Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The New Zealand Spectator and Cook's Strait Guardian, Wednesday 6 August, 1851

The following deposition by C. Stewert, the survivor of the wreck of the Maria, giving detailed account of this distressing calamity, was made before H. S. Hill, Esq. Resident Magistrate:

Resident Magistrate’s Court, Wellington, July 30, 1851

I, Charles Stewart, late an ordinary seaman of the barque Maria, do solemnly and sincerely declare that, on or about the 20th instant (last Sunday week), the barque Maria left Port Cooper, bound for Port Nicholson, at about 10 o’clock in the morning. We had a fair wind when we left, but were becalmed outside until the following morning. The Raven brig was in company with us. Captain Plank was master of the Maria; I think his name was William Frederick, but I am not certain. We had twenty-two hands on board, including the Captain and officers. There were also two cabin passengers, and a steerage passenger who was working his passage, and three stockmen. On Monday night a light breeze sprung up from the north-east, which lasted until about 4 o’clock on Tuesday morning, when it shifted round to the south-east; it remained from that quarter a steady breeze until night, when it came on to blow heavily from the same quarter; we were steering NNW. We shortened sail at 8 o’clock at night; we were under two double-reefed topsails, and a fore top-mast staysail during the night; the night was very thick and hazy. At 10 o’clock at night I was on the look-out, and I reported to the captain, who was then on deck that I thought I saw land a-head; he replied he thought it could not be, for we could not have run across in the time. We then were [?] and stood towards the shore of the Middle Island [?] we made the land of the Middle Island about four-bells, (2 o’clock, a.m.); we then were ship again, and stood towards Port Nicholson. At about half-past 4 o’clock I could see land on our lee-bow: I was at the wheel: we were on the starboard tack. The captain told me to keep as close to the wind as I could: our course was at that time ESE. About an hour after this we crossed a reef, but we did not ground: we were sailing then along the line of shore. About five minutes after we crossed the reef we grounded; but the vessel still had way on her. The second mate then took the wheel from me, and ordered me to call up all hands. I heard the captain ask the second mate if the vessel still had way on her: he replied he though she had: this was after I had called all hands. The captain said he thought the vessel would be hard and fast directly: a few minutes afterwards we struck upon a rock, which appeared to me to go quite through the bottom of the vessel. The captain then gave orders to cut away the masts: before that could be done the foremast went over by the side, carrying with it the main-royal and main top-gallant mast: the main-mast went shortly afterwards: the vessel then broke right across the waist, and separated in two halves. All hands then gathered aft to cut away the quarterboat: they all got into the boat, with the exception of the second mate and myself: we remained to lower the boat: the captain was in her: before she could be lowered the davits gave way, and the boat fell upon the quarter, and smashed to pieces: all that were in her contrived to scramble back upon deck again: after that the second mate was washed overboard by a sea. I then took off my oil-skins and boots, and jumped overboard: I swam to the shore: three of the seamen also reached the shore on a part of the wreck; but at that moment they were overturned on the wreck, and I saw no more of them. The captain was standing on the rail of the quarter-deck when I jumped overboard: I saw no more of him. I should think we were about half a mile from the shore when the vessel struck: it was just getting daylight. There was a Malay who also reached the shore alive: all the others must have perished: the Malay still remains at Terawiti in the house of Mr. Macmanaman. There was another boat in the vessel, besides the quarter-boat that broke away with the davits; but that boat was stoved in, and unseaworthy. There was no long-boat; the long-boat was sent from Cloudy Bay to Port Nicholson for provisions and fodder, when we were on our passage from Port Nicholson to Port Cooper. I came over in her to Port Nicholson, and returned to Cloudy Bay in a cutter with what we required, leaving the long-boat behind: the weather was too bad to allow us to take her back to Cloudy Bay: I should think it was about three-quarters of an hour after she had struck that the stern part of the vessel broke to pieces: it broke in pieces before I reached the shore. As far as I can judge, I think I had to swim about half a mile. I do not know the names of either the cabin passengers; the steerage passenger’s name was Mitchell McKelly; he had come from California in the vessel with us. One stockman was named Robert Souel; another, Henry Sole; and the third, Lowe; I do not know his Christian name. The chief mate’s name was Price; the second mate John Turner: the carpenter, Robert Williams, I think; but I am not certain: we had no boatswain: the cook, William Stock: the steward, William Taylor: an apprentice, Walker; I do not know his Christian name. The crew were, William Smith, Henry Walker, Thomas Brown, and a fourth whose name I do not remember, able seamen: Charles Price, George Hone Newson, and Alexander Hamilton, ordinary seaman. There was another able seaman, but I cannot think of his name. I remained in the neighbourhood of the wreck until the following morning, before I saw any person; about 10 o’clock on that morning I saw Mr. Macmanaman’s house from the hill which I had ascended, and I made for it accompanied by the Malay. I do not think any persons of the vessel, excepting the three men I have before spoken of, and the Malay, reached the shore alive. I was about the wreck the whole of the Wednesday, looking our to five assistance where it might be needed. I think the body of the captain was found by a Maori: I did not know, until yesterday, that one of his fingers had been taken off: I never noticed that he wore a ring: he used to wear a gold watch: I do not know if it was on his person when his body was picked up; I asked, when I heard the body was found, if the gold watch was on him; I understood it was not: it was sometime after the body was found that I saw it. I do not know where it was found; but I did not see it until Friday morning last. I did not observe any bodies washed on shore on Wednesday during the time I was near the wreck on the beach. It was blowing fresh from the south-east on Wednesday; it was not blowing very hard. We were to windward of the Raven when we last saw her: we lost sight of her on Tuesday night. We were off Cape Campbell on Tuesday night, when it began to blow fresh from the south-east.---- And I make this solemn declaration, conscientiously believing the same to be true : and by virtue of an Act of Parliament passed in the 5th and 6th years of the reign of William the Fourth, c. 62, intituled, “An Act to repeal an Act of the present Session of Parliament, intituled, ‘An Act for the more effectual abolition of oaths and affirmations taken and made in various department of the State, and to substitute declarations in lieu thereof; and for the more entire suppression of voluntary and extra-judicial oaths an affidavits, and to make other provisions for the abolition unnecessary oaths.’”

C.W.D Stewart.

Declared before me, at Wellington,
this 30th day of July, 1851.
Henry St. Hill,
Resident Magistrate.