NORTHUMBERLAND, ship: During a terrific gale which swept the East Coast of the North Island the ship was totally wrecked on Bay View Beach, Napier, on the afternoon of May 11, 1887. The vessel arrived off Napier on Monday night, May 9, from London and Lyttelton, having on board 1,000 tons of her original cargo (principally material for the Wairoa bridge) and 4,000 bags of wheat and other produce shipped at Lyttelton. About 11 a.m. on the 10th the Northumberland parted her cables and drifted on to a bank about two miles to the westward of the port. The vessel was steadied by her second anchor, and a spare anchor was also put out and held. At night everything appeared secure, but at 4 a.m. on the 11th the anchors commenced to drag. About 10 a.m. the Weka steamed out to speak the ship, but just as she arrived the wire cable attached to the spare anchor broke and the signal was made to the shore for immediate assistance. The Weka made an attempt to tow the ship off, but the tow line broke, and it was seen that further attempts to save the vessel were useless. The five small steamers, including the Weka, Sir Donald and Boojum, which had responded to the signal for assistance, then stood by while the ship’s boats were lowered. It was at this time that an accident occurred to the Boojum, which had steamed under the lee of the Northumberland to take her boats’ crews on board, but got into the breakers, and in a second was turned bottom upwards. The Northumberland’s lifeboat, which had just been manned, pulled to the scene of the accident, but succeeded in saving only the engineer. The Northumberland was carried rapidly towards the beach and cast ashore, broadside on. Attempts were made to send a rocket line on board the wreck, but failed. A plank attached to a light line was floated from the Northumberland and secured after strenuous efforts by two men who went into the surf with ropes around their waists. The light line being landed, a strong cable was taken on board to which a cradle was fixed. About 4.30 p.m. the work of rescue commenced. The sea was making clean breaches over the vessel, and the 31 members of the crew were sheltering on the forecastle. As darkness had set in by this time the rescue work was made very difficult, but all were landed safely by 7 p.m., the master, Captain Richard Todd, being the last to come ashore. In a very short time the masts of the ship went over the side, and on the morning of May 12 only a small portion of the ship was visible. During the early stages of the gale four passengers on the ship were taken off by a small steamer.
The Northumberland, No. 65,640, was an iron, full-rigged ship of 2,170 tons gross and 2,095 tons net register, built at London in 1871 by M. Wigram and Sons, and her dimensions were : length 278.8 ft., beam 38 ft., depth 26 ft. The vessel, which was formerly a steamer, was owned by the Shaw, Savill and Albion Company. Her figurehead was secured by a Napier fisherman and was for many years a prominent figure in his garden. Later the relic graced a small garden plot at Whakatu. The wreck of the Northumberland re-appeared during the earthquake at Napier in February, 1931. (See plate 30.)