Abel Tasman 1936

Abel Tasman 1936

ABEL TASMAN, steamer: Following heavy rain on July 17 and 18, 1936, there was a strong run in the Grey River, and this flood, combined with an abnormally swift ebb tide, caused the intercolonial cargo steamer Abel Tasman to break adrift from her moorings at the Greymouth wharf. The mishap occurred at 5.05 p.m. on July 18, and within three minutes the vessel had full steam up and attempts were made to beach her, first near the Blaketown Lagoon, and then in the bight inside the north breakwater. Unfortunately, the steamer was unable to resist the eight-knot current and was swept down the Grey River. As she approached the bar the stern fouled the wreckage of the Kaponga on the point at the North Tiphead with a resounding crash, and remained fast for a few minutes. Then the bow slewed round, placing the vessel broadside on across the river mouth. Missing the South Tiphead narrowly and coming free, the Abel Tasman drifted well clear of the bar, but a north-westerly set pitched her back in the direction of the North Tiphead, her stern facing south. Continuing her northerly drift, the steamer pivoted round the fringe of the north breakwater, and was carried by a particu­ larly heavy swell on to the apron-edge of the rocks on the North Beach, where she became firmly embedded. It was soon apparent that the vessel was badly holed, but she was swinging about freely, each successive heavy sea gradually pitching her further inshore with a gradually rising tide. After some time the steamer settled down at an angle of 45 degrees, the stern pointing seaward. Of a total crew of 29 there were only 19 on board when the vessel broke adrift, and the first man was landed at 6.20 p.m. After a delay caused by the breaking of the hauling line, the work of rescue proceeded steadily, and by 7.25 p.m. all hands had been landed safely.

The wreck of the Abel Tasman was sold by auction at Greymouth on August 1, the hull, machinery, fittings and furniture being sold to a Greymouth syndicate for £160. The same syn­dicate purchased the cargo, consisting of approxi­mately 800,000 feet of timber, 499 sacks of ox hides, tallow, etc., for £400. As the vessel showed no signs of breaking up for a considerable time it was expected that a large proportion of the cargo would be saved.

The written decision of the Court of Inquiry, which concluded on August 10, stated that both the harbour-master (Captain F. W. Cox), the master (Captain W. D. Archibald), and the ship’s officers gave strict attention to the safe mooring of the vessel. The evidence did not disclose that the mooring equipment was in any way defective. The evidence, in the opinion of the court, was not conclusive enough to find that the casualty was due to a cause other than misadventure.

The Abel Tasman was a steel, screw steamer of 2,042 tons gross and 1,201 tons net register, built in Holland in 1916, and her dimensions were length 274.9 ft., beam 40.2 ft., depth 16.8 ft. Her engines were of 209 h.p. She was owned by Mr. H. C. Sleigh, of Melbourne. Originally named Maria, the steamer traded under the Dutch flag for some years. Subsequently she twice changed her name and ownership, being known as the Mont Blanc and as the Nord 33

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