OTAGO, steamer: Totally wrecked at ChasÂ¬lands Mistake, south of Nugget Point, on December 4, 1876. The Otago left Dunedin on December 3, bound for Melbourne. When the master left the bridge in charge of the second mate, the weather was then calm and clear. At 2.30 a.m..on the 4th, high towering cliffs were seen a short distance ahead, and before the ship’s course could be altered she crashed in between two pinnacles of rock. It had been foggy all night, but ten minutes after the Otago struck the fog cleared and the weather became quite clear. At daylight it was seen that the steamer was doomed. She had struck on Chaslands Point, right between two masses of rock, and was firmly wedged there at right angles to the shore, with her head about WSW., and her taffrail nearly level with the water. There was very little sea running when she struck, and no difficulty was experienced in landing her passengers and crew, as well as the mails, luggage and a supply of provisions. At 8 a.m. the master despatched the chief officer in a boat to Waikawa, with instructions to make for or send to the nearest. telegraph station, and transÂ¬mit news of the wreck to Bluff or Dunedin. The steamer Express was immediately sent from Dunedin and brought back everyone from the Otago.
The Otago’s position was defined as somewhat singular in that she struck on about the safest part of Chaslands Point. Had she gone ashore a cable’s length either one side or the other, she would probably have foundered in deep water. The engines were going full speed ahead when the steamer struck, but they were promptly reversed and kept going astern for six minutes, and then as some idea of the position of the vessel had been arrived at by the master, the order was given to go full ahead, in order to keep the Otago on the rocks and prevent her from slipping off and sinking in the deep water astern.
The Court of Inquiry into the loss of the Otago found that the casualty was occasioned by the default of the second mate in not keeping to the course ordered by the master; in neglecting to call the master and to take the usual precautions in thick weather when so near the land. The second mate’s certificate was suspended for two years.
The Otago, No. 48,543, which was owned by McMeckan, Blackwood & Co., was a screw steamer of 977 tons gross and 642 tons net register. Her twin engines were of 150 nominal and 750 indicated h.p., and her dimensions were : length 236 ft., beam 26.7 ft., depth 15.5 ft. She was built at Glasgow in September, 1863, for the Panama Company, and made her first passage, under steam and sail, to Melbourne in 52 days, then regarded as very fast time. The Otago was under the comÂ¬mand of Captain G. Calder, who received great praise for the commendable manner in which he handled the situation after the vessel struck.