Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Otago Wrecks and Hulks - The Barque "Delaware" - explosives and yacht club rooms.

A well-known and historic landmark, the powder hulk,which has been moored to the harbour-side near Waverley for nearly 50 years, was completely destroyed by fire yesterday morning, being burnt almost to the water’s edge. 
The Vauxhall Power Boating Club, which had used the hulk as a clubroom, held a smoke concert in the main room on Saturday evening, the last member of the party departing about 0.30 a.m. yesterday, leaving only the owner of the hulk, Mr W. B. Watson, on board.  
Somewhere about 3 o’clock Mr Watson "as awakened by a crackling sound, and on investigating he found that the stem of the vessel was ablaze. He quickly summoned several people living in the vicinity and rang up the fire brigade from a nearby residence. Both the South Dunedin and city brigades were soon on the spot, but the fire by this time had got into the sides of the hulk, which were heavily impregnated with pitch and tar, and the old craft was burning so fiercely that any attempt to extinguish the flame was out of the question. 
In the meantime the neighbours had given all the assistance possible, but on account of the intense heat and the difficulty of access to the hulk they were unable to do more than save the piano and a wireless set which were on board. 
The hulk itself was insured for £200, and the contents were also covered, but the amount could not be ascertained last night. A quantity of gear belonging to the club which was on board was insured for £30.
HISTORY OF THE VESSEL. The hulk, which has been for many years a familiar object of interest to persons who journey to and from the various bays on the eastern shore of Otago Harbour, was originally the threemasted barque Delaware, of 247 tons. She was built in the State of Maine, United States, in 1848, so that 82 years have elapsed since this fine old vessel sailed from an American port on her maiden voyage. She eventually made a voyage to Australia, and traded for some time, about the year 1878, carrying hardwood cargoes between Newcastle and Port Darwin. In the early part of 1879 the vessel was chartered by Captain Fox, and made several voyages from Newcastle to Port Chalmers with coal and timber cargoes. 
The Delaware made her first appearance off Otago Heads on June 30, 1879. She came from Bateman’s Bay and Newcastle, and was towed up to Dunedin on July 14 of that year. This proved to be her last voyage. On August 25 the ship was sold under a distress warrant by order of the Resident Magistrate at Dunedin. The warrant was issued as the result of claims made by the crew for due to a total, amount of £ll0 12s l0d. The Delaware was purchased by the Union Steam Ship Company for £380, and was used as a harbour hulk for two or three years prior to being sold to the Government in June, 1881. 
When the Delaware arrived at Dunedin in July, 1879, she brought a cargo of coal and timber. After being purchased by the Union Company the ship was dismantled at Port Chalmers. When taken over by the Government she was utilised as a store ship for powder, and a number of shipwrights were employed for several weeks in making the necessary alterations below decks. A platform was constructed in her holds that extended almost from stem to stern. This was placed a few feet above the keel, and was so raised for the purpose, of providing dry storage for powder and other explosives. Large square holes were cut at intervals on the port and starboard sides above the water line. These openings were made as a quick means of loading and discharging the explosives. The kegs and packages were passed through these openings or port-holes by men standing on the platform. The openings dispensed with the necessity of providing winches and other gear./ About five weeks were occupied in fitting out the Delaware for her new occupation. She was then towed to moorings at Waverley, where for many years she served the purpose of a powderhulk. 
About four years ago the hulk was taken over by Dr A. Moody and fitted out as a store ship for his launch. Considerable alterations to the interior of the old vessel were effected. One portion was  partitioned off as a bedroom, and the hulk was moored in such a handy position that pleasure craft could come right alongside, where a large opening made in the side amidships and fitted with a stout door gave easy access to the comfortable interior. Another large opening on the side of the hull facing the shore, also amidships, and fitted with double doors, gave access, by way of a length of narrow wharf, to the lower Peninsula road. 
The Delaware was only one of many such vessels that visited the port of Otago in the ’sixties and ’seventies, and while many of them left their bones to rot on these shores, others ended their days in other ports of the world, while some were lost at sea. 
Her planking was Oregon, her hull was well coppered, and altogether she was a very staunch vessel in her day. When in active service she had a large opening, or port, at the bow, and also one at the stern above the waterline. These openings were for the purpose of loading and discharging heavy timber lengths. 
As she lay at Waverley the old hulk, with its oval corrugated iron roof and stout timber sides, gave every appearance of many more years of service, and about two years ago it was purchased by Mr W. B. Watson, who used it as a residence. When the Vauxhall Power Boat Club was formed two seasons ago, Mr Watson gave the club the use of the vessel as a clubhouse, a purpose for which it proved eminently suitable. 
Many happy gatherings of boating men from all over the harbour have since been held in the spacious main room of the old ship, and only recently the club opened negotiations with Mr Watson with a view to acquiring the hulk, which it proposed to renovate and fit up as an up-to-date clubhouse.  -Otago Daily Times, 5/5/1930.
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THE OLD POWDER HULK, once the three-masted barque Delaware, as she lay burning at her moorings at Vauxhall on May 4, 1930.  -Otago Daily Times, 6/6/1946.


