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RANGATIRA STRIKES OBJECT OFF WELLINGTON HEADS

Mishap in Blinding Southerly Gale

ALL 600 PASSENGERS SAFE

Vessel Badly Holed But Reaches Port Under Own Steam

irr.ESS KSBQCIA.TIQM TELEGRAM.)

WELLINGTON, February 2 In a blinding southerly gale this morning the steamer express Rangatira, bound for Wellington from Lyttelton, struck , a submerged object off Wellington heads and was badly holed. The 609 passengers on board were immediately ordered to put on lifebelts and assemble on deck, which they did without panic. It was not necessary to launch the lifeboats. The ship struck at 6.10 a.m. Fifteen minutes later she backed off and, badly down by the bow, entered the harbour stern first under her own steam. Passengers desiring breakfast were served in the saloon.

After a three-hour journey from the heads, with three tugs standing: by, the Rangatira was berthed at Clyde quay wharf. Her forefoot stirred up the mud alongside the wharf. She appeared to be aground forward. The foredeck was only a little above the wharf and her cruiser stern was out of the water. The blades of the propellers threshed above the surface.

Aboard was plain evidence of damage. The forward part of the ship, including the foreholds, was flooded, but bulkheads kept the passengers' quarters fairly clear of water. Beyond saying that at 6 o'clock, when the ship struck, the weather was very thick and squalls made visibility low, Captain W. D. Cameron, master of the vessel, declined to make any statement.

The generaL manager oi the Union Steam Ship Company, Mr J. W. Mathewson, made the following statement:—

"About 6 a.m. the Rangatira, on th: way from Lyttelton to Wellington, struck some submerged object off Wellington heads. As a precaution the passengers were ordered to put on lifebelts. It was afterwards found that this was unnecessary, and they were sent down for breakfast. The vessel appears to be extensively damaged, but until she has been docked for examination no indication can be given of th? exact condition. The Maori will take over the running on Monday night."

The pumps were going all to-day, but in the evening the ship had not lifted appreciably. To-morrow morning a diver will inspect the bows.

At the Wharf The Rangatira finally came alongside Clyde quay whajcf at 9.20 a.m., and a few minutes later a gangway was run aboard from the wharf. A crowd of several hundred was by this time huddled in the * driving rain and wind on the wharf, anxiously seeking the faces of relatives and friends. The normal crowd which greets the arrival of the inter-island steamer express had been considerably augmented, as of the mishap to the Rangatira spread during the morning. The passengers, who by this time had discarded their lifebelts, lined the decks and as the .ship touched the wharf a cheer went up among them. It was as much a tribute to the feat of seamanship of the master, officers, and crew of the Rangatira and the Harbour Board tugs in bringing the vessel alongside in the face of an off-shore gale which was raging, as a spontaneous expression of relief at the knowledge that at last all danger,was over. Half an hour later the majority of the passengers were ashore. They presented a grim and dishevelled spectacle as, laden with luggage, they fought their way down the gang"way and across the wharf in the leeth of the wind and rain.

Fathers and mothers eagerly sought out their children, children their parents, and wives and husbands each other. There were many touching and some humorous wharfside scenes.

Constable's Kindly Act A policeman went to the rescue of ti mother struggling down the gangway with a very young baby in her' arms, and took it to shelter from the rain while the mother got ashore He was a very tall man. even for a policeman, and was a conspicuous figure holding the baby tenderly in his arms.

The weather made disembarkation very unpleasant but it was on the whole a crowd which cheerfully made the best of things which trooped ashore. One man who had not taken kindly to the adventure raised a laugh. On the wharf, once well clear of the badly listing vessel, he turned to shake a fist at the Kangatira, and mutter an imprecation. Just then the wind blew open his overcoat, to disclose to the crowd a ship's lifebelt. It must be said, however, that his type was the exception.

The stewards remarked that there was remarkably little sign of panic as the passengei :, in the carlv morning hours, were ordered to the boat deck and issued with lifebelts A larger number o.f children than usual were among the Rangatira's passengers going home for the reopening of the schools this week In their eagerness to greet relatives and friends some attempted to make their way up the gangwav as the passengers came down, and kept eager-eyed gangway officials busy A large fleet of taxis reaped a harvest, and by 10 o'clock most of the passengers who were not waiting for luggage had left the ship.

