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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
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.




A marine disaster of unusual character, the cause and manner of which was never definitely determined, occurred on 24 November 1959 when the m.v. Holmglen, of 485 tons, owned by the Holm Shipping Co. Ltd., Wellington, foundered 22 miles south-east of Timaru with the loss of all hands, 15 officers and crew. The Holmglen had left Oamaru for Timaru late in the afternoon, and at 9.24p.m. shore stations at Dunedin and Wellington received the international May Day distress signal over the radiotelephone from Captain E. J. E. Regnaud requesting assistance. His message was “Am heeling heavily to port … accommodation awash … preparing to launch boat”. He asked Taiaroa Head (Otago Harbour) to stand by for further messages, but nothing more was ever heard from the stricken vessel. There was a strong southerly wind at the time with a moderate to rough sea, but nothing which would normally worry such a craft. By dawn two naval launches and 17 fishing craft began a search and, later, three freighters and six aircraft joined in. The Holmburn, another of the company's ships, discovered an oil slick at 5.30 a.m. on 25 November. The Holmglen was eventually discovered by echo sounders in 30 fathoms of water about 6 miles from the position from which she sent out her distress call. Wreckage and two bodies were later picked up. Close examination by divers using television cameras disclosed nothing that could account for the sudden foundering of the vessel, and the Marine Court of Inquiry was unable to establish any cause of the tragedy. The ship was found to be resting on an even keel and there was no sign of a boiler explosion. The cargo appeared to be properly stowed; there was no evidence of its having shifted and, though the vessel was very close to her marks, she was not overloaded. The disaster remains a mystery to this day.

Next Part: Wrecks at Timaru