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WRECK OF H.M. s.s. 'ORPHEUS'.

Yesterday we published a- report of the loss of 11. M. s.s. ' Orpheus,' 21 guns, carrying the broad pennant of Commodore Burnett, C.8., at the Marmkau bar. As we anticipated, some errors crept into our report, and these we now proceed to rectify. The number ou board was given at 275 souls, and of the saved G9 souls. We have since learned that the total was 256 officers, men, and boys, of whom G9 were saved, making the actual loss 187 souls. Of these, seven officers were lost from the gun room, ten from the ward room, five from the engineers' mess, one warrant officer, and tho Commodore. The names of the officers who lost their lives and those who were rescued were accurately given by us, so far as the list went. We mentioned the surgeon as among the drowned, but omitted his name as wo could not learn it ; but it turns out that Dr. Clarkson, formerly of H.M. s.s. ' Fawn ' was the surgeon in charge. The assistant surgeon was not drowned, as our contemporary stated, having been left behind in Sydney, being too ill to come on the cruise. The chief engineer was likewise mentioned as lost ; yesterday we ascertained that his name was Mr. W. Stephens. We regret we must add to the list of drowned Mr. Gossage, engineer's assistant, who came on board the ' Orpheus,' with the view of joining tho { Miranda ' at Auckland. The following were saved :: — • Lieutenant Hill Lieutenant Yonge Mr. Ampiilett, Paymaster Mb. Fuilmno, Midshipman Mu. Hunt, „ Mn. Bvhkiy, „ Mr. Beer, Carpenter Mr. Mason, Boatswain Stokehs .. . . 5 MvHINER 1 Drummer .. „1 Pi:rry Omecits 12 Men 35 Boys 7 Making in all a total of G!) officers and men. Of the total number of men saved 33 were picked up by the boats, and the remainder were the boats' crews. Fiom inquiries we learn that the ' Orpheus ' left Sj'dney at half-past four on the morning of the 31st January for this station, and that the Manukau heads were sighted on the morning of Saturday, February 7th. The A'essel had beeu under sail up till noon. She was steering an east comse till her bearings were taken, when she was steered N.E. by East, keeping the Nine Pin rock on -with Paratutai, in accordance with Drary's directions. At about 1.20 p.m., she touched astern ; but it was of no consequence. Steam had been got up before this, simply as an auxiliary, and to keep the full command of the vessel, but the wind was sufficient to carry her in, and she proceeded for about ten minutes without anything particular occuning. She then got among the breakers, and stuck fast by the head. The Commodore gave the order "full speed astern" when she touched, but tho vessel had too much way on her, and the screw, if it acted, was powerless. She could not have been going at less than eight knots an hour, under all plain sail and weather foretop-mast studding sail. The wind was then ou the starboard quarter. When she struck the second time, she broached too. The men were aloft at the sails, and the topsails were lowered, the other stils being clewed up. The forctopmast stay s vil was retained to keep her steady. Rome of the weather guns were hove over to lighten her, as was also shot and other heavy matters, but all to no purpose. The noble ship was firmly grounded, the sea soon making clear breaches over her. The situation was now most critical, but it was not then apprehended that the terrible calamity which overtook the officers and men of the ' Orpheus ' would ensue. She struck at half-past one — mid-day ; the weather was fine, and being in sight of the pilot station which had signalled her, there was the likelihood of a message being communicated to the ' Harrier,' which was in the Manukau, and relief being sent to them. So long as the ship held together, all would be well. But unhappily events did not happen as they might have happened. No message was communicated to the ' Harrier,' and no boats were launched for their assistance. The signal "take the bar" was observed on board the ' Orpheus ' as early as 11.30 a.m., and the vessel was kept in-shore in consequence, and in conformity with Captain Drury's sailing directions, and those by Mr. Veitch, master of H.M. s.s. 'Niger.' After she had touched the first time, and when among the breakers, immediately before touching the second time, the danger signal was hoisted ; but it was too late. In a few seconds the ' Orpheus ' strnck, and one of the finest fiigates in her Majesty's navy was totally lost. We understand that "the person in charge at the flagstaff, in the absence of Captain Wing, who was on board the ' Wonga Wonga mail steamer, did not exhibit the danger signal until the very late period indicated, imagining that the ' Orpheus ' was a vessel for tho North, skirting the reef; but when he saw that she was actually making an entrance across the bank he signalled the d.anger. The order to keep her to port was given, by the master, when the danger signal was hoisted at the flagstaff. The ship stuck fast on the western end of the Middle Bank, which has shifted full three-quarters of a mile since Captain Drury's sailing directions were published. At the time she struck the Commodore and Master were on the bridge, and orders for steering were given by the Master through the second quarter-master, who repeated them to the quarter-master engaged steering. Shortly after she struck and broached to, tho second cutter was stove in on the davits. A man fell overboard forward, and a life buoy was thrown to him, but this he failed to reach, and he was drowned. The life-buoy was broken up by the violence of the waves. The Commodore, about this time, ordered the first cutter to bo manned, and Mr. Fielding, midshipman, and a crew of eight men were put on board, to go ahead of the ship. About half-an-hour after the ship broached to the order " boats out " was given ; and the pinnace was the first launched. She was in charge of Lieut. Hill and Mr. Paymaster Amphlett, with instructions to pull ashore for assistance, especially to procure whale boats. Mr.Amphlett was sent in the pirinace with Lieut. Hill, because he knew the place, .and was most likely readily to obtain tho requisite help. The launch was then got out, Lieut. Jekyl in charge, with a crew of thirty hands. She was made fast, bow and stern, but unfortunately the hawser was twice let go abaft, and on the second occasion sho forged ahead and swamped, drowning the Lieut, in charge, the boat's crew, and eight men who had jumped in, all but three men, It was now nearly five o'clock, and no appearance of succour. The pinnace and first cutter were out ; the launch had been swamped, and nearly forty men met a watery grave. The.

