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Shipwrecks on The Coromandel

An extract from Robin Lee's Mercury Bay Historical Society presentation.

Mercury Bay Historical Society held its annual meeting over a sumptuous roast dinner and special guest speaker, local historian, Robin Lee. Robin’s family have been in Mercury Bay since the 1860’s. All the gatherings of the Historical Society are done in style; the monthly ones being at The Lost Spring with coffee and menus available, Their AGM was hosted by the Mercury Bay Club.

Robin Lee’s subject was Shipwrecks around the Coromandel Peninsula. His audience of well over 50 people all have a interest in local history. Everyone is aware of the wreck of the Buffalo and some of its history and journeys; and that’s where Bull started.

He actually did start off by talking briefly about the Buffalo saying, “It was an accident that did not need to happen. It was 120 feet long, 30 feet wide and 15 feet deep but it didn’t need 15 feet of water to float. It could manage in seven feet of water.”

Bill added that The Buffalo was built in India and originally called, Industan.

This is simply a small part of Robin’s very interesting account of ships that came to grief near Mercury Bay.

1849 - The Albert, was going to Sydney and came to grief in much the same way as The Buffalo.

1869 - The Roseanne went off her navigated path and went ashore near Whangapoua. “There are pieces of the wreckage still there,” says Bill.

1866 - Annie Bow a Timaru based snip suffered running aground on the Tairua Bar and eventually broke up.

1865 - The Star - this ship just had bad luck after bad luck. It was carrying a load of wool to England but storm after storm kept her pace slow and off- course. Finally, it came through Cook Strait and was 240kms off the coast of the Chathams when a fire broke out in her wool shipment. The fire was deep in the shipment and could not be put out. The captain tried to get her back to Lyttleton but was blown north by strong winds. The crew sighted Cape Runaway and a decision had to be made. They had lost two lifeboats in the storms and two remained. So 77 people with the Captain were packed into the two lifeboats to get ashore at Cape Runaway visible from their current position. (Sadly, they were never heard of again.)

The ship with Chief Officer and fire still going, went on towards the Alderman Islands. Now, they were in a bad way and planned to run the ship ashore on Great Mercury Island. They sent up a rocket and a ship called The Dauntless on its way to Auckland from England, came to their rescue. The Chief Officer did not want to lose the ship, but he had no choice. Just 15 minutes after leaving The Star, her main sails crashed onto the deck and in less than an hour, she sank, two miles north of Great Mercury Island.

1882 - Elizabeth Kurie came to grief on the Whangapoua bar.

Caption: Robin Lee holds up the map illustrating the whereabouts and dates of the many shipwrecks around The Coromandel Coast.


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