Terra Nova part 2

Captain Scott had re-joined his ship at Cape Town for the voyage to Australia but, as the expedition was always short of money, public speaking and fund raising took priority. Second-in-Command, Lieutenant “Teddy” Evans continues….

Scott left us again at Melbourne and embarked on yet another begging campaign, whilst I took the ship on to Lyttelton, where the Terra Nova was dry-docked with a view to stopping the leak in her bows. The decks, which after her long voyage let water through sadly, were caulked, and barnacles six inches long were taken from her bottom and sides.

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Lyttelton dry dock with the mail steamer Aorangi** taking up much more room than Terra Nova would have. Photo by Burton Brothers of Dunedin from the Te Papa collection.

Whilst in New Zealand all the stores were landed, sorted out and restowed. On a piece of waste ground close to the wharves at Lyttelton the huts were erected in skeleton in order to make certain that no hitch would occur when they were put up at our Antarctic base.

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Instruments were adjusted, the ice-house re-insulated and prepared to receive the 150 frozen sheep and ten bullocks which were presented to us by New Zealand farmers. Stables were erected under the forecastle and on the upper deck of the Terra Nova, ready for the reception of our ponies, and a thousand and one alterations and improvements made.

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Lawrence “Titus” Oates taking care of the expedition’s ponies in the forecastle. Neither Oates nor his ponies would return from “The Ice”.

We spent four weeks in Port Lyttelton, four weeks of hard work and perfect happiness. Our prospects looked very rosey in those days, and as each new member joined the Expedition here he was cordially welcomed into the Terra Nova family.

Mr. J. J. Kinsey acted as agent to the Expedition, as he had done for the National Antarctic Expedition of 1901-4, and, indeed, for every Polar enterprise that has used New Zealand for a base.

New Zealanders showed us unbounded hospitality; many of us had visited their shores before and stronger ties than those of friendship bound us to this beautiful country.

We sailed from Lyttelton on November 25 for Port Chalmers, had a tremendous send-off and a great deal of cheering as the ship moved slowly away from the piers. Bands played us out of the harbour and most of the ships flew farewell messages, which we did our best to answer.

Some members went down by train to Dunedin and joined us at Port Chalmers. We filled up here with what coal we could squeeze into our already overloaded ship and left finally for the Great Unknown on November 29, 1910.

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Terra Nova about to leave Port Chalmers.

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Capt. R.F. Scott. 1868-1912.

Lady Scott, Mrs. Wilson, and my own wife came out with us to the Heads and then went on board the Plucky tug after saying good-bye. We were given a rousing send-off by the small craft that accompanied us a few miles on our way, but they turned homeward at last and at 3.30 p.m. we were clear with all good-byes said – personally I had a heart like lead, but, with every one else on board, bent on doing my duty and following Captain Scott to the end.

There was work to be done, however, and the crew were glad of the orders that sent them from one rope to another and gave them the chance to hide their feelings, for there is an aweful feeling of loneliness at this point in the lives of those who sign on the ships of the “South Pole trade” – how glad we were to hide those feelings and make sail – there were some dreadfully flat jokes made with the best of intentions when we watched dear New Zealand fading away as the spring night gently obscured her from our view.
‘South With Scott’, Edward R. G. R. Evans, 1921. (Abridged)

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Terra Nova in the Antarctic. Photo by Herbert Ponting.

** Just over two years later Scott’s wife, Kathleen, was a passenger on the Aorangi, (pictured at top in dry dock). She was on her way to New Zealand to be reunited with her husband. The ship was in mid-Pacific and out of radio range, so she hadn’t heard the news of his death.

From the New Zealand Times of 28th February 1913 – Lady Scott, widow of the late Captain Scott, arrived at Wellington from San Francisco by the Aorangi last evening. She was met by her brother, Lieutenant [Wilfred] Bruce, and came ashore in the Janie Seddon. The Aorangi left Papeete about 6 p.m. on February 18th, and at midnight a wireless message was received from the Talune, which was on her way from Auckland to the islands, and some 500 miles distant, that Captain Scott had perished in a blizzard after reaching the South Pole. Captain Stevens broke the news to Lady Scott next morning at breakfast time.

According to Lady Scott – ‘The poor old chap’s hands were trembling when he said, “I’ve got some news for you, but I don’t see how I can tell you.” I said; “The Expedition?” and he said, “Yes.” “Well,” I said, “let’s have it,” and he showed me the message.’
‘Scott of the Antarctic’, Reginald Pound, 1966.

There was a sad sequel to this episode two months later, with parallels to Kathleen Scott’s personal loss. On 30th April 1913, “poor old” Captain Stevens’ wife, Catherine, died aged 46, in Auckland – while he was on the Aorangi in San Francisco.
There were no headlines. We can only hope he met with a messenger as empathetic as he had been.

Terra Nova

Captain Scott’s Discovery (previous post) wasn’t available for his second, fatal, Antarctic expedition in 1910, forcing him to find the best ship he could afford from a very short list of suitable vessels. He chose the Terra Nova. The expedition’s Second-in-Command, Lieutenant Edward “Teddy” Evans, recalled that – She was the largest and strongest of the old Scotch whalers, had proved herself in the Antarctic pack-ice and acquitted herself magnificently in the Northern ice-fields in whaling and sealing voyages extending over a period of twenty years.

