The "Don Juan," remains of which are presently visible in Deborah Bay at low tide, has received its fair share of notice - if not notoriety - over the years. Hardy surprising for a ship of mysterious name changes and not at all surprising in view of the finding of leg irons when it was dismantled.
A perfect Don Juan is scarcely the description applicable to the vessel which was lately brought back from Otago Heads to the Quarantine ground, with "all her imperfections" from her head to her stern. She, or he, or it — whichever a ship may be when in the questionable enjoyment of such a questionable name as Don Juan — seems certainly to have been an unseaworthy old tub, and the prompt and determined action of the Government should be a warning to those who may be possessed or prospective possessors of such probable coffins for people who "go down to the sea," and sometimes into the sea, in ships. It would have been infinitely preferable for many had Mr Plimsoll lived sooner, and had such warning come sooner from Colonial Governments. Had such been, the steamers Citizen and Comet would probably have been old iron in the foundries on the banks of the Yarra, instead of in possession of old Father Neptune at the bottom of the sea; the superannuated East lndiamen which were razeed in the Colonies, and converted into colliers till they went down with their cargoes and crews, would have formed appropriate additions to the appropriate place for their owners — the hulks; and even in the coasting trade to which this West Coast has so considerably contributed, there would have been a shorter list of vessels missing — of lives lost. The Don Juan may not have been a flagrant instance of sending ships to sea in a state unfit for the voyage; in fact the intention was — one of those intentions which form the pavement of a certain place — to make her thoroughly seaworthy at her port of destination, Sydney; and, according to the shipping columns of our Dunedin contemporaries, there has been great diversity of opinion as to her condition, culminating, however, in a condemnatory report which seems to be reliable, and which determined the Government to take the action they have done. It appears, from what we remember to have read of her, that the vessel was originally, or lately, culled the Rosalia; that she was purchased by Captain Clark, of Port Chalmers, who knows how to buy and sell; that she was docked at that port, and repaired so far as concerns the lower part of the hull; that the authorities were still dubious as to her fitness for sea; and thereupon there appeared in the newspapers a succession of favorable reports signed by master mariners and others, with Captain's Clark's endorsement as having invited them to make a survey. The authorities, however, were still obdurate, and a special survey was ordered to be made by Captain William Thomson, Harbor Master, and Mr David Stephens, shipwright, whose report was of such character that an order in Council was issued by the Governor, empowering Customs, Harbor, and Police authorities to deal as might be necessary with Captain Clark, who was proceeding in the vessel as her master and part owner. The order was obeyed, and the vessel brought back to harbor; and if there were not substantial reasons for doing; so, shipowners, and seamen, and more simple men will be able to say so when they read the report of the surveyors, provided always they believe the surveyors, who, we may say, are both reputed to be honorable men. The report is as follows :•—
"The seams in the decks and waterways are very wide, and in many parts soft and leaky, and the deck planks in several places partially decayed. Many of the hanging knees and strop bolts in the 'tween-decks and lower holds are loose and several of them broken; also some of the knee screw bolts that were recently fitted up with new nuts to be quite slack. The treenails are more or less soft and slack. One iron breasthook is broken in the throat, alongside of which a small one has been placed, but not sufficient in strength or fastening to compensate for the break in the original. The beams in the lower hold, though comparatively sound, have all been working more or less. One iron hanging knee in the lower hold is broken in the throat, most of the lodging knees in the lower hold and some in the 'tween decks are soft through natural decay. The timbers, as far as could be seen, with some exceptions, are comparatively sound. The ceiling in the lower hold is so decayed, as to have very little longitudinal strength, but in the 'tween decks not so bad. The keelsons, as far as could be seen, are sound. In the planking there are many graving pieces, the butts and seams of same are very wide, and the copper has been stripped off the bottom and not replaced. There are three boats in ordinary condition. The windlass, rudder, pumps, masts, and yards, and sails, are in good condition. There are three bower anchors, two of the same without stocks, and therefore useless; there are also two kedges. There are two chain cables, of full size. The standing and running rigging is in good order.
"We find that the length of this vessel exceeds twelve times its depth, therefore more than ordinary longitudinal bending is necessary, which she has not got, and in consequence the vessel is very much hogged. She was built in Sweden about nineteen years ago, is of pine throughout, and according to Lloyd's rules would have no character whatever. The ceiling affords almost no strength to bind the vessel longitudinally, or to secure the through fastenings properly, and many of such fastenings are slack and broken. In consideration, therefore, of the whole defects enumerated, we are satisfied that the ship Don Juan is unfit to proceed to sea without endangering human life."
With their report, the surveyors forwarded to the Commissioner of Customs, who was at the time in Dunedin, samples of the vessel's timber, knees, treenails, and iron fastenings. The specimens comprised a piece of the ceiling from the lower hold, piece of staple-knee from the 'tween decks, piece of frame from the 'tween decks, piece of staple-knee from lower hold, piece of treenail from 'tween decks, piece of treenail from lower hold, oakum from the deck seams, two iron bolts — or rather remains of bolts. And of these this is the description given in the Daily Times by one of the staff who may not be an expert, but who probably knows sufficient to distinguished a hawk from a hernshaw :—
"All the eight pieces of timber forwarded are so rotten and decayed that they can almost be rubbed into powder between the fingers. A bolt which was formerly an inch square has been actually eaten through by rust or galvanic action; the other bolt (tho nut of which was well painted) on being drawn out was found to be broken. The wood where it had been tarred on what had been the exterior, appeared quite good, but on the other side was as rotten as it possibly could be. All the wood was pine. The oakum looked anything but water-proof." With such evidences as to the condition of the ancient class of vessels in the Colonies — evidences probably accidentally discovered — it might save the issue of future orders in Council, made at the last moment — as it might save many from meeting their last moments till they came in due course — if a systematic search for evidence good or bad were instituted, so that the speculations of shipowners might be placed on a securer basis, as regards either themselves, underwriters' interests, seamen's lives, or any other interest associated with our mercantile marine. -West Coast Times, 26/5/1875.
|Hocken Library photo.|
THE DON JUAN
MORE EVIDENCE OF SLAVE TRADING
Since an inquiry was made by a correspondent and an article was published in the 'Star' last Friday on the history of the sailing ship Don Juan, whose bones lie bleaching in a bend of Otago Harbour near Port Chalmers, further information has been obtained which seems to establish definitely that the vessel was engaged in the slave trade about the middle of last century.
Reference to the Don Juan was found by a 'Star' reader on page 188 of a book entitled 'Savage Civilisation,' written by Tom Harrison, who quoted the following letter, dated May 29, 1863, sent from the Hon. Robert Towns, at Sydney, to New Hebrides missionaries: "Rev sir,—Should this meet the eye of any gentlemen of that sacred calling, I beg to explain the nature of the voyage upon which I am to despatch the bearer. Captain Braueber, with the schooner. Don Juan. Suffice to say that I have embarked considerable capital in Queensland in the cultivation of cotton, and so much depends on the rate of labour in the ultimate success. I am endeavouring to try out natives from the islands. ... I with my cotton migration (returning them every 12 to six months) will do more towards civilising the natives in one year that you can possibly in 10. You may be able to point out to the poor suspecting natives that they have nothing to fear, as I will bind myself to return them within 12 months of the day they leave, and more likely in six months. I send an interpreter, a man who says he can speak the language; this is very important to make the poor fellows understand. — (Signed) R. Towns."