evening was setting in, and although the weather was fine the wind was freshening. Owing to the heavy seas which now broke freely over her, it was impossible longer to remain on deck, and the men had permission, if they chose, to save themselves by swiming. The rigging was almost instantly maimed, and a sharp look-out was kept for a steamer or other vessel coming to their relief, but this was in vain. The 'Wonga Wonga,' which left the Bluff at about half-past twelve, had been seen from the wreck steaming down harbour at 1.40 p.m., but she made no sign of coming to the relief of the sufferers, if her commander know what had happened. Sho was seen to go out by the South Channel, and make as if for sea, then turn and come up round the bank, in a line with the wreck, where j she remained for some little time ; and afterwaids steamed round the bar, talcing the South Channel, and making as if for Onehunga. As might be expected tins was torturing to the poor fellows, clinging for life to the rigging, who looked in vain to her for help. _It will be recollected that the pinnace, with Lieut. Hill and Mr. Amphlett on board, was sent to the shore to procure assistance. When at the Orwell bank the pinnace met Captain Wing in his boat going out to their assistance ; that was shortly after four. The pilot pulled off to go to the ' Wonga Wonga,' which he reached about five o'clock. She was hailed with difficulty, being then far inside the heads ; took the pinnace in tow, and made for the wreck. Mr. Amphlett proceeded in the whaleboat to report the casualty to the ' Harrier,' which he (succeeded in doing about ten o'clock, the tide being against him. The ' Wonga Wonga,' with the boats in tow, made the wreck about seven o'clock, p.m. The pinnace came within a few yards of the jibboom end, and men jumped off and swam to it and were picked up. Others were drowned in the attempt. The 'Wonga Wonga,' still with the boats in tow, steamed off to nearly a mile distant, and anchored for the night. Up to that time, however, except the men who were drowned in the launch, and one man who fell overboard, together with a few who perished in the attempt to reach the boat, no lives were lost. The stern posts and port bulwarks had been long gone, but the decks and spars were standing good. It was flood tide, however, and things were becoming more and mpre critical. No help, that we can learn, was rendered by the ' Wonga Wonga,' beyond what we have stated, and affording shelter to such men as were picked up by the boats, and put on board of her. At about eight o'clock the guns broke loose, and the deck began breaking up. The crisis was at hand. In another halfhour the maimna&t went, carrying with it the foretopmast, and hurrying to an untimely end Commander Burton, Lieut. Mudgc, Mr. Strong master, Mr. Broughton, midshipman, and about fifty of the men. Mr. Hunt, midshipman, was almost miraculously saved, having been washed away from the foretop and, afterwards supported himself on a capstan bar for several miles floating in shore. lie was picked up by the first cutter, along with Mr. Barkly, midshipman, and a man named Hall. This boat's party was taken on shore to the pilot station. The fate of Commander Burton, as we have been told, was most tragic. He was in the foretop when it went ■nith the main-mast, and his head -was caught between the shrouds, as the ship lurched, killing him instantly. The mizen-mast went shoitly after the main-mast. Commodore Burnett Avas between the top and futtock riggftig of the main-mast. The top fell upon him and stunned him, and he went over-board He lose at once, but immediately sunk without making an effort to save himself. An affecting incident occurred when the mainmast went, hurling its living incumbrance into the water. The men, as they fell, with one voice, hailed the ' Wonga Wonga,' which rode at anchor within sight. It was a ciy for help ; a thiilling appeal to the best sympathies of man's native, and not a cheer as is ciurcntly stated. The men died like brave men, as they were ; but there was nothing of bravo in this final scene of the acted drama of their lives. The surviving men, who clung to the fore and mizen rigging echoed the death cry of their companions, and in a few minutes most of them slept, with their fellows, the still sleep of death. The boats, as we have said, managed to pick up thiity-three men; one was picked up next morning by the ' Matilda,' schooner, floating on a spar inside Poponga, many hours after the wreck. The loss of life was fearful. The vessel has entirely disapj^eared. Our readers are already aware of the particulars connected with the dispatch of the ' Avon ' and ' Hsimer ' to the scene of the wreck ; and we need not repeat them. We should add that Dr. Neadles, of Onehunga, went down in the ' Avon ' on Sunday morning, to see if he could render any assistance. Up to 4.30 p.m., yesterday, there had been no communication nor boat up from the wreck. The little steamer ' Avon ' left for the Heads at 1 1 a.m., yesterday, to render assistance in disposing of any of the bodies that might be found. As we have a reporter on board, on her return we hope to give a detailed narrative of the proceedings.

