TAUPO, steamer: When entering Tauranga Harbour on the morning of February 18, 1879, the steamer struck a rock near Stony Point. Several holes were knocked in her hull below the water line, and the engine room and a compartment were quickly flooded. The Taupo had made a good run in fine weather from Auckland and entered Tauranga Heads against a strong ebb tide. When passing Stony Point Reef, about 100 yards from Mount Maunganui, the vessel struck heavily and remained fast. Anticipating serious injury to the steamer’s bottom, immediate preparations were made to land the passengers and mails. Boats were quickly lowered and within 20 minutes all the passengers and mails were safely ashore. From subsequent examination it was found that the Taupo struck the reef immediately under the engine room. The vessel bumped heavily on a shallow patch of large boulders. The rock was the same on which the steamer Hawea struck some time previously. It was thought that the accident was caused by the Taupo’s head suddenly canting shorewards when steaming against a strong tide-rip when in the most critical part of the channel. The steamer was full of water on February 19, and she would not float at high water.
The Court of Inquiry into the loss of the Hawea found that the casualty was caused by careless navigation, insomuch that the master did not properly and closely watch the course of his ship from the red buoy to the beacon; that he erred in judging the distance of his ship from the shore, and consequently did not keep her on the proper course, and that the slow speed at which the steamer was driven conduced to the accident. The court ordered that the master’s certificate be suspended for three months.
The Royal Commission appointed by the Gov-ernment in connection with the loss of the Taupo, censured the harbour-master at Tauranga for allowing the buoy to remain in the place where it had been washed by the sea, a considerable distance from the spot it should have occupied. The Marine Department was entirely acquitted of blame in the matter, it being shown that no report was made as to the buoy having been shifted. The Commissioners considered that with a powerful steamer, in good order, in fine weather, and entering a port well known to the master, there was no valid excuse for the loss of the Taupo, which the Commissioners, as did the Court of Inquiry, attributed to the negligent navigation of the vessel.
Over two years had elapsed before attempts to refloat the Taupo were successful, and on April 29, 1881, she left Tauranga for Auckland in tow of the steamer Staff a. At 5.15 p.m., when both vessels were off Karewa, the steamer Wellington took the Taupo in tow : but it was soon discovered that the Taupo had sprung a leak with which the pumps were unable to cope, and at 8.20 p.m. she was abandoned. The vessel commenced to settle down stern first until she was almost end on, with 40 feet of her length above water, the keel being plainly visible. When bolt upright, the Taupo remained stationary for a moment, rose, then at 9.40 p.m. sank in 38 fathoms of water, near Mayor Island.
The Taupo, No. 71,711, was a screw steamer of 720 tons gross and 461 tons net register, built of iron at Dumbarton in 1875, and her dimensions were : length 215.8 ft., beam 27.3 ft., depth 14.1 ft. She was commanded by Captain William Cromarty. On September 12, 1875, the Taupo stranded on Fish Reef, off the east coast, South Island, the Court of Inquiry finding that the casualty was due to an error of judgement on the part of the master, Captain James Macfarlane.