In the first two years of the Otago gold rush, forty two tons of gold were taken from the creeks, streams and river beaches of the goldfield. Forty two tons of gold. I'll let that sink in for a moment.
Miners knew that there was more under the flowing waters of the deeper rivers - wading in as far as they dared and shovelling the gravel confirmed that. An early 1860s invention attempted to go further - the spoon dredge, a leather bag on the end of a pole, with a hoop to keep it open - was successful but still very limited. If only the river could be diverted to expose the bed to the open air...
Or, perhaps, the "open air" taken to the river's bed...
Mr. Nuttall, the accredited agent of the New Zealand Submarine Gold Mining Company, lately formed in Dunedin, entertained a large number of persons at Horswell's Royal Hotel by explaining to them the principle of the invention, and exhibiting working drawings, &c. The boat is constructed of iron, containing air and watertight compartments, the air being compressed to six atmospheres, or about 1001bs to the superficial inch. The boat is fitted internally with thirty, feet of sluicing, and is capable of washing and sluicing easily ten loads of washdirt per day — three men being sufficient to work the boat, in shifts of six hours each. It is also capable of removing large boulders, several tons weight, and to conduct blasting operations if necessary. We were told by Mr. Nuttall that there are no difficulties but can be easily overcome in the shape of tailings, &c.; and from the elaborate provisions made, we are inclined to believe that the boat will, in all probability, be the greatest success ever introduced into the Province, and deserves the encouragement of all who take an interest in the hidden treasures concealed at the bottom of our auriferous rivers. Our respected townsmen, Messrs. Inder and George, are the agents for the Mount Ida district. As shares will no doubt be taken up rapidly, it is the interest of the up-country districts to act promptly in the matter, in order that they may obtain equal benefits with the capitalists of Dunedin. -Mt Ida Chronicle, 27/9/1872.
NEW ZEALAND SUBMARINE GOLD MINING CO.
FOR WORKING THE BEDS OF AURIFEROUS RIVERS in Otago.
Shares in the above, and every information can be had, on application to
Mr. J. F. TULLY, Queenstown, Agent for the district. -Lake Wakatip Mail, 2/10/1872.
Submarine Mining. —
Mr Nuttall, the representative of the New Zealand Submarine Gold Mining Company, appears to have been very successful in his tour through the gold districts. At Mount Ida and the Lakes, the matter has been warmly taken up, and a considerable number of shares have been sold. At Queenstown the people were quite enthusiastic, and speculated liberally. -Tuapeka Times, 24/10/1872.
Submarine Gold Mining. — A number of gentlemen at Green Island interested in the submarine boat for working the beds of auriferous rivers having requested Mr Nuttall, co-patentee, to explain the principles of the invention, a public meeting for that purpose was held in the Drill Shed there — Mr Hagarty in the chair. Mr Nuttall explained in an elaborate manner the mode of working the boat, and its utility for the purpose for which it was designed, and the great results likely to be expected from it, owing to the almost unlimited area of its operations, and the immense quantity of rich deposits which the boat can surely extract. One gentleman in the meeting said that his brother was employed in a submarine boat by the English Government in removing a large rock from the entrance of Portsmouth harbor, and that there was no work under water but submarine boats could do. About forty shares were sold, and every one appearing to be satisfied, no questions were asked. The meeting terminated with votes of thanks to the chairman and to Mr Nuttall, for the able manner in which he had performed his duty, and for his spirited enterprise in bringing forward a scheme of general benefit to the community. -Evening Star, 16/11/1872.
We have been requested to draw attention to the fact that the share list of the Submarine Gold Mining Co. will be closed on the 30th inst. We are informed that the share list is filling up rapidly. Tenders are now called for the construction of a submarine boat. -Otago Daily Times, 25/11/1872.
NEW ZEALAND SUBMARINE GOLD MINING COMPANY.
TENDERS arc invited for the construction of a Boat for above Company. Drawings and specifications to be seen at my office, where Mons. Villaine will attend daily between 12 and 4 o’clock, to give explanations. Tenders will close on 28th inst. The lowest or any tender not necessarily accepted.
W. ORAM BALL, Exchange Chambers, Princes street. -Evening Star, 25/11/1872.
THE SUB-MARINE BOAT.
A sufficient number of shares in the Sub-Marine Gold Mining Company having now been allotted to enable the Company to build a boat, the following circular has been addressed to the shareholders: “The Provisional Directors desire to inform the Shareholders that the shares of the Company being now allotted, the Company will be immediately registered under ‘The Mining Companies’ Limited Liability Act,’ and that a contract has been entered into for the construction and delivery at such place as may be selected for its working, of the sub-marine boat, with all necessary machinery and equipments. They trust that within two mouths operations shall have commenced, and that in due course they will be able to announce to the shareholders satisfactory results.” -Evening Star, 17/12/1872.
