The Manuka Wreck 1903

The Manuka Wreck 1903

The Manuka, No. 117,582, was a steel, twinscrew steamer of 4,534 tons gross and 2,813 tons net register, built at Dumbarton in 1903 by Messrs. Denny Brothers, and her dimensions were : length 368.7 ft., beam 47.2 ft., depth 23.2

MANUKA, steamer: When on one of her usual trips from Melbourne to Bluff, Dunedin, Lyttelton and Wellington, the passenger steamer Manuka was totally wrecked at Long Point, south of the Nuggets, shortly before midnight on December 16, 1929. The ship lay a total wreck less than 50 yards from the point, broken in the stern, and slipping towards the complete submersion which became her inevitable fate.

The Manuka left Melbourne on her ill-fated voyage at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, December 11, and made a fast run to Bluff, arriving at that port on the morning of December 15. When she left Melbourne she had on board 218 passengers, a large quantity of mail, and 1,089 tons of cargo. A large number of passengers left the steamer at Bluff, and when she was wrecked she carried a complement of 203-99 passengers and a crew of 104. After leaving Bluff the Manuka encountered hazy weather. All the passengers and a large percentage of the ship’s personnel were sound ft. Her engines were of 357 h.p. The steamer was owned by the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand Ltd., and was under the command of Captain Ross Clark. Who was asleep when there was a thunderous crash, followed by a fearful rolling, and further devastating bumps and crashes. Even at this stage there were many who optimistically believed that only the engines had failed. The crew were bustled out of their bunks for the panic expected when the passengers realised what was amiss. There was no panic, but it seemed eternity before the boats were filled and sent away. Once free of the ship the passengers had hopes of an early landing, but the density of the fog made it dangerous to attempt any such course, and the long wait in the darkness began, a wait of five, six, even seven hours before daylight and partial dispersal of the fog allowed attempts at landing.

The launching of the boats was a very difficult business. The ship developed a dangerous list to starboard, and passengers were knocked about by the unstable equilibrium of the vessel. One boat, the minute it was launched, crashed into splinters. Its complement, comprising members of the crew, all reached other boats or the ship in safety. It was a terrible tale of suffering and suspense. Hour after hour passed, and still they tossed in the boats. The night was bitterly cold, and few were clothed suitably for such exposed conditions. The ship’s boats effected a landing eventually, and the scantily-clad passengers were taken overland to Owaka, and then by special train to Dunedin. The Union Steam Ship Company’s cargo steamer Kaiwarra and the Otago Harbour Board’s tug Dunedin were despatched to the scene immediately after news of the wreck was received, and these vessels stood by for some time.

The Court of Inquiry found that the master was guilty of negligence, in failing to take all available precautions to ascertain his position before altering the course at 10.30 p.m. The casualty was also due in part to the abnormal westerly set from Waipapa Point, which set the ship inshore. Even making allowance for this set, the casualty would not have occurred had the course not been altered at 10.30 p.m. The court was unable to determine why the ship was six miles south of her apparent position. All possible steps were taken after the casualty for the safety of the passengers and crew. The actions of the captain in particular, and those of the officers and crew were deserving of the highest praise. The court ordered the certificates of the captain and third officer to be returned.

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