HOLMBANK, motor vessel: A ship with a chequered history, the vessel ended her career of nearly 11 years on the New Zealand coast when on September 20, 1963, she stranded on a rock outcrop near Peraki Bay, on the southern side of Banks Peninsula. Her crew of 16 abandoned the vessel and were able to save most of their personal possessions but the ship became a total loss.
Holmbank was bound from Timaru to Wellington with 400 tons of general cargo. On clearing the Timaru breakwaterat 1.19 p.m. on the day of the casualty, a course was set calculated to take the vessel one-and-three-quarter miles clear of Akaroa light. When within range of the light and able to obtain a fix of the ship’s position, the master intended to set a new course which would carry the vessel safely past the eastern end of Banks Peninsula. About 7.40 p.m. the captain and second mate believed they had obtained glimpses of a light bearing fine on the port bow, but were unable to identify it as Akaroa light. The light appeared on the bearing on which Akaroa light was expected to be seen if the course set had been made good.
Visability at sea was moderate, from four to six miles, but a weather report received on board at 7.25 p.m. gave the conditions at Akaroa Heads at 6 p.m. as cloudy, fog becoming thicker and drizzle, with visability down to five yards. As a result of this report, the master was not unduly concerned at not sighting Akaroa light. The Holmbank proceeded at full speed, but unknown to those on board a marked indraught had carried the vessel towards “Ninety Mile Beach” and into a position where, although within range of the light, she was outside the arc of visability due to high ground. At 8.22 p.m. the coaster struck the rocks, ahead of which and about 200 yards away were sheer dark cliffs backed by high ground, which were not seen in the darkness. A MAYDAY distress signal was not sent but the port authority at Lyttleton was notified and the tanker Tanea, freighter Waimea and the coaster Holmwood proceeded to the area and stood by the wrecked vessel throughout the night. The rocks on which the Holmbank struck are three feet above water at low tide but were submerged when the ship stranded two hours after high water.
On the following day an underwater examination of the ship disclosed that the hull was badly holed in four places, with a gash a chain long on one side. With her back broken and her bow and stern five feet lower than the midship section, it was apparent that the vessel was beyond salvage and at about 6.15 a.m. on September 22 she broke in two, slid off the rock and sank.
At the inquiry into the loss of the Holmbank, the Court was of the opinion that the precise position of the wreck had not been fixed satisfactorily. The master of the wrecked vessel did not enter Peraki Bay which he thought was to starboard, that is, east of the rock. On the Waimea’s chart the position of the wreck showed the bay to the west of it on which basis the inset was about four and a-half miles. Had the Holmbank been on her intended course at the time of striking, she would have been eight miles from Akaroa light and four and a-half miles from the nearest land. The Court found that the cause of the casualty was an unanticipated set, coupled with the fact that weather reports of low visibility at Akaroa light supplied an apparent reason why it did not become visible when the vessel was within its range.
The Holmbank, No. 184,530, was a motor vessel of 515 tons gross and 244 tons net register, built of steel at Bergen, Norway, in 1948. Her dimensions were: length 173 ft. 3 ins., beam 28 ft. 4 ins., and depth 12 ft. 104′ ins. She was owned by the Holm Shipping Company Ltd. and commanded by Captain Walter Raymond Home.
Originally named Anne, she was purchased two years after completion by a British company and renamed Sunny Girl. In 1952 the ship came to New Zealand, having been purchased by a Gisborne company which changed her name to Turihaua. In 1955 she was purchased by the Richardson Shipping Company and later chartered by the Anchor Shipping Company. After being laid up for several years, the Turihaua resumed trading and in 1961 was bought by the Holm Shipping Company, which in May of that year changed her name to Holmbank.
On four previous occasions, while under the name of Turihaua, the vessel had been a casualty. In 1952,
after rounding Tuahine Point, she struck a subÂmerged rock and was holed in the starboard side under the engineroom. The vessel was towed to Auckland for docking and repairs. Two years later the Turihaua sustained extensive damage to her plates when berthing during a gale at Auckland. In 1955 she stranded on Great Mercury Island, and while under charter to the Anchor Shipping Company struck on Walker Rock, off Cape Jackson, in Cook Strait.