To the Editor. Sir, —As a shareholder in the Submarine Gold Mining Company, and one who has taken a great interest in the enterprise, I was under the impression that the first boat would have been in active operation some time ago. Whether the delay has been the fault of the directors or the inventor and projector of the enterprise I cannot say, but, without doubt, some party or parties have been guilty either of negligence or deception, and I only repeat the opinion of others when I express my disapprobation at the loose manner in which the interests of the company have been conducted. I learnt from rumor that the boat has been near completion for some time; but, like Judgment Day, it seems as far off as ever. Who are the contractors for the construction of the boat? and what is the cause of delay? If the principle is sound (of which there appears to be no doubt), it is the interest of the shareholders to make the investment reproductive as early as possible, instead of allowing the boat to corrode away. If the manager would only condescend to enclose progress reports with his request for calls, he would confer a favor on more than
ONE SHAREHOLDER. Dunedin, July 24. -Evening Star, 24/7/1873.
To the Editor. Sir, —In reply to the numerous queries of one shareholder, who has taken such interest in the submarine gold mining enterprise, I desire to state that, as I came to Dunedin with the intention of putting the boat to practical use, self-interest alone should exonerate me from being the cause of delay. What I promised on the part of myself and the inventor has been performed up to date, and the company is in possession of a boat which is capable of doing the work allotted to it; and, if completed now, it could not be safely nor profitably taken to its destination; but irrespective of this, the boat will probably be finished in about eight days. By referring the shareholder to a paragraph which appeared in the Star of the 17th of March 1873, he will observe that Messrs Villaine and Nuttall are contractors for the boat and undertook the work in the absence of local tenderers. A submarine boat, similar to the one in course of construction, can be built in eight weeks, provided cash and material are supplied as required. If one, or all the shareholders will pay a visit to the standard Iron Works, I shall be happy to report progress, and explain the most minute details to their satisfaction.
— I am, &c., Reginald Wm. Nuttall
To the Editor. Sir, —In reply to “One Shareholder,” as I do not “foster advertising on the cheap,” I intend only to offer a few words. “One Shareholder” says “he has taken a great interest in the enterprise.” The course that he has followed in seeking the information he desires scarcely justifies the statement, as anyone having taken “a great interest” would have put himself in communication with the Manager, who is at all times ready to give information to one or one hundred shareholders should they desire it.
W, Oram Ball, Manager New Zealand Submarine Gold Mining Company (Limited), Dunedin, July 26. -Evening Star, 26/7/1873.
THE SUBMARINE BOAT.
The Submarine Gold mining Company's undertaking has advanced a very material stage - let us hope towards success. On Saturday morning the queer looking iron vessel that has for some time been building at the end of Rattray street Jetty, was committed to the deep, and, contrary to the expectation of some people, not only floated but floated right side uppermost. It was known that the launch was to take place, and great therefore was the assemblage to witness it. His Honour the Superintendent was present, as well as the Directors of the Company, and several of their lady friends. Amongst the latter was Miss Grant, upon whom devolved the honour of christening the object of the morning's attentions. Captains Thomson and Orkney, Harbourmaster and deputy harbour-master; Mr Nancarrow, Government Inspector, with several captains of the vessels in the Port, were in attendance, and viewed with much curiosity and interest the latest and, as a bystander remarked, the sweetest thing in vessel architecture that had perhaps ever come under their notice, not even excepting the cigar ship, of which so much has been written and said. The unwieldy looking thing having been raised upon launching ways, was well situated for inspection, and not a few of the spectators availed themselves of the opportunity to closely examine it, both inside and outside. Of the many objects, animate and inanimate, to which this submarine thing has been likened, it bore a closer resemblance to a large steam boiler fitted with paddleboxes or wheels than to anything else; and the resemblance was rendered the more complete by the iron dome between the wheel-boxes, which was as much like a steam-chest as anything but a steam-chest itself could well be. Mr Douglas, engineer, to whom was entrusted the superintendency of the construction of the vessel, was, of course, present at the launch, and very courteously conducted us through and round and over the funny craft, and explained all that was to he explained about it. We have on former occasions informed our readers of the purpose for which it was constructed, viz., working the beds of auriferous rivers where the current is strong and the water deep, and we also stated that the principle of the vessel was not a novel one, having been introduced in France by a clever Frenchman, Dr Pirene, some twenty years ago. The Platypus — as the vessel under notice is named — is, in fact, nearly a facsimile with improvements of the first vessel built by that gentleman. Monsieur Villaine, now an Otago resident, assisted him in the work, and being therefore well posted up in everything concerning it, was particularly competent to provide the plans and specification of the first vessel of the kind built in the Colony. The Platypus is an iron cylinder, built of 3/8-inch iron plates, with a sharp snout some ten feet long. The total length of the cylinder is 35 feet, and the diameter 7 feet 2 inches. It is fitted with a paddle or wheel box on each side like an ordinary steamer, and between these an iron door, which covers what is