Bruce Wreck 1875

Bruce Wreck 1875

BRUCE, steamer: When bound from Timaru to Dunedin, the steamer encountered very thick fog, and shortly before 3 a.m. on October 16, 1875, struck on the coast a quarter of a mile south of Taiaroa Head, at the entrance to Otago Harbour.

The Bruce left Timaru at 6 p.m. on the 15th and at 2.40 a.m. had, according to reckoning, run her distance. The engines were stopped, and a cast of the lead showed between 16 and 17 fathoms of water. Under the impression that the vessel was further offshore than was actually the case, the master decided to steam three miles further inshore, before heaving-to and awaiting daylight. After steaming at slow speed for about ten minutes, the Bruce struck lightly, the shock being scarcely felt aft. The steamer lay hard and fast, however, and did not shift with the engines going full speed astern. The forward compartment was sounded and found to be dry, and there was very little alarm among the passengers. As the tide receded, the Bruce listed to starboard, and slipped astern from where she had struck on the rocks above high-water mark, taking up another position on the rocks lower down. As her bow worked on the rocks, holes were made on the starboard side, the fore-compartment filled, and the steamer began to heel over considerably. About 5 a.m. the passengers, who included two women, were landed safely. As the tide ebbed, the Bruce continued to list over until her decks were almost perpendicular with the water. Two days later, her position was much the same, the after-part had settled down a little, and the funnel had gone by the board. Except for the port bow, and half the forecastle deck, the wreck was under water, and the smoking-room had been washed away. The steamer was abandoned as a total wreck, but so well was she built that it was not until a severe gale was experienced on January, 1876, that the Bruce commenced to break up.

The Bruce, No. 68,084, was a screw steamer, barque-rigged, of 339.94 tons gross and 204.60 tons net register, built at Linthouse, Lanarkshire, in 1874, by A. Stephen and Sons. An iron vessel, her dimensions were : length 170.2 ft., beam 22 ft., depth 10.35 ft. She was purchased by the Otago Harbour Company for £19,000, before it merged into the Union Steam Ship Company, and arrived at Dunedin on August 28, 1874. The Bruce was insured for £15,000, and her wreck was sold by auction to Mr. John Mill for £140. She was under the command of Captain F. Jones.

The Court of Inquiry was held at Dunedin on October 21, and after hearing evidence, suspended the master’s certificate for 12 months, and that of the chief officer for three months. Later, by command of the Governor, the period of the master’s suspension was reduced to six months.

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