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DISASTER at PALLISER BAY - Good Friday 1897

Journal by ngairedith

............ FORWARD NOTES
* CAPE PALLISER is a promontory on the southern coast of New Zealand, the southernmost point of the North Island. Located at the eastern end of Palliser Bay, 50km southeast of Wellington (100km by road), it is in fact considerably further south than Nelson or Blenheim in the South Island.

* NGAWI (pronounced Nar wee) is a small fishing/holiday town within 5km of Cape Palliser. The town is made up of mainly small wooden houses, which are often called baches. Ngawi has one claim to fame - more bulldozers per head of population than anywhere else. The bulldozers are used to haul the fishing boats into and out of the water as there is no wharf or other access to the ocean other than the beach, which can be notoriously rough at times. The location is also famous for a large population of fur seals and sea lions, and is popular not just with commercial fisherman but also with recreational fishermen. The best fish to catch are Paua, crayfish (also known as rock lobster), and cod. The place is popular with all type of fishermen including spear fishing. Ngawi is also known for its "exposed" climate, relating to the intense and prolonged wind and the fact that there are almost no trees on this isolated coast. A number of ships that have become victim to this notorious coast.

* ZULEIKA SAILORS GRAVE, Palliser Bay
taken form the above link (view for moere & photos) ...
... On the lonely windswept coast of Palliser Bay flowers grow on a large, single grave: Sacred to the memory of twelve of the crew of the ship Zuleika, wrecked April 1897. Of the twenty one men on board, eight including the Captain, survived, another eight are buried in the grave near the beach where they were washed ashore, another was buried in Dunedin and the remainder were not found.
The lonely graveyard is a memorial for the 12 crew men of the 23 year old iron ship, the Zuleika, which ran aground on April 16th 1897. All the deck fittings were swept overboard and the crew took to the rigging. Tremendous seas were running and the ship suddenly went under. Those who could swim made it ashore. The rest clung to the wreckage. All that was reportedly left the next morning was a piece of the forecastle. Wreckage was strewn over 3 kms of beach.
... Nine bodies were washed up among the wreckage and eight were buried in the mass grave, the ninth was forwarded to Port Chalmers to be buried in a family plot. Three bodies were never recovered.
... For many years the grave was left unattended, but in 1977 the Featherston County Council tidied up the site and placed new railings around it.
... At the end of 1978 a plaque "Sacred to the memory of 12 of the crew of the ship Zuleika wrecked April 1897" was also renovated.

* SHIPWRECK MEMORIAL in need of TLC
Wairarapa Times Age 11 June 2013 - written by Vomie Springford
... A lone grave marking the lives of 12 seamen who died in the Zuleika shipwreck of 1897 needs some TLC, say two frequent Ngawi visitors. Of the 21 men on board, eight including the captain survived and another eight are thought to have been buried at the grave site near the beach where they were washed ashore. Another was buried in Dunedin and the rest were not found ... (more at link)

The ZULEIKA, bound from New York to Wellington, via Port Chalmers, became a total wreck in Palliser Bay about midnight on GOOD FRIDAY of Easter Weekend 1897

HOW IT UNFOLDED
FINDING of the BODIES
Marlborough Express, 20 April 1897
FEARS OF A WRECK
... Inspector Pender received word from Martinborough that four bodies were found on the beach at Whatarangi, Palliser Bay. It is feared that some vessel is wrecked. No further particulars are to hand. Search is being made.

Colonist, 21 April 1897
FOUR BODIES
... To-day Inspector Pender received word from Martinborough, that four bodies had been found on the beach at Whatarangi Palliser Bay, it is feared that some vessel has been wrecked. No further particulars are to hand, and a search is being made

Hawera & Normanby Star, 21 April 1897
ANOTHER DISASTER - SHIPWRECK IN THE STRAITS
THE ZULEIKA WRECKED - LOSS OF LIFE
Nine bodies recovered and three men missing. Special urgent telegram to Star
... The ship Zuleika, bound from Dunedin to Wellington, has been wrecked at Palliser Bay. Nine bodies have been found, The captain and second and third mates and seven men were saved, and three are missing. The vessel has broken up.
... The Zuleika was a ship of 1116 tons burthen, and left Dunedin for Wellington on Monday week, taking some cargo, but probably with the intention of filling up there before leaving the colony. She was in charge of Captain Bremner; and no doubt was caught in the Straits by the gale which commenced to blow on Friday, and being unable to get clear was blown ashore in Palliser Bay

