Waikare

Waikare

WAIKARE, steamer : On January 4, 1910, the steamer struck on an uncharted rock between Indian Island and Passage Islet, Dusky Sound, and was beached on Stop Island to prevent her from foundering. The Waikare became a total wreck, but her complement of 141 passengers and crew of 85 landed safely. The mishap occurred just prior to commencing the return journey to Dunedin. Practically every passenger was on deck enjoying the beauty of the day and the unrivalled scenery as the Waikare steamed towards the entrance of the sound. Suddenly the bow of the steamer lifted. There was a harsh, grinding tear, a sudden jolt, a repeated crashing tear, again a torturing heave, then a third bump, after which the vessel cleared the obstruction and floated in the water beyond. It was at once apparent that the casualty was a serious one, and this was emphasised by the immediate throwing upon the deck, through the escape pipe, of water forced up by air pressure, caused by the entry of water below. The second officer was informed that there was water in No. I ballast tank. The Waikare then took a sudden list to starboard, so decided that it lifted the port ladder so far from the water that it was rendered useless for the purpose of loading the boats, which were immediately lowered.

In about ten minutes’ time the majority of the passengers were in the ship’s boats, being rapidly rowed to the nearest points of land. Attention was then directed to the ship itself. To allow of the removal of the passengers the Waikare had been stopped. After transferring the passengers to the boats, the vessel’s engines were again set in motion. At the first shock, water flowed into the engineroom very rapidly. Pumps were immediately put into commission, but it was soon evident that the only resource was to beach the ship. The water was gaining fast, there were 150 lbs. of steam pressure, and a mile or more to be travelled to the only place where the Waikare could be beached.

To the last minute the boiler fires were kept going, and when the bow of the steamer had safely grounded the water in the stokehold and engineroom was over the waists of those who remained below. The steam left in the boiler was sufficient for only five minutes’ travelling, but it carried the ship to temporary ‘safety. If the ship had not been beached she would have sunk in deep water. The passengers were conveyed to Stop Island and landed alongside the doomed steamer. This was at low tide, and caused much work later on in the removal of stores and luggage to above high-water mark. Provisions, luggage and bedding were landed from the steamer. Strenuous work ensued with the warping of the Waikare’s stern round parallel with the shore. The labour was done by hand, and kept the men busy until well on in the afternoon. Transferring stores and luggage was carried out by chains of willing workers, who passed the material from hand to hand. The island at high water had no beach, and before a camp could be formed a clearing had to be made on the slopes of the hills.

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