Monday, 3 November 2014

Ysabel ex Southern Cross - and the early Melanesian Mission ships

 St. Barnabas' Chapel on Norfolk Island, dedicated to the memory of the martyrs of the Church in the Pacific - Photo CRB 2013

Ysabel  was originally named Southern Cross -  she was the third of the vessels named Southern Cross and known as “ yachts”  ships of the Melanesian Mission. Ysabel ex Southern Cross as with the two previous Mission Ships voyaged the waters of the South Pacific and Coral Sea bringing the Bishop, ministers and scholars to and from the Islands of Melanesia, Norfolk Island and New Zealand.

Map In Armstrong, E. S The history of the Melanesian mission London, Isbister and company, limited 1900

Fifty two years marked the end of a long career for Ysabel ex Southern Cross in Pacific and Australasian waters in 1927 - burnt to water level in the Eastern Pacific.

FAMOUS VESSEL'S LONG CAREER ENDED. The historic schooner Ysabel, which is reported to have been dest... [truncated] New Zealand Herald, Volume LXIV, Issue 19557, 9 February 1927, Page 15  Courtesy Papers Past

The schooner of 21 tons Undine was the first of these “Mission Ships” leaving the harbour of Waitemata on 1 August 1949. Aboard was Bishop Augustus Selwyn and the voyage a first for the Bishop to the Pacific Islands.
Bishop Augustus Selwyn

Undine made several voyages to parts of New Zealand with the Bishop on board. One of these in 1850, was to an anchorage near the mission station up the Kauaeranga near the mouth of the Waihou ( called the River Thames in those days by the early European settlers.)

The New Zealander reported a walk of three miles from the anchorage and the following description of the Mission Station: -  

“ After many delays we at length reached the Mission house, which is prettily situated on a steep rite of about 150 feet from the head of the Mataparu Creek. It is a fine roomy wooden house, but in a sadly neglected state, the verandah, being in fact in perfect rums, windows broken, and bearing all the evidences of a long unoccupied house. The garden which is very large, and was once a good one, is utterly gone to the dogs, or pigs rather, for we saw three enormous grunters tied by the leg in the midst of what had been a strawberry bed, and grubbing under the roots of a fine peach tree. There were a few peach and apple trees, and some figs, but they were being fast choked up by multiflora roses, sweet briars, &c, which have overgrown the garden. The Chapel, which is situated about 300 hundred yards from the house, is a large raupo building, with glass windows, but is last failing to pieces, being almost roofless, and all the windows broken. It contains a very neat pulpit and communion table; The Bishop performed service here, concluding by delivering a short but impressive address to the natives, introducing their new Minister".
                                                             (New Zealander,17/08/1850,P2)

Mr. Linnear was their new minister.

By 1853 the schooner Undine had passed into “native” ownership and different voyages. Then began what has become known as the Southern Cross Mission Ships – the first in 1855. Bishop George Augustus Selwyn was to again visit the Islands with Mr. Patteson, returning with scholars to New Zealand. 

Both Southern Cross One and Two were built in England. Unfortunately Southern Cross Two was to have an ill- fated voyage to Nukapu in the Solomons. Mistaken for “ blackbirders” (ships stealing and kidnapping people for labour in plantations elsewhere) Bishop John Coleridge Patteson and his two assistants Reverend Joseph Atkin and   Stephen Taroaniara were set upon. Bishop Patteson died almost immediately and the other two died several days later of tetanus from arrow wounds.
Southern Cross (  later named Ysabel ) number three was launched in mid May 1894 from the yards of Messrs Henry Niccol & Son, Auckland – locally New Zealand built – the same ship yards that s.s. Tauranga had been built for the Bay of Plenty Steam Navigation Company back in 1867. A three-masted, two-topsail schooner of 180 tons with auxiliary steam power of 24 H.P her engines were also locally made by Fraser & Tinne. Her maiden voyage, following a trial trip with James Stewart, inspector of Steamers and Engineer Surveyor was to Norfolk Island. ( Mission headquarters)   First passengers aboard Southern Cross (later Ysabel) were  Rev. Mr Jackson, Miss Annie Maunsell, Miss Alice Nobbs Miss Emily Nobbs.The purchase of this  Southern Cross was helped with funds from the Bishop Patteson Memorial Fund.

