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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.




The island story of New Zealand could hardly fail to include many chronicles of wreck and catastrophe at sea, but happily the catalogue of disaster is today largely a matter of fairly remote history. The first wreck, or rather, scuttling, recorded, that of the trading ship Endeavour in Facile Harbour, Dusky Sound, dates back to 1795, and a wide variety of craft were lost in the early decades of the nineteenth century before the colonisation of the country. For many years the New Zealand coastline was notorious for its hazards, and the basis of that reputation is to be found in the record of between 1,400 and 1,500 disasters of greater or less degree in the brief span of this country's history. Among early wrecks were the 470-ton barque Maria, smashed to pieces on the rocks at Cape Terawhiti in 1851, with the loss of 26 lives; the 463-ton paddle steamer City of Dunedin, lost in Cook Strait with all hands (14 passengers and a crew of 25) in 1865; the 834-ton schooner St. Vincent, totally wrecked in Palliser Bay in 1869, with 20 persons drowned; the Surat (1,000 tons), lost at the mouth of the Catlins River in Otago in 1874, without loss of life, when the intoxicated captain, at the revolver point, prevented his passengers from hailing a passing ship for aid; the 438-ton Taiaroa, which went ashore at Waipapa Point, North Canterbury, in 1886, 39 of a complement of 48 losing their lives; and the trans-Tasman ship, Tasmania, of 2,252 tons, wrecked off Mahia Peninsula, Poverty Bay, in 1897, with a death roll of 13. In later years there were the Devon (5,489 tons), ashore at Pencarrow Head, Wellington, in 1913; the 128-ton Tainui, whose cargo of petrol exploded off Shag Rock, North Canterbury, in 1919, killing all hands (eight) except the cook; the 12,160-ton Wiltshire, which met its end in 1922 on the Great Barrier Island without casualties; the 4,534-ton intercolonial steamer Manuka, which became a total loss on Long Point, South Otago, in 1929, again without loss; and the Huddart Parker Co.'s Wanganella (9,576 tons), which struck Barrett Reef while entering Wellington Harbour in 1947. The Wanganella was subsequently refloated a few hours before a terrible southerly storm struck Wellington.


Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington and Ronald Jones, Journalist and Script Writer, New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation, Wellington.

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