A BUGGED COAST

PREVIOUS MISHAPS NEAR WELLINGTON

THE PENGUIN DISASTER

The rugged coastline near the entrance to Port Nicholson has been the scene of several previous mishaps. Many years ago the Mararoa, bound for Wellington from Lyttelton, grounded in a litle bay near Baring Head, without, however, being much damaged. The most serious disaster to a passenger vessel near Wellington was when the Penguin, 824 tons, struck near Tom's Rock, south of Cape Terawhiti, on February 12, 1909. She sank with the loss of many lives. One of the earliest recorded wrecks near. Wellington was that of the paddle-steamer, City of Dunedin, 327 tons, Captain Boyd. This steamer left Wellington on May 10, 1865, with passengers and cargo for Nelson and the West Coast. it was very heavy weather and two days later wreckage found at Cape Terawhiti showed that the City of Dunedin had evidently struck one of the many rocks running out irom the cape, and foundered. On November a, 1883, the barque Caberteidh grounded on Barrett's Reef, at the entrance to Wellington harbour, but was refloated. The largest vessel to be wrecked near Wellington was the steamer Devon, 6059 tons. This vessel, from Montreal via Auckland, was, on the night of August 25, 1913, seeking the entrance in a heavy south-westerly storm when she went ashore at Pencarrow Head right beneath the lighthouse. JMext morning all the crew were taken ashore oy means of a breeches-buoy but the Devon became a total loss By a coincidence, five members of the crew signed on the steamer Tyrone which rive weeks later was wrecked at Wahine Point, near Otago Heads and they were again rescued by means of a breeches-buoy. In recent years the small steamer Progress was wrecked at Island Bay with the loss of several lives. The latest mishap was to the American steamer Golden Harvest, which outward bound from Wellington ior Melbourne on ths> night of May 30, 1933 grounded on one of the rocks of Barrett s Reef. She was refloated and repaired.

MAORI TO ENTER SERVICE

LATE DEPARTURE FROM LYTTELTON TO-MORROW

It will be necessary lor the Maori, which is to take up the running of the Rangatira, to be cleaned before she will be able tc attain the necessarv speed to keep to 'the time-table, and this cannot be done at Wellington, where the dock will be occupied by the damaged vessel.

The Maori will therefore leave Wellington this evening, arriving at Lyttelton to-morrow morning. She will be decked at 11 a.m., the tide preventing docking before that hour, and she will not-leave the dock until 10 30 p.m. She will sail for Wellington at 11 P.m. The vessel will not take cargo for Wellington. Passengers are advised not to go to LyHelton by either the 7.10 or the 7 37 ram. as the vessel will not then be'at the wharf. A special train will leave Lhristehurch station shortly after 10

PASSENGERS' STORIES

NO SIGN OF PANIC

OFFICERS PRAISED FOR CALM BEHAVIOUR

DISCOMFORTS OF COLD AND RAIN

irBESS ASSOCIATION TELTG&AIL

WELLINGTON. February 2. Passengers on the Rangatira wer« unanimous in declaring that there was no sign of any panic when the vessel struck this morning. One man, describing his experience, said: "It was all rather upsetting, and some of the passengers were plainly disturbed, mainly because they did not know exactly what had happened, and did not know what was likely to happen next: but ail did pretty well what they were told, and kept quite calm about the whole business." He said that only the order to put on lifebelts caused uneasiness. This order was inevitable and necessary, but it caused some passengers to assume the impression that what was only a sensible precaution was actually an indication that they were in a parlous position.

"Everyone must applaud the officers for the very sensible way they went about breaking the news to passengers, and the calm manner in which they insisted on the taking of precautions/' another passenger said. "They tried'to look and act and talk as though it was all just an incident, and the officers were particularly reassuring, especially when the passengers were standing in the vestibule just doing nothing but wondering and perhaps worrying, and waiting for something to turn up."