"Bit o' Marline" also writes to the 'Star' as follows from Port Chalmers: "The Don Juan and a sister slave ship were built in Sweden in the early 'fifties. The Don Juan carried slaves to the West Indies and the Southern States until the American Civil War, when for a time she helped to run the blockade. Then she proceeded to the South Seas and took part in 'black-birding,' which included selling the natives to the South American mines. Her first legitimate cargo was when Guthrie and Larnach bought her to bring a cargo of timber to New Zealand. Incidentally, she was built to carry 300 slaves, the 300 leg chains being supplied before she left the builders' yards. After she was condemned at Port Chalmers a number of attempts, incipient and active, were made to get her away to sea. Bully Hayes visited Port Chalmers with a view to taking her away." -Evening Star, 9/3/1943.
Slaving, war, blockade running, leg irons - all the ingredients of a great story. But how much is actually true? Leg irons from the ship can be seen at the Port Chalmers Maritime Museum, as can be a pair of recently restored cannon.
A Rotten Ship.
— A telegram from Port Chalmers, dated the l0th May, states that the ship Don Juan, having been unmoored from the railway wharf, was towed by the steam tug Geelong as far as the Heads, when the steamer's warp was cast off, and the Don Juan anchored. Authority was obtained from his Excellency the Governor to preclude the ship putting to sea. This having been procured, Mr. Hackworth (Collector of Customs.), accompanied by Captain Thomson (harbour master), proceeded to Port Chalmers to survey the vessel and report thereon. In consequence of the heavy sea on last night, and the number of persons it was found necessary to take to the vessel, the steam tug Geelong was chartered for the occasion, and at seven o'clock the following Government officers being on board, she started from the railway pier: — Mr. Monson (tide surveyor), Mr. Croker (landing waiter), Captain Thomson (harbour master), Captain McCallum (pier master), Sergeant Neil, and two police officers, the Customs, boat crew, and the shipping reporters of the Guardian and the Daily Times. Captains Thomson and McCallum personally served Captain Clark with the Governor's order under the Merchant Shipping Act, 1873, restricting him from taking the vessel out of port until the case had been decided by a Court of Appeal. Having done this, Mr. Monson instructed the tidewaiter, Mr. Croker, to remain on board, and similar instructions were given by Captain Thomson to Pilot Stevens. These gentlemen being left on board, the Geelong, with the remainder of the party, returned to the port. No obstruction was offered by any person on board the Don Juan to either Pilot Stevens or the Customs authority. It is likely the vessel will be brought up to the anchorage in the course of the day, to await the result of an enquiry into the matter, which no doubt will take place at an early date. The ship Don Juan, formerly the Rosalia, has not been allowed to proceed to sea without some authority. - Taranaki Herald, 9/6/1875.
As the ship Rosalia, once known as the Don Juan — we were not aware until Tuesday, that she had been remained — is attracting some attention, and is likely to be further heard of, we take the opportunity afforded us by the Collector of Customs and Captain Thomson, the Board of Trade Surveyor, to publish the official reports made in connection with the above vessel. As appears from the reports further on, the Surveyor seems to have acted throughout with moderation and good feeling. The first report is dated April 3rd, and is addressed to Captain Clark, of the Ship Rosalia. It was as follows:— "I have the honour to bring under your notice that, in order to make the ship Rosalia (at present under your charge) seaworthy, it will, in my opinion, be necessary to caulk well the seams from keel to mast, to sheath her from the gunwale to the round of the bilge with long lengths of good Oregon or kauri pine planks, four inches in thickness, properly fastened with through-bolts, and wall caulked; one new iron breast-hook, heavier and longer in the tails than the broken one, and to be put in alongside of same, and properly fastened. The vessel to be refastened throughout, to be re-coppered, and all defective planks, staunchions, and mainrail of the bulwarks to be renewed. Hopeful that will meet with your approval, and that you will cause the afore-mentioned repairs to be carried out, I am; &c. Wm Thomson, Surveyor." The next report is dated April 26th, and is addressed to the Collector of Customs, as follows :— "To the Collector of Customs. Port Chalmers, 26th April, accordance with your instructions I have made a thorough survey of the ship Don Juan, alias the Rosalia; and have the honour to report as follows —That there has not been any longitudinal binding put in, but a very partial refastening done, the bulwark not caulked, and the bottom not coppered. Therefore, the vessel is not in a seaworthy condition. This vessel came into port very leaky, out shape, and very much strained. She is about 19 years old, built of pine in a Swedish port, not according to Lloyd's rules for binding even when new; many of the fastenings that are started are left untouched, the butts and seams in the bottom are very wide, and in consequence the oakum is liable to fall out when the vessel begins to work, which she is certain to do in a seaway; and nothing short of the repairs I recommended in my communication of the 3rd inst. to the owner Captain Clark (of which you have a copy), will put that vessel in a seaworthy condition.—Signed —W. Thomson, Surveyor." This is the stage at which the case has arrived, but we understand it is not to be left here, but will probably come before the law courts.' Hence we withhold comment, and also because the Rosalia is closed to our inspection. At the same time we may observe that Captain Thomson is to be commended for doing what he has done in the cause of duty - and a very disagreeable duty it is. -Otago Daily Times, 29/4/1875.
Amongst the passengers by the steamer Hawea were Captain Twise and Messrs Meech and Cook, master shipwrights, the surveyors appointed by the Government to inspect and report upon the ship Don Juan. That no local influence of any kind might be brought to bear upon them, Mr Ward, the Registrar of the Supreme Court, was in waiting to receive them when, the Hawea arrived, and with him they subsequently went on board the Don Juan. The survey proceedings are to be kept a profound secret until the case again comes on for hearing. -Otago Daily Times, 6/9/1875.
THE DON JUAN CONDEMNED.
The following are the affidavit and report of the Surveyors of the ship Don Juan upon that vessel:— In the Supreme Court of New Zealand, the Otago and Southland District. In the matter of the Merchant Shipping Act Adoption Act, 1874, and in the matter of an Act of the Imperial Parliament, entitled, the "The Merchant Shipping Act, 1873," and in the matter of the ship "Don Juan."
We, George Henry Twiss, Henry Meech, and James Cook, all of Wellington, in the Colony of New Zealand, Ship Surveyors, do hereby severally and respectively make oath and say:
That the report annexed hereto and marked as "The Report," is true and correct, according to our several and respective abilities, and represents a complete survey of the ship Don Juan aforesaid, made by us between the 4th day of September and the 24th day of the same month inclusive, 1875.
Severally sworn by the said Henry Meech, George Henry Twiss, and James Cook, at Duuedin, in this 29th day of September, 1875,(Signed) Henry Meech, G. H. Twiss, James Cook. Before me, Edward ffras. Ward, Registrar of the Supreme Court.
In the Supreme Court of New Zealand, Otago and Southland District.