The following little story may be read in connection with the recent discussion re Dunedin powder magazine. The commander of a Chilean warship cruising off Callao sent adrift a launch constructed with a false bottom which concealed a quantity of dynamite — about as much, probably, as we keep stored amongst the gunpowder over at Vauxhall. The launch was then filled with fruit — the weight of which compressed a spring — and was allowed to drift like a derelict down upon the enemy's fleet. A ship called the Loa sent a boat\ to secure the prize, hauled it alongside, and commenced to unload the fruit. The spring, relieved from the weight, exploded the dynamite, and the unhappy Loa was literally lifted out of the water and then went with all hands to the bottom. Every house in Callao was shaken to its foundations, and the ships in the harbour tossed to and fro as if by an earthquake wave. This is a practical illustration of what may happen any day or night in Dunedin Upper Harbour. I notice that Mr Dick proposes to shift the dynamite from the powder magazine to what he considers safer quarters in a hulk. I hope, then, that he will move the hulk far enough away — say to the neighbourhood of Port Chalmers. I don't desire to see the spire of the First Church down, and the public, however tired of Messrs Fish, Walter, Barnes, and Co., coul' hardly afford to have them buried be neath the their own clock-tower and bells.  -Otago Witness, 2/10/1880.

WRITTEN TENDERS will be received at this office until noon on Thursday, the 8th February, 1883, for the above contract. They are to be marked on the outside “Tender for Jetty to Powder Hulk Contract,” and addressed to the Hon, the Minister for Public Works, Dunedin, 
Drawings, specifications, and general conditions may be seen at this office. The lowest or any tender not necessarily accepted. 
By command, E. R. USSHER. District Engineer. Public Works Office, Dunedin, 19th January, 1883. 
-Evening Star, 27/1/1883.

LOST. —Will the Party who carried away the Puppy Dog from near the powder hulk on Sunday last be good enough to write to the owner, Robert Elliott, powder magazine, Vauxhall, Anderson’s Bay. 
-Evening Star, 30/9/1896.

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Tuesday, the last day of my holidays, I met Harry at midday, and we took the car to Anderson's Bay, and, continuing on foot, climbed over Vauxhall, and descended on to the Portobello road in the vicinity of Waverley. I have heard the expression "It blew great guns, but on this memorable day it literally "blew yachts" Fact! We could scarcely make headway. Dunedin was completely obliterated by clouds of dust, and imagine our astonishment on turning a lend in the load, to see three men shoulder deep in water endeavouring to float their yacht off the shore, where, from the drifting of her anchor, the gale had swept her. "This is one of the humours of yachting," said Harry, and I have been wondering since, if that is only one of the humours, what the rest are like. Near the Powder Hulk we saw yet another victim of misfortune. A cyclist had had his hat blown just a tantalising distance down the bay, and it soon attained a velocity of knots an hour. Clambering out on the staging of the Powder Hulk, he gallantly grabbed at his floating "cadie," let go his hold, and dived feet foremost into the slime and water below. He looked such a pitiable object, Dot, and he mournfully told us he would not forget that day in a hurry, and his trousers may well have said the same, for they carried an immortal memory of the experience in the shape of mud, tar, paint, grease, etc.  -Otago Witness, 7/2/1906.

It was decided that the board support the petition sent, to the Minister of Internal Affairs to have the powder hulk and magazine at Vauxhall removed as they are a menace to public safety, and in one case prevented the Main road from being widened.   -Otago Daily Times, 29/5/1911.

Somewhere about the same time the chimney of a house in Dowling street, occupied by the Misses Jones, fell and crashed through the lean-to. The mast of the powder hulk at Vauxhall snapped off. A hoarding next the Dominion Chambers in Rattray street went over with a bang.   -Evening Star, 7/12/1911.

"Magazine.” — The hulk that you refer to as the powder magazine, the remnants of which now belong to the Vauxhall Power Boat and Sailing Club, was originally a sailing vessel named the Delaware, built at Maine (U.S.) in 1848. For many years she was in the Newcastle-New Zealand coal trade, and was registered at Dunedin in 1879. She was dismantled at Port Chalmers.  “Fairplay.” Not sufficient address given.   -Evening Star, 2/4/1930.

A particularly heavy agenda paper was expeditiously handled by the Otago Harbour Board at its monthly meeting last night, when there were present Captain Coll McDonald (chairman), Messrs W. Begg, D. Larnach, J. Loudon, I. W. Munro, M.P., D. F. H. Sharpe, T. Scollay, W, G. Love, H. C. Campbell, G. Newey, H. E. Moller, and H. M. Driver. 
HULK AT VAUXHALL. The Vauxhall Power Boat and Sailing Club wrote asking the board to remove the menace of the remains of the powder hulk
The Chairman said an application to build a shed on the hulk had been declined, but the applicant had constructed a shed on the roadside, the position was a difficult one as to responsibility for the removal of the remains of the hulk. 
Mr Munro said the board had resolved to ask the owner to remove the remains.
 The Chairman: Yes. But he did not think any action should be taken at present, as, other than being a little unsightly, the hulk was not causing any damage. 
The board decided to take no action.   -Evening Star, 27/2/1931.

Mr A. N. Haggitt. wrote to the board suggesting that it might see its way to demolish and remove the "bones" of the old powder hulk at Vauxhall. The Chairman said that as soon as labour was available it was intended to demolish the remains of the hulk. The letter was received.   -Evening Star, 17/12/1943.

After a long and chequered career as sailing ship, prison hulk, powder hulk, and finally a private residence, the old landmark at Vauxhall known as the Powder Hulk is to disappear completely. Some years ago the hulk, at that time used as a residence, was destroyed by fire, only a few gaunt ribs remaining protruding from the mud at low water. These proved a menace to the numerous small pleasure craft which frequent that vicinity, and to-day the engineering staff of the Otago Harbour Board commenced their demolition by means of explosive charges  -Evening Star, 26/10/1945.

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