On 31 May 1922 the steamer Wiltshire, en route from England to New Zealand with 103 crew on board, ran aground on Great Barrier Island. A radio distress call was received in Auckland, and vessels from the Union Steamship Company, Auckland Harbour Board and the navy went to the rescue. The Wiltshire had broken in two, and the crew were crowded into the hull, which was in danger of sinking. Because of the wild seas, it was impossible for boats to reach them. In the days before helicopters, the only feasible method of rescue was to set up a line between the ship and the shore. Eventually a rope from the Wiltshire was floated ashore, secured, and the crew were laboriously winched to dry land. The rescue was completed without loss of life, but not until two full days after the vessel had struck.
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