termed an air valve, and which exactly represents the "man hole" of a steam boiler. This hole is the inlet to and an outlet from the interior of the vessel, and is just large enough to admit the passage of a broad shouldered man. The cylinder has a large opening in the bottom 6ft long by 2ft wide, that represents on a small scale the hatchway of a vessel, and, like a hatchway, is fitted with hatches, which can be closed to air and water tightness. It is with this hatchway that the river bottom will be worked. Internally the cylinder is filled in the after end with two immensely strong iron compartments termed air reservoirs, and capable of sustaining an ordinary pressure of 6 atmospheres, or 90lbs to the square inch. These compartments are connected with four air pumps, which are fitted across the midship section of the vessel, and are driven by motive power supplied by water wheels with curved floats or paddles, which work inside the wheel-boxes above-mentioned, and are to be driven by the current of the river. The two wheels are connected by a main shaft, from which a belt drives the counter-shaft, to which the air-pumps are attached. The arrangement is very simple, and, to all appearance, exceedingly effective; but this point can of course be demonstrated by actual practice only. We omitted to mention that the upper part of the cylinder is railed round, and that a rudder is fitted to the after or large end; the tapered end of the cylinder is the prow. Launching the craft proved an entire success, and ample preparations were made to give it eclat. Gay flags and streamers decorated the mass of iron, and, as we said before, eager was the concourse of people to witness the event. Half-past ten was the time appointed, but delays in such cases are the rule, and that of the Platypus was no exception to it, for it was deemed expedient at the last moment to give her ballast, to provide which took some little time. Shortly after eleven, however, the word "ready" was given, and the cradle blocks having been previously knocked out, the after fastenings were cut through by a couple of axes wielded by two sturdy shipwrights, and away went the Platypus, so named in a very charming manner by Miss Grant, the breaking of the orthodox bottle of No.2 not being omitted. A few venturous individuals were launched with the craft, and loudly their cheers rang out when she took the water fairly and did not turn turtle, but on the contrary, floated as buoyantly and as upright as a dish. The assemblage on shore also cheered, and so did the crew of the Peninsula, which steamer had been engaged to tow the Platypus to Stuart street jetty, where it is to be finished off, and afterwards submitted to its first trial of submergence. The launching scene was as animated as the launch itself was successful, and the Submarine G. M. Co. may be congratulated on having so far and so well advanced with its novel and arduous undertaking. We may observe that the construction of the Platypus was commenced by the late firm of Messrs Sparrow and Thomas, and completed by Messrs Sparrow and Co., of the Dunedin Ironworks, and Messrs Fraser, Wishart, and Buchanan, of the Railway Foundry.
Mr K. W. Nuttall has kindly furnished us with additional particulars. The stern portion of the boat, through which the tube passes to establish communication between both ends of the vessel, is intended as a reservoir for the purpose of receiving air compressed to about 90lbs to the square inch, and will contain sufficient to supply three men for four hours. Independent of this, two large paddle wheels, 8ft. diameter, on each side of the boat, are revolved by force of the current when submerged, and put in motion four air pumps inside the boat, which are connected by a tube with the surface, to keep up continual supplies of fresh air. In case of accident, these pumps are also capable of being worked by hand; they will supply, when in full working order, about ten times more air than is required for actual operations. The shaft, which is 6ft by 3ft, and 15in deep, is covered with strong cast-iron plates securely bolted, and made thoroughly air and water tight. The floor, of cast-iron plates — which are securely fitted to angle iron at the sides and supported in the centre — not only answers to secure the machinery, but is also used as a receptacle for ballast underneath. The rudder is supposed to be worked when submerged by means of two tiller ropes from the interior, and from the exterior by a handle which can be used from the deck. A few explanations are necessary in reference to the two paddle wheels. The upper portion of these, being covered with boxes when submerged, would be full of water; and in this position the lower part of the wheels, neutralised by water in upper part of the boxes, would not move. Hence a communication is established with the interior of the boat by means of a pipe, and the water lowered in the boxes by compressed air within six inches of the bottom; and as air is lighter than water, the wheels consequently revolve with ease. This principle, Mr Nuttall states, has never previously been applied to any project of the kind. The sluicing apparatus, which is not yet fitted in the interior of the boat, is supposed to be capable of washing about ten loads per day. No wash-dirt will be put through the sluice below unless proved to be auriferous, and as the boat can be moved with ease to any part of the river when under the surface, every facility will be afforded for thoroughly prospecting the river bed. Boring rods of a peculiar structure have been suggested by Mr Nuttall as necessary to test the nature of the ground prior to commencing operations. One end of the cable is made fast to a crab winch in the interior of the boat capable of raising four tons, while the boat is either securely anchored or made fast to a crabwinch fitted in the tender on the surface. When found desirable to move its position, the boat is floated clear of the bottom, and pulled ahead by means of the crabwinch or lowered with the brake. Mr Nuttall has also suggested the use of an extension shaft which could be lowered to any depth required.
