Topic: Tauranga Shipwrecks by Debbie McCauley

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There are many shipwrecks off the coast of the Bay of Plenty. These include ships known to have sunk as long ago as 1840 and up to the present day. Also included in this list are fishing vessels. Story researched and written by Debbie McCauley.

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1838: Mercury Schooner. "The Mercury Schooner was wrecked last evening off the entrance to Tauranga. The two Englishmen who were in charge with two natives did not leave the vessel until she had filled and sunk to the water's edge. They attended a prayer meeting this evening" (Journal of Alfred Nesbit Brown, 1 September 1838).

1840: Spanish Schooner. A good-sized vessel seeking shelter in Tauranga harbour was wrecked on the inner bar - in 1879  the Taupo was wrecked nearby. Apparently the vessel carried a crew of Spaniards and had come from Valparaiso. "Fortunately for the crew, when the tide went out they were able to wade ashore. The wreck occurred during the night, and no one knew anything about it till daylight, when the sailors appeared round our house, which happened to be the first one they reached. They were Spaniards, and came from Valparaiso with a cargo of flour and South Sea Islands produce. My father who, when a boy, had spent some time on board a man-of-war stationed on the South American coast, knew something of their language, and was able to converse with them after a fashion. Amongst the new things these men brought to my knowledge was the existence of bananas, not in their natural state when growing, but preserved with sugar in small packets, wrapped up in dried palm leaves. We thought the flavour delicious, and after our stock was consumed we children longed for another Spanish ship to come ashore with a similar cargo" Early Maoriland Adventures of J.W.Stack (p. 129).

1840: Falcon. (Sometimes incorrectly named the Falconer or Valcona). Topsail schooner from Sydney, about 200 tons. Arrived at Whakatane and unloaded goods to trader Phillip Tapsell. Tapsell then took the vessel up the Bay of Plenty coast to Maketu to take on a load of flax fibre. Before loading, a gale of hurricane force drove the schooner ashore at Te Tumu (3.5 kilometres westnorthwest of Maketu) shortly before dawn on 1 March 1840. This was the same hurricane that the Ulitea was wrecked in. Total loss, passengers and crew all survived.

1840: Ulitea. (Sometimes incorrectly named the Mitea). 70 ton Sydney schooner in the Pacific Island trade. Wrecked east of Sulphur Point in Tauranga Harbour on the night of 29 February 1840 in the same hurricane as the Falcon. The Captain cut away the masts during the night and hoisted a shirt to the bowsprit as a distress signal. Maori from the Mission Station and Mr Wilson took a boat out and brought them ashore.

1843: Chapman. Small schooner. Lost on the bar at Maketu.

1843: Industry. Schooner 19 tons. Wrecked outside Tauranga Harbour in September/October 1843.

1843: Trent. Schooner. Wrecked off Tauranga in 1843 on its way to Auckland.

1843: Unidentified Schooner. A small schooner which had been in the Waihi estuary, southeast of Maketu. Wrecked off Mount Maunganui at the entrance to Tauranga Harbour in 1843.

1845: Isabella. Schooner, 10 tons. Wrecked in the Bay of Plenty in 1845, total loss.

1848: Robin Hood. Ship belonging to Tomika Te Mutu. "Old Matthew brought us intelligence of the wreck of Te Mutu's vessel. Five of the six Natives who sailed in her are lost. One of them, (Edward), was Matthew's fellow teacher at Otumoetai Pa, but his duties, notwithstanding my repeated remonstrances, have been sadly neglected of late by continual voyages to Auckland" (Journal of Alfred Nesbit Brown, 29 August 1848). "The vessel which went in search of the shipwrecked bodies, had just returned from an unsuccessful cruise" (Journal of Alfred Nesbit Brown, 7 September 1848).

1849: Hazard. Cutter, owned by a Maori called Zachariah. Lost at Maketu in 1849.

1851: Fish Hawk. Schooner, 14 tons. Built in Matata in 1849. Lost at Maketu in 1851. Captain B. Savage.

1851: Grampus. Schooner 18 tons. Built at Matakana by Hekekiah Hunt. 1851 driven ashore at Mr Banco's station, totol loss.

1851: Hero. Schooner, 17 tones, Sank at 'Wai River' in 1851.

1854: Hori Tepara. Length 36.3ft, 15 tons. Owned by Himona Timati of Tauranga. Officially recorded as 'Lost at Tauranga in 1854'.

