Auckland Islands Wrecks

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Auckland Islands Wrecks

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Today the islands are no longer feared. They are in fact treasured and have been declared a nature reserve, and are inhabited by albatrosses, mollyhawks, penguins, petrels, prions and cormorants.

Vessel Date of wreck Date rescue No. souls onboard No. made it ashore No. rescued Lives lost Rescue vessel Remarks

unidentified Wreck - Rifleman


  ------ 12 crew 
6 passengers
unknown zero 18   ------  brig 303 tons


1864 May 10 to Mar. 25 1865

  ------ unknown unknown zero unknown   ------  ------


1864  Jan. 2

1865  Sept  6  5 5 5 0 Flying Scud 1yr 8m's


1864  May 10 

1865 May 22  25 19 3 22 Julian 375 days
1 yr 12d's

General Grant

1864 May 13

1867  Nov 26  78 15 10 68 Amherst 18 months


1891 March

1891  Jun 30 17 16 1 Janet Ramsey 103 days

Derry Castle

1887 Mar 20

1887  Jul 19 23 8 8 15  Awarua 4 months

Stoneleigh ? or Marie Alice


   ------ unknown unknown 0 unknown   ------  ------


1905 Feb. 5

1905 May 7  22 22 22 0 Hinemoa 3 months


1907 Mar. 6 

1907 16 Oct.  28 16 15 13 Hinemoa 7 months

    Satellite image map of the Auckland Islands

Map (offsite - opens in another window)
(offsite - opens in another window)
1851 -The Auckland Islands

Timaru Herald
Wellington, June 24 1878
Arrived - H.M.S. Nymphe. She visited the Auckland and Campbell Islands, where she found the food depots untouched, and no signs of any castaways. She will probably remain here about five weeks.

Otago Witness Saturday 11th November 1865 page 2 
(From the Daily Times)

Wrecks of the Auckland Isles

No land upon the earth's surface, one would suppose, was less likely to be the theatre of romance, than that desolate group of islands, two hundred miles south of New Zealand, the Lord Auckland Isles. And yet there is little doubt that a volume might be written about them of thrilling interest. Like the homely character round which the plot of brilliant novels revolve - round those inhospitable desolate spots on the ocean, reality has rioted into romance and wantoned into tragedy. Till the grave gives up its dead, it is likely the sufferings that have been endured by castaways on the Auckland Islands, will only partly be known. Enough has, however, come to light, to warrant the belief that much that is dreadful remains untold. And yet upon those islands bright hopes once centered. 

Few who have left Great Britain in search of fortune, ever carried with them more glowing anticipations than Charles Enderby, when seventeen years ago he set out to colonise the Auckland Islands in the capacity of their governor, and of manager pf a large fishing company, the head station of which it was supposed to be fix in the new colony. We have met before us the particulars of Mr Enderby's failure. The stories told of two or three years of hardships, of Commissioners sent out to supersede him, of their taking him a prisoner with them to Wellington, and of his afterwards endeavoring to recover damages for the outrage. And there the attempt at colonising ceased. Whether the failure was due to mismanagement, or to the rigors of the climate, or to both combined, the information on hand scarcely warrants one deciding.

Following the abrupt conclusion to the progress of civilisation, Auckland Islands, for a long term of years have been suffered to die out of recollection. Occasionally they have been spoken of as a possibly suitable site for a penal station; but that, or any other design, has scarcely received any serious consideration. It is only within the last few months that that attention has been again directed to them, and this time the interest is of the saddest and most sorrowful nature.

