SCOTIA, steamer : The steamer was on a passage from Melbourne when, at 11.30 p.m. on June 2, 1864, she stranded on the reef off Stirling Point, Bluff Harbour, and subsequently became a total loss. The rocks penetrated the vessel’s bottom for several feet, but she suffered no damage on either side above the waterline. The passengers and their luggage were saved on the night of the wreck, and the greater part of her cargo was afterwards landed, along with gear and fittings. The hull was sold to Southland buyers, who were engaged for several months in an attempt to float the Scotia off the rocks. No expense was spared in obtaining the requisite appliances for refloating the ship. Prepared canvas bags which were made waterproof and inflated were used, but these proved ineffective, and when eventually the steamer broke in two efforts were concentrated on trying to salvage her machinery.
A Court of Inquiry into the loss of the Scotia was held, and it found that the wreck had been caused through the rashness, want of judgement, and culpable negligence of the master. According to the finding, the evidence clearly showed that the master was guilty of negligence in not using the means in his power to inform himself as to the port he was about to enter; that in approaching a strange port on a dark night he ought, in common prudence, to have fired guns and made other signals for a pilot earlier that he did; that after he had fired the gun his vessel should have stopped and been kept in mid-channel without going any further until the pilot boarded her; that in running into a point so close to a bright red light the master was guilty of such rashness and want of judgement as to render useless any precaution which could be taken to render the harbour safe and accessible. Masters of vessels were cautioned not to approach too closely, as a reef was in existence about a cable’s length to the south-east of the flagstaff. Notwithstanding this, the Scotia was run almost directly for the red light, and was accordingly stranded at less than half a cable’s length from the red light.
The Scotia, No. 43,401, was a barque-rigged, screw steamer of 872 tons gross and 647 tons net register, built at Dumbarton in 1863 by Messrs. Denny Brothers, and her dimensions were : length 209.7 ft., beam 27.2 ft., depth 14.45 ft. She was the first of the Otago Steam Ship Company’s fleet, and was under the command of Captain Gay, who had been temporarily placed in charge in the absence of Captain Newlands, who was detained at Melbourne through sickness.