Friday, 17 October 2014

s.s. Tauranga - Pride of the Bay of Plenty Steam Navigation Company

Northland NZ shore - photo J M Stewart 1970's

A dog swimming - thought to belong to the vessel, a long white boat found on the beach at Pakiri, Northland, various pieces of timber, flotsam and the  mailbags  – all that was left of s.s. Tauranga - once the pride of the Bay of Plenty Steam Navigation Company. The Captain , all hands and passengers were lost in the incident.

 Also the general cargo which was a mixed one

The collision between the ketch Enterprise and s.s. Tauranga occurred somewhere near Sail Rock  and Point Rodney , sometime during the night of 23 July 1870. The coal - laden  ketch Enterprise according to later reports, sank soon after the collision. 

The Master ( Richard Millis ) and crew of two ( Bernard McDermott, and Charles Clifton) of   the ketch Enterprise were reported to have made it to Little Omaha in a boat where they were then taken aboard the cutter Ruby. It was also reported that Henry Hadfield of Grahamstown, the new owner of the ketch Enterprise ( having purchased it from John Sangster Macfarlane ) was also on board at the time of the incident.

Other vessels went searching for survivors, newspapers and residents conjectured on what the last few moments would have been like at the time of the collision for those aboard s.s. Tauranga. The Nautical Court of Inquiry on 6 August, having reviewed the evidence and facts stated : -
 " Collision occurred by the neglect of the master of the Enterprise," in not showing the lights required by law  the loss of all hands on board the "Tauranga" is considered by the Nautical Assessor as partly owing to the master of the "Enterprise" not having made any effort to save life though his own vessel had foundered, his boat was of ample size and the weather not so boisterous but that he might have tried to have rendered assistance." AJHR,1871 Session I, G-06

Captain Millis, master of the Enterprise was found to have no certificate. Action was then taken in the Police Court ( the Court what was the former Wesleyan Chapel ). The proceedings were held before Messrs William Crush Daldy and Thomas Ritchie, Justices, and Captain Mathew Clayton, Nautical Assessor. 

Magistrates Court in High Street Auckland formerly Wesleyan Chapel
The Cyclopaedia of New Zealand, Vol 2, Auckland Province. Christchurch: Cyclopaedia Company Limited, 1902.

The verdict of the court of inquiry was £100 fine for the owner of Enterprise Mr. Hadfield and  a £10 fine for the Master – Mr. Millis and if fines not paid three  months imprisonment for the owner and one month for the Master. Neither fine was paid and both went to prison.

The New Zealand Herald reported the following on the Court of Inquiry finding : 

"Captain Clayton, the Nautical Assessor, who dissented from the finding of the Court of Inquiry respecting the collision between the ketch Enterprise and the s.s. Tauranga, yesterday transmitted his opinion to Wellington. It is to the effect that the verdict is too lenient to those on board the ketch Captain Clayton considering that it was in the power of Captain Millis and the crew to have proceeded to the relief of those on board the Tauranga, and that their neglect |should be visited with severe punishment. He also believes that on their arrival at Little Omaha, steps should have been taken to ascertain the result of the collision, and that- in this neglect the captain of the Ruby is also involved it being quite practicable, in his opinion, for that vessel to have proceeded to the scene of the disaster. The whole of his opinion is to the effect that the finding was too lenient, and that it should have marked the inhumanity or cowardice that failed to render assistance to men in distress Of course, this is based on the belief of the Nautical Assessor that the men of the Enterprise were really aware of serious injury at least having occurred to the steamer, and that assistance was required." ( The New Zealand Herald 09//08/1870)

Relief funds and Concerts were established in Tauranga and Auckland to raise money for the widows and children of those lost from the s.s. Tauranga.

s.s. Go Ahead in Lawson, Will. Steam in the Southern Pacific. Wellington, N.Z.: Gordon & Gotch, 1909.Also on

Mr. Hurst, Managing Director of the Bay of Plenty Steam Navigation Company and also shipping agent  filled the Russell Trade run breach. It was arranged   for s.s. Go Ahead to work the s.s. Tauranga busy runs temporarily.