Evening Post, 13 April 1897
3 DAYS PRIOR TO THE DISASTER
... Last night the Tutanekai returned to port from the Cook Strait lighthouses and Cape Palliser. Stormy weather in the strait inconvenienced matters, and at Cape Palliser those on board had a fairly lively time with wind and sea. For two days no material could be landed, but yesterday some 41 tons were put ashore with difficulty

Evening Post, 20 April 1897
SUPPOSED WRECK ON THE COAST
... The authorities are inclined to the belief that the discovery of the four bodies on the beach at Whatarangi, 37 miles from Martinborough, points to the fact that there has been a wreck in the vicinity, and the Tutanekai, which has just returned from Onehunga, is to be despatched to make a search for castaways.
Neither the ship Zuleika, which left Dunedin for Wellington on Monday, the 12th inst., nor the schooner Clyde, which sailed for this port from Lyttelton on Thursday, has yet arrived, and it is feared that some disaster has overtaken one or both of them.
... Constable May, of Martinborough, who left for Whatarangi yesterday morning to take possession of the bodies, has not yet returned. Constable Carlyon, of Masterton, was despatched to the spot a few hours later, and it is supposed that both he and Constable May are awaiting the holding of an inquest on the bodies.
... The Collector of Customs at Wellington (Mr McKellar) received the following telegram to-day from the Postmaster at the Spit:- "The Kahu from Wellington this morning came round Palliser and close along coast during daylight yesterday, saw no boats or wreckage. The Kahu leaves again this evening, and also the Fanny, for Wellington via the Coast. Both will keep a good look out"

Oamaru Mail, 21 April 1897 - Wellington, April 20
STEAMER TUTANEKAI SEARCHES
... No later information has reached Wellington respecting the bodies found in Palliser Bay. The Government steamer Tutanekai has left to search the bay

Wairarapa Daily Times, 22 April 1897
WRECK AT CAPE PALLISER
... The ship Zuleika, bound from Dunedin to Wellington, was wrecked on Friday night about four miles west of Cape Palliser. Nine bodies have been picked up on the beach. The bodies recovered are those of the first mate, steward, two apprentices and five seamen. There are three men missing. The captain, the second and third mates and seven men were saved.
The vessel is completely broken up and the beach is strewn with wreckage.
The captin left overland for Wellington this morning.
The Zuleika was 1027 tons burden and was commanded by Captain Bremner. She left Dunedin on the 12th inst.

Mount Ida Chronicle, 23 April 1897
WRECKED NEAR WELLINGTON - TWELVE LIVES LOST
... In the tremendous gale of last Friday the ship Zuleika, bound from Dunedin to Wellington, was driven ashore, four miles from Cape Palliser. The boats were knocked to pieces in a few minutes, and of the crew of 21, 12 were drowned. The crew clung to the ship until first one mast went over, then the ship tilted over, launching all into the water. Several were stunned or killed by wreckage

