Lyttelton 1886

Lyttelton 1886

LYTTELTON, ship : Went ashore at Timaru on the morning of June 12, 1886, and became a total wreck. The ship was being towed out to sea by the steamer Grafton, the sea being smooth, and no wind, but a long swell was rolling into the bay. All went well until almost clear of the buoys when the Grafton, in taking a short turn to the north-east, slackened up the tow line. The Lyttelton, instead of following the Grafton, went straight on as if making direct. for the Ninety Mile Beach. The master let the ship run until the tow line tightened, and then dropped anchor. Two additional lines were bent on, but towing had hardly commenced when the Lyttelton started to settle by the head. As she was rapidly filling, orders were given to launch the boats. The ship commenced to sink just before 9 a.m., and in 20 minutes had settled on the bottom. She lay about three ship’s lengths ahead of the wreck-buoy, which marked the spot where the Duke of Sutherland lay rotting, and at a point in the bay midway between the Ninety Mile Beach and the main wharf. At high water the Lyttelton’s poop and forecastle head were just awash. The casualty was believed to have been caused by the anchor knocking a hole in the for- ward part of the ship. During the afternoon of June 12 the sea smashed up the deckhouse and cabin fittings. The vessel later drifted two ship’s lengths towards the shore, lying embedded some eight or ten feet on the bottom, with water up to her bulwarks fore and aft. After an inspection the ship was abandoned to the underwriters, and later she was dismantled.

At the Nautical Inquiry into the loss of the Lyttelton the court, after reviewing the evidence before it, found that there was not sufficient evid¬ence to enable it to form an opinion whether the ship sank from striking her own anchor or some unknown obstacle. The court considered the wreck of the vessel to be mainly attributable to the want of skill on the part of the master of the Grafton whilst acting as tug-master. The court did not deal with his certificate. The captain and officers of the Lyttelton were entirely exonerated of all blame in the loss of the vessel.

The Lyttelton, No. 78,620, was an iron, full¬rigged ship of 1,111 tons register, built at Port Glasgow in March, 1878, by Messrs. R. Duncan and Co., and her dimensions were : length 223.8 ft., beam 35 ft., depth 21 ft. The ship, which was des¬cribed as an exceedingly handsome vessel, was under the command of Captain Herbert Wild Boorman.