Page 1 Advertisements Column 2 New Zealand Herald, Volume VII, Issue 2047, 11 August 1870, Page 1
Courtesy Papers Past National Library NZ

Before the years end p.s. Samson was put permanently on the Tauranga Auckland run. A run  that had grown in popularity Thames Goldfields open and over on the Eastern Seaboard of the Peninsula a sawmill at Whitianga and Tairua. Along with of course Tauranga and Opotiki establishing towns and farming.

From the launch of Bay of Plenty Navigation Company's pioneer steamer at the end March 1967 from the yards of  Messrs. Niccol & Sons s.s. Tauranga built up regular runs and popularity.

Following her Trial Trip and inspection by the Government Inspecting Engineer, s.s. Tauranga 's  maiden voyage was for Tauranga and Opotiki return.

General view of Opotiki. Price, William Archer, 1866-1948 : Collection of post card negatives. Ref: 1/2-001309-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Captain Daniel Sellars, who knew  the waters of the Eastern Coast well, was 
Captain of s.s. Tauranga in the early years. August 1867 s.s. Tauranga called at Tairua on the way to Tauranga - with a cargo of oats, hay, flour, potatoes, boots, glass, sashes and 28 passengers. 1868 had seen Mr. Paterson and cargo landed at Kennedy's Bay; Messrs. Gorrie. Buchanan(of Buchanan  and Stewart), Gilmore of the Auckland Saw Mill Company, and T. W. Brown landed at Mercury Bay. No roads to the East Coast in those days so coasters were welcome. 

                                    Mercury Bay ( Whitianga ) Photo CRB 2011

 One of the first shipments of  700 ounces of gold was carried by s.s. Tauranga and p.s. 'Enterprise No. 2 from Thames Goldfields to Auckland for overseas shipment. Tauranga continued to carry shipments for the banks. It was also s.s. Tauranga that carried the first party of "would be prospectors' to Kennedy's Bay Goldrush.

 Goods Wharf, Thames early days in Weston, Fred (compiler). Jubilee Souvenir –Thames Goldfields-A   History From Proclamation Times To 1927. Thames: “ Thames Star”, July ,1927 page 75

In 1869 was added the Auckland to Bay of Islands run - Russell and Kawakawa. Captain Edward Bolger taking over the helm from Captain Sellars. The popular runs continued carrying passengers and general cargo until the loss of s.s. Tauranga that night of the 23rd July 1870.

Note: Millis also spelled Willis in some documents.

 Reference Sources:

  • Ingram, Chas.W.N. and Wheatley, P Owen. Shipwrecks New Zealand Disasters 1795 - 1936. Dunedin: Dunedin Book Publishing Association, 1936.
  •  Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1871 Session I, G-06 SIXTH REPORT OF THE MARINE DEPARTMENT FOR THE YEARS 1869-70 AND 1870-1.
  •  Daily Southern Cross, 28 October 1867, Page 3 ARRRIVAL OF 700oz. OF GOLD
  •  ARRIVAL OF THE S.S. TAURANGA. New Zealand Herald, 18 March 1869, Page 5
  •  THE LATE COLLISION OFF SAIL ROCK. Daily Southern Cross, 26 July 1870, Page 2
  •  THE SEARCH Auckland Star, 2 August 1870, Page 2
  •  THE LOSS OF THE TAURANGA. THE INQUIRY AT THE POLICE COURT. Daily Southern Cross, 6 August 1870, Page 5
  •  Untitled New Zealand Herald, 9 August 1870, Page 3
  •  LOSS OF THE S.S. TAURANGA AND ALL HANDS. Colonist, 12 August 1870, Page 2
  •  PICKINGS FROM HANSARD. Otago Daily Times , 31 August 1870, Page 7