew. Three years later, the brigantine New Zealander drifted on to Table Cape. The natives took charge of the wreck and robbed the crew even of their clothes. The U.S. brig Falco, which was driven ashore off Whangawehi, on 26 July, 1845, was plundered by Maoris and pakeha whalers. In February, 1847, the schooner Hotourangi, which was wrecked at Waikokopu, was stripped by Europeans. The schooners Falcon and Post Boy, wrecked on Mahia in March, 1850, were despoiled by a gang of convicts and deserters from ships. Among the large number of wrecks in the vicinity of Mahia in later years, the most serious were: s.s. Tasmania (2,252 tons), off Table Cape, with the loss of 11 lives (29 July, 1897); and s.s. Tongariro (8,073 tons), on Bull Rock, without loss of life (30 August, 1916).

Only vague references to shipping casualties within Poverty Bay prior to 1850 have been traced. The Rev. J. Stack says that two or three schooners were wrecked during his stay in 1842, but he omits the names. Vessels which came to grief in, or after, 1850 were: sch. Queen (Kuini), stranded on bar of Waipaoa River (August, 1850); barque Eudora, beached at Muriwai (July, 1851); brig Sisters, driven on to Kaiti Beach at spot where the Star of Canada stranded in 1912 (16 April, 1852); cutter Ben Lomond, stranded near the same spot shortly afterwards; sch. Gem, wrecked on bar of Turanganui River (August, 1865); sch. Agnes, stranded on bar of Turanganui River, and carried over the rocks on to the western side (23 June, 1867); s.s. Pretty Jane, temporarily stranded at mouth of Waipaoa River (5 February, 1875) and at entrance to Turanganui River (17 October, 1876); s.s. Go Ahead, temporarily stranded at entrance to Turanganui River (2 May, 1877).

Mishaps in Poverty Bay in the 1880's and 1890's included: Barque Lochnagar, which failed to beat out of the bay, was squared away and run on to Waikanae Beach on 26 October, 1880, and was refloated; cutter Wahapu, which was swept out of the Waipaoa River and foundered (27 October, 1880); brigantine Isabella, wrecked off the mouth of the Waipaoa River (8 June, 1882); brig Rio Grande, driven on Waikanae Beach (30 April, 1884); ketch Comet, stranded on bar of Turanganui River in May, 1885, but was got off; cutter Antelope, temporarily stranded on Kaiti Beach (January, 1886); cutter Anna Eliza, blown on to Kaiti rocks on 1 March, 1886, but refloated; s.s. Taupo, stranded on Tuamotu Reef on 28 April, 1886, but was got off; brigantine Aratapu, temporarily ashore on Waikanae Beach (25 July, 1886); sch. Onward, wrecked at mouth of Turanganui River (17 May, 1887); cutter Sir Donald, broke up off Tuahine Point (20 May, 1887); brigantine Clansman, stranded on Waikanae Beach (4 April, 1889); sch. Awaroa, wrecked on Tuamotu Reef (17 June, 1892); ketch Reliance, stranded on Muriwai Beach (29 March, 1893); s.s. Moa, temporarily stranded at mouth of Turanganui River (2 April, 1894); and sch. Spray, went to pieces on Waikanae Beach (23 May, 1895).

The scow Ururoa stranded on Waikanae Beach on 11 August, 1901, but was got off; barque Gladys, laden with wool, went ashore on Kaiti Beach on 31 July, 1903, but was refloated; s.s. Star of Canada (7,280 tons), wrecked on Kaiti Beach (23 June, 1912); s.s. Arahura and s.s. Waimate collided in Poverty Bay (1 March, 1917); ketch Huanui, stranded on Waikanae Beach (11 May, 1921) but was refloated; s.s. Koutunui, slightly damaged on reef off Kaiti (9 July, 1946).

Along the East Coast between Poverty Bay and Hicks Bay there was a much larger number of mishaps: Brig Martha, holed on a rock 15 miles east of Gable End Foreland, but did not sink (1835); hull of schooner Speculator came ashore between Anaura Bay and Mawhai Point (early in 1842); sch. Gannet, went to pieces on Anaura Beach (31 August, 1843); sch. Mary Ann, stranded on bar of Uawa River, but was refloated and went on to Auckland (June, 1846); Lady Fitzroy Two Brothers and Flying Fish, lost “on East Coast” (July, 1847); sch. Pilot (Kingi Paerata), foundered off Whareponga (22 May, 1852); sch. Children, stranded at Whareponga (October, 1854); sch. Kate Williams, lost after leaving Hicks Bay (May, 1865); s.s. Star of the Evening (carrying 1,300 sheep), struck in the vicinity of Pouawa (13 February, 1867); cutter Mercury, broke up at East Cape (19 February, 1867); cutter Lady Wynyard, driven on rocks at Te Araroa (4 October, 1867); cutter Margaret, capsized off Motu Eke Island (Tolaga Bay) on 7 January, 1873; cutter Whau, which had struck off Portland Island, drifted up the coast and foundered off Waipiro Bay (22 August, 1875); brigantine Helen, sank off Horoera (11 April, 1876); sch. Acadia, under two jury masts and with blankets for sails, picked up by the Pretty Jane off East Cape (23 August, 1876).

