|The RRS Discovery arriving at Port Chalmers. Ship's ensign at the stern is at half mast. Hocken Library photo.|
THE FATALITY ON THE DISCOVERY.
FATAL ACCIDENT ON BOARD.
(SPECIAL TO "THE PRESS.") DUNEDIN, December 23. The captain of the Discovery signalled the captain of the Ringarooma that Charles Bonner, A.B., was killed by falling off the crow's nest.
(press association- telegram.) . .PORT CHALMERS, December 23.
Outside Lyttleton Heads, after the excursion boats had returned, the warships Lizard and Ringarooma opened up ready to cheer the Discovery as she passed between them, when a message came from Captain Scott:—"Please do not cheer; a man has been killed by falling from aloft." -Press, 24/12/1901.
A BAD START.—DEATH OF A SEAMAN.
H.M.S. Ringarooma had passed the Discovery south of Lyttelton, and on arriving at Port Chalmers on Sunday gave out the news of a fatal accident to one of the exploring vessel's seamen on the departure of the boat from Lyttelton. The unfortunate victim was Charles Bonner, who was at the time waving farewells to the crowd on the steamers that accompanied the vessel out of Lyttelton Harbor. It is said that, standing at the main truck nest, the spindle by which he was supporting himself gave way, precipitating him to the deck, a distance of over 120 ft. He fell clear of almost everything until his head came in contact with the edge of an iron reel on the deck, causing death immediately. When the Discovery came alongside yesterday the blue ensign was flying at half on the mizzenmast, and everyone recognised it as a mark of respect to the memory of the deceased.
Later on the melancholy task of coffining the body,'which had been placed on a table on the deck, enclosed by canvas, wrapped in the British ensign, was performed, and, at a quarter to six the funeral, with naval honors, left the Bowen pier. The Ringarooma bluejackets, with arms reversed, led the way; then came a gun-carriage\with the coffin, covered with the Union Jack, eight of the deceased’s comrades acting as pall-bearers; the captain, officers, and crew of the Discovery followed; then came more bluejackets from the warship; and the public, among whom were Mr G. L. Denniston (Mayor of Dunedin), Mr John Mill (Mayor of Port Chalmers), and Mr E. G. Allen, MHR. A beautiful floral wreath, sent by the crew of H.M.S. Ringarooma, was placed on the coffin. The body was interred in the new cemetery, the Rev. Mr Kewley officiating at the grave.
Quite a gloom has been east over the vessel by the said death of young Bonner. He was one of the jolliest and brightest of the sailors, and was beloved by them, as well as being greatly esteemed by those in authority. One of the latter told our representative that the deceased had been the best seaman on board, and everybody, from the captain downwards, deplored his untimely end. His messmates particularly are much cut up over the affair, and their sorrow was plainly evident when the body was conveyed to its last resting-place. He was a native of London, and his only surviving relatives are two brothers. -The Evening Star, 24/12/1901. (excerpt - for detailed information about the ship Discovery at Port Chalmers, here:)
Before the departure of the Discovery from Port Chalmers for the Antarctic regions, the sum of £30 was handed by Commander Scott to Captain Rich, of the Ringarooma, the commander of the warship then in port, to be devoted to the erection of a suitable memorial stone over the grave of Charles Bonner, one of the Discovery's crew, who unfortunately met with a fatal accident on board. The commander of the warship, having been called away with his ship to Auckland, placed the matter in the hands of his Worship the Mayor of Port Chalmers, Mr John Mill. Mr Mill has shown the "Otago Daily Times" a tracing of the shape the monument will take. It is in the form of a marble obelisk, 10ft high, which will stand on a pedestal of Port Chalmers bluestone. The following/ inscription will be placed upon the stone: — "In memory of Charles Bonner, A.B., of the Antarctic exploring vessel Discovery, who died 21st December, 1901. Aged 23. Erected by the captain, officers, scientific staff, and crew of the Discovery." Captain Scott has instructed that room should be left on the monument for the names of any of the Discovery's little band who may be so unfortunate as to perish in the perilous mission upon which they have embarked. -The Star, 31/12/1901.