In the matter of the Merchant Shipping Act Adoption Act, 1874 and in the matter of an Act of the Imperial Parliament, entitled "The Merchant Shipping Act, 1873" and in the matter of the ship "Don Juan." In pursuance of the order for survey of the above named ship Don Juan, made in open Court by His Honour Judge Williams on the 25th day of August, 1875, at the Supreme Court House, in Dunedin, We, the surveyors, George Henry Twiss, Henry Meech, and James Cook, all of Wellington, in the Colony of New Zealand, at the request of, and under the directions of the Registrar of the said Court, do hereby certify that, on the 4th day of September now instant, we proceeded to survey the said ship lying at Port Chalmers, and continued such survey from day to day until the 11th day of September, in the afternoon; and on the 23rd and 24th days of September we surveyed the bottom of the said ship, in the Graving Dock at Port Chalmers, and such survey was made separate and apart from any person or persons whomso-ever, and alone by us, uninfluenced by any one disinterested or interested. And the result of such survey is as follows :—
Lower Hold, Port Side.—That we find eleven timbers very badly rotted, and several others very defective. Lodging knees all more or less rotten, ceiling very bad fore and aft, many places being filled with a kind of cement and tarred over. Iron hanging knees appear all to have been working more or less, and started from the ship's side, and have been wedged up. Many of the bolt-heads in bad condition, having been working. Strengthening pieces along the bilge in a state of decay, and bad in many places on the lower part. Beam ends generally in bad condition, many in a state of decay, and show signs of having been working.
Starboard Side.—Eighteen of the timbers in a very rotten state, and several others very defective, being in a state of decay. Many of the beam ends in very bad condition, and the lodging knees between them all more or less in a rotten state. Ceiling and hanging knees all in much the same state as on the port side. Most of the bolts and fastening show signs of working from the bad state of the wood they are driven into.
Amidships. —We find an iron hook apparently newly put in on the dead wood forward, with two holes bored through the timbers on outside planking, but no bolts driven in. Two of the beams in a rotten state, and three others very defective. The step of the foremast in a state of decay, one stauncheon under the beams rotten at both ends, and two others defective. Partner knee of the mainmast on the port side badly split, and the cant timbers on the port side of the sternpost in bad condition.
Between Decks, Port Side.—Several of the timbers forward in very bad condition with rot, and the bolts through them in a bad and loose state. The beam ends, particularly amidships, in a very rotten condition, and the lodging knees between them in the same state. Inside lining bad in many places, and the iron hanging knees started from the ship's sides and show evident signs of having been working. Many of the bolts and fastenings in very bad condition.
Starboard Side —Very much the same as on the port side. Beam ends, particularly amidships, between the fore and main masts in a very rotten state, and the lodging-knees all more or less rotten. One iron hanging-knee broken in the throat, inside lining bad in several places, and many of the bolts and fastenings show signs of having been working badly.
Amidships.—The beams in very bad condition—particularly between the main and fore masts, where several are quite rotten and one very badly sprung and has been fished. Two iron straps from beams to stanchions broken and the bolts loose and working out; wing transoms in very bad condition, being rotten in many places, particularly about the bolts, and the filling pieces under the transoms defective.
Upper Deck —The greater part of the timbers and stanchions inside of the double bulwarks very rotten, and the main rail rotten in the scarf in the fore-rigging on the port side. Decks very bad—particularly at the butt ends —and the water-ways rotten in many places: planks under the gratings abaft and round the steering gear quite rotten.
Top Sides, Port Side.—Find the planking in a very rotten condition, particularly in the wake of chain plates; butt ends very bad, and the wood round the heads of the bolts quite rotten, allowing them to work a good deal. Ship very badly hogged from main to forerigging, and with every sign of very great weakness and of having been working badly.
Starboard Side.—The planking, bolts, and butts, appear to be much the same as on the port side, but the vessel appears to have strained more on this side than on the other.
Bottom Outside, Port Side.—Find the butts in very bad condition, several of them with a good deal of water running out. Thirty-six of them covered with lead, and about seventy not covered but filled with cement, which is partly dropping out. All the butts under the bilges very bad.
Starboard Side.—Found about fifty butts covered with lead, and about the same number filled with cement, the same as on the port side. Ship has an unusual quantity of butts and they are very close together.
Keel.—Has a very great deflection, being risen up amidships fully thirteen inches. We have taken samples of the timbers, knees, beams, ceilings, and other parts of the vessel which can be produced, duly marked, as to the part of the vessel they were taken from. And, after due consideration of the state of the said ship, we are united in our opinion that the Don Juan is quite unfit to proceed to sea, and we therefore condemn the vessel as totally unseaworthy, and hereto annex our signatures. (Signed) G. H. Twiss, Master Mariner. Henry Meech. Master Shipwright. James Cook, Shipwright.
We understand that the plaintiffs, Messrs Clark, have abandoned all further proceedings for the removal of the removal of the injunction, and we believe it is not improbable that the Government will take steps to recover costs in this matter. -Otago Daily Times, 2/10/1875.
TENDERS FOR THE HULL OF THE SHIP DON JUAN.
TENDERS are invited for the PURCHASE of the HULL of the Ship DON JUAN, now lying at Port Chalmers. To parties in want of a coal hulk this offers an excellent opportunity, as it is believed her capacity is equal to 1200 tons of coal.
Tenders to be addressed to the undersigned, not later than WEDNESDAY, the 13th instant, at 4 o'clock.
The highest or any tender not necessarily to be accepted. McLANDRESS, HEPBURN, and CO.
-Otago Daily Times, 6/10/1875.
THE Otago Daily Times. FRIDAY, OCTOBER 15, 1875.
The fate of the Don Juan conveys some assurance that the horrors which Mr Plimsoll has brought to light at home will not be repeated with impunity in these waters. We do not propose to go again over the whole of the wretched details, which are still sufficiently fresh in the minds of our readers. It is just eleven months since her career as the Rosalia was brought to a close. On the 23rd of November last year the report of her appearance in Port Chalmers found a place in our shipping columns, coupled with a word or two of congratulation that she had come in safely, since unpleasant reports of her condition had preceded her. A week or two previously, in the telegrams from Napier, we were told, "That, at the Resident Magistrate's Court, the chief mate and nine of the crew of the Rosalia were charged by the captain with refusing to proceed in the vessel on the alleged ground that she is unseaworthy. Captain Fairchild, of the Luna, deposed that, in his opinion, the Rosalia was seaworthy; or, at all events, sufficiently so to proceed to Dunedin. The mate D. Reid was sentenced to twelve weeks' imprisonment, and the others to lesser periods, with hard labour. The Rosalia will take a fresh crew, and will most likely proceed to Dunedin immediately." Two points strike us as very remarkable in this account, when we read it by the light of subsequent events. The first is, that the sentence passed upon the mate and men was an unjust sentence. We do not blame the R.M. at Napier; he could not have done less with the evidence, before him. We do blame Captain FAiRCHiLD. If it be said that his evidence showed nothing worse than an error of judgment, we can only say that a responsible officer who can make such mistakes as his ought to be an officer of the Government no longer.
