Wreck of the Brigantine Delaware, near Nelson 1863

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Wreck of the brigantine Delaware 

At the Nelson Museum.
in Wakapuaka Bay, Nelson

NZ Bound

Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, 11 August 1863, Page 2
Arrived August 9, brigantine Delaware, from London.
The Brigantine Delaware, of 240 tons, Captain R.C. Baldwin, consigned to Messrs. N. Edwards and Co., arrived in our harbour on Sunday last, after a run of 116 days, from land to land. She left the Downs on the night of the 10th April, and the English coast on the 15th, and made a very good passage at the commencement, having crossed the line in thirty days, and rounded the Cape in sixty-four days. Thence she had very severe weather, and, on one occasion, to heavy were the seas that her water casks were lifted from the deck, the ringbolts having been torn away. She, subsequently, encountered a succession of calms which lasted for a week at a time ; made Cape Otway on the 104th day ; came through Bass straits and again was met by a severe gale in which some of her sails were blown away. Blind Bay was made on Friday last but the Delaware did not come to her anchorage until Sunday evening. She brought one passenger, Mr. M'Cabe. Since the Delaware left Bass's straits the mate has been very ill and unable to perform duty. This brigantine is not one that should hastily be passed over, as her cabins and other accommodation are really first class, and well deserve inspection. She is Nova Scotia built, and has been brought out with a view to trade between the several colonies in this part of the world.

Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, 27 August 1863, Page 2
Cleared outwards August 25, brigantine Delaware, 241, Baldwin, for Napier. Passenger, Mr. Skeet

Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, 12 September 1863, Page 4
On the 4th September, drowned at the wreck of the Delaware, at Wakapuaka, Henry Squirrell, of Ipswich, aged 22. Late mate on board the wrecked brigantine Delaware.

Henry Lufkin Skeet, being sworn, said: I am surveyor, and my family reside at Napier. I was a passenger for that place, on board the Delaware, which left Nelson on Thursday late. I knew the deceased as mate of the vessel. I was below all night of Thursday. I kept below because, being no sailor, I thought I was better out of the way.

(from the Wellington Independent Tuesday, September 15 1863)

On September 3rd 1863 en route from Nelson to Napier the brigantine Delaware, built in America, under command of Captain Robert C. Baldwin, was wrecked at the northern end of the beach at Wakapuaka, on the rocks between Pepin Island and the mainland at high tide. The Chief Mate lost his life, drowned. Wakapuka is a small bay about fifteen miles east from Nelson, on the eastern part of Blind Bay. There is no public access to Delaware Bay. The road ends at Cable Bay. The river Wakapuka ['waka' means canoe and 'puaka' is another name for rimu (red pine)] runs into Cable Bay opposite Pepin Island. The Australian submarine cable was brought ashore from the screw steamer Edinburgh on Feb.18 1876 enabling communication with Great Britain.

The Delaware had left Nelson roadstead for Napier on Thursday morning last, Sept. 3, at eleven o'clock, with the wind at the north, which compelled her to tack, and in the night the wind went round to the N.W., and blew one of the heaviest gales we ever remember witnessing in Nelson. She had eleven persons on board one of whom was a passenger named Henry L. Skeet.  At daylight in the morning, Captain R.C. Baldwin found himself embayed off Wakapuaka, and, after vainly endeavouring to weather both the south and northheadlands, and save his ship by anchoring, was compelled to run her on shore, but unfortunately, was unable to do this on the sandy beach below the pah, where the brig Guide so luckily went ashore about seventeen years ago, but was compelled to run stem on to the rocks on the northern side of the bay. By the aid of two native men, and a women of the name Julia, well known in Nelson, who, on perceiving the vessel was in danger hastened from their pah, at a distance of about a mile, al hands on board were saved except for the first mate named H. Squirrell, who had injured himself, before the Maoris arrived in attempting to swim on shore with a line, and had been dashed violently against the rocks. The vessel quickly broke in two, and became a total wreck, and the beach was rapidly covered with spars, timber, and portions of the cargo, of which, there was nearly 100 tons on board, shipped in London for Hawke's Bay. Such portions of the cargo, as were saved, were put on board the Lyttelton, which was sent to the scene of disaster early on Saturday morning; and on Sunday the steamer Sturt took nearly two hundred persons to visit the spot, and what remained of the ill-fated vessel. The Delaware was a brigantine of 240 tons, and was one of the prettiest crafts we have seen in our harbor. 