And now a word about the pilot station, and other matters connected therewith. A life-boat has been lying there useless for several years, without a crew to man her ; and when Mr. Wing was asked by one of the officers of the ' Orpheus ' if she was available, he was told that twelve men, in two days, might succeed in launching her, or words to that effect. No message was sent to the ' Harrier,' although the 'Orpheus' went ashore at halfpast one, and did not begin to break up until near eight o'clock. The reason was that Captain Wing, the pilot, and his Maori creWj were on board the ' Wonga Wonga,' and there was no one to send. We do think these are points deserving of serious consideration, for it is manifest that many valuable lives would have been saved if the ' Harrier ' had been communicated with early on Saturday. We shall express no opinion regarding the part the ' Wonga Wonga took until we see her master's statement. It does seem, however, to us that immediate steps should be taken to make the Manukau as safe a harbour as possible. For this purpose the life-boat must be efficiently equipped, and a regular semaphore telegraph established to communicate any shipping disaster to the town, and vessels in the harbour, as soon as they occur, and so render a calamity like the loss of life in the ' Orpheus ' impossible. We believe his honor the Superintendent, shortly after he took office, ordered the buoys from Sydney, for which the General Assembly had made an appropriation of £600, and they will be ready to buoy the south channel in about a couple of months. These alterations will necessitate considerable expense, but it is far better that this cost should be gone to than that ono life should be lost* The Manukau harbour is already a loss to the

revenue, but the loss must be increased to make the harbour safe. We should state, iv conclusion, that those who survived the shipwreck, and who were put ashore at the flagstaff, speak in the highest terms of the kindness they received from Captain Wing's family. The Maoris at the station also behaved remarkably well. Two men who wore picked up in the pinnace, — Butler, quartermaster of the 'Harrier,' and Johnston, captain of the niizen-top of the ' Orpheus,' distinguished themselves in saving life after their own rescue. Lieut. Hill did all that man could do with his means to rescue the men from drowning. Twenty-five of the men volunteered to the i ' Harrier,' and have been sent out to Onehunga ; the same number have volunteered for the ' Miranda,' and the remaining men and officers go home to England.

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Bibliographic details

WRECK OF H.M. s.s. 'ORPHEUS'., Daily Southern Cross, Volume XIX, Issue 1735, 10 February 1863

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2,572

WRECK OF H.M. s.s. 'ORPHEUS'. Daily Southern Cross, Volume XIX, Issue 1735, 10 February 1863

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