GRASMERE, barque: When on a voyage tram Newcastle, N.S.W., to Wellington with a cargo of coal the barque was totally wrecked oil Cape Terawhiti early on the morning of December 25. 1895. No lives were lost. The vessel left Newcastle on December 12, and had a fine weather passage across the Tasman Sea. Stephens Island light was sighted at 11 p.m. on December 24. Next day she was beating through Cook Strait, and clear weather was experienced until 4 a.m. on the 25th, when the wind freshened from the north-west. The Grasrnere was sailing fast off Terawhiti with the wind on the quarter when she ran her bow on a sunken rock at 6.10 a.m. The officers stated that the rock was in the vicinity of Toms Rock, near Terawhiti Head, and about two miles from the mainland. The wind was then blowing hard, and those on board the barque had no indication that they were in danger. When the vessel struck all hands were engaged in taking in sail. It was found immediately afterwards that there was four feet of water in the hold. There being no chance of saving the ship, the boats were launched and the crew left her. Ten minutes afterwards the Grasrnere heeled right over on the starboard side, and when the steamer Mararoa, from Sydney, passed the spot a few hours afterwards only the yards and part of the bulwarks of the barque could be seen. The boats were blown off the land and the occupants had an anxious time, being in danger of foundering. The crew were picked up by the cable-repair steamer Terranova, and taken to Wellington. The Grasmere was hugging the land in order to pick up a tug when she missed stays and went on the rocks. The barque settled down very quickly.
A Magisterial Inquiry into the loss of the Grasrnere was held at Wellington on January 8, 1896. In giving judgement the magistrate said his opinion was that when the master came on deck he found the ship off her course, close inshore near Cape Terawhiti, with the wind increasing, and it was his duty then to have altered the vessel’s course as to take her clear of all danger. The conduct of the mate was not free from blame. He was ignorant of the ship’s actual position, of the sailing direction, of the force and state of the tide, and had not the use of a chart. Nevertheless the mate took upon himself to alter the ship’s course without orders from or reference to the master. The magistrate could not hold that the mate’s conduct was the cause of the casualty. Both master’s and mate’s certificates were returned to them. The master had lost everything, and it would be excessive punishment if his certificate was endorsed, but he was ordered to pay the costs of the inquiry.
The Grasmere, No. 52,663, was a wooden barque of 423 tons register, built at Sunderland in 1865, and her dimensions were: length 142.7 ft., beam 29.5 ft., depth 17.5 ft. The barque was under the command of Captain Samuel Morrison, who was evidently the owner of the vessel, and who estimated his loss at Â£1,500.