Of all the catastrophes incidental to the progress of civilisation, none are more dreadful than those described by the few simple words -never-heard-of-ships. Constantly, from all parts of the world, the same story is told. Vessels leave there ports with everything before them apparently promising prosperous voyages; but weeks, months, years pass on, and nothing is heard of them. Suspense at length wears itself out; the underwriters pay the loss, and the vessel and their freight are concluded by the business world to be an irrecoverably lost. Only a few who have near and dear relatives amongst the crew, the officers, or the passengers, nourish. Heaven only knows how long, hopes that the lost may yet be restored. The hopes are not told even in the family circle; it would be cruel to upset the seeming content. But a member of the family may perhaps think, as he or she looks into the face of another, that the same thought sometimes strikes both. The lost one may yet be alive crawling out of a miserable existence, on one of the many waste spots that rise from the ocean, which civilised man does not visit.  Again and again the question arises, how could the ship be lost? Again and again the thought recurs, if it was through fire or wreck, some may have escaped and may be dragging out a horrible life year after year, looking for the succur that never comes to them. Between the Australasian group and other parts of the world there have been more than a number of never-heard-of-ships.  The earliest days of the Victorian gold fields, were darkened by the mystery which, twelve years have failed to unshroud, that enveloped the fate of the Madagascar. A first-class emigrant ship, freighted with passengers and gold, she left Melbourne, with the seeming certainly before her of a prosperous voyage - she is one of the  never-heard-ofs. Quite recently, another large ship has passed into the same category. The Lord Raglan sailed from London to Melbourne with five hundred passengers. There is nothing but conjecture to point to the reason she has never been heard of.  Of smaller vessels, there is a large number; amongst others the steamers Comet, Citzen and T.S. Mort, the Jack Frost, the Ivanhoe, and the W.C. Wentworth. There were two others supposed to have joined the dark list - the Invercauld and the Grafton. It is their fate that the Auckland Islands have unravelled. We suppose most of our readers have made themselves acquainted with the particulars of the loss of the Invercauld and the terrible suffering of the survivors, an account appeared in the journal a few weeks back. The Invercauld left Melbourne, in ballast for Callao, on the 2nd May, 1864; on the night of the 10th of the same month, she struck on the north west end of the Island of Auckland, and went to pieces in less than half-an-hour. Of the twenty souls on board, nineteen survivors were washed ashore. One by one, sixteen of those happy men slowly  passed away - gradually starved to death. Exactly a year after their first landing, a vessel touched at the island, and rescued the three residing men. They were reduced to miserable condition, from which months of kind treatment have only partially recovered them.

The account of the loss of the Invercauld and rescue of the three survivors, only reached the Colony by last mail. The rescuing ship - the Julian - proceeded to Callao, and thence the intelligence comes by way of England. The English papers say the Julian left the island satisfied there were no other inhabitants besides those she took with her. How much mistaken she was we have proofs. On the night of the 2nd January, 1864, the Grafton was wrecked on the same island. The captain, and the crew consisting of four men, including the mate, remained on the island until the 19th of July in the following year. Our readers are well acquainted with the remaining particulars. On the date mentioned the captain with two companions, two being left behind, ventured forth in a small boat. They reached Stewart's Island, and thence were taken to Invercargill. The Flying Scud was immediately despatched to rescue them on the 24th August. She remained there till the 6th September. In the course of some examination which was made of part of the Island, the body of a man was found who had apparently not been dead more than three months. 

We beg our readers to observe the dates carefully, for they prove what otherwise would be incredible, the sojourn of two, probably three, shipwrecked parties on the island for a lengthen time, each unconscious of the other's presence. Captain Musgrave mentions the difficulty of exploring the island, in proof of which he tells us, one place he visited by boat through only twenty miles distance from whence he started, would have involved a journey of a hundred miles if he had to thread the ranges to reach it. Again, he mentions that one journey of five miles took him six hours to accomplish. Still it is difficult to realise that in a small island, the total area of which is estimated at 100,000 acres only, there were two parties of men, both exploring as much as they could, dwelling together for a year, and never meeting. The Invercauld crew remain on the island from 10th May, 1864, until the 22nd May, 1865. The Grafton's men were on the island from the 2nd January, 1864, until the 19th July 1865, and two of that number remained beyond that date to the 6th September. At the last mentioned time, the body of a man was found, apparently dead three months. This takes us back to June, or a month subsequent to the time when the Julian sailed with the survivors of the Invercauld, and when the conclusion was arrived at that no one was living on the island. Who was the dead man?  Was he a solitary castaway, or another survivor of a ship wrecked party; or was he one of the Invercauld crew, erroneously supposed to have perished? It must not be imagined that the Grafton and the Invercauld crews remained stationary. During the whole time - upwards of a year and a-half - that Capt. Musgrave and his companions were there, they unceasingly occupied themselves with exploring. They seemed to have tolerable health and strength, and their energy was directed to escape. Close to them, a more numerous body of men, more feeble, and not less anxious, were similar employed. They distinctly state they crossed from one side of the island to another, and ascended to the highest part to see if they could observe traces of inhabitants. We should add we have spoken of all but three of the Invercauld's crew having died, because the captain and the mate assured this to have been the case; and in the interests of humanity it is hard to believe the ship that rescued them would have left the island had there been any doubt. But it must be mentioned that the deaths of some of the number seem to rest solely on supposition. For the mate, in his narrative, says some of the men having detached themselves from the main party, were not afterwards heard of. Thus, we see, weak and feeble though they were, a number of human beings, of two distinct parties, were crawling over this tiny island, and never met each other. At presence our space will not allow our enlarging upon the subject, but enough has been said to show that something more more than a  cursory exanimation is needed, and to suggest the necessity of some official inquiry being made into the number and causes of the wrecks in the locality, and into the necessity for forming  a station on the spot. There is a larger part of the subject still behind. Ought not the great maritime nations of the world provide for the periodical visiting, by ships of succor, the supposed uninhabited spots of the ocean, upon which Enoch Ardens may be withering their lives away. 

