Lena 1957

Lena 1957

LENA, auxiliary scow: While bound from Coromandel to Auckland with a cargo of timber, the scow Lena capsized five miles east of Waiheke Island, Hauraki Gulf, on May 15, 1957, and later foundered. Six persons-three men and three boys -lost their lives, there being only one survivor.

At 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 15, the scow developed a leak and the bilge pumps failed. The vessel filled and 50 minutes later capsized. About 9 p.m. the master, Captain Norman Thomas Fisher, and the three boys, Captain Fisher’s 12-year-old sons Barry and David, and David Breen, 10-yearold stepson of Mr. Eustace Ronald Breen, a Marine Department fisheries inspector who was a passenger on the Lena, embarked in a small dinghy and set out in the direction of Ponui Island. About the same time, a crew member, Mr. Ernest Parken, elected to try to swim ashore, apparently making

for Tarakaihi Island. The other two men on board, Mr. Arthur Leo Doherty and Mr. Breen, lashed themselves to the overturned hull of the scow to await rescue. This did not come until 192 hours later and by then only Mr. Doherty had survived, Mr. Breen having succumbed about 11 p.m., weakened by exposure to rain and the buffeting of the waves. At 3.30 p.m. on Thursday, a Royal New Zealand Air Force launch on a training cruise in the gulf sighted the capsized Lena and brought Mr. Doherty and Mr. Breen’s body back to Auckland.

In the days following the casualty, an intensive land, sea and air search in the lower part of the Hauraki Gulf, near the Tamaki Strait, was carried out by 11 vessels, aircraft and shore parties and at 9 a.m. on Friday, May 17, the scow’s dinghy, overturned, was sighted by an Air Force plane which dived repeatedly over it, attracting the attention of those on board the Salvation Army’s vessel Lady Robert and the New Zealand Coastguard Service launch Stratus. The two vessels converged on the dinghy and found the body of Captain Fisher, lashed by the wrists to the rowlocks, but there was no sign of the three missing boys.

Meanwhile, the partly submerged hull was dragging its anchors, drifting from near Ponui Island towards Tarakihi Island, the cargo of timber being scattered over a wide area. However, when a navy tug was sent out on Saturday to tow the wreck in, no trace of the Lena could be found, having evidently foundered. Later, two vessels swept over the area for three and a half days and three divers had been dragged between the vessels in an unsuccessful attempt to locate the sunken vessel.

The Lena, No. 118,980, was an auxiliary, ketchrigged scow of 17 tons gross and 12 tons net register, built at Auckland in 1915 by Bailey and Lowe, and her dimensions were : length 45.7 ft., beam 15.5 ft., depth 3 ft. In 1935 she was fitted with two diesel engines. She was owned by Captain Fisher who was found at fault for the casualty by the Court of Inquiry which ordered his estate to pay £63 towards the costs of the inquiry. Thirtyone years previous to her loss, the Lena capsized off Waiheke Island under similar circumstances, but on that occasion the crew reached the shore safely.

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