We call upon Government to make some enquiry as to the circumstances under which Captain Fairchild came to make this most disgraceful error. An officer who is liable to this kind of mistake in judgment is not only unfit to be in the employ of Government, he is not fit to be employed by any firm with any little, lingering, respect left for human life. It was by the merest good fortune that on her way from Napier to this port the lives of all on board were not sacrificed. The Rosalia arrived in Port Chalmers, the windmill that had been rigged up to keep the pumps going having broken down, the donkey engine continually going, the water discharged by them being as pure as that in which the vessel floated. She was then making fifteen inches of water per hour. This was the boat Captain Faitrchild had declared ten days before to be seaworthy. For refusing to continue the voyage in this floating coffin — this sepulchre of a sailing vessel — ten men suffered various terms of imprisonment. We doubt whether Mr Plimsoll is in possession of a worse case than that of the Don Juan, nee Rosalia. As regards Captain Fairchild, we by no means wish to impute motives of an evil kind to him; we have no reason to believe that his weak opinion was given for any worse reason than irresolution. It is an awkward thing though, when the inability of an officer to undertake serious responsibility results in the wrongful imprisonment, with hard labour, of ten men, and the committal of another crew to a coffin like the Rosalia. We do trust that the length of time that has elapsed will not prevent justice being now done in the matter, amends being made to the crew for their wrongful imprisonment. Since the Rosalia has lain at Port Chalmers, we all know that she has been a subject of much interest and discussion. To the Port correspondent of this journal infinite credit is due for the dauntless zeal with which he has pressed the cause of humanity, and without regard to the hostility of a clique, or the consequences to himself, has steadily maintained that the Don Juan should never again be permitted to go to sea. We do not hesitate to say, that had it not been for his courage and determination, we should have had ere this to lament another disaster at sea — have had to mourn once more over the desolation caused to many households by the rapacity of shipowners. Those who remember the history of the past few months will have noted that Captains Russell and Thomson and Mr C. Harris have all three staked their reputations, and in some measure their future professional career, upon the truth of the assertion that the Don Juan was rotten from her truck to her keel, and unfit to proceed to sea, let Captain Fairchild say what he liked. This opinion of theirs has been more than justified by the report of the surveyors sent to examine her condition. It is so unpleasant a task to rout out such iniquities, the responsibility of giving this sort of opinion is so great, that we feel it a public duty, as well as a pleasure, to give credit when it is due. The Don Juan will not again imperil the lives of men. She is to be broken up or used as a hulk, and every humane man will rejoice that she is not again to be suffered to pass the Heads. It would be only common justice if the Government were to make such tardy reparation as is possible to the poor fellows who were sent to gaol in Napier for refusing to join her on her last voyage. We really do not like to say what Captain Fairchild deserves. It is to be hoped that the revelations made in this case will have the very desirable effect of rendering shipowners more cautious what they do for the future with their boats. Murder is an ugly word to use, but it, is difficult to take any other to describe the iniquity of sending such a vessel as the Don Juan to sea. We are glad that to Port Chalmers should belong the credit of stopping the career of this vessel; and we hope that the same energy and courage will be shown in the future as in the past in dealing with similar iniquities. -Otago Daily Times, 15/10/1875.
It has been pointed out to us that a bill, in many respects similar to the Merchant Shipping Amendment Act, to which we referred yesterday, was introduced in the House of Representatives the session before last by the Hon. Mr. Reynolds. It was called the Marine Surveyors Bill, and its object was to provide for licensing competent marine surveyors, who would have power to interfere and prevent unseaworthy vessels leaving port, as well as perform other important duties. This bill was read a second time almost without opposition; but in committee it was thrown out on, we think, the motion of Mr. Hunter, who regarded the bill as an unnecessary one. It is to be regretted that this view prevailed, for the necessity for the bill has since been established in a practical manner, and had it been in force during the last couple of years, it would have been found decidedly useful. We may add that it was owing to the prompt and decided action of Mr. Reynolds that the Don Juan was prevented leaving Port Chalmers. He was in Dunedin at the time in attendance on his Excellency the Governor, and it being made known to him that a vessel supposed to be quite unseaworthy was about to sail, he obtained a meeting of the Executive Council (Dr. Pollen being also in Dunedin), and the Order in Council authorising the detention of the Don Juan was passed. Mr. Reynolds deserves great credit for his action in this matter, as it has probably saved the lives of the crew of the now condemned Don Juan. -Evening post, 19/101875.
At the auction sale of the ship Don Juan at Port Chalmers, the hull and lower mast, in one lot, did not command a bid. The sails gear, &c., were offered in lots, but met with poor bidding. The greater part was bought in. The condemnation of the ship is regarded as a just measure. Other fishy vessels are under surveillance, and will receive little mercy, the Government surveyors having resolved to fully exercise the law. Consequent upon their action, a large schooner, the Annie Howlan, has been converted to lightering purposes. The insurance companies are also bestirring themselves. Their surveyor, Captain Russell, has prohibited the brigantine Oreti from taking away more than enough cargo to ballast her. -Wesport Times, 26/10/1875.
The Don Juan detention case has virtually terminated, and in favour of the Government, which, through its surveyors, laid an embargo upon her, on the plea of her unseaworthiness. The surveyors specially sent down from Wellington to inspect the ship reported most unfavourably upon her condition — condemned her out and out, in fact — and her owners withdrew from the opposition to the action of the Government. The Don Juan is now in the last stage of career of a vessel which has escaped destruction by wreck or other wise. She is simply a hulk, but to what purpose she is to be put has not transpired. To the resolute opposition of this journal, and the no less resolute action of Captain Thomson, the Government surveyor, and Captain Russell, the insurance company's inspector, is to be credited the timely condemnation of another floating coffin. -Otago Daily Times, 27/10/1875.
The Evening Herald. TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 2, 1875.