1857: Corsair. Schooner, 16 tons, built at Matata in 1857. Lost 1860 (total loss) Maketu.

1857: George. Schooner, 17 tons, built at Tauranga by Lovett Thoroughgood in 1846. Owned by Patu of Tauranga. Lost at Tauranga.

1857: Mary Ann. Schooner owned by Charles King. 20 tons, wrecked at Tauranga, register cancelled in October 1857.

1858: Maggie. Schooner, 15 tons. Built at Mahurangi in 1855 by Darroch. Lost at Maketu in 1858.

1859: Maria. Shipwreck off the Bay of Plenty in 1859.

1860: Flora. 17 tons schooner. Built in Auckland 1855. Lost one and a half miles north of the Katikati entrance.

1860: Rover's Bride. Schooner. Driven ashore near Maketu en route from Auckland to the Bay of Plenty.

1863: Robert. Schooner built in Mahurangi in 1852 by George Darroch. Owned by Hui, Pakihi, Puku and Wiremu Kotera, Maori chiefs of Tauranga. Register closed with 'Lost at Tauranga' however the London registry records 'Lost at Hawkes Bay'.

1864: Era. Schooner, wrecked on Maketu Bar in 1864 with no loss of life.

1873: Water Lily. Left Port Charles on 21 June 1873. Master found Mauao hard to distinguish on approach. A full tide forced the Water Lily onto the reef just inside Mauao. With the sea breaking over her and the anchor not holding, the skipper and crew had to abandon ship.

1878: Nellie. Schooner, 66 tons, built at Mahurangi in 1876. On a voyage from Lyttleton to Auckland with a cargo of oats, flour, malt and bacon when struck the Astrolabe reef (Otaiti) near Mōtītī Island on 13 January 1878 at approximately 8.20pm. Capt G. A. Armstrong injured himself getting the ship off the reef. Beached on the northern side of Motiti Island. Most of the cargo salvaged before vessel broke up. Hull sold at auction to Mr Thomas Wrigley for £1.

1878: Taranaki327 ton Steamer built in Scotland in 1865. Left Auckland on 28 November 1878. The following day at 9am, in dense fog, the Taranaki stuck Karewa Island. All crew and passengers safely abandoned ship onto the island. See also: Passenger List. In 2014 a cast iron propeller was discovered that is believed to be from the Taranaki SunLive (8 October 2014).

1879: Taupo. Iron Steamer. 1879  holed at Stony Point, sank while being towed. Ship only 4 years old commanded by Capt. James Macfarlane.  First struck a rock in Tauranga harbour, refloated after 2 years and left for Auckland under tow in 1881. Developed a leak and sank between Mayor Island and Bowentown Heads. In 38 fathoms between Mayor Island and Bowentown Heads. See also: S.S.Taupo Project & the Passenger List.

1881: MarthaAmerican whaler barque about 100 ft long. Built in USA c1805. Converted to a hulk in 1880 - transported to Tauranga to assist in operation to refloat the Taupo in 1881.  Martha subsequently sank at moorings, and was rediscovered during dredging operations in 1981. Off Sulphur Point marina near rock retaining wall. Highly likely that at least half of the hull is buried under the northern breakwater wall.

1890: Lark. Cutter, coastal trader of 15 tons owned by Auckland firm Henderson and Spraggon. Built in 1884. Left Tauranga for Matata with a cargo of stores. Wrecked on the beach at Maketu, her topmast broken off and the master, Peter Jonas who was unable to swim, washed overboard and drowned. New Zealand Herald (18 September 1890, p. 5).

1892: Hit or Miss. Eight tonner cutter. Three men drowned off Katikati Heads on 23 July 1892; George Vesey Stewart (Jnr), Francis (Frank) Losh Anderson and Robert Irwin. An account can be found in the Bay of Plenty Times (25 July 1892). George's body was the only one recovered. 

1893: Dream. Cutter, built and owned by Joseph D. Brain. 31 July 1893 crew saved but total loss. Stony Point, Tauranga.

1905: Progress. Timber scow rigged schooner, 49 tons. Built in Pakiri by Harper. Voyage from Ngunguru to Matata with cargo of coal. Went ashore Pane Pane Beach, North Head, Tauranga, on 1 May 1905. Total wreck.

1911: Reremoana. Maketu shipwreck.

