Saturday, 28 March 2015

Storms on Coromandel Eastern Coasts

At Tairua Harbour Entrance at the height of the storm - Cyclone Pam  photo CRB March 2015

Saturday, 28 March 2015

12:31 PM

Preparing  for the arrival of Cyclone Pam a couple of weeks ago, memories came back of one year ago when there was flooding and trees down;  ten years ago when we held on to a Pohutukawa tree to save it in the height of that storm at Whangamata. 
 
Fortunately Cyclone Pam was not as devastating as it was first thought all was going to be. We braced ourselves for the storm, easterlies  and maybe even floods. These all not a new happening but a relevant part of the past NZ history of living on the Coromandel Peninsula.
 
At the height of Cyclone Pam looking toward Shoe Island - photo CRB March 2015
As we watched with others , the sea tumbling in - thought about those early seamen in their cutters and schooners - making their way up the coast or perhaps having just left Tairua Harbour with a load of timber.
 
Looking towards Shoe Island from Pauanui Beach - photo CRB March 2015
Such was the case back in July 1907 when the Scow Surprise was wrecked in a storm. The Colonist reporting on the search for the wreck wrote:

" The steamer Onslow visited the scene of the wreck of the scow Surprise yesterday. Constable Brown and party searched the beaches, but could find no bodies. They secured a flag, some broken life buoys, the board with name, and the ship's dog was found lying on the Pawanui beach. As showing the fury of the storm dozens of crayfish and dead fish and tons of seaweed were thrown up on the beaches. "( Colonist 27/07/1907)

Four lives were lost in that wreck - Jersey born Captain John Philip Gallienne, Alf Steuart, Edward Johansen and Frank Kelly Survivor was Harry ( HW) Jackson who was said to have hailed from Norfolk Island.
 
Reading the newspapers of 108 years ago it would seem the first few months of 1907 were months of storm. One newspaper - the Ashburton Guardian - carried the headlines   -
 
" Floods on Land and Storms at Sea "( Ashburton Guardian 16/02/1907)
 The Ashburton Guardian also reported in this article for February 16 that  :
 " The Wanaka had a very stormy passage of 57 hours from Gisborne, arriving' at 3 p.m. Leaving Gisborne at 7 am. on Wednesday, she encountered a' strong northeast gales a high confused sea, and much Heavy rain. The steamer put out to sea, and, having 100 sheep on board from Timaru, every care was taken during the storm by Captain Stevens and the officers of the steamer, the result being that not a sheep was lost. The sheep were six days on board, and were all landed in splendid order."
The Wanaka was number two s.s. Wanaka - owned by the well known Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand. - was previously s.s. Liddesdale and renamed S.S. Wanaka .
 
Storm on Whangamata Main Surf Beach - photo H M Stewart 2001
Just as  the stories of the storms on the eastern coasts of the Coromandel one hundred years ago and the storm of Cyclone Pam two weeks ago there are the stories and my own memories of the storms in 2003 when the Pohutukawa tree was in danger, the storm of 2001 where much of the Whangamata beach was eroded by high seas and the storms in the early 1970's when the sea came up over the dunes and in one place almost to Port Road - a time when sand trap fences were " the buzz " to avoid beach erosion - storms of this era that unlike those of 100 years ago did not endanger lives but did endanger property.
 
 
Beach Erosion South Beach near Otahu Whangamata - photo H M Stewart early 1970's
Yes the Coromandel Peninsula storms are certainly a part of past New Zealand History - yesterday, thirty years ago, 100 years ago and no doubt before people lived here - back when there was volcanic upheaval.
 
Reference Source :
  •  Family memories and oral stories
  • SHIPWRECKED MARINER. Colonist, 27 July 1907, Page 4
  • WRECK OF THE SCOW SURPRISE. West Coast Times ,27 July 1907, Page 4
  • THE SURPRISE WRECK. New Zealand Herald, 16 August 1907, Page 6
  • Floods, slips and washouts. Colonist,, 16 January 1907, Page 2
  • GALE AND FLOODS. Auckland Star, 15 February 1907, Page 5
  • Floods on Land and Storms at Sea. Ashburton Guardian, 16 February 1907, Page 3
  • VESSELS IN PORT. Daily Telegraph ,31 May 1897, Page 2  - renaming of s.s. Liddesdale
  •  SHIPPING INTELLINGENCE. Poverty Bay Herald, 21 July 1897, Page 2 - renaming of s.s. Liddesdale
  • The Ships List Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand