WRECK OF THE S.S. RANGITOTO.
* £" Independent," Augnsfc 1.1 On the arrival of the s.s. Wellington in port yesterday afternoon, the publio learned with regret that the fine screw steamer Rangitoto, belonging to Messrs McMeckan, Blackwood, and Co's line, had become a total wreck. The facts of the oase are very simple, indeed so much so as to increase the feeling of regret that a disaster bo great should arise from apparently a cause so slight. On last, at noon, both the Rangitoto and the Wellington were lying alongside the wharf at Nelson, and as the vessels were getting up steam it became currently reported that there was to be a friendly trial of speed between the two boats. The Rangitoto got under weigh first; but she was very closely followed by the Wellington. Both vessels kept close together for some time, and as the Wellington began to pipe ahead of the Rangitoto, a little friendly chaff was indulged in by some of the Wellington's passengers with those of the Rangitoto. As the Wellington got out of line with her consort, _he gradually increased the distance, .until, at the French Pass, the Wellington had gained about half an hour on her rival. Night was now drawing on, and the last that was seen of the Rangitoto at this time was that she was apparently standing on her course to Wellington, which she was expected to reach about midnight, while the Wellington ran on to Picton. At miduight of Wednesday, sharp, the Wellington left her place alongside the Picton wharf, and every one on board either had turned in or was about to do so, when word was passed that there was a boat ahead burning blue lights, and soaking signals of distress. In a very short time the boat was alongside the Bteamer, and as the last blue light went up. Captain C&rey said the person steering the boat was Mr Nancarrow, inspector of steamers, who had been left on board the Rangitoto. All was now alarm on board of the Wellington, and on getting the boat's crew ou board it was learned that the Rangitoto had struck on Jackson's Head, at the entrance to Queen Charlotte's Sound. No explanation could be given of the cause of the disaster. The deck was in charge of the chief officer, Captain Mackie being below at the time. The shock was so great as to rip open a portion of the vessel's side, and it wus decided at once to beach the vessel. This was done as near as possible to where she struck, at the foot of a cliff several hundred feet high. In fifteen minutes the water had put out the fires in the engine room ; and at this time Mr Nancarrow and his boat's crew left the vessel to seek assistance, knowing that the Wellington would not leave Picton until twelve o'clock. At the time the boat left the Rangitoto all the other boats, three in number, were being got out for the passengers, amongst whom there was an unusually large proportion of women and children. Captain Carey at once turned his vessel full speed ahead for the scene of the wreck ; but it was not until after passing Mana light that any trace was seen of the Kaugitoto's boats. At this point lights were seen in shore, and as Captain Carey judged that the passengers were landed from the boats, he still kept on for Jackson's Head. Caution and halfepecd were now necessary; but as the" stes__-wbistle was kept sounded and bin© lights were bnxned, there was soon an answer. A gun was fired from the wreck, and by the lurid light of the blue fire those on tbe Wellington could see the BwSgitott Uterally jftmmsa Kaioat th« beet*
struck. A boat from the wreck was alongside in a very short time, and a gentleman, whom we afterwards learned was Mr Blackwood, one of the owners of the vessel, hailed for the captain of the Wellington, and asked him how long ho could remain with the wreck. Captain Carey, evidently not knowing Mr Blackwood, answered heartily, "A 9 long as ever I can be of any use to yon." The boat put off again, aud soon returned with a lady, ber husband, and three children—intending settlers in Wellington. From this time until daylight every effort was made by the officers and men of both vessels to save all that could be saved —the English mails, passengers, luggage, aud such cargo as could be got at. At daylight the Wellington Bteamed back to the point where the boats had landed their living freight, aud picked up about sixty persons, principally women and children. Onnearing Marchioness Cove, the scene was a curious one. Tbe passengers were all massed together as the steamer came in-shore, and standing right out in the foreground, as if to be nearest the rescue, stood a lady with her child in ber arms. All were got speedily on board, and the Wellington again steamed back for the wreck. All care and attention were paid to the wants of the Rangitoto's passengers, the whole of the cabin passengers by the Wellington giving up their berths for the use of the ladies and children. On reaching the wreck the scene had changed ; the sea was gradually lapping over the Rangitoto's deck ; but as it was thonght that she might keep afloat for a time till.help could be sent back, it was thought that it would be better to leave a boat's crew with her. The chief officer and seven men were sent off to the wreck ; they got on the deck of the Rangitoto, and the Welliugton was about to Bteam away, when signals of distress were seen from the men on the wreck ; the hull of the Rangitoto was seen to settle down ; the crew leaped into the boat; the mate having to Bwim for it; and in a few seconds a few feet only of the bow of this fine vessel alone remained above water. At this moment the decks Beem to have burst, and tauks, kerosene cases, and a multitude of articles were floating about. Nothing more could now be done, and the Wellington came on to this port. It is matter of congratulation that even a prize pig that was on board has been saved ; and that severe as the money loss must be to the owners, the disaster was not worse. The Rangitoto was over 300 tons burden, 140 horse-power, and was only half insured.
[We are indebted to the kindness of C. F. Mitchell, Esq, M.P.C, for the above interesting account of the circumstances attending the loss of the ss. Rangitoto. |