After the launch the Directors of the Company and a few friends adjourned to the Otago Hotel to celebrate the event in orthodox style. Mr D. F. Main, Chairman of Directors, presided, and in an address congratulated the shareholders on the success, so far, of the experiment, which both himself and others, more competent, perhaps, to give an opinion, had no doubt whatever would be successful to the end, and amply recoup all that had been expended upon it. It was intended to submerge the boat that day, and so still further test her adaptability for the work she was intended to perform, but a few little difficulties had arisen that were not to be lightly considered, chief of which was the fact of several of the shareholders being in arrears with their calls; "and, gentlemen," continued Mr Main, "until those calls are paid, the Platypus will not be submerged." It had been announced that the undertaking would fall through, that the submarine boat would be sold, the Company wound up, but he could assure the Company that the Directors were determined to prevent that, and had already become personally liable for n very considerable sum. They were confident of ultimate success, and that some day the Company would own many such vessels, to be built out of the gold won by the first Platypus. He further remarked that the Directors only proposed calling up £2 16s of the £5 shares of the Company, so much being considered sufficient to complete the undertaking. In proposing success to the Company he coupled the name of Monsieur Villaine with the toast, which was drank with three times three, and one cheer more.
Monsieur Villaine responded in a few words.
The Chairman then proposed the health of Mr Douglas, who had superintended the building of the Platypus. This toast was heartily responded to and met with a suitable acknowledgement from Mr Douglas.
The toasts of "The Ladies, coupled with the name of Miss Grant;" "The Board of Directors;" and the "Chairman of Directors" followed, and were duty honoured. The proceedings then terminated. -Otago Witness, 20/12/1873.
|The only known contemporary depiction of the "Platypus." Hocken Library photo.|
The Platypus, or submarine boat, has been towed to the Pelichet Bay jetty, for some finishing touches prior to being tested. -Otago Daily Times, 31/12/1873.
The Platypus, or Submarine Boat, was successfully sunk and risen in Pelichet Bay yesterday afternoon. The trial was in every respect as successful and encouraging as the launch, which was accomplished a few weeks ago. At the trial yesterday afternoon Messrs Villaine, sen. and jun., the Company's engineer, Mr W. R. Douglas, Mr Harvey, one of the promoters and directors of the Company, and a representative of this paper, entered the boat, and were submerged for fully three-quarters of an hour. A public trial will take place to-day in the Upper Harbour, when arrangements will be made by which the public will be enabled to see the trial from the deck of a steamer which the Company has engaged for the convenience of visitors, and also to tow the boat into deep water. There is every reason to believe that from the results of the trial made yesterday the hopes of the promoters will be realised. -Otago Daily Times, 31/1/1874.
NEW ZEALAND SUBMARINE GOLD MINING COMPANY (LIMITED).
A PUBLIC EXHIBITION of the SINKING and RAISING of the SUBMARINE BOAT will take place THIS DAY (Saturday) in the Upper Harbour, 3 o'clock Afternoon. Arrangements will be made for the conveyance of passengers from Stuart street Jetty. -Otago Daily Times, 31/1/1874.
THE SUBMARINE BOAT.
As the construction of this boat has been several times described by us in these columns, and also the purpose for which she was built, we will not tire our readers with a repetition of details, but proceed at once to give an account of the trial, which took place on Saturday.
The directors, anticipating a numerous attendance of visitors, in answer to their invitations, had very thoughtfully secured the steamer Result to convey passengers from the Stuart street Jetty to a lighter moored midway between the wharf and the opposite shore. On arriving on board the lighter, we found a goodly number of visitors, including many of the leading men of the city, together with a small sprinkling of the gentler sex. The Platypus was lying astern of the lighter, safely secured by a stout hawser, and sitting in the water like a log. At a quarter to three o'clock, the iron door on the dome of the boat was unscrewed, and Messrs Villaine, senior and junior, Mr W. R. Douglas, engineer to the company, Mr C. S. Harvey, a director, and four men who were engaged to work the pumps, entered the Platypus. It is only fair to the eight persons mentioned to state that they appeared to start upon their submarine journey with every confidence and assurance in the success of the trial. A little by-play and a fair amount of chaff were indulged in before the door was finally screwed up preparatory to the sinking. Everything being ready, and the door properly secured, the men inside commenced pumping air to sustain life; and water into both ends of the boat to sink her. It was exactly an hour and fifty minutes before the Platypus reached the bottom, and then she was not totally submerged, as the depth of water was only 13ft 6in. So far, however, as all practical results were concerned, this was quite as severe a trial as if the boat had been covered with a thousand feet of water. As air was supplied by a tube from the surface it was never a matter of doubt for a moment as to the capabilities of the boat to sustain life under water; but what it was particularly designed to ascertain was the adaptability of the patent for gold mining purposes. It was pre-arranged that on the boat grounding her bottom should be opened, and some floats with flags attached should be sent to the surface. After waiting two hours and six minutes and no signals coming up, it was determined to attract the attention of those submerged, and request them to "rise the boat," as they had been down long enough to convince the most sceptical that so far as the diving capabilities of the boat were concerned it was a success. It would perhaps not be out of place here to throw out a hint to the directors, which, if taken, will undoubtedly gave an immense amount of time and labour in their