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.



The Panama Route

In 1863 an agreement was entered into by the Governments of New Zealand and New South Wales, and the Panama, New Zealand, and Australian Royal Mail Co. for the carriage of mails and passengers between Panama and those countries was born. The capital of the company was £375,000 and with it was incorporated the Intercolonial Royal Mail Co. which operated nine small steamships in the New Zealand coastal and intercolonial services. The Panama Railroad Co. offered facilities across the isthmus and the service across the Atlantic was performed by the Royal Mail Co. The steamers built for the trans-Pacific run were the Kaikoura, Ruahine (twin screw), and Rakaia, each of about 1,500 tons, and the Mataura, of 1,780 tons. All were heavily rigged to carry canvas and were capable of 10 knots in average weather. The Kaikoura began the service, sailing from Sydney on 15 June 1866 and making the run to Panama from Wellington in 27 days. The Rakaia went out to Panama round Cape Horn to take up the service. A coaling station was established in the Pacific at Rapa Island. This monthly service was maintained for three years, the ships running to time fairly well. The last ship on this run was the Rakaia from Sydney on 22 December 1868. The four ships were then sold to the Royal Mail Co. for service on the Atlantic run.