Alexander Newton 1894

Alexander Newton 1894

ALEXANDER NEWTON, barque : On June 18, 1894, the barque was totally wrecked on Portland Island, off Mahia Peninsula, the master and two of the crew being drowned. The vessel sailed from Port Stephen on May 31, bound for Napier with a cargo of piles. At midnight on June 14 she rounded Cape Palliser, and at daylight on June 17 Bare Island bore NW., 10 miles distant. The weather then became thick, and the SSE. wind freshened to a violent gale, with a heavy sea. Just before midday on the 18th, when the weather cleared, those on board found that the ship was close in on a lee shore, and that the barque was sagging down on the rocks, with heavy seas breaking over her. A few minutes afterwards the Alexander Newton struck and immediately began to break up. All hands, with the exception of three, succeeded in reaching the fore part of the vessel. They dropped from the jibboom into the sea and were washed up on the rocks.

When the survivors were counted it was found that the captain, the cook, and an able seaman had not reached the shore. The master, Captain John Harwood, was at the wheel when the barque struck, and the sea lifted him and the wheel, dashing him against the wheelhouse. Another sea then caught him and hurled him back on the companionway, and he was washed overboard. Three of those saved walked to the lighthouse at the other end of the island, while the others made their way to a deserted Maori whare on the beach, and waited there until they were taken to the lighthouse. The barque was leaking freely before she struck, and the crew were exhausted through working at the pumps. The vessel struck on a rocky reef, about 200 yards from the beach of the island, and was reduced to matchwood in a very short time.

When the crew visited the scene of the wreck an hour or two later not a vestige of the barque remained, except the windlass and cables. On the morning of June 20 the steamer Poherau was signalled and her master informed of the disaster. The vessel steamed round to the western end of the island and lowered a boat, which brought off the survivors, who reached Auckland on June 22. The barque carried a crew of nine.

The Alexander Newton, No. 73,360, was a wooden barque of 309 tons register, built at Manning River, N.S.W., in 1876, and her dimensions were : length 151.8 ft., beam 25.5 ft., depth 12 ft. She was insured for £1,500.

(New Zealand Shipwrecks, Beckett Books Ltd, 1990)

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