Emily Bay Norfolk Island - Photo CRB 2013

St. Barnabas Church Norfolk Island - Photo CRB 2014

St. Barnabas Church Norfolk Island - Photo CRB 2013

The beginning of mission service for this ship, which continued until about 1892. Trips were made to Vanuatu ( called then  New Hebrides) , Solomon Islands and  Norfolk Island. Southern Cross delivered necessary supplies, changed people over  and collected students to take back to Auckland  and then Norfolk Island to study. 

Vanuatu Shores - Photo CRB 2014

In 1892 Southern Cross was sold on to Captain William Ross who continued trading in the Pacific. Southern Cross now named Ysabel. Bringing  fruit cargoes to New Zealand and sawn timbers and other goods to the Islands. In 1914 Captain Ross intending to retire from the sea sold Ysabel to Messrs. G. H. Scales and Company, of Wellington.

Captain Matthew Thomas Clayton who had been nautical assessor in the inquiry into the loss of s.s. Tauranga in 1871 and appointed a Lloyds Surveyor in 1875 took up painting old time marine vessels. One of these paintings was of Ysabel and was evidently given to his friend Captain Ross. A tribute to a vessel designed by Weymouth and the hull specifications drawn by Captain Clayton himself. A vessel well made and well sailed across the waters of the Pacific.

Vanuatu Shores - Photo CRB 2013

It would seem from research that in the early 1860’s to early 1870’s   Southern Cross was a popular name for a vessel. In November 1863 a 640 (gross tonnage)  s.s. Southern Cross was launched from the yards in Scotland of J & G Thomson Govan. Purchased by the Tasmania Steam Navigation Company, Launceston 1864 destined for the Ports of Melbourne, Tasmania and others. Originally it was also intended to run this Southern Cross  to New Zealand ports, however the company directors changed their minds before her arrival in Tasmanian waters. This Southern Cross ran until 1889 when shipwrecked on an unchartered rock near Rocky Cape, north-west Tasmania.

Tasmanian Coastline - Photo CRB 2014

In May 1872 s.s. Southern Cross with a 94 feet keel was launched from the yard of Duthie & Ross. Fraser & Tinne were the makers of the engines. Following her trial trip with Inspector of Steamers, James Stewart , s.s. Southern Cross was put on the Coromandel and Tauranga/ Opotiki run by the owners who included J.S. Macfarlane. Captain Daniel Sellars ( first Captain of the ill- fated s.s. Tauranga) became her Captain.  This Southern Cross became well known on the East Coast run as did Captain Sellars, also calling at Whitianga ( Mercury Bay) ,Tairua and Whangamata ( if worthwhile.) When the Melanesian Mission ship Southern Cross completed a Trial Trip in May 1874 and was about to make her maiden voyage to Norfolk Island , the s.s. Southern Cross had  just come back from an excursion trip to Tauranga and Whakaari ( White Island ). Diverse voyages.

 Reference Source:

  • Armstrong, E. S The history of the Melanesian mission London, Isbister and company, limited 1900
  • Ysabel – New Zealand Maritime Index  Voyager New Zealand  Maritime Museum 
  • Encyclopaedia Australian Shipwrecks - Tasmania 
  •  LAUNCH OF THE MISSION SCHOONER SOUTHERN CROSS. Wellington Independent,27 March 1874, Page 2
  •  PORT OF AUCKLAND. Daily Southern Cross, 20 May 1874, Page 2
  •  EXCURSION TRIP TO WHAKAARI OR WHITE ISLAND. Daily Southern Cross, 24 April 1874, Page 3
  • AN INTERESTING SCHOONER. Evening Post, 13 May 1922, Page 10 
  • THE OLD SAILER YSABEL.Evening Post, 24 April 1925, Page 241   
  •  END OF THE YSABEL. New Zealand Herald, 9 February 1927, Page 12