Mr Henry L. Skeet's account, the passenger.

The captain tried, but in vain to make out the Nelson light so that he could be enabled to run to a safe anchorage. He continued tacking his vessel, and sounding, until break of day, when he perceived that he was off Wakapuaka Bay, the wind then blowing violently in shore. Captain Baldwin immediately tried to wether Pepin's Island, in order that he might run to a safe anchorage; failing in this endeavor, he next attempted to pass round the Croixelles, but his efforts were fruitless. In these attempts the jib was carried away. Finding his vessel had been blown, the captain ordered an anchor to be let go; this was in thirteen fathoms of water. When ninety fathoms of chain had run out, the patent windlass gave way' the second anchor was then immediately dropped, and this held for sometime and the feeling assured that in the tremendous sea which was rolling it was impossible for the anchor to hold, he determined on beaching the vessel in order to save her being carried broadside on. The Delaware first struck the rocks at about twenty minutes to nine o'clock on Friday morning, being then some 120 yards from shore, and the tide making. After the vessel had struck, the mate who was a good swimmer volunteered to attempt reaching the rocks with a rope around his body. the attempt was fruitless and disastrous. Wile sliding down the rope from the ship, he struck against a rock, and began to sink. Lifebuoys were thrown to him, and failing to catch them he was hauled on board again by the lead-line that was fast around his body. Those on board used every effort in attempting to restore animation, by rubbing, &c., He at length spoke, but again relapsed, and, being apparently lifeless, was taken forward and placed in the house on deck. At this moment Maoris were seen running towards the vessel, and on their arrival opposite where the Delaware was fast on the rocks, they plunged at one into the sea, and succeeded in reaching a lead-line thrown to them by one of the crew, named Morgan. A rope, after being made fast to this line, was hauled ashore by the Maoris, and made fast round one of the rocks. This rope was made fast on board to the cat-head, it being feared the masts would speedily go, and the wind being so fearfully high. Down this rope the several persons on board singley passed, by holding on with hands and legs, and working themselves down into the raging sea. When the ship rolled landward, down, down beneath the water sunk the struggling man, to be suddenly jerked up, and held high in the air as the vessel rolled to the sea. It was a fearful struggle, but in it they were nobly aided by three Maoris (two men and a woman, named Martin, Robert and Julia) (Julia's brother her brother Eraia also helped), who rushed into the water, and wading towards the struggler helped him ashore. The Captain was the last man to leave the vessel, for when the Maroris had reached him, the rope parted. About one-hour after this, to the astonishment of everyone on the beach, the mate was seen standing at the side of the vessel near the foerigging. The sea was running high and the tide was coming in and it was impossible to attempt to rescue the man. Those who had been saved frequently went down to the water's edge and gave him cheering words, telling him to hold on until the tide should turn. He made his way to the main rigging and held on for a considerable time, about two hours. At length fatigue and no doubt, the injuries received when he was in the water, caused him to loose his hold, and he was washed over board, and his body was not found till the following morning by a sawyer. The captain assisted to carry his body up out of reach of the tide, where it now lies.
When ashore, the Maoris behaved most kindly. They lighted a large fire for the shipwrecked party to dry their clothes by, and soon as they could obtained it, also plentifully supplied the whole of the survivors with food. They also very kindly received the party at their pah, and gave up to them a whare and blankets. The beach for two miles, was fairly strewed with broken cases, torn blankets, candles, shawls, saddlerly, and wearing apparel.

An enquiry

An enquiry concerning the death of Henry Squirrell, late chief mate of the brigantine Delaware, was held on the beach, near the wreck, by Nathaniel Edwards, Esq., who acted as Coroner, and a jury, consisting of Messrs G. Bennett (foreman), J.S. Cross, G. Horner, J. Penny, G. White, R.G. Gibbon, T. Whitwell, and A. Brown. The jury returned a verdict of "accidentally drowned."