1921: Tasman. Wooden steamer, 178 tons or 87 tons? (Wreck Book) 102 ft long. Built in Auckland c1903 as the Whangaparoa. Sold to Anchor Shipping in 1907 and acquired by Northern SS Co. in 1908. Wrecked 1921 off Rurima reef, Matata. Located at Tasman Reef. Well known dive spot.

1947: Tui. Fishing Launch. A heavy westerly on 5 August 1947 saw the Tui break her moorings at Mount Maunganui, drift out of the entrance into the harbour and be totally wrecked near the Stony Point beacon rocks. 36ft vessel owned by Mr G Meredith.

1950: Ranui. Passenger Launch. Kauri 45ft launch returning to Tauranga with a party of campers and fishermen from Mayor Island. Wrecked in tempestuous seas at North Rock, Mount Maunganui on 28 December 1950. Nineteen holiday makers and three crew drowned. One survivor, nineteen-year-old Phillip H. G. Smith of Tauranga. Ranui hurled against rocks with wreckage scattering a fair distance. The launch was used for trips to Mayor Island and for fishing excursions out of Tauranga Harbour. Had been in service only a few weeks. Court found the disaster was the result of an exceptionally high wave which capsized the Ranui when well into the channel at the entrance to Tauranga Harbour. See also: Descent From Disaster: Wreck Of The Ranui - 1950.

1956: Sirius. Motor trawler. Believed to have foundered with loss of two-man crew on 25 May 1956 shortly after Mayday call. Wreckage sighted on the seaward side of Matakana Island. Possibly lost in heavy seas between Mōtītī and Karewa Islands. No trace of missing crew members.

1959: Golden Master. At around 4pm on 10 January 1959 the 12,000-ton Norwegian freighter Captained by Paul Horn, carrying 6200 tons of Nauru Island phosphate and steaming at 14 knots struck Okorapu reef (just north of Motiti Island). The reef ripped holes in ship's port bow, flooding two cargo holds and prompting the harbour master, Captain George Carter, to beach the vessel a couple of kilometres from the harbour entrance between Matakana Island and Mount Maunganui. Three tugs were called in from Wellington and after failed attempts the Golden Master was finally freed from the sandbank after 15 days. Tauranga trawler 'San Marie' used dragging equipment to recover the anchor and broken hawser. See the Bay of Plenty Times for 12 January, 14 January and 16 January 1959.

1981: San Benito. Struck Tuhua Reef off Mayor Island in September 1981.

1996: Warlock. Fishing Vessel. Lost on 20 August 1996 whilst approaching the entrance to Tauranga Harbour. Overwhelmed by seas and capsized. Two crew lost, 12m steel Pelin launch washed up on Mount Maunganui beach.

1980: San Caroline. The 21-metre Tauranga Trawler lay partly submerged on a rock on the side of Motiti Island on 4 June 1980 after being breached there earlier by her crew.

2000: Taioma. Originally known as the the Empire Jane but renamed Taioma. In 1968 involved in the attempted rescue of the inter-island ferry Wahine.  In 1978 was exhibited in the Tauranga Maritime Museum and Heritage Village on 17th Avenue. Scuttled off Mōtītī Island on 19 March 2000.

2005: Boston SeafireWas sunk near Moutohora (Whale Island) by the by Bay Artificial Reef Charitable Trust in October 2008.

2011: Rena. At 2:14am on 5 October 2011 the container ship Rena ran aground on the Astrolabe Reef. Some containers on the Rena carried hazardous goods. The ship also contained heavy fuel oil and marine diesel. Over the next few days oil and debris started to wash ashore on local beaches, polluting the environment. Many sea birds were affected and died despite frantic efforts by locals. Some containers sank or washed ashore. In early January 2012, the ship broke in half and at the start of April 2012 the stern sank. The event will be remembered as New Zealand's worst maritime environmental disaster. More information can be found by clicking here. 


Additional Sources:

Bay of Plenty Shipwrecks (1987) by Alistair Matheson.

Coastal Heritage Review Project (2006).

New Zealand Shipwrecks: Over 200 years of disasters at sea (2007) by Charles William Ingram and Percy Owen Wheatley.


How to cite this page: McCauley, Debbie (2013). Tauranga Shipwrecks by Debbie McCauley. Retrieved from (Tauranga Memories, last updated: *insert date*). In-text citation: (McCauley, 2013)

This page was archived at perma cc February 2017

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Tauranga Shipwrecks by Debbie McCauley