Conflicting Stories Describing what actually happened to the vessel when she struck, one man said there was a pronounced "bump.V which could be "felt all over the ship." and others that there was a "crash." which could be "heard all over the ship." One, however, described the feeling as "just as though she was gliding on to a sand bank, sticking there for a bit, and then moving off," and a woman declared "she went bump, bump, bump, just like a car going along the road with a flat tyre.'" Many of the passengers were asleep at the time. Many were still in their bunks, though awake. Some v« dressing, some had dressed, and were in the bathrooms. "I was shaving," one man said. "She gave sock a lurch that it nearly threw me down. It seemed to me like a train suddenly and unexpectedly stopping." Another man, who was also engaged in his toilet, gained different impressions, for he said the feeling was that of a vessel stopping, though not with a jerk, and he was not disturbed till a steward came to tell everybody to nut on lifebelts. "

A young woman who was in her cabin her hair said that she ielt the ship strike something, but the bump was not very severe. She had no idea there had been anything likelv to cause precautions to be taken till a stewardess came and told those in the cabin to put on their lifebelts. "She told us to dress and put on our lifebelts, and to go up on deck," she said "She seemed somewhat disturbed and said we had struck a rock. Later a steward came and told us to take our valuables. From my point of view the most unsettling part of it all was that the ship took a list, and it did not seem comforting to be standing in a cabin trying to put on clothes when there was a pronounced lean on the whole place, and you did not know what was going on or what was likely to happen. We could not find out from anyone what had happened, or what was likely to happen. The officers 'and stewards just told us not to worry. Mothers Worried "Some of the women became a little upset, and one in my cabin said it was time to pray. Others were worrying about their children, but everybody took it extraordinarily well, especially the women, and there was no sign of any rushing for the boats or anything like that. Although we had all been told to dress, many of the women went on deck in night clothes, with only overcoats on top, and many children +I 6re u m Pajamas, with bare feet. In the high wind and heavy rain it was bitterly cold, and very miserable on the boat deck, though there was shelter above part of it." Several passengers observed that putting on lifebelts was not easv "The things are all string and hole's." one man said. "You get your arms in where your head ought to be. in the rush.

Another man said he had alwavs regarded the notices placed in prominent places about the procedure to be followed in the case of emergencv with a certain amount of detached interest. "I have read that thing time and time again." he remarked, "and >et to-day. when it was necessarv. I never thought of reading the instructions about what to do or where to go "

racked her Luggage A young woman described how she helped an elderly passenger in her cabin on with her lifebelt and up to the companionway. She, however, packed her luggage before leaving her cabin. "We all went up on the boat deck, everybody with their lifebelt; on, and stood about for some time, when they asked us all to go down to the vestibule." she said. "After the ship had started moving again, it began to roll, and attacks of seasickness seemed to come over nearlv everyone. Poor women and children "evervwhere became distressingly ill. and stewardesses were moving about with strawberry boxes in stacks six or eight high, distributing them to passengers Some of the women did not seem to want to leave the boat deck, and they stayed up there for some time, comm* aown looking like drowned rats. After about an hour or so in the vestibule women and children were sitting about, some in night attire, and manv of them looked verv wet and cold, and some of them distinctlv ill. '■pfficers were moving "about with their lifebelts on. comforting evenbody, but some of the women who had not dressed did not seem to want to go below and dress. Manv of the men passengers were helpful, "too." Another woman explained that she was ill in her bunk when she felt a bump, and then the ship went astern. She was feeling rather indifferent to what went on around her. but a steward came to say that she was wanted on deck. A steward helped her put on a lifebelt, and she v.cs among t.w last to arrive on dec':. Mothers with children vv:v quietest of the m.mv of whom appeared verv cold b-.-uuse >' the scantiness vi \hAc c'.o\r ;-. AP-:t the passengers had been in <}y- vs".bule for some timr* >i l -. ■;;,-<.:- a>nounccd that '.rvi:;.":;-' \ . ,v.<\i ctf ~ ; trvcd in tile dining .-aluon.

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/CHP19360203.2.68

Bibliographic details

RANGATIRA STRIKES OBJECT OFF WELLINGTON HEADS, Press, Volume LXXII, Issue 21697, 3 February 1936

Word Count
2,453

RANGATIRA STRIKES OBJECT OFF WELLINGTON HEADS Press, Volume LXXII, Issue 21697, 3 February 1936

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