TASMANIA, steamer : A passenger steamer engaged in the Sydney-New Zealand East Coast trade, calling at the ports of Auckland, Gisborne, Napier, Wellington, Lyttelton and Dunedin, the Tasmania was southward bound when, on July 29, 1897, she was totally wrecked off Table Cape, Mahia Peninsula, with the loss of 13 lives. The steamer arrived at the Gisborne roadstead on the afternoon of July 29 from Sydney and Auckland, having made a fast run down the coast in the teeth of a southerly gale. A heavy sea was running in Poverty Bay, and as communication could not be made with the shore, the master decided to proceed to Napier. The ship was given full speed, the weather at the time being very dirty and thick. As the captain had been on duty all day he retired for a brief rest, leaving the third officer in charge of the bridge. Shortly before 11 p.m. the third officer notified the captain that land was in sight. Hastening to the bridge, the master ordered the wheel to be put over to turn the vessel’s head out to sea, but it was too late, as the Tasmania immediately grounded. There was no sign of a light, and the land appeared to be a long way off.
The captain later stated that the ship just bumped and he did not think that she had been holed. It was not thought that she had struck a pinnacle rock, but more like a lower bottom than anything else. A very heavy sea was running, but it did not break over the steamer, which was lying broadside on. Some difficulty was experienced in launching the boats on the weather side, but as soon as they were in the water they were taken round the stern of the vessel to the lee side, which was fairly sheltered. Four lifeboats and two smaller boats were launched from the wreck between 12.30 a.m. and 1 a.m on the 30th. The passengers had by this time been assembled on deck, and all supplied with lifebelts. All the passengers were safely passed down into the boats by means of the accommodation ladder. All the boats on the leeward side were attached by light lines, and after holding on for about 15 minutes these moved away and lay within sight of the Tasmania. The boats had stayed near the wreck until the coverings of the cylinders in the engineroom were under water, the master remaining on board until the last.
The officers had their instructions to make for Whangawehi and to land there if possible. The boats in charge of the first and third officers, No. 2 and No. 4, landed their occupants safely at Mahia on the morning of July 30, 30 persons disembarking from boat No. 2. Boats No. 1 and No. 3 were in charge of the captain and second officer respectively, and arrived safely at Gisborne. That left the two small boats to be accounted for, the occupants of these boats being practically all members of the crew. The boat in charge of the ship’s carpenter made a landing at Muriwai, 14 miles from Gisborne, late on the afternoon following the wreck. A seaman and a passenger, the latter a newspaper proprietor of Whangarei, were washed overboard from this boat and drowned. In making a landing the carpenter’s boat capsized, and the surviving occupants reached the shore only after a severe struggle. The smallest boat, which was in charge of the quartermaster, capsized in the surf, and its entire complement, nine in number, were drowned. They were all members of the . Tasmania’s crew, stewards and members of the culinary department. Of the 11 persons lost eight bodies were subsequently recovered, and all were identified.
The Court of Inquiry, held Auckland, into the circumstances connected with the loss of the Tasmania found that the vessel was wrecked through the careless and negligent navigation of the master and third officer. The court ordered that the certificates of each be suspended for six months, and the master pay the costs of the inquiry, such payment not to exceed Â£100.
The Tasmania, No. 57,634, was a steel, screw steamer of 2,252 tons gross and 1,265 tons net register, built at Newcastle-on-Tyne in April, 1892, by Messrs. Swan and Hunter, and her dimensions were: length 286, ft., beam 38.5 ft., depth 20.9 ft. After her trial trip, on which she averaged a speed of 14 knots, she was named by Mrs. Huddart. She was fitted with powerful machinery by the Wallsend Ship and Engineering Company. Handsome accommodation was provided for 200 passengers. She was plac