Reference online: Papers Past Images online. NZ National Library. 

Huria Matenga (Julia Martin) (1843 -1909)Julia Martin (Huria Matenga)

She came to be known after the shipwreck rescue, as ‘Grace Darling of New Zealand’ 

When the Delware stranded Huria Te Amoho Wikitoria Matenga aka Julia Martin with her husband, Hemi Matenga (of the of the Ngati Awa tribe), and Hohapata Kahupuku, another Maori, from the local pa helped to rescue the crew by plunging into the pounding surf to drag the men ashore. Her bravery made her a legend in her lifetime and and she become known as "New Zealand's Grace Darling" a comparison with Grace Darling, the English lighthouse keeper's daughter who thirty years before had similarly helped her father effect a dramatic rescue in dangerous seas. The people of Nelson subscribed to present Huria with a gold watch and the others with silver watches in a public ceremony in Nelson in November. They also received grants from the government. Huria Matenga died at Whakapuaka on April 24 1909, at the age of 68.  She was the daughter of Wiremu Katene Te Manu (Emano), a tribal chief of the Ngati Hoa of Taranaki and Wikitoria Te Kehe of the Nati Awa, also from north Taranaki. Both tribes had migrated to the Cook Strait area.  Her tangi was attended by over 2000 people, both Maori and Pakeha. Huria and  Hemi are buried in the cemetery on the tip of the peninsula. The museum at Nelson holds items concerned with the incident; Huria's portrait by Gottfried Lindauer (1839-1926) is in the Suter Art Gallery, in Nelson. Lindauer, painted in a highly realist manner, painted three different portraits of her. Huria’s cloak is made of feathers, probably of the kaka, wood pigeon and tui, tied together in bundles with a thong of plaited flax which was then woven into the kaupapa on alternative lines of the weft. The Suter Art Gallery was established as a memorial to Andrew Burn Suter, the second Bishop of Nelson (1866-91).

Lindauer was born in West Bohemia (Czechoslovakia), in 1855, travelled to Vienna where he spent seven years studying portraiture and in 1864 returned to his hometown of Pilsen, establishing his own studio.  Lindauer arrived in New Zealand in 1874 and settled in Auckland a year later.

Evening Post, 24 November 1900, Page 2


She is crowned with coral' and crusted,
She is reddened with sea-gold ;
Her guns and chains are rusted ;
Her ribs are shrunk and old.
The grass crawls green and gleaming
Over her bulwarks streaming.
And coils and clasps her, seeming
Like serpents, lithe and cold.

Once from her tall masts floated
The widest silk in Spain ;
Her cannon, iron-throated,
Rang out across the main.
But like a strong place plundered,
Her sides are scaled and sundered,
And all her guns that thundered.
Shall never sound again.

She loved the rolling ocean,
And wandered wide and far ;
She lived in deep devotion
To red, relentless war.
But even she, the daughter
Of shock And storm and slaughter,
Was buried under water,
And fell like any star.

She sought the victor's laurel
Through fire and flame between.
Conquered, she found the coral,
And the red outlived the green ;
For the stronger ship was shattered
And her strength was shed and scattered,
And little her might has mattered;
She is not, but has been.

The sun sank low to greet her,
But when, in silent prayer,
The dear moon rose to meet her,
Behold! she was not there!
Already in the gloaming
The sad mermaids were roaming
Her sunken decks, arid combing
Their bright arid amber hair.

Where are the souls that sailed her
From shore to sudden shore?
They and their flesh have failed her
She feels their will no more.
She lies alone forgotten
0f all in her begotten.
Her very heart is rotten
That was so strong before.

She lies where earth is hollow,
Far Underneath the sea.
The winds that once did follow,
And made her lean to lee, —
They know not where to find her,
For many waters bind her,
And no free things remind her,
That she, too, once was free.

The cloistering sea enfolds her
And will not let her go.
The sea for ever holds her,
While waters ebb and flow.
No eye may see her glory
That once was transitory :
None know her but in story,
And more shall never know.

—Thomas Tracy Bouve, in the Independent.