St Vincent 1869

St Vincent 1869

ST. VINCENT, ship : On the evening of February 14, 1869, the ship was totally wrecked in Palliser Bay, with the loss of 20 lives, the chief officer and Swedish sailmaker being the only survivors. The St. Vincent, which was described as one of the finest ships that had ever entered Wellington Harbour, arrived there on January 1, 1869, after a tedious voyage of 120 days from Cardiff, with the coal for the Panama Company. Having discharged her cargo, the ship sailed on February 13 for Lyttelton to load there with wool. At noon on the following day, when the ship was off Cape Campbell, it commenced to blow heavily from the south-east, and the St. Vincent was ultimately blown into the bay, where she struck about 10 p.m. The wreck occurred a little to the north of Cape Turakirae, on the Mokomoko Rocks.

The chief officer, Mr. J. Stringer, in giving his account of the wreck, stated that the ship sailed from Wellington, in ballast, at 3.30 p.m. on February 13, and encountered a moderate wind from the north-west, the weather being hazy and threatening. The ship was 17 miles from Cape Campbell light when it fell calm, with heavy rain. An hour later the wind came up strong from the southward. The St. Vincent was then put on the starboard tack, standing to the east, and continued so until the evening of February 14. At 4 p.m. the weather was thick and still raining, and the wind had increased to a strong gale. The ship was under two lower-topsails. No land was seen after losing sight of Cape Campbell until 4 p.m., when land was seen on the lee bow. It was discovered to be Cape Palliser, which placed the vessel in Palliser Bay. The vessel was immediately worn round and stood to the westward in the hope of weathering the point and running into Wellington. About 9 p.m. the wind suddenly dropped, but the heavy sea rolling into the bay prevented the ship being kept to the wind, and she kept falling to leeward. At 10 p.m. breakers were seen close under the lee bow. With the wind light, and not answering her helm, she was thrown all aback. Both anchors were dropped, but at about 10.30 p.m. she struck heavily aft. The St. Vincent was then struck by a heavy sea, which threw her almost on her beam ends, smashed the lifeboats to pieces, and carried away the boatswain, who was not seen again. The cables parted about this time, and the vessel went broadside on to the rocks, the seas throwing her completely on her beam ends. The captain ordered the crew aft to save their lives. Some crawled into the main-chains and some into the mizzen-chains on the port side. An enormous sea then struck the St. Vincent and gutted her completely, carrying away masts, decks and everything but the hull at one sweep, leaving but the shell of the ship.

The crew hung on in the mizzen-chains and huddled together for warmth. They remained in this precarious position until 3 a.m., when the chief officer was washed away. He was in the water for some time, but eventually reached the shore in an unconscious condition. After he regained consciousness he saw part of the hull about 100 yards from the shore. He thought all hands but himself had perished, and started out for the lighthouse. On his way he came to a shepherd’s hut, and there found the sailmaker. The chief officer, afterwards returned to the wreck and

discovered the bodies of a seaman and the only passenger on board. Later seven more bodies were recovered, but were so disfigured by the buffeting they had received in the surf and against the rocks that only four, those of the captain, the passenger, the second officer and the cabin boy, were identified out of the nine recovered.

The St. Vincent, No. 50,367, was a fullrigged ship of 834 tons register, built at Sunderland in 1863. She was owned by Messrs. Potter, Wilson and Company, and was under the command of Captain James Barron. The chief officer, Mr. Stringer, was formerly chief officer of the Chile.

The Court of Inquiry into the loss of the St. Vincent was held at Wellington on February 23. The court found that the ship was lost through an error of judgement on the part of the master in not running the ship into Cloudy Bay or back to Wellington. The chief officer stated that he offered to pilot the vessel into Cloudy Bay, but Captain Barron would not allow him to do so.

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