Cecilia Sudden 1921

Cecilia Sudden 1921

CECILIA SUDDEN, schooner : On the night of September 8, 1921, the vessel caught fire and was abandoned by her crew between Tiritiri and the Watchman Islands, Hauraki Gulf. No lives were lost, and the crew were taken to Auckland on the morning of September 9 by the trawler James Cosgrove. The Cecilia Sudden, bound from Newcastle, N.S.W., to Callao, had put into Auckland to obtain medical aid for the boatswain, who had fallen from aloft.

The schooner, loaded with coal and kerosene, left Auckland at 4.30 p.m. on September 7, in calm weather. When the vessel was between Cape Colville and the southernmost point of the Great Barrier Island, about four miles off the latter, at 5.30 p.m. a seaman noticed smoke coming from the booby hatch, and gave the alarm. When the hatch was opened it was apparent that the coal cargo was on fire, and it was soon realised that the schooner would have to be abandoned. Two boats were launched the captain’s sustaining severe damage through striking the hatchway. Within 20 minutes everyone was clear of the doomed vessel. The crew noticed a vessel about 7 miles distant, and displayed a sheet as a distress signal. The vessel proved to be the trawler James Cosgrove, which picked up the boats and went alongside the burning schooner. The master returned on board with two men to use the trawler’s firefighting appliance, but as the Cecilia Sudden drifted towards the rocks the risk to the trawler was too great, and the captain decided to abandon the vessel. The Auckland Harbour Board’s tug Te Awhina was sent to search for the Cecilia Sudden, and found her ashore one mile south-east of Tryphena, Great Barrier Island, and about six miles from the locality where the fire was first noticed. There was only the shell of the schooner left, the hull having burned down to the water’s edge.

The captain’s theory was that the fire was due to spontaneous combustion of the coal. He could not signal with flags or rockets, as both were cut off by the fire. He was quite certain that there would have been no hope of towing the schooner anywhere before the fire had demolished her. The trip of the schooner was an unfortunate one. She met with bad weather off Cape Maria Van Diemen. Then her boatswain, a young man named Mervyn Lloyd, who had commenced his seafaring career in the training ship Amokura in May, 1915, fell from aloft while bending hoops on the mainsail. The nearest medical assistance was at Auckland, a week’s sail to the southward. The captain made for port, but Lloyd, whose back was broken, died just before the doctor boarded the schooner off Tiritiri. The Cecilia Sudden went into Auckland Harbour and stayed six days while the crew repaired canvas.

The Cecilia Sudden, No. 132,453, was a wooden, four-masted schooner of 643 tons gross and 545 tons net register, built at Fairhaven, U.S.A., in 1902, by the H. D. Bendixen Ship Building Co., San Francisco, and her dimensions were : length 172 ft., beam .38.3 ft., depth 13.2 ft. She was under the command of Captain E. W. Jay, and owned by Cecilia Sudden (Ltd.), of Melbourne.

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