New Zealand Shipwrecks & Disasters

Sea voyages, shipwrecks & disaster tales with New Zealand connections

Burning of the ship Blue Jacket   new.BMP (1286 bytes)
In 1869 the immigrant ship Blue Jacket made her return voyage to London from Lyttelton. She was loaded with wool, flax and gold, all treasures from the relatively new colony of New Zealand. Unfortunately she was not to reach her destination and caught fire near the Falkland Islands following which she was abandoned and sank in the South Atlantic.

Kaitangata Mine Disaster  
Seventeen years before the disaster at Brunner that killed 65 men, a similar event at Kaitangata in the south-east of the South Island took the life of 34 men and boys. They were innocent parties in an act of negligence that was to be the first mining disaster to occur in New Zealand.

Brunner Mine Disaster  
In the early morning of Thursday March 26th 1896, sixty five men entered the Brunner Mine on New Zealand's West Coast. They were never to be seen alive again. Here we present the story surrounding this disaster and the legal wrangles that followed it.

Often we concern ourselves with "those who never made it" and who today are only a memory recalled by the expression "Oh! Those poor people".  Many events have occurred at sea and on voyages out where an arrival was "In the hands of God". The voyage of the Monarch and the trials experienced by her passengers and crew was just one of those stories.

The voyage of the Brilliant must have been one of the longest on record. A full 10 months, a complete change of crew and several stops at several ports where she lost many passengers whose interest in continue the voyage had waned. She arrived unexpectedly as all those awaiting her arrival had thought her lost in the great oceans and the remaining passengers took up the challenge of creating The Dream that was Cornwallis.

In March of 1867 the newly arrived immigrant ship caught fire in the Napier roadstead and burnt to the waterline. No lives were lost and no cause was ever found for the fire was ever found.

In 1874 the ship immigrant Surat ran aground on the coast south of Dunedin. No passengers lost their lives but they were to lose all their baggage and personal possessions and the ship was written-off. What than came to light were stories of gross incompetence, drunkenness, and threats of physical violence and murder.

The Cospatrick was destroyed by fire in 1874 on her way to New Zealand with a full complement of immigrants. Out of 473 passengers and crew 3 souls survived.

       Polar Star
On October 1st 1854 the ship Polar Star, on her way from London to New Zealand with emigrants, caught fire in the South Atlantic. Denying the fire oxygen, a valiant effort by the crew and passengers ensured that the fire did not take hold and quite by chance or Divine Providence a ship came in sight and rescued the passengers and crew. With respect, this is their story.

On August 26th 1859 the ship Burmah left London bound for New Zealand. She had on board 22 passengers and a significant amount of livestock. From here no living soul knows what befell her or what became the passengers and crew she carried. The Burmah did not arrive and was never seen again. Or was it? A newspaper report from the Wellington Independent for January 5th 1871 hints that a derelict ship found on a southern South Island beach may indeed have been the Burmah. This may be one reason for her mysterious disappearance.

SS Wairarapa
The story of the tragedy of the steamship Wairarapa which struck Great Barrier Island at full speed on October 29th 1894. Includes passenger and crew lists.

SS Wimmera
Shortly after the trans-Tasman steamship SS Wimmera left Auckland for Sydney on the July 25th 1918 she struck a mine sown by the German Raider Wolf . Within half an hour SS Wimmera was at the bottom and 125 passengers and crew were adrift at sea.

The Inconstant arrived at Port Nicholson on her way to South America and ran aground as she entered the harbour. Her hulk was to gain fame by becoming Plimmers Ark on Wellington's early foreshore. Her remains were buried as a result of reclamation and re-discovered in 1899 and, more importantly, in 1998 when the remains commenced their preservation for posterity.

SS Elingamite
The SS Elingamite sailed from Sydney to Auckland in 1902 on a course based on a faulty chart that was to drive her onto the rocky shores of West King Island and to the bottom of the sea. The censuring of the Captain for this tragedy in which 45 people lost their lives was to be overturned eight years later when an Australian ship discovered the error.

Our sincere thanks to Graham Bould for his assistance in helping to gather information for this story.

Wild Deer  
The much-loved immigrant ship Wild Deer left Glasgow on January 12th 1883 (a Friday) with a crew of 41, nine hundred tons of general cargo and 209 immigrants for Dunedin in New Zealand. Within hours she had run aground on North Rock off the coast of Cloughy Bay. She was to sink and be lost but all on board survived to depart, one month later, on the ship Caroline for their intended new home of New Zealand.
Our sincere thanks for Jim Allan of Auckland for writing this story and to Ray Dobson for his invaluable contributions. Both had ancestors on board.