The ketch Jessie drifted ashore bottom up near East Cape (9 June, 1882); sch. Saucy Kate was ashore at Hicks Bay (3 July, 1883), but refloated; cutter Mercury, stranded near Waiapu River mouth (February, 1887); sch. Columbia, last seen off East Cape (July, 1887), was believed to have been lost on the Ariel Reef; ketch Three Brothers, broke up near Turihaua (30 August, 1888); sch. Louie, believed to have been lost on the Ariel Reef (14 May, 1892); sch. Marmion foundered near East Cape (3 March, 1899); chief officer and three seamen of g.s. Hinemoa drowned page 377 whilst landing stores on East Island (2 June, 1899); s.s. Mawhera, temporarily stranded between East Island and mainland (September, 1899); brigantine Linda Weber, lost after passing East Cape (March, 1901); scow Whakapai, capsized between East Island and mainland (29 September, 1901). [Her mate was saved by some natives, including Henare Kohere, who was awarded the Royal Humane Society's bronze medal. Kohere was killed in action on the Somme on 16 September, 1916.]

The sch. Haeremai was lost after passing East Cape (19 May, 1906); the aux. sch. Aotea, capsized off Waipiro Bay (17 July, 1906) and all aboard, including Captain J. Nicolas, his wife and two of their nine children, perished; brigantine Sir Henry, foundered off East Cape (17 July, 1906); sch. Kaeo was refloated off the beach at Tokomaru Bay (10 July, 1909); sch. Orete, on beach at Tokomaru Bay, but was got off (April, 1910); sch. Waiapu, lost both masts off Hicks Bay (4 May, 1910), and was towed to Auckland; s.s. Squall, struck a rock off Horoera and sank (1 February, 1916); s.s. Port Elliot (7,395 tons), wrecked off Horoera (12 January, 1924); s.s. Northumberland, struck a rock off Gable End Foreland (25 January, 1927) and came on to Gisborne; trawler Serfib, abandoned, in a sinking condition, off Waipiro Bay (6 August, 1933).

Mystery Solved

Mystery attached to the disappearance of the cutter Wave from Wairoa in 1856. She had been built by some natives for Thaddeus Lewis. In official quarters it was feared that she had been lost on her way to Auckland. Some people believed that Lewis had made off to Valparaiso. An old man, who was known by the name Parker at Samoa, told Mormon missionaries in 1926 that he was the half-caste lad Smith whom Lewis had taken away. They had, he added, settled down there as father and son.

When s.s. Star of the Evening was wrecked at Pouawa in February, 1867, one of the crew swam ashore with a line, but it parted. A sailor, the cook, and a steward failed to reach the shore. The captain and four other members of the crew got ashore. Two passengers, who followed them, were drowned, and another fell off the forestay and also perished. Five sailors, who remained on the wreck, were saved next day. Divers failed to recover £10,000 worth of worn coinage that was on board. In December, 1918, a lad found a worn George III halfcrown dated 1817 on Tatapouri Beach.

Much excitement was caused at Gisborne on 1 November, 1885, when s.s. Wairarapa raced into the roadstead with volumes of smoke issuing from amidships. She had gold worth £50,000 on board. Fire had been discovered in a linen locker when she was 20 miles off Gisborne. All the cushions and movable fittings had been thrown overboard. Hastily, her passengers were landed on Kaiti Beach. The Gisborne Fire Brigade took its manual pump out on a punt and assisted to quell the outbreak. (The Wairarapa was lost, with 121 lives, on Great Barrier Island, on 29/10/1894.)

Flying a signal for a doctor, s.s. Manapouri entered Poverty Bay hurriedly on 26 February, 1886. One of the holds was filled with fumes arising from broken jars of nitric acid. Those who had gone down to investigate had been overcome and had had to be drawn up again. Chief Officer Morris carried out his night watch as usual, but he died after the arrival of the tender at the wharf in the morning. Seven of the crew had also to be brought ashore. R. Lloyd (a seaman) died at midnight, and Third Officer Laker on the following day.

S.s. Tasmania was southward-bound when she was wrecked off Mahia on 29 July, 1897. In dirty, thick weather she had entered Poverty Bay, but had been unable to communicate with the shore, and had left for Napier at full speed. Just before 11 p.m., the captain was informed that land was in sight, but she struck before the wheel could be put over, and sank at 2.15 next morning. Boats 2 and 4 landed safely at Mahia, and boats 1 and 3 came on to Gisborne. A small boat (in charge of the carpenter) got on to Kawakawa Beach, near Muriwai, after capsizing and losing a sailor and a passenger. The smallest boat (which was under the quartermaster) overturned in the surf, and her nine occupants were all drowned.