future operations. The idea suggested itself to us the moment the time came for signalling the divers, and the subsequent proceedings fully strengthened the belief, that communication with those in the boat must be obtained. Perhaps the most simple means to effect this object would be to have a speaking tube attached to the dome of the boat and thus a regular conversation could be carried on by those above and below in the most simple manner. At the trial on Saturday another method might have been adopted, as the boat was not entirely submerged — namely, by a pre-arranged code of signals made with a little white semaphore and easily observed through, the thick glass ports in the head of the dome. Had this been done at least two hours would have been saved, besides obtaining some valuable information from those below as to the working of the pumps, and various other matters of detail which those on the surface were unable to obtain. As before observed, after the boat had been down a little over two hours, the "rising" commenced, and for the first half-hour this appeared to be effected very slowly but surely, till the tops of the paddle boxes were visible about a foot out of water. A strong S. W. squall then came on, and the boat appeared to make little if any progress in rising, and the water becoming rougher the Platypus at last got jammed under the counter of the lighter. The prospects of the eight men below were now anything but enviable, as it was well known that only two men could work at the pump at a time, and that pumping down below must be kept up without intermission, until the door of the boat either rose clear of the surface, or else that the Platypus must be towed into shallow water. The situation was now becoming very exciting, some on board the lighter taking a gloomy view of things and expecting to find when the door was really opened (an event which, by the way, some thought would come off in about 10 hours) that all of the occupants would be found dead. Others who had the most perfect confidence in the life sustaining properties of the boat, only feared that the eight men screwed up would become so intensely hungry that they might indulge in a little cannibalistic display among themselves. Eventually it was decided to signal the Result, and tow the Platypus into as shallow water as possible, so that the door would be above water and enable the prisoners to escape without danger. The idea was a good one, and by the judicious management of the master of the Result, was successfully carried out. The little steamer, after puffing and tugging away for about twenty minutes, at last grounded the Platypus in eight feet of water, leaving the door about 3 inches clear of the surface. Mr. Douglas had evidently anticipated that this would be the course taken, for immediately the boat took the ground those on board the steamer had the pleasure of seeing the fastenings to the door move, and the engineer pass out, and his fellow-divers follow him.
It was now a quarter-past seven o'clock; exactly four hours and twenty minutes since Mr Douglas and his party first entered the Platypus. The four men, from their worn, and tired appearance, had evidently had quite enough of it; and, as one of them remarked, "I think I would, rather go up in a balloon than pumping down there." It appears from Mr. Douglas' account that the rising of the boat was impeded through a leakage in the valves of the air-pump, consequently enough compressed, air could not be generated to expel the water and hence the delay in rising. He further states that he did not deem it prudent to lift the bottom of the boat and send up signals because he was afraid he would not have sufficient air to keep the water back. There can be but little doubt that Mr Douglas acted wisely in this matter, because, as he remarked, "I am convinced she will work all right; but I did not wish to risk the lives of those down in her till some trivial alterations were effected." It will thus be seen that the trial on Saturday, though not what may be termed a decided success, was a very long way from a failure. In fact, there is little doubt that attention to some minor details will enable the future operations of the Platypus to be carried out satisfactorily. We cannot close this account without thanking Messrs Ball and Douglas for their kindness and courtesy in furnishing our representative with any information required. -Otago Daily Times, 2/2/1874.
THE SUBMARINE BOAT.
On Saturday the submarine boat Platypus was shifted from where she has for some time been moored, between the jetty and Pelichet Bay Baths, to undergo another trial. At 2 p.m. she was taken in tow by the s.s. Result (Captain Deusen). There was quite a gale blowing at the time, and only the tops of the paddle-boxes and dome, or air-locked chamber, were visible above water, the sea breaking over as it would over a sunken rock. Now and again two amphibious-looking individuals were seen on what may be called the hurricane deck, apparently quite in their element, and steering the Platypus to the, at the time, so called flag-ship — the vessel, Edinburgh — moored in the deepest part of the Upper Harbor; gaily decorated with bunting, and furnished by Host Bennett with refreshing beverages. The Platypus, being safely moored astern of the Edinburgh, awaited the arrival of the Result, which made several trips to her with passengers from the Stuart-street Jetty, and ultimately succeeded in crowding the Edinburgh's deck with a decidedly genial population. Amongst those present were Messrs. D. F. Main (Chairman of the Board), Harvey, Grant, and Baxter, directors ; H. S. Fish, junr., T. Birch, and Robin. At about halfpast 3 o'clock, a crew of four occupied the Platypus, together with Mr. Villaine, senr., or to put it nautically, Villaine, senr., captain; Villaine, junr. ; Mr. Harvey j and Mr. W. R. Douglas, directors' consulting engineer, the presence of the latter gentleman being necessary as inspector of the work, particularly as regarded air-pumps, flanges, &c. The pumps having to be worked by hand, in the absence of sufficient current to work the side wheels, involved the presence of four air-consuming individuals, whose presence would not have been required had the vessel been at work in the Molyneux, for which work she was specially