The recent survey of the ship Don Juan, or as it was until recently called, the Rosalia, clearly proves that a reform in the examination of ships before sending them out to sea is as necessary here as at home, and that the steps taken by Mr Plimsoll are in consequence worth the closest attention in the Colonies, it will be remembered that the barque Rosalia not very long ago put into Port Ahuriri in an almost water-logged condition. She was not destined for that port, but was taken there simply because the crew put such pressure on the Captain that he was obliged to make for the nearest port. While in Napier, he took proceeding's against the crew for insubordination, and after an enquiry which lasted long enough to be thoroughly exhaustive, and during which the vessel was examined by Captain Fairchild, of the Luna, and declared entirely seaworthy, the men were sentenced to various periods of imprisonment. The Rosalia filled her crew, which after Captain Fairchild's report was not a difficult matter, and proceeded to Dunedin. But there was something not right about her. There was renewed uneasiness among the crew, and she was eventually laid up for repairs, and her name having also been changed, she was once more ready to proceed to sea. But sailors, although generally disposed to risk dangers, and to go in for anything that is likely to prove adventurous, are yet not disposed to risk their lives by going to sea in a vessel which they knew had only been patched, and which, to make it safe, should have been almost built anew. In their eyes the Don Juan was still the Rosalia, the crew of which had preferred to go to prison rather than again proceed to sea in her. She was at last submitted to a most careful and complete examination, Messrs Twiss, Meech, and Cook, of Wellington, all practical and experienced men, having been selected to dispose of the matter. These gentlemen spent a considerable time in completing their task, and the report published by them entirely contradicts that of Captain Fairchild. There was not a part but it was bad, numbers of places that were rotten having been filled with cement or lead, and tarred over, while others were exposed. Most of the bolts showed signs of working, while numbers of the knees were entirely useless. Even outside there were places that were no better. What is most significant is the state of the keel, the centre of which had been raised thirteen inches. The vessel had in fact strained to such an extent. This may not appear much to anyone entirely unacquainted with ship building; but when it is considered that the keel is the backbone of the vessel, and that either all the timbers of her hull must have been very considerably strained, or her deck in such a state as almost to part, the actual state of affairs will be readily recognised. But what has Captain Fairchild to say to this result? Will he .acknowledge that he was deceived by putty and varnish, and that the vessel at the time of his examination was as unseaworthy as when it was condemned in Dunedin? His evidence sent to prison a number of sailors who acted merely for self-protection — who knew from experience that the vessel was not in such a state as to warrant their going to sea in her. Yet they were not heard, and the evidence of the one was preferred to the many. That this should be so is perhaps not a matter of surprise, although the crew did not complain of anything beyond the unseaworthiness of the vessel. Captain Fairchild has the imputation of being an experienced mariner; but it would appear that either he is not on that account the more fitted to report on the state of a vessel, or he is one of the old school of captains who think that the crew has nothing to do with the state of the ship in which they are sailing. In either case we should like to hear what he has to say in the matter. His evidence is contradicted in every particular by three independent men, specially selected to examine the Don Juan, and we have no reason to discredit the many and believe the one. There still remains the treatment the sailors received on account of his report. It cannot now be doubted that they were perfectly justified in refusing to return to such a vessel, and that the sentences passed on them were unjust in proportion. Will they receive any acknowledgement of the injustice done them? or will they for the remainder of their, lives be permitted to bear the stigma of having been imprisoned for refusing to do their duty? They ought to have justice done them. On the other hand we trust Captain Fairchild will take the occurrence as a lesson, and be less hasty, and perhaps a little less prejudiced, should he ever again be called upon to perform a work which requires a most impartial decision. -Wanganui Herald, 2/11/1875.
|"Three rotting hulks near Port Chalmers. The remains of the Don Juan, the Cincinatti, and the California." Ref: 1/2-003210-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.|
THE SPANISH SLAVER
STORY OF DEBORAH BAY SKELETON.
GRISLY RELICS IN HER HOLD.
Lying in the shallows at Deborah Bay, near Port Chalmers, are the skeletons of three old-time sailing vessels. One of those is a long rakish-looking craft, whose dim outlines augur a rare turn of speed in the days when she “walked the water.” An evil history is buried with her in these shallow waters. Every old salt in harbor knows something of her sinister story; details alone are wanting to complete as spine-chilling a narrative as fiction ever provided. She was notorious in long-forgotten days as an active agent in the nefarious slave trade.
As a slaver she must have had many narrow escapes, both from naval vessels engaged in the suppression of the traffic and from the native tribes upon which she made her depredations. Although no definite information as to her exploits can be gleaned, it has been stated at different times she was engaged in “blackbirding” on the African coast, in the West Indies, and in the Pacific.
She was a foreign vessel, and came to Otago forty-eight years ago under the name Rosalia, although before that she was known as the Don Juan; and is better remembered by old Port Chalmers identities under the latter name. When she was being dismantled, after being condemned, grisly relics of her avocation in the guise of wrist and ankle shackles (to the number of several hundred) were discovered in her after hold, proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that she had not spent all her life as a peaceful trading vessel. These shackles were eagerly sought after, and many may still be found in the possession of persons connected with shipping in many parts of blow Zealand.
A ‘Star’ reporter, after patient reference to newspaper files of forty-seven years ago, and from inquiries made amongst old seafaring folk, has been able to set out a fairly accurate account of the Don Juan’s experiences from the time she was purchased in San Francisco close on half a century ago to the hour when, after a life redeemed by stalwart service in her later years, she was dismantled and left to rot.
The Don Juan was purchased by the late Mr W. Guthrie, of Guthrie and Larnach, when he was in San Francisco. The ship was taken over by her new owners after completing a charter voyage. She went to Puget Sound, and loaded a cargo of timber for Port Chalmers. On the passage she encountered heavy weather, and put into Napier in distress. Part of her cargo was discharged there, and after undergoing repairs she resumed her voyage, arriving at Port Chalmers on November 22, 1874.
An examination was then made of the Rosalia’s hull, and particulars painted on the main beam, which were almost obliterated, showed that the vessel had originally been a British-owned ship named Don Juan. Her port of registry was Liverpool, and her official number was 29,995. She was a. vessel of 667 tons gross and 647 tons net register. She was afterwards purchased by Messrs Charles and George Clark, of Port Chalmers; then passed into the hands of Messrs Briscoe and Co.; and again came under the flag of the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand. The ship was registered at Dunedin Custom-house on May 7, 1875. The declaration made by the late Mr Walter Guthrie in connection with the purchase of the ship before a justice of the price at Dunedin on April 30, 1875, reads as follows: —
I, Walter Guthrie, of Dunedin, in the province of Otago and colony of New Zealand, merchant, do sincerely declare that I purchased the ship Rosalia at San Francisco on the - day of May, 1874, from one Jose Antonio Garcia y Garcia, who was not a British subject; and that prior to my so purchasing the said ship she had been sailing under Spanish colors and trading between Costa Rica and San Francisco. That I never heard nor do I believe that the said ship was ever wrecked or abandoned, or that she ceased to be registered as a British ship by any other means or for any other reason than her transfer to a person not qualified to own a British ship; and that I know of no reason whatsoever whereby the said ship should not be registered as a British ship.
The declaration signed by Jose Antonio Garcia y Garcia and his attorneys at the time of the sale of the ship Tends as follows :
To all whom these presents shall come, Greeting! Know ye that I, Jose Antonio Garcia y Garcia, by my attorney in fact by substitution, sole owner of the Costa Rica ship Rosalia, of the burthen of 655 tons, or thereabouts, for and in consideration of the sum of £2,145 sterling to me in hand paid before the sealing and delivery of these presents by Walter Guthrie, a natural-born British subject, born in Tay, Fifeshire, Scotland, now residing at Dunedin, province of Otago, New Zealand, to have and to hold the said ship Rosalia and appurtenances thereto belonging unto the said Walter Guthrie, his executors and administrators.