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A narrow escape from foundering was experienced by the ship Grace Harwar on 25 December, 1900. En route from Delagoa Bay to Gisborne in ballast, she shipped a big sea off Cape Kidnappers, and lost her bridge and three of her four boats. Her master (Captain Brisco) was washed overboard, but another wave landed him against the rigging and he saved himself. Nothing more was seen of a young sailor who was also carried overboard. It took a week to get the vessel on an even keel again. She was picked up by the Fanny (16/1/1901) and towed into Poverty Bay.

With a broken tailshaft, s.s. Taviuni (engaged in the Islands fruit trade) was adrift off the Ariel Reef on 29 August, 1902. One of her boats brought the news to Gisborne. S.s. Mimiro found her by means of rockets. Twice the tow lines parted. When the second hitch occurred the vessels were off Pakarae. As the weather began to thicken, the Mimiro had to put out to sea. The Taviuni dropped anchor for the night five miles from Gable End Foreland. Next morning s.s. Omapere brought her into Poverty Bay.

Stripped of her main set of sails by fire a fortnight before off Hicks Bay, the ship Samuel Plimsoll was discovered on 30 September, 1902, near the Ariel Reef with only a small sail on the foremast. She was pursuing a southerly course. The trawler Beatrice failed to catch up on her, and the dredger John Townley, which was also sent out, followed the trawler back into port. Next day s.s. Hawea towed the disabled vessel into Poverty Bay.

The yacht Kia Ora (2½ tons), which left Gisborne for London, via Cape Horn, on 26 November, 1903, was under the command of Captain Horace Buckeridge. He had been with Scott to the Antarctic, and, for a time, had served as mate and cook on the much-travelled four-ton Tilikum whilst she was in New Zealand waters. He had confirmed his reputation for derring-do by rowing across the basin of Waimangu Geyser when, at any moment, he and his craft might have been hurled hundreds of feet amid flying rocks and scalding steam. When the Kia Ora was 300 miles south-east of the Chathams, he fell from the rigging and was fatally injured. His companion (G. H. Sowden) brought the craft back to Gisborne.

A violent gale was raging at midnight on 23 June, 1912, when the Star of Canada dragged her anchors in Gisborne roadstead and was driven on to Kaiti Beach. Captain Hart had decided at 10 p.m. to put to sea, but, as the fires had been drawn to enable the boilers to be cleaned, steam could not at once be got up. Another anchor was about to be dropped when the vessel struck. Many of the residents were aroused by the booming of her distress signals, but it was not until H. Amos (of the Post and Telegraph Department) went round and read her morse messages that it became known that she was aground. Daylight revealed that she was well down by the head. The salvage tug Terawhiti, from Wellington, was unable to release her. On 3 July she broke her back and was abandoned to the underwriters. The bridge was bought by W. Good and placed alongside his home in Childers Road, where it attracts the attention of all visitors.

When the s.s. Arahura and the Home liner Waimate collided in Gisborne roadstead at 11 p.m. on 1 March, 1917, both were under way. The Arahura had a large number of passengers for Auckland, and most of them had retired. Some of them, wearing lifebelts, hastily appeared on deck. As a precautionary measure, the boats were swung out. With several feet of water in her engineroom, the Arahura was edged close to the groyne. The Waimate's stem was twisted, and she was holed in her bow above the waterline. Both vessels went on to Auckland after temporary repairs had been made.

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Ship Blown to Pieces

A terrible fate befell the master and crew of the American-owned schooner Bertha Dolbeer, en route from San Francisco to Wellington. Off the East Coast, fire broke out among her cargo of 9,000 cases of benzine, and she was blown to pieces. In February, 1918, wreckage began to come ashore between Cape Runaway and Wairoa. A boat bearing her name made the coast at Whakaki; parts of the hull drifted on to the beaches at Te Araroa, Tolaga Bay and Pouawa. Some portions of the cases were found on Kaiti Beach. A hat among the wreckage at Te Araroa contained a pad made from a San Francisco newspaper dated 17/6/1917.

Three fatalities marred the work of salvaging the ketch Huanui, which stranded on Waikanae Beach, opposite Stanley Road, on 11 May, 1921. A boat from the Karoro capsized, and two of its occupants (Captain Martin and a man named Hadfield) were drowned. Captains Anderson, J. Coleman and Crocker, who were on the beach, launched a boat to render assistance, but it also capsized, and Captain Anderson was drowned. Royal Humane Society silver medals were awarded to Captains Coleman and Crocker and the next-of-kin of Captain Anderson.

A bush fire, which was mistaken for the East Cape light, led to the loss of the Port Elliot (formerly the Indrabarah) at midnight in a thick fog near Horoera on 12 January, 1924. Her crew of 70, who had taken to the boats and had remained nearby, were picked up by the g.s. Tutanekai, one of several vessels which answered the S.O.S. call.

When s.s. Northumberland struck a rock off the Gable End Foreland on 25 January, 1927, a hole 15 feet long and 2 feet wide was torn in the bilge of No. 2 hold. She developed a pronounced list, but, with a collision, mat adjusted over the aperture, she came on to Gisborne under her own steam, and, after temporary repairs had been made, she went to Auckland.