Ben Venue 1882

Ben Venue 1882

BEN VENUE, ship : Sunday, May 14, 1882, was a memorable date in the history of Timaru, marking as it did the third shipwreck at the port during the year, but, unlike the previous two, this one was followed by the loss of lives. Early on the morning of May 14 conditions at Timaru became exceedingly rough, and gradually grew worse until a tremendous sea was running, breakers showing for miles out to sea. The Ben Venue, which had arrived in the roadstead on May 2 with a cargo of 500 tons of coal from Newcastle, N.S.W., lay stern on to the sea, and was swept by several rollers breaking over the poop. The constant rolling caused the cargo to shift, and the vessel listed to starboard. A second anchor was dropped, but at 9 a.m. the starboard cable parted, and with great difficulty a third anchor, attached to a steel cable, was dropped. At 1 p.m. the Ben Venue parted her last cable, and as she neared broken water was abandoned by her crew, who sought refuge on board the ship City of Perth. With her head pointed towards the shore all the time, the backwash evidently keeping her from veering about, the Ben Venue slowly drifted ashore, until, an hour after the cable had parted, she struck under the cliffs at Caroline Bay, where she turned broadside on, and lay with her decks canted seaward.

Now the City of Perth was seen to be in distress and evidently drifting. She was abandoned by both crews, who landed in four boats, one bearing the chief officer of the City of Perth, who had both legs broken as the result of being jammed by the anchor cable. He was removed to hospital, where, a week later, he died from his injuries. The City of Perth drifted ashore and grounded alongside of the Ben Venue, maintaining an even keel.

It was after the City of Perth had been abandoned that an accident, attended by a serious loss of life, occurred. Captain James Mills, harbour¬master at Timaru, had been blamed by his board for not making more strenuous endeavours to save the ship City of Cashmere, wrecked under similar circumstances on January 14. On being told by Captain Coll Macdonald, master of the ‘City of Perth, that another anchor, attached to a hawser, had been dropped on the off chance of stopping the drift, he collected a crew of watermen, manned a whaler, and, accompanied by Captain Macdonald in his own gig, set out for the City of Perth. The vessel was found to be riding heavily to her anchor, and just as the party boarded her the cable parted. Having lowered a lifeboat and halved the crew of the gig, the three boats set out for the shore. When almost under the lee of the breakwater the life¬boat was swamped and the other boats went to her crew’s assistance. When almost within reach a high sea hid them from sight of the thousands of people lining the cliffs and other vantage points, and when their vision cleared the three boats were seen to be drifting helplessly about, and the crews swimming and struggling in the water. The Timaru lifeboat Alexandra was then launched, and after a precarious passage, during which she was capsized and righted three times, eventually landed its bruised and bleeding freight of half-drowned survivors. By this time night had fallen, and it was not until the next day that the worst was known. It was then learned that the second mate and the carpenter of the City of Perth and five of the

Timaru watermen had been drowned, that Captain Mills had died shortly after being removed to his home, and two others were suffering from chest injuries. The City of Perth was later refloated, undamaged, and was renamed Turakina. The Ben Venue became a complete wreck.

The Ben Venue, No. 58,314, was an iron, full¬rigged ship of 999 tons register and was built in 1867 by Messrs. Barclay, Curle, and Company, of Glasgow, for her owners Messrs. Watson Brothers, of Glasgow. She was under the command of Captain William G. MacGowan.

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