THE ROSALIA’S ARRIVAL. A report of the vessel’s arrival at Port Chalmers on November 22, 1874, was published in the ‘Evening Star’ on November 25 as follows:
“During the heavy north-east gale which blew yesterday afternoon a fullrigged ship was seen entering the Heads, and she afterwards sailed up to an anchorage in the lower part of Deborah Bay. She proved to be the Rosalia, from Puget Sound, which put into Napier in a leaky condition. By her appearance she seems to have been severely strained. On deck, between the main and mizzen masts, there are the framework and wings of a windmill that was rigged to work the pumps shortly after leaving Puget Sound, and close to the mainmast was a donkey engine, attached to the pumps, in full work, with both pumps going at the time we went on board. The Rosalia left Puget Sound with a full cargo of timber on July 31., she then making about lin of water an hour: but before getting clear of the sound the crew refused to go with her, and she was sailed back and surveyed. She left again on August 4, all going well until abreast of Honolulu, when the leak again began to increase, and gradually gained until within 50deg south of the Equator, when she encountered heavy westerly weather, during which the windmill broke down. Bad weather continued until within 550 miles of the New Zealand coast, when the crew came aft to Captain Veale and stated that they were worn out by pumping, and insisted that the ship be kept away for the nearest land. She was accordingly kept before it for thirty-six hours; but the wind coming from the eastward, Captain Veale persuaded them to keep the vessel on her proper course for Port Chalmers. The wind afterwards hitting to the southward, she was run into Napier on October 22, where she took in the steam engine to work the pumps, and after a stay of twenty days, left there on November 15 for Port Chalmers. During her stay at Napier Captain Crabbe joined the ship as mate and coasting pilot.”
TROUBLE WITH THE CREW. On November 9, 1874, the Hawke’s Bay Herald published the following telegram, which was received by Captain Veale on the previous Saturday from the owners of the Rosalia (Messrs Guthrie and Larnach) with reference to a paragraph which had appeared stating that Captain Crabbe had been despatched from Dunedin for the purpose of taking charge of the vessel: —
“As you appear to have bad difficulty with your officers and crew, we have despatched, per s.s. Taranaki, a party acquainted with the coast to render what assistance he can; but we shall be glad to hear you have sailed ere he reaches Napier, when we shall recall him by writing to Wellington.” Captain Veale informed a Herald representative that the donkey engine which bad been placed on board the Rosalia kept the vessel perfectly dry, the engine only working on an average six hours out of the twenty-four. He also stated that had the ship been bound for England he would not hesitate to proceed by her in her present condition, in spite of the fact that complaints had frequently been made by the crew to the effect that the vessel was unseaworthy.
A PRELIMINARY SURVEY. The Don Juan was surveyed in the Port Chalmers graving dock early in April, 1875, by the desire of Captain Clark. After a careful examination tho surveyors recommended that certain repairs be carried out.
DETENTION OF THE DON JUAN. On the afternoon of May 12, 1875, the Don Juan, which had been detained at Port Chalmers for some time owing to the Government surveyors refusing to pass her was towed to the Heads by the tug Geelong, where she anchored on account of the heavy sea on the bar. It was the intention of Captain Clark to sail the vessel to Sydney for the purpose of having her thoroughly overhauled. On the following afternoon the Geelong was chartered to convey the Customs and harbor authorities alongside the Don Juan. These steps were taken by the General Government on account of the report by Captain William Thomson, harbor master, and Mr David Stephens, who had been appointed to survey the vessel. An Order in Council had been obtained under His Excellency the Governor’s signature, and addressed to the master and owners of the ship, restricting them from proceeding to sea until the matter had been before a Court of Appeal or His Excellency’s permission was obtained for the ship’s departure. The Government officials went on board, and after serving copies of the Governor’s order on Captain Clark, as master and part owner of the vessel, two of the officials were left on the ship. No resistance was offered.
The surveyors’ report showed that the Don Juan was in a very bad state. The seams in the decks and waterways, were very wide, and in many parts soft and leaky, and the deck planks in several places partially decayed. Many of the hanging knee and strap bolts in the ’tween decks and lower hold were loose and several of them broken. The beams in the lower hold, though comparatively sound, had all been working more or less. One iron hanging knee in the lower hold was broken in the throat, and most of the lodging knees in the lower hold and some in the ’tween decks were soft through natural decay. The timbers, as far as could be seen, with some exceptions, were comparatively sound. The ceiling in the lower held was so decayed as to have very little longitudinal strength. The surveyors found that the length of the vessel exceeded twelve times her depth; therefore more than ordinary longitudinal bending was necessary, which she had not got, and in consequence the ship was very much hogged. The ceiling afforded almost no strength to bind the vessel longitudinally or to secure the through fastenings properly, and many of such fastenings were slack and broken. In consideration, therefore, of the whole detects enumerated, the surveyors were satisfied that the ship was unfit to proceed to sea without endangering human life.
Specimens of timber taken from the Don Juan were shown to a ‘Star’ representative on May 15, 1875. They were like tinder, being completely rotten, and some also worm-eaten. These were taken from the ceiling and the frame of the lower hold.
The Don Juan sailed up as far as the quarantine anchorage on the afternoon of May 14, and was floated into the graving dock at Port Chalmers a few days later. The ship was hauled out of the dock on June 9, 1875, and remained at an anchorage in the stream for some time.
The Don Juan was subsequently dismantled and used as a store ship by the Union Steam Ship Company for several years. After being condemned finally, she was removed to her present site. In another few years there will probably be little left of this once-famous old sailer. The ‘Herald,’ in its issue of November 9, said:—
“It certainly speaks well for Captain Veale that, in the face of so much evidence against him, he came out of the late inquiry so satisfactorily, and that was chiefly owing to the very creditable manner in which his charts, chronometer workings, etc., had been kept, which showed the position of the ship daily, and indications of the barometer, these being verified by the nautical assessor, and also by a certificated master of the Board of Trade and others.”
LEAKY SHIP AND REFRACTORY SEAMEN. The following report appeared in the Napier ‘Daily Telegraph’ on October 27, 1874, in connection with the stay of the Rosalia at Napier:—
At the Resident Magistrate’s Court on Monday John Raymond was charged by Captain Veale with being a seaman on board the ship Rosalia, and with having unlawfully assaulted him on October 13. He pleaded not guilty. The evidence of the captain and chief officer, Robert Reid, went to prove that shortly after leaving Puget Sound, in Washington Territory, bound for Dunedin, the ship became leaky and experienced very rough weather. The pumps had to be kept going, and a windmill had been erected to work the pump. On the day in question the captain told defendant to assist the mill, as the wind was not sufficient to work it. He refused, and they had words together; when the defendant picked up a large piece of wood and threatened to strike the captain, and, going close up to him, said he would knock his brains out. For this offence he was sentenced to be imprisoned for one month, with hard labor. He was also charged with wilfully disobeying lawful commands on October 16. This he also denied. It appeared the ship had been running before the wind, making for Tahiti. The day in question the wind chopped round, and the captain called the ship's crew aft and consulted with them as to going on to New Zealand. They all agreed except the defendant, who said he would rather go in irons than go on to New Zealand. The crew being unanimous, except the defendant, the ship was headed for this country. He refused to work, and he was put in irons and kept there until arrival at Napier. The Resident Magistrate said the defendant’s conduct was very bad, and if the Act had allowed it he would punish him more severely. He was sentenced to one months’ imprisonment, with hard labor, to run concurrently with the other conviction, and to forfeit two days’ pay.” -Evening Star, 21/8/1922.