designed. The extra quantity of air required for seven instead of three, and a slight leak in the air-lock door, prevented there being obtained a sufficient pressure to enable her to rise to the surface as buoyantly as on a former occasion, and necessitated the involuntary imprisonment for four hours of the inmates. Not the least inconvenience, however, was experienced, but proof was thereby given of what has before been frequently affirmed — that a shift of eight hours per man can be made without inconvenience. In this case the half-time test was satisfactory, and during a great part of the period that the Platypus was beneath the waves Messrs. Harvey and Douglas whiled away the time by some good play at dominoes, the director getting the best of the contest. On ascending the Platypus absolutely refused to rise the three inches necessary to allow of the opening of the door, and, as by this time the night was advancing, it was deemed advisable to remove the vessel to her mooring at Pelichet Bay. She was consequently taken in tow by the steamer, and grounded off the jetty. The passengers were safely landed, but one of the crew of the Platypus did not reach the shore until, by accident, he had nearly disappeared beneath the water's surface, but was soon rescued from what many regarded as a perilous position. It is understood, from the report of their engineer, that the directors are now more sanguine than ever as to the soundness of the principle connected with the Platypus — some trifling alterations, such as caulking a few faulty joints and rivets, and additional force-pump of increased power for taking in, or forcing out, the water necessary to sink or raise her more rapidly, being required before sending her up country. On the whole, however, the work has been most successfully executed, and is therefore highly creditable to those engaged in its completion. The hull was made by Messrs. Sparrow and Thomas; the pumps and air-lock, by Messrs. Fraser, Wishart, and Buchanan; the fittings, stays, &c., by Messrs. Wilson and Sparrow; and the copper pipes, valves, &c, by Messrs. A. and T. Burt. The Platypus will undoubtedly be well adapted for extracting hidden golden treasures, and it has also been suggested that she might be rendered of service in connection with defence operations, in the laying, for instance, of torpedoes at the entrance to the harbour. The following is a brief description of the Platypus:— Weight, about 20 tons; length, overall, 35ft.; diameter, 7ft.; a large dome and air-lock, 5ft. by 3ft. 6in.; one paddle shaft, 6in. diameter, passing through stuffing-boxes on each side of the vessel; and paddles, or two under-current water-wheels, keyed on each side, and protected by air-tight boxes. The upper portions of the wheels revolve in air, and the lower in water, giving motion to four air-pumps fitted inside, worked by excentrics, and arranged so that they can be connected or disconnected at pleasure. Then there are a great number of air-valves. Next to the airpumps are the water force-pumps for raising or lowering the vessel. A common plumber's force-pump for forcing water to private dwellings is used, and a large number of valves and taps are attached, leading to and from the pumps to the side of the vessel, besides other contrivances of a character which present to the uninitiated a very complicated appearance. "Guardian." -Tuapeka Times, 4/2/1874.
Another trial of the submarine boat took place yesterday afternoon, and it affords us much pleasure to state that the result was an unqualified success. It will be remembered that in recording the last experiment made, we stated that several minor alterations required to be effected, and then doubtless the future trials of the Platypus would be successful. Those details having been been attended to, the result, as we anticipated, was yesterday all that could be desired. The trial took place off the end of the Pelichet Bay jetty. At three minutes past five, Messrs Villaine, senior and junior, Mr Harvey, two men to work the pumps, and Mr R. D. Ritchie, a gentleman who was particularly anxious to witness the experiment, and who was unavoidably absent last Saturday — entered the Platypus. The boat was exactly forty-six minutes in sinking and grounding, and then, after a few minutes delay, the bottom was lifted, and without any difficulty whatever the water was kept down, and those below were able to collect specimens of shells, and any quantity of mud. Mr Ritchie succeeded in securing a fishing-line and several shells, which he brought up to the surface with him as mementos of his submarine trip. Two messages were sent up (fastened to small pieces of wood), and were kindly handed to our representative, who considers that it will not be a breach of faith to publish them. They ran as follows:— "All well below; wish kind love to Mary.— C. S. Harvey." The other message was not quite so loving in its tone. It was:— "R. Deans Ritchie. — All well — February 4th, 1874. P.S.—Villaine's compliments to Mary." It will, perhaps, be only fair to the senders of these billets down, to state that Mary is a facetious young lady who wrote in large chalk letters on the Platypus before she was submerged, "Mr Harvey, prepare for the worst. —Mary." It will thus be seen how anxious Mr Harvey was to assure Mary that the worst had not yet arrived. But to return to the trial. It was exactly 5.43 when these messages come to the surface, and at 5.50 the bottom doors were closed, and preparations made to raise the boat. Owing to the alterations made under the superintendence of Mr Douglas, this was a matter of very little difficulty. The time occupied in expelling sufficient water to raise the boat from the bottom was 14 minutes, and then the moment she left the ground she popped up like a cork, and at four minutes past six o'clock the occupants were once more on terra firma. Provision had been made, in case the air was foul below, to purify it by the use of a quantity of lime water. Mr Douglas did not go down below this trial trip, because it was considered more desirable by the Directors that he should remain super mare to discover if possible any leaks in the air chambers, but in this we are glad to say he was unsuccessful. So far as the Platypus is concerned, everything is a success. -Otago Daily Times, 5/2/1874.
