Bound for Taranaki and southern ports with English mails on board, the steamer left Manukau on February 13. In thick drizzling rain, and on a course which for ten years previously had been steered in safety, the Airedale struck at 3.35 a.m. on February 14 on a reef near Taniwha Point, about a mile to the north of the Waitara River. Under full steam and with both topsails set, the impact was so severe as to make a large hole in her hull, and almost immediately the stokehold fires were extinguished, and in less than three minutes the passengers in the saloon were up to their waists in water.
All on board-about 20 passengers and a crew of 30 all told-landed safely in the steamer’s four boats. The vessel’s decks were cut open to recover the mails, which were found to be badly damaged. Two days after the stranding the Airedale’s position remained unchanged, and everything movable had been stripped and conveyed to Waitara. On February 23 the engines were removed, and the hull subsequently broke up.
The Airedale, No. 20,475, was a brig-rigged, screw steamer of 363 tons gross and 286 tons net register, built of iron at South Stockton in 1857. Her dimensions were : length 169.3 ft., beam 23 ft., depth 13.6 ft. When wrecked the steamer was owned by Messrs. Henderson and MacFarlane, of Auckland, and was insured for Â£6,000. Captain A. Kenney commanded the Airedale.