When the notorious slaver Don Juan finished her nefarious career and was converted into a hulk at Port Chalmers some years ago, a quantity of leg chains were found in her hold. Those chains had a gruesome record acquired in the Atlantic and later in the Pacific slave trades, and consequently they are relics of unusual interest. A resident of Port Chalmers has just been presented with one of those leg-chain relics, also another, consisting of the lock of the saloon door of Don Juan. As the vessel was built in Sweden over eighty years ago for the Atlantic slave trade, the fittings then in vogue are of some historical interest, it is a brass mortise lock still in good working order. But instead of the usual round knobs for operating it, there are brass castings of a horse’s hind leg. By a finger’s pressure on the horse’s hoof the door was opened. -Evening Star, 28/3/1885.
About four o'clock this morning a fire was discovered on board the Union Company's hulk Don Juan lying alongside the George street pier, Port Chalmers. It was first seen by a man on the pier, who raised the alarm and woke two of the Company's employees who slept in the hulk lying alongside. They immediately proceeded on board and broke open the door of the patternroom, which is used by Mr Leslie, the Company's draughtsman, and with the aid of a few buckets of water extinguished the fire. The Brigade were promptly in attendance, but their services were not required. The principal damage was to Mr Leslie's property, several books, plans, sketches, and drawing instruments having been destroyed. The estimated loss is L2OO. Mr Leslie informs us that he left the room apparently safe at 3 p.m. on Saturday. It is supposed that some rats got to a box of matches and so set fire to some paper. -Evening Star, 1/11/1886.
TENDERS invited for DECK HOUSES on Board Hulk DON JUAN, now lying alongside wharf at Port Chalmers.
Houses to be Removed within 10 days from acceptance of tender. Further particulars to be obtained at the Office of the UNION STEAM SHIP COMPANY OF N.Z., LIMITED, Port Chalmers, where tenders are to be addressed. -Evening Star, 30/6/1900.
THE PEACE CELEBRATIONS.
When peace is proclaimed the Port Chalmers demonstration for its celebration will be of a unique character. In addition to other novelties, there will be a huge bonfire in Mussel Bay. For this purpose the Union Steam Ship Company have generously given the committee the celebrated hulk Don Juan, which will be towed round to the bay, filled with combustibles, and fired. This will make a sight worth witnessing, and the Port will hold its own in the event. The mayor (Mr De Maus) is indefatigable in his efforts for the success of the demonstration, and no doubt there will be a large attendance on this occasion. -Otago Daily Times, 11/8/1900.
The hulk Don Juan had her last trip yesterday, when she was towed from the berth she has occupied for many years past at the cross wharf, Port Chalmers, to her final resting-place in Deborah Bay. She had been presented to the Patriotic Committee by the Union Steam Ship Company, and it was intended to take her round to Mussel Bay, and there burn her on the proclamation of peace. Could this have been effected a magnificent sight would have been the result. Unfortunately, the bay was found to be too shallow to take the Don Juan in, and the committee were reluctantly compelled to return her to the Union Company. -Otago Daily Times, 22/8/1900.
FRIDAY, 3rd AUGUST, At half-past 12 o’clock.
At Rooms, Manse street.
THE HULK DON JUAN, For Removal,
As she now lies at Wharf, Port Chalmers.
PARK, REYNOLDS, AND CO. have received instructions from the Owners to sell, at above time and place, The hulk Don Juan, recently used by tin Union Steam Ship Company as a joiner’s shop, sailmaker’s room, etc.
Without reserve. FRIDAY, 3rd AUGUST, At 2 o’clock.
At Rooms Manse street. -Evening Star, 1/8/1900.
THE SCHOONER DON JUAN.
TO THE EDITOR. Sir.— In Thursday’s ‘Star’ appeared a “local” dealing with the old-time slaver Don Juan. I have always taken an interest in this old ship, for as a boy she fired my youthful fancies with all sorts of adventures. As a man in middle-age her memory is still with me, while if her old timbers could speak she would have a great tale to tell. Many people to-day never heard of the ship, and yet how many young folk have looked through the windows of the trains as they pass Deborah Bay and wondered what ship those remains belonged to. There are several pieces of ships there, but the one to which I refer is the sharp-ended one which lies further out.
We often read very interesting paragraphs about old-time ships which have been in Port Chalmers, but nothing of this particular vessel. She was a slaver pure and simple, undoubtedly built for the trade. Once I saw her in dry dock, and of course had to go under her. My word, she was a beauty, built so sharp and clean under the run, and if ever a ship was built for speed it was she. My late father has told me that the ship was brought here by Bully Hayes, who during his life was a character round the particularly as a “blackbirder.” This man would stop at nothing, and would think no more of clapping hatches on a lot of natives and taking them to plantations with or without their consent than he would of eating his dinner. I do not know how the ship came in his possession, possibly he stole her somewhere.
She was condemned in Port Chalmers, but was bought by a Captain Clark, I think the name was, who put her either on Isbister’s slip or in the floating dock and renewed a lot of copper on her bottom. When Clark applied to Customs for his papers he was refused them, so slipped out of the harbour without. A steamer was sent after him, and he was brought back, and was afterwards sent to the penal settlement for his action. The ship was sold next to the Union Steam of New Zealand, who used her as a store ship and sail loft for many years, and when they built their present premises in the Port the Don Juan was sold to be broken up.
She had no name under her counter where ships usually carry their name, but she had one word, Rosalia, cut in some scroll work. Whether that had been her name or whether it was a port of registry I do not know. After she was broken up we had some uprights or beams which were used as fencing posts, and heavy staples were driven into them with iron rings attached to the staples. Undoubtedly the poor wretched blacks were chained to these. Perhaps someone may be able to correct me if I am wrong in my story, and if anyone knows anything of the history of the ship I would be pleased to hear of it.— I am, etc., Magnetic. March 29. -Evening Star, 29/3/1935.
THE SHIP DON JUAN.
TO THE EDITOR. Sir, —With reference to a letter dealing with the old-time slaver Don Juan, accidentally I became acquainted with her internal fittings. She arrived at Port Chalmers during the early ’seventies. The business man I was living with at the time of her arrival made it part of his business to consult the skippers of nearly every overseas ship that arrived in the stream (there was only one jetty in Port Chalmers at that time). While on board the Don Juan my friend made acquaintance with a country-man and his wife who were acting at steward and stewardess. Out of courtesy, my friend invited them to his home; hence, I became acquainted with them.
Eventually the ship was condemned by Captain Thompson, who was harbour master at that time. The only flaw I noticed was the decayed wood in the ship’s bow: For a while she was anchored off the old graving dock with the steward and stewardess in charge. Occasionally my friend and I went on board at eventime and enjoyed a game of cards with them. Naturally, in their spare time the steward and his wife had a look round the ship and they showed us over. There was a decent-sized below-deck ship’s cabin; a sliding door in the cabin revealed a recess with about two dozen rifles stacked in it; another sliding door had just sufficient width to allow a man to squeeze through and enter the ship’s hold. There, as your correspondent says, could be seen numbers of rings attached to staples, also chains with shackles attached to the rings. The Don Juan was a full-rigged ship and was built in Nova Scotia. I can endorse every word said concerning her model. "She was a beauty." — I am etc., Early Settler. April 6. -Evening Star, 6/4/1935.