Evening Post, 21 April 1897
THE WRECK EXPLAINED
HER LAST VOYAGE
... The Zuleika left Dunedin for Wellington at 2 o'clock last Monday week, the 12th inst. She was towed out by the tug Plucky, and lay becalmed off Taiaroa Heads for 36 hours. At the end of that time she picked up a fair wind, which carried her up opposite Banks Peninsula. The breeze then began to increase until it was blowing a regular gale about midnight on Thursday. When the wind became too strong, Capt. Bremner (a man of 37) put the vessel under a goose-winged topsail and double-reefed spanker, and kept that canvas on her until midday on Friday. A lower foretopsail (goosewinged) and the foretopmast staysail were then set, and as the wind and sea had increased she was brought into the wind.
WHERE THE WRECK OCCURRED
... The wreck occurred in Palliser Bay, about four miles from the lighthouse, but, owing to the impenetrable blackness of the weather, no glimpse of the warning beacon was caught by those on the ill-fated ship
LAND SIGHTED
... Shortly after 11 p.m. the land was sighted on the port bow, and the captain seeing the vessel was in danger, gave orders to wear the shp, and she was in the act of wearing when she struck.
A grating sound was heard as if she was scraping the bottom, and in a few minutes she was hard and fast, A tremendous sea was running into the bay, and the waves dashed over the ill-fated ship, sweeping everything movable on deck overboard. Officers, men and apprentices (21 in all) recognised that it was a matter of life and death with them, but no panic occurred. Lifebelts were served out, and an attempt was made to launch the boats, but the effort was not successful, the boats being knocked about so much, that, in a few minutes they were unfit for use
TAKING TO THE RIGGING
... All on board then took to the mizzen rigging, the seas at that time breaking up as far as the mizzentop. After remaining aloft for over an hour, the unfortunate fellows, thinking that the vessel would hold together, came on to the deck again, and made their way to the forecastle, and remained in it until half-past 2 a.m., protected from the seas and blinding rain which had chilled them to the bones.
About 2 o'clock the ship began to take a list to starboard, and in half an hour or so she was canted over so much that her rail was under water, allowing the sea to break into the forecastle and almost wash out the shivering crowd which had taken refuge in it. The whole of the men and boys, with the exception of the captain, who clambered on to the jib-boom, then sought refuge in the forerigging, and they remained there for about half-an-hour.
THE VESSEL BREAKING UP
... The ship was then creaking and straining in a manner which made it evident to all on board that she was breaking up, and all saw that their chance of being able to stick to her until daybreak was very remote.
Very soon the mizzenmast went by the board, and a few minutes afterwards the mainmast also went. Fearing that the foremast would soon follow suit, the hands rushed back to the deck and joined Captain Bremner on the jib-boom, which was about 150 yards off the beach. After they had been there about 20 minutes, during which time the after part of the ship had broken away, the jib-boom and the forecastle subsided into the water, and all were washed into the angry sea, which in the immediate vicinity of the spot where the Zuleika had struck was covered with floating cases of kerosene, axe handles, churns, and other portions of the New York cargo, together with spars and pieces of woodwork of the ship.
A SWIM FOR LIFE
... Many of the men were able to swim, and these at once struck out for the shore, on which the sea was breaking with a deafening roar.
Those who were unable to swim clung to pieces of wreckage, but were soon washed away from them, and several of them were drowned. Others who could swim were stunned by the cases which were being tossed about, and were washed ashore dead - battered and bruised almost beyond recognition
A NARROW ESCAPE
... The second mate (Mr William Lane), aged 21, who is a capital swimmer, was nearly rendered senseless by a knock from a floating case, and was about to throw up the sponge when he saw the beach a few yards ahead, and giving a dozen strokes or so he was flung ashore more dead than alive. On collecting his senses Mr Lane looked round, and seeing no one else about concluded that he was the only survivor. Presently, however, he saw one of the sailors (Peter Ankersen), who had been his swimming company, walking along the beach, and the two of them started off to search for a house. After going up a gully and finding no sign of life they lay down behind a bush protected from the keen wind, and rested for two hours.
At daylight they made another search for a house, but again were unsuccessful and returning to the beach they came across the dead bodies of three A.B's - viz., Jones, Chas. Dawson and Blake, lying there, fully clothed and with life belts on.
MORE SURVIVORS
... They then went further along the beach and came across a shepherd's whare, in which they were delighted to find Captain Bremner, two of the apprentices, the carpenter, and three of the seamen, who had also reached the shore after hairbreadth escapes. These had been swept ashore within a few hundred yards of where the whare stood, and were fortunate enough to find it stocked with provisions.
A fire was lighted, and some food prepared, and the survivors made themselves a comfortable as the could under the circumstances.
On Sunday afternoon Mr Percy Dransfield, who is employed on a sheep station, about six miles distant from the wreck, was on his way to the Cape Palliser Lighthouse (four miles from the wreck), when he found some dead bodies on the beach. On making a search he discovered the survivors in the hut. One of the station hands was sent away with a message to the police at Martinborough, 37 miles distant, and Messrs. J. Sinclair, and Eraia, owners of the station, busied themselves in making the survivors as comfortable as possible.
WHERE THE VESSEL STRUCK
... The wreck occurred in Palliser Bay about four miles from the lighthouse. There is a large flat several miles long above the beach, running out from which are numerous rocks that are submerged at high tide.
The beach is composed of shingle and the ship struck stem first. All that remains of her above the water is a piece of the forecastle, the iron plates of which are twisted out of shape. One of the yards is floating close by.
The beach, which is composed of shingle, is strewn for two miles with battered kerosene tins, wooden cases, churns, mangles, axe handles, cases of axes, American lamps, spokes and a few hundred tins filled with kerosene. The wreckage is not worth more than £50 or £60 (2013 equivalent $9,100 - $10,900).
THE TUTANEKAI
... When Captain Fairchild reached Palliser Bay this morning in the Tutanekai he found the second mate of the Zuleika at Mr Sinclair's station, and took him round to the scene of the wreck, where he will remain until the bodies are buried to-morrow.
The Tutanekai, which came back to Wellington this afternoon for the purpose of getting coffins and taking down a clergyman, brought up the carpenter of the Zulieka, who has had several of his ribs broken. This man has been shipwrecked four times.
The other survivors (with the exception of the captain, who left overland for Wellington early this morning) are coming up by the Tutanekai to-morrow
A PLUCKY BOY
... The men who survived are loud in their praise of the pluck displayed by one of the apprentices, Herbert Bellitt (son of Captain Bellitt, of the ship Corelli, trading out of Liverpool), who, after being washed back three times, went to the rescue of one of the sailors and pulled him out of the water. This was the lad's first voyage, and he says it will be the last.
INQUEST
... An inquest on the whole of the bodies was held at the homestead yesterday before Mr J. P. Russell, J.P., of the Wairarapa. A verdict of "Found Drowned" was returned. Constable May narrowly escaped being drowned crossing the flooded rivers on the way from Martinborough to the wreck

