Omaka 1921

Omaka 1921

OMAKA, auxiliary schooner: When entering Wellington Heads early on the morning of January 30, 1921, the schooner capsized off Pencarrow Head and became a total wreck, her crew of six being drowned. The lightkeeper at Pencarrow lighthouse said that he saw the Omaka suddenly heel to a fierce south-easterly squall, and then turn over. The vessel was laden with chaff, and this and wreckage were soon swept overboard. The schooner was hurled on to the rocks and soon went to pieces. Portions of the deck cabin were carried to Petone, where they were washed ashore, the dead body of one of the crew being found among the wreckage. The principal lightkeeper at Pencarrow lighthouse gave a most graphic and pathetic account of the accident, and the brave struggle for life of a number of the men on the ill-fated schooner. He saw the Omaka making into harbour under fore¬sail and jib. The assistant lightkeeper saw the vessel capsize. A strong southerly gale was blowing and the Omaka was running before the wind. Suddenly she broached to. Two seamen were clinging to the wreckage, and then three others were seen among the flotsam. One was clinging to a tank, but, becoming exhausted, he was swept away. Another two men were clinging to a plank, one at each end. At 5.20 a.m. the steamer Wairau entered the harbour and passed about 300 yards away, but her crew did not see the men struggling in the water. By this time the wreck had been blown inshore considerably, and had struck half a mile further on, where she subsequently broke up. The steamer Baden Powell passed the men about 100 yards away. The lightkeeper made frantic efforts to attract the attention of those on board, but without avail. The man who was on the tank had disappeared some time before, but the other two men were kept in view. There was about a mile of wreckage in all, drifting with the wind and current. As the Baden Powell passed, the men made a supreme effort to draw themselves on to the plank and attract the attention of those on board the passing steamer. They drew themselves up almost to a kneeling position on the plank. The assistant lightkeeper followed up along the coast the drift of the men on the plank, and later saw one man swept from his hold and disappear. Then, near Gallards Bay, the second man on the plank disappeared. The man on watch at Pencarrow lighthouse saw one man, probably the helmsman, swept overboard as the schooner broached to. He was clambering up the side again when she capsized. The men on the plank made frantic efforts to tear off their clothes so that they could swim better. The Omaka, No. 93,525, was a wooden, auxillary schooner of 74 tons gross and 39 tons net register, built at Brisbane Water, N.S.W., in 1886, and her dimensions were : length 78 ft., beam 20.6 ft., depth 6.2 ft. The schooner, which was formerly named May Howard, was fitted with an oil engine of 33 h.p. She was owned by Messrs. Eckford Brothers, of Blenheim, who bought her in May, 1920, and was under the command of Captain A. E. H. Purvis.

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