[BY ELECTRIC TELEGRAPH ]
(from our own correspondent.)
SERIOUS LOSS OF LIFE
WRECK OF THE WAIRARAPA.
DUNEDIN, November 1. The Wairarapa was wrecked on the North end of the Great Barrier Island, on Sunday night, in a thick fog, while coming from Sydney. Captain McIntosh and 134 passengers and crew were drowned. The survivors reached Auckland this morning.
[The above was issued yesterday as an extra.]
Latest. The Wairarapa struck on the north end of Great Barrier and became a total wreck. There was a thick fog and a heavy sea running at the time. One hundred and eleven passengers and 13 of the crew, including Captain McIntosh and chief steward were drowned. Until the vessel struck there was no sign of land. Captain McIntosh believed he was on course. Where the ship struck is known as Miners Head, the northernmost part of Great Barrier. Though there were some terribly heart rendering scenes there was nothing approaching panic. Immediately the vessel struck Captain McIntosh gave orders to launch the boats but owing to list of the ship and heavy seas this became a work of the greatest difficulty. The starboard boats were capsized and a number of the occupants were drowned. Life buoys were thrown into the the sea, and were the means of saving a considerable number enabling them to support themselves until rescued by boats. The majority drowned appear to have made for the steamer’s bridge when the ship struck, and remained there until it was swept away. Captain McIntosh was observed at his post until the last moment, and as the bridge was carried away he was seen it is said to plunge into the sea, but never rose again. A number of passengers sought safety in the fore and main riggings.
So far as is known the Wairarapa had 85 saloon and 70 steerage passengers on board. Among the passengers lost is W. Scoullar, his wife and two daughters, of Jetty-street. Dunedin. Mrs Fyfe, wife of Mr Fyfe, of the firm of Fyfe and Cuming, her child, and Mr George Chick, of Chicks Hotel, Port Chalmers, and brother-in-law to Mr Warry, were also drowned.
The crew drowned were: Captain John McIntosh; chief steward, H. H. Judd; stewards, F. McLean, J. McDonald, and Croucher; stewardess, Mrs C McDonald; assistant stewardess, Miss McQuaid; fore cabin stewardess, Miss L. Greenrood; baker, H. Monaghan; chief cook, H. Year; assistant fore-cabin steward, A. Holmes; firemen and trimmers, Jas. Coope, E. Jones, John McGee, A. Morrill, and Burke; seamen, W. Simpson, John McLeod, C. Pratt, Jas. McDonald (apprentice). ln r ormation has been received that the third officer (H. H. Johnston) and the fourth officer (W. A, Tullock) have been saved, also the assistant purser (R. L. Jones).
The Wairarapa was valued at L30,000, and was wholly uninsured.
The second officer, Mr Clarke, says “It was ten minutes past midnight when the vessel struck. We felt a severe shock which roused everyone on board, and it soon became known that the vessel had run on to rocks. The night was so dark that no land was visible, until the steamer struck; there was a big sea running. The passengers behaved with great coolness. Captain McIntosh was on the bridge when the vessel struck, and at once gave orders to get the boats out. The boats on the port side were quickly got out, and some of the lady passengers were got into them with great difficulty, as the ship had filled with water. A sea was breaking over her and washing people away. We tried to launch the starboard boats, but owing to the heavy list of the vessel and the heavy seas, they were smashed, and the few people who were in them were precipitated into the water. A great many more would have been saved but for the fact that the ship suddenly canted over to port, and the water coming over her at the same time swept the decks, carrying numbers into the sea. She was at such an angle that it was impossible to get up to the high side without crawling on one’s hands and knees. When all the boats were got out, those who were still on the steamer tried to go on to the rigging, but many of them remained on the upper deck to windward of the bridge house, " The sea was continually breaking over the vessel, sweeping the decks. At about 2 o’clock in the morning the funnel was carried away, and somewhere about three or four o’clock the bridge and all those there, including the captain, and those clinging to it, were washed overboard. When daylight came we found that the vessel had struck against a cliff some 600 ft or 700 ft high with no means of easy landing. We saw several dead bodies floating around us, and a few persons still supporting themselves on bits of wreckage, while few others had succeeded in obtaining a landing on the end of rocks. After I had seen all the boats launched I took to rigging. When daylight broke I unrolled the jib halliards and signal hallyards and tried to heave the latter on shore. There were then about 60 people on board in the fore and main rigging and several were clinging to one of the starboard davits. We failed to heave it on shore. Kindall, the second steward volunteered to take the line ashore and succeeded. The jib halliards rope was then hauled on shore and by this means those on board were safely landed by being pulled through the water, with the exception of two who lost their hold and were carried away by the current. They were passengers but I do not know their names. We remained on the rocks until three o’clock on Monday afternoon when several Maoris boats came out and took all except ten to Copperilne Bay, some to Maori Bay, the rest remaining on the wreck until next morning, when they were taken of by Maoris. Some of our people went overland to Port Fitzroy and reported the wreck, the s.s. Argyle coming round and taking us off after having been ou the rocks for about 30 hours. Shortly before the vessel struck the cabin passengers were singing “Shall we gather at the River,” and "Pull for the shore Sailors.” -Dunstan Times, 2/11/1894.
The relatives of a number of those drowned at the wreck have arrived in Auckland with the object of recovering the bodies if possible and taking them to their homes for interment. The work of recovery and identification is being vigorously prosecuted at the Barrier by Sergeant Gamble and a posse of constables, but owing to the infrequent communication with the island the information available respecting the bodies so far recovered is somewhat limited.
Two gentlemen, relatives of some of those drowned, called upon us this morning, and gave us the following particulars to aid those who are engaged in identifying the recovered bodies on the Barrier. Mr J. Fyfe, the husband of Mrs Fyfe, who was drowned together with her child, states: "Upon the vessel striking the reef Mrs Fyfe went on deck with the baby wrapt in a shawl. She was in company with Miss McKellar, one of the survivors. The two hung on to the rail for about four hours, till daylight, when the wave which carried away the bridge also washed them overboard. Miss McKellar was subsequently rescued. While in the water she saw Mrs Fyfe and the baby close to each other and saw them being drowned. Miss McKellar states that she afterwards saw the body of Mrs Fyfe washed on shore. My wife wore a wedding ring and a gold ring set with emeralds and diamonds. The only clothing that she had on was a nightdress. She was of a fair complexion with reddish brown hair and prominent eyes and nose. She was of medium height."
Mr F. Willis, chemist, of Christchurch, was not drowned in the Wairarapa, as supposed. On the very day the vessel left he decided to stay another week, and so came over by the Manapouri.
Mr M. J. Fyfe, of Dunedin, has arrived in Auckland to identify the bodies of his wife and child. When last seen, Mrs Fyfe had her baby in her arms, wrapped in a white woollen shawl, her only clothing being a nightdress. They hung on by the rails, the sea washing continually over them for four hours, when at length a big wave washed them all overboard. -Auckland Star, 9/11/1894.
Fyfe. — Drowned in the Wairarapa, October 28, Alice Mary Fyfe; aged 33 (wife of Maxwell J. Fyfe, Dunedin). Also Freddie; aged one year and eleven months. -Evening Star, 21/11/1894.
Alice and "wee Freddy" are commemorated in Dunedin's Northern Cemetery but do not appear in the online records of Dunedin cemeteries. Sadly, it must be assumed that their bodies were not found.