Otago Witness, 30 Aug 1873, Pg 2
The Auckland Island (Wellington Independent)
A short time ago it was made public that a Southland resident, Dr Monckton, had made application to the General Government to lease the group of islands known as the Aucklands, chiefly celebrated as the scene of the Enderby settlement which ended so disastrously many years ago, and of the wreck of the General Grant six or seven years since. Dr Monckton proposed to stock, farm, and settle the islands, and give immediate notice of shipwrecks, on condition that he should have a lease of twenty-one years at a nominal rent, and that at the end of seven years he should receive a Crown grant for land about such homesteads as he might have established, at the rate of ten acres of uncleared land for every acre turned over and laid down in grass; also, that he should have the foreshore right to any oyster fisheries he may establish, and that his family, stores, implements and stock should be transported by steamer by the Government. He also applied for a pilot boat and a complete set of signals. The terms of the lease, which has been granted to Dr Monckton �

Otago Witness 21 March 1874, Pages 15 & 16 March 17th
HMS Blanche, which left Wellington on the 19th February, reached Auckland Islands on the 26th, and remained at Port Ross till the 2nd March. She visited, repaired, and painted the storehouses, and steamed round the Island looking for signs of ship-wrecked seamen. She left on the 5th and went to Campbell Island, and anchored in Perseverance Harbour. She found the French War transport La Vire had left there on the 1st of January. The provisions were everywhere to be found in a good state of preservation. She sailed for Wellington on the 9th. While at Auckland and Campbell Islands several severe storms of snow and hail were experienced. New Plymouth is likely to be the next place the Blanche visits. She is expected to leave tomorrow.

Unidentified Wrecks

In 1833 wreckage found on the Auckland Islands proved beyond doubt that one or perhaps two large vessels had been wrecked there between February and August of that year. The wreck was discovered by a party of sealers stationed on the island from the Caroline, commanded by Captain Anglim.

Wreckage found on the Auckland Islands in 1834 was believed by some to be the remains of the brig Rifleman, 303 tons, this vessel which left Hobart Town for England with a cargo of wool and was not seen again. Some said she was sailing home via Java. Another version claims that explorers discovered the remains thought to be the Rifleman at Cape Foulwind, south of the Buller River on the west coast of South Island of New Zealand in March 1846.  

In January1986 at the Auckland Islands, midway between the 100km of towering cliffs that make up their west coast, a waterfall flowed from the middle of a cave roof, washing over hanging rocks and into the ocean below rubble was found on the sea floor, about 20 metres down, and there were anchors, a chain and even a part of a cannon. This was a ship in a cave at the back of a cove. There was a surgeon's kit complete with a large syringe for injecting mercury into the urethras of syphilitic sailors. Nearby was a button bearing an anchor with a serpent entwined around it the symbol of the Royal Navy surgeons' corps. The 63 silver half crown coins were found none was later than 1832. This was the Rifleman. She sailed for "London direct". She had 12 crew aboard and six passengers including Dr William Porteous, a surgeon returning to England after working aboard a convict ship. She was notoriously "leaky", having to repair several times in port. In Lloyd's Register of 1833, number C32, a ship owned by Iron Standards and built in Montreal, her name was the Rifleman, brig, 303 tons, and this was her last voyage. The old Quebec "a beautiful ship of about 400 tonnes" a single-decked trading vessel with a square stern built of hazel and cedar. Her maiden voyage was on June 23, 1826.

There is a Frenchman's grave recorded on the Auckland Islands. The grave of M. Le Francois of Nantes, who committed suicide there in 1837.

Oct 25 1895
Wellington - Oct. 20. The Hinemoa which arrived from the Auckland Islands, reports that the shores of the islands were strewn with wreckage and bales of Australian wool. the name of the vessel that is supposed to have been lost is unknown, and there was no trace found of any survivors of the wreck.


By the 1867 newspaper accounts from the General Grant survivors, in March 1867 they found, on the mainland on a stave on which was written with charcoal the words "Minerva - 4 men, 1 officer - Leith - May 10th, 1864 - March 25th, 1865."
    A man's name had evidently been added, but was illegible. From the relative position of the words, our impression was, that the word Leith had reference to the man or men, and not to the Minerva

Enderby Island in the Aucklands  is a land of sea lions. The waters around it are filled with great white sharks. You don�t run away from sea lions, to them it�s a game. The biggest danger from sea lions comes not from the creatures themselves but from running away from them and getting a broken ankle.