THE VICTIMS
* ? BLAKE - able seaman aged 30
* ? GELLON - able seaman aged 54
* Herbert GRAHAM - First mate aged 28
* ? JONES - able seaman aged 52
* Charles LAWSON/DAWSON - able seaman aged 26
* Alexander McKAY - able seaman aged 20 (see death notice below)
* George PETITE - Steward aged 28
* David STRUOCK/STENOCK - apprentice aged 18
* Walter SUMMERS - apprentice aged 17
* William SWANSON - able seaman aged 33
* George WILSON - able seaman aged 56
* ? WILLIAMS - cook - aged 27
All the bodies, with the exception of Gellon, Struock & Williams, were washed ashore. The only married men drowned were Wilson and Gellon

Otago Daily Times, 26 April 1897
DEATH - McKAY
... Drowned in the wreck of the ship Zuleika, at Cape Palliser, on the 16th April, Alexander McKay, of Carey's Bay, Port Chalmers; aged 20 years. Deeply regretted

THE SURVIVORS
* Captain BREMNER
* William LANE - second mate
* Peter ANKERSEN - able seaman
* Archibald BELLITT - apprentice
* Thomas CARSON - apprentice
* Adolphe ILAVERKE - carpenter
* William KNEEN - able seaman
* William LISSON - able seaman
* Eugene MALVEN - able seaman

............ FOOT NOTE
In the Captain's statement he said that the chief officer and SHERWOOD did not have lifebelts. They both refused to take them, being excellent swimmers and that both were drowned?


PHOTO
the ZULEIKA being towed into Dunedin early 1897
from the De Maus Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library
A British ship, built of iron, and 1,144 tons burden. She was built by Aitken and mansel, of Glasgow, in 1875, and was owned by T. Law and Co., Leith. Her dimensions were:- Length, 211.5 feet; beam 35.2 feet; and depth 21.2 feet. Her classification was 100 A1 at Lloyd's

by ngairedith Profile | Research | Contact | Subscribe | Block this user
on 2013-10-26 12:47:29

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