NEW ZEALAND SUBMARINE GOLDMINING CO. (LIMITED).
AN Extraordinary General Meeting will take place on Monday Evening, at half-past seven o’clock, at the Friendly Societies' Hall. Business: To receive Engineers final report before his departure to Europe on the 10th inst. (on the completion of the Company’s first boat), and to adopt measures for transporting the Platypus to the scene of operations. W. ORAM BALL, Legal Manager. -Evening Star, 7/2/1874.
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF NEW ZEALAND, OTAGO AND SOUTHLAND DISTRICT.
In the matter of "The Mining Companies Act, 1872," and in the matter of "The New Zealand Submarine Gold Mining Company, Limited."
UPON the Petition of Charles Stright Harvey, a Shareholder in "The New Zealand Submarine Gold Mining; Company, Limited," on the twenty-seventh day of March, one thousand eight hundred and seventy-four, presented to me, Henry Samuel Chapman, the Judge of the said Court, and upon hearing the Solicitors for the Petition, and upon reading the said Petition and an affidavit verifying the same, and upon the other evidence adduced in this matter, I do order that the said Company be wound up under the provisions of the said Act; and I appoint the fourth day of April, one thousand eight hundred and seventy-four, at eleven o'clock in the forenoon, for a General Meeting of the Creditors of the above-named Company to be held at the Supreme Court House, Dunedin; and I direct that this Order be served upon William Oram Ball, Legal Manager of the said Company, Princes street, Dunedin.
Dated at Dunedin, this twenty-seventh day of March, one thousand eight hundred and seventy-four.
H. S. CHAPMAN.
HOWORTH AND HODGKINS, Solicitors for the Petitioner. -Otago Daily Times, 28/3/1874.
SATURDAY, 25th APRIL, At 2 o'clock.
THE SUBMARINE BOAT PLATYPUS.
McLANDRESS, HEPBURN, and Co., have received instructions from Wm. Oram Ball, Esq., Liquidator of the Estate of "The New Zealand Submarine Gold Mining Company, Limited,"
TO SELL BY AUCTION, At their Rooms, Manse street, Dunedin,
ON SATURDAY, the 25th day of APRIL Inst., At 2 o'clock.
The Submarine Boat PLATYPUS, Now lying at Pelichet Bay, Dunedin; Also, The patent rights for digging, sluicing, and Washing under water, granted by Letters of Registration dated the 12th March, 1864. Terms at sale.
For further particulars, apply to Messrs HOWARTH and HODGKINS, Solicitors, Princes street; Or THE AUCTIONEERS. -Otago Daily Times, 20/4/1874.
(From our own Correspondent.)
On Saturday, Messrs, McLandress, Hepburn, and Co. are going to submit to auction the submarine boat Platypus, which is now lying at Pelichet Bay, together with the patent rights for mining under water which were granted with the invention. Her trials in Dunedin Harbor were not of such a successful nature as to inspire confidence among the shareholders that she would come up to all that was promised of her, and as the funds of the company were at low water after her completion, and a further large expenditure of money was absolutely necessary before she could be taken to pieces, carted up country, and fitted together again for a really practical trial, the shareholders got fainthearted, and it was decided that the company should be wound up. The New Zealand Submarine Gold Mining Company (Limited) is therefore now in liquidation. What will be the result of the sale I cannot say. It is very unlikely that any private person will care about spending a large sum of money in purchasing the Platypus and making a fair trial of her; for the success of the speculation would be very problematical, and unless there are a sufficient number of the shareholders who have the necessary confidence in her to club together and enter into the spec, I am afraid the chances of the Platypus being sold are rather remote. It will certainly be a great pity if the whole affair is allowed to die away in this ignominious way, after all the talk that took place when the company was being floated of the certainty of large gains accruing to the promoters of the enterprise when once a boat was built and at work upon the bed of the Molyneux, the Shotover, or some other of our gold-bearing rivers. However, there may perhaps be some persons who intend to come forward at the sale on Saturday and rescue the Platypus from the destruction which threatens her. I trust such may be the case, and shall be only too glad to be in a position to chronicle the fact next week. -Tuapeka Times, 25/4/1874.
The amount of revenue received at the Custom-house on goods cleared for consumption this day, was L 590 15s 7d. Messrs McLandress, Hepburn, and Co. today sold, on behalf of Mr W. O. Ball, Liquidator of the Submarine Gold Mining Co., the boat Platypus, with appliances, to Mr C. S Reeves, for the sum of L400. -Evening Star, 25/4/1874.
TENDERS Required until Wednesday Next, at Noon, for the Carriage of the Submarine Boat Platypus from Dunedin to Cromwell; about 30 tons. Apply to REEVES & CO., Maclaggan street. -Evening Star, 25/4/1874.
TENDERS Required until Wednesday Next, at Noon, for the Carriage of the Submarine Boat Platypus from Dunedin to Cromwell, in pieces of 7, 6, and 3 tons respectively. Apply to REEVES & CO., Maclaggan street. -Evening Star, 27/4/1874.
