Ben avon 1093
BEN AVON, barque: On November 11, 1903, a report was received in Wellington that the barque was ashore near Cape Palliser, with all sails set and with her hull partly submerged. The Ben Avon, which was bound from Dunedin to Wellington, was on the rocks close to the shore, and had apparently sailed straight in during the night, in thick weather. Later, advice was received that Captain McKinnon, of Dunedin, who was piloting the vessel up the coast, was dead. The Government steamer Hinemoa was sent to the scene and returned to Wellington late on the night of November 11. The captain reported that the shore party who went round from Martinborough to the wreck found the crew safe at Whatarangi Station, and confirmed the news of Captain McKinnon’s death.
Captain George Thomas Dixon, master of the barque, said that he left Dunedin on November 5, and the ship ran into a thick fog and heavy squalls on November 10. Sail was shortened by the pilot, who remained on deck, and the vessel kept on the starboard tack. At 4 a.m. on the 11th the pilot, who had momentarily gone below, was hurriedly called on deck by the second mate, who called out that he could hear the roar of breakers. Captain Dixon heard this call to the pilot, and, springing out of his berth, rushed on deck at the moment when the Ben Avon struck. As soon as the impact was felt Captain McKinnon fell down on the poop as if dead. An attempt was made to wear the ship, but proved ineffective. The crew then launched the lifeboat, and the pilot’s body being lowered into it, all left the ship. There was
a heavy sea running, but a landing was made seven miles away from the scene of the wreck. A fire was lighted and efforts made to resuscitate Captain McKinnon, but without avail, and he died soon afterwards. He never spoke from the time the vessel struck.
On November 13 the Ben Avon stood upright, with her sails spread out, idly flapping in the wind. Her holds were full of water, and, when visited by Captain Dixon, the decks were buckled with the force of the southerly sea. The vessel soon went to pieces.
The Court of Inquiry found that the loss of the ship was -due to the master placing too much reliance on the pilot, and not taking precautions to ascertain his exact position in the midst of dirty and thick weather. His certificate was returned to him, but he was ordered to pay the cost of the inquiry.
The Ben Avon, No. 90,020, was a steel barque of 1,470 tons gross and 1,434 tons net register. built at Dumbarton in 1885, by Messrs. Birrell, Stenhouse and Company, and her dimensions were : length 231.2 ft., beam 38.2 ft., depth 22.5 ft. She was owned by Messrs. Watson Brothers, of Glasgow. (See plate 48.)