Skip to main content
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.



HMS Orpheus

In addition to these, however, there have been disasters of the first magnitude in New Zealand waters which in their day shocked the country. The first of these, and the worst, was the wreck of the steam corvette HMS Orpheus (1,706 tons) on the Manukau Bar, Auckland, on 7 February 1863. Disaster struck in fine clear weather at a cost of 189 lives. HMS Orpheus had arrived from Sydney with stores for Her Majesty's ships on the New Zealand station, and ran ashore 2 miles from the Heads, only 50ft from deep water. Huge rollers sweeping her port broadside forced the hatchway fastenings and the ship filled with water. A strong flood tide completed the vessel's destruction and when a roll call was taken, after only partially effective rescue operations, it was found that 189 (including the captain, Commodore W. F. Burnett, C.B.) of a complement of 259 had been drowned.