The changing status of the wreck from legend to myth is marked by this humorously-rendered passage from 1935. This is written as an eye-witness account of the assessment of the ship's career, reported as it was remarked upon by one with an experience of warfare at sea. It is interesting enough to be sure - and to this writer's mind it is about as sound a piece of history as her starboard side beam-ends were in 1875 and, as a piece of history, "quite unfit to proceed to sea."
"The Don Juan.”
ROMANCE OF THE HIGH SEAS.
No. 28, Section M., “Slave Shackles from the Don Juan.” That was certainly a queer exhibit to find at the Antique Show. What misery and crime were associated with that pair of plain looking shackles, under hot African skies?
Does the descendant of one of the bewildered wearers of those shackles bear a name famous in the world today?
A thousand fancies flash through the wind, and the years roll back to the American North versus South war.
Shortly after the war ended, a boat was seized in Port Chalmers under a Court order, for debt.
The first peculiarity to strike the eye was a number of parallel marks on the deck, running at right angles to the ship's sides. “Them’s made by gun-carriage wheels,” said an ex-Nava1 man, staring at the deck from the elevation of the wharf. “She used them guns a lot for the recoil to score her decks so deep. Tough looking crew she’s got, mates,” he added, as the crew began to leave the ship, under the watchful eye of the police. They were certainly a tough looking crowd, and perhaps that was why the police increased the guard, and so were prepared for the desperate mid-night attempt to seize the vessel and get her away to sea. All in vain the efforts of the crew to save their ship. The crimestained career of the Don Juan had ended in Port Chalmers.
The next thrill this mystery boat provided was at Carey’s Bay, when the shipbreakers began to strip the hold. At first the hold appeared to be the plain walled hold of an ordinary trading craft, but when the false wall was ripped down, the real wall behind showed the Don Juan in her full guilt. She was a slaver. Ring bolts, shackles, leg irons, all were there.
The ex-Naval man shook his head grimly: “Them gun marks,” he muttered. “This,” nodding at the slave chains, “ain’t nothing to what them marks on the deck say she's done. She’s done dirtier work than slavin’.” he concluded.
What was she?
Slaver? Pirate? Privateer? — There are none left who can say. Her sin-soaked timbers — what is left of them — are still to be seen at Carey’s Bay, Port Chalmers, where the sea birds scream a mournful dirge over what was once the beautiful, but sinister, Don Juan.
Was her work all bad? — No. She and her sister vampires of the ocean enriched our art of to-day immeasurably. But for slavery, the famous French Octoroon, Alexandre Dumas, would never have been born to write the immortal “Monte Christo,” and 1200 other works.
The cultured bass singer, Eugene McAdoo, would never have led his famous Jubilee Singers to our shores. The saintly Bishop Whyte would have possibly been a witch doctor in the African Jungle. Booker Washington, born an American slave, would not have been “the greatest coloured man the world had seen.” Toussant, instead of founding the Republic of Hayti, might have been a small village headman, in constant fear of some minor British, French or Belgian official. The glorious voice of Paul Robeson would not be known to music lovers the world over, and so one might go on indefinitely. Lawyers, clergymen, doctors, actors, writers, men of colour in many walks have risen to eminence by means of that bloodstained stepping stone, the slaver, but few Otago people know that one of that grim fraternity ended its days in our own peaceful harbour. —Adam F. Ool. -Cromwell Argus, 3/6/1935.
"Adam F. Ool" may easily ask "Was her work all bad?" His justification for slavery may have been whimsical at the time - these days it seems obnoxious. A century of Otago Harbour water might have little effect in washing out those "sin-soaked timbers."
OLD SLAVE SHIP
REMAINS IN OTAGO HARBOUR
REVIVAL OF POPULAR THEORY
Many and varied are the stories winch have been woven around the adventures of a ship whose bones lie bleaching in a bend of Otago Harbour near Port Chalmers. Tales that the ship was a slaver in her heyday have persisted over the years, and periodically they are revived. In Wednesday night's 'Star' appeared a letter seeking information for a lady who is writing a book about Otago, the writer suggesting that the remains were those of an old slave boat.
Certainly the belief that the ship had been a slaver was, and is, held by many who take an interest in ships, and there is some evidence to support their view, for after she was dismantled at Port Chalmers hundreds of wrist and ankle shackles were found in her hold. Several of these may be seen to-day in the Otago Settlers' Museum. On the other hand, there are those who claimed that most ships of the period carried such shackles and used them occasionally to enforce discipline among unruly members of a crew.
It was as the Rosalia, a full-rigged ship, that the vessel whose remains are the subject of discussion arrived in Otago Harbour on November 22, 1874, but she had formerly been the Don Juan. A search of the 'Star' files confirms that the Rosalia arrived here on the above date. She was in a leaky condition, and appeared to be severely strained. It is recorded that she left Puget Sound on July 31 with, a cargo of timber for Dunedin. Before she got clear of the sound the crew refused to go with her, and she was run back and surveyed. She sailed again on August 4. A leak developed after the Rosalia had encountered heavy weather, and the pumps were kept working. She eventually put in to Napier, where a steam engine was taken aboard to work the pumps on the way to Dunedin.
'White Wings,' the interesting work by the late Sir Henry Brett, has some reference to the Don Juan. "The most grim part of her history," says the writer, "concerns her reputation as a slaver between the West African coast and the West Indies before she adopted more respectable ways of making a living, and, although very little is known about this period of her life, strong colour is lent to the story by the fact that when she was dismantled at Port Chalmers after being condemned as unseaworthy the workmen found in her after-hold several hundred pairs of wrist and ankle shackles such as might be used for putting on the unfortunate slaves. These grisly relics of her nefarious trade were eagerly sought after by souvenir hunters." In a letter to the 'Star' some years ago a Port Chalmers resident wrote of the reputation of the Don Juan as a slaver, and said: "When she was broken up we had some uprights or beams which were used as fencing posts, and heavy staples were driven into them with iron rings attached to the staples. Undoubtedly the poor wretched blacks were chained to these." In a letter received this morning another correspondent of the 'Star' who followed the sea in his day and one of whose hobbies is to keep a record of ships that have visited Otago writes to say that the Don Juan was originally employed in the navy of one of the South American republics, and arrived in Dunedin in November, 1874, under the name Rosalia. Purchased by the Dunedin firm of Messrs Guthrie and Larnach, the ship arrived here under the command of Captain Veale with a cargo of timber from Puget Sound. Her condition on arrival was such that she was condemned by survey for service at sea again. Later she was used by the Union Steam Ship Company as a store ship until she was finally broken up at Deborah Bay, where her remains are now to be seen.
At one period of her career, says our correspondent, it is thought that the Don Juan was used in the West African slave trade, but there were no records which proved that such was the case. The fact that shackles were found in her hold when she was being broken up certainly added evidence to this belief, but, on the other hand, it had to be remembered that wrist and ankle shackles were to be found on almost all naval vessels of that period, resort to their use being a popular means of enforcing discipline. -Evening Star, 5/3/1943.
And there ends my story of the "Don Juan," aka "Rosalia." Who knows - perhaps some day will emerge some records to shed more light on the history of the collection of wood and iron to be seen breaking the surface at low tide. The slave trade in its later years was a secretive one, abounding in the use of false flags and false papers - new and solid information on the Don Juan would be a surprise indeed.