The submarine boat Platypus, about which so much has been heard recent1y, was sold on Saturday last the 25th instant by Messrs McLandress, Hepburn and Co. for L400. Mr C. S. Reeves was the purchaser. Tenders have since been called for the conveyance of the same to Cromwell. By this it will be seen the new proprietors are determined to lose no time in placing her in work, and we heartily wish them success. -Dunstan Times, 1/4/1874.
Before much time has elapsed your district will be favoured with the presence of the submarine boat Platypus, which was constructed at a very large expenditure of money by a company formed for the purpose of giving Mr Villaine’s patent a fair trial on some of the rivers of our Province. Your readers will remember that the Company expended all their capital in the construction of the Platypus, and, disheartened with the long delay they had suffered from, and feeling unwilling to put their hands any deeper into their pockets, they resolved on winding up the company, and selling the white elephant which they had on their hands. Fortunately Mr C. S. Reeves and some other of the shareholders possessed sufficient pluck and enterprise to come forward at the sale and purchase the boat, and they immediately advertised for tenders for the conveyance of the boat to Cromwell. These tenders are now in, and the Platypus will, I hope, soon be subjected to a practical test at the bottom either of the Molyneux or the Kawarau. -Cromwell Argus, 5/5/1874.
LATEST SOUTHERN TELEGRAMS.
The Harbor Board propose purchasing the Submarine Company's boat, Platypus, to assist in the dredging operations. -Auckland Star, 17/12/1874.
It is one of the peculiarities of most of our public buildings in Dunedin that they have but in few instances served the purpose for which they were originally intended; but although we can understand that a building can be converted — such as a Post Office to a University or a University into a Bank— we think it is seldom that a costly piece of mining machinery is converted to serve the purpose of soap-boiling or stearine candle manufacturing; yet such is the fact, as we are given to understand that Messrs McLeod Bros. have purchased the Submarine Gold Mining Co.'s boat Platypus, and they intend utilising her in their extensive new soap and stearine candle works, which they are now erecting in Cumberland street. So that in a few days frequenters to the Pelichet Bay Railway Station will miss the quaint pieces of the iron hull from where it has lain for years as a monument of wasted money, and as a puzzle to strangers passing on their way by rail to Dunedin.— 'Herald.' -Lake County Press, 3/7/1879.
In the 1880s, the steam-powered bucket dredge for gold mining was developed in Dunedin and the mining of Otago riverbeds made for a second gold rush. The remains of "Platypus" remained on the Dunedin foreshore, slowly rusting. Then came, perhaps, the final indignity.
At the conclusion of Sir Frederick Young’s lecture to the Officers’ Club on Wednesday evening, one of the speakers claimed half-seriously that the evolution of the submarine commenced in Otago Harbour and described a cigar-shaped boat that was constructed by the Otago Submarine Mining Company with the object of securing gold from the bed of the Molyneux River. This craft was built 51 years ago by Messrs Sparrow and Co., and was launched from the then Rattray street wharf in December, 1873, being subsequently moored near the end of the Pelichet Bay jetty. After detail work had been completed a trial was made and with eight men enclosed the vessel was submerged about where the Milburn Company’s works now stand. The air pumps worked all right, but no means of talking to the men below was provided. Matters did not develop satisfactorily inside, and there was a delay of several hours in returning to the surface, the craft finally being towed by a small steamer into shallower water and the crew released much to the relief of themselves and their friends. The boat, which was named “The Platypus,” was never again submerged, and lay for many years on the foreshore. Curiously enough she was purchased in recent times (for £10) by a man who was present at the lecture. He had her cut into three sections and sent to the Barewood Reefs where at least one of the portions is used as a water tank by a local farmer. -Otago Daily Times, 16/5/1924.
TO THE EDITOR.
Sir, —Having recently read References in your paper to the first submarine Platypus, I would like to state that the late William Thomas (who was then my partner) and myself built this submarine. The idea, as well as the design, of the Platypus originated from a Frenchman named Louvain, who furnished the plans and we carried out the work under his supervision. Owing to lack of funds the work took some time to complete. Eventually the submarine was launched at Rattray street wharf and floated to Pelichet Bay, where, with a crew of about four men, it was submerged, but the operation was not very successful. After being about two hours under water the monster was brought to the surface and the unfortunate crew were released more dead than alive. Great difficulty was experienced in bringing it to the surface. Years afterwards my firm made a tank out of the fore part for Messrs McLeod Bros.’ soap works, while the stern was eventually broken up for old metal. I can emphatically state that the whole work of construction was solely carried out by my late partner and myself.— I am, etc., Joseph Sparrow. 70 Rattray street, May 20. -Otago Daily Times, 21/5/1924.
In the late 20th Century, as part of the NZ 1990 Sesquicentennial, the surviving remains of the "Platypus" were recovered from farms in the Middlemarch area and placed together outside the Strath-Taieri Museum. Apparently, a 3 metre section remains to be found - likely the portion used by McLeod's soap factory - and none of the submarine's machinery has survived.
|The remains of the "Platypus" beside the Strath-Taieri Museum.|