Commander_Evans_5126121136_99388b2868_o-2I shall never forget the day I first visited the Terra Nova in the West India Docks : she looked so small and out of place surrounded by great liners and cargo-carrying ships, but I loved her from the day I saw her, because she was my first command. Poor little ship, she looked so dirty and uncared for and yet her name will be remembered for ever in the story of the sea, which one can hardly say in the case of the stately liners which dwarfed her in the docks.

I often blushed when admirals came down to see our ship, she was so very dirty. To begin with, her hold contained large blubber tanks, the stench of whale oil and seal blubber being overpowering, and the remarks of those who insisted on going all over the ship need not be here set down.

Months of hard work delivered Terra Nova – cleaned, disinfected and refitted – ready to depart from London on 1st June 1910.

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Photo, Canterbury Museum.

What a change from the smudgy little lamp-black craft of last November – so much for paint and polish. All the same it was the Terra Nova’s Indian summer. A close search by the technically expert would have revealed scars of age in the little lady, furrows worn in her sides by grinding ice flows, patches in the sails, strengthening pieces in the cross-trees and sad-looking deadeyes and lanyards which plainly told of a bygone age. But the merchant seamen who watched from the dock side were kind and said nothing.

Terra Nova progressed down the Channel coast to the Welsh port of Cardiff where the crew were “endowed with all good things” and welcomed…..with enthusiasm. Free docking, free coal, defects made good for nothing, an office and staff placed at our disposal, in fact everything was done with an open-hearted generosity.

Overloaded with supplies and coal – the little ship settled deeply in the water and the seams, which had up till now been well above the water-line, leaked in a way that augured a gloomy future for the crew in the nature of pumping. With steam up this did not mean anything much, but under sail alone, unless we could locate the leaky seams, it meant half an hour to an hour’s pumping every watch. We found a very leaky spot in the fore peak, which was mostly made good by cementing.

On 15th June we left the United Kingdom after a rattling good time in Cardiff. Many shore boats and small craft accompanied us down the Bristol Channel as far as Breaksea Light Vessel. We hoisted the Cardiff flag at the fore and the Welsh flag at the mizen – some wag pointed to the flag and asked why we had not a leek* under it, and I felt bound to reply that we had a leak in the fore peak! It was a wonderful send-off and we cheered ourselves hoarse.

Captain Scott remained behind to squeeze out more subscriptions and to complete arrangements with the Central News [agency]…. He also had finally to settle magazine and cinematograph contracts which were to help pay for the Expedition…
[Scott would join the ship later at Cape Town]…. we in the ship were much better off with no cares now beyond the handling of our toy ship and her safe conduct to Lyttelton [New Zealand].

In spite of her deeply-laden condition the Terra Nova breasted each wave in splendid form, lifting her toy bowsprit proudly in the air till she reminded me, with her deck cargo, of a little mother with her child upon her back.
‘South With Scott’, Edward R. G. R. Evans, 1921. (Abridged)

*The Welsh national emblem.

Next post – final preparations in New Zealand.

 

The ties that bind

Another Friday Flashback

Here’s an old maritime tradition you don’t see anymore – coloured streamers from ship to shore when a passenger liner is about to leave her berth.

RMS Edinburgh Castle departing Cape Town, South Africa, in 1971

They’re supposed to have originated as a symbol of ties to family and friends, gathered on the dock to wave goodbye, and the breaking of them as the ship pulled away on its journey to distant lands. A poignant reminder of past times when some of those passengers were emigrants and would never return.

In later years, cruise ships adopted the practice to add to the carnival atmosphere at the start of a cruise but a combination of factors has put a stop to it in the past decade or two – the demise of ocean liners, restricted port access to non-passengers for security reasons, and environmental concerns. Now you can attract a nasty fine for throwing streamers and the rolls appear in museum collections.

The ship pictured here in more carefree days is the R.M.S. Edinburgh Castle (Union-Castle Line) leaving Capetown, South Africa, in the early 1970s. The “Eddie” had her maiden voyage seventy years ago. A you can see, that was in the era before rivets went out of style.

RMS Edinburgh Castle departing Cape Town, South Africa, in 1971

Three conveniently placed dock workers complete the composition as the Edinburgh Castle backs away from her berth.

RMS Edinburgh Castle departing Cape Town, South Africa, in 1971

The white ship in the background is P+O’s Orsova.

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Capetown harbour filtered through the window of a Cessna light aircraft. The “Eddie’s” red funnel can be seen at the dock below. The ship is berthed port side to the dock instead of the more usual starboard.

The R.M.S. Edinburgh Castle was scrapped in 1976.

The Wahine Storm

The storm which led to the drama of 10 April 1968 was born far to the north of New Zealand as a tropical depression. Eventually, on the morning of 10 April, it was to give rise in and around Wellington Harbour to the most severe weather conditions that have ever been instrumentally recorded in New Zealand.

….at about 0610 hours, …. t.e.v. Wahine, …. after an overnight voyage from Lyttelton was entering Wellington Harbour. The wind from SSW had a velocity of about 50 knots. As Pencarrow Head was abeam, or nearly abeam, her radar installation ceased to operate. Shortly thereafter the vessel, which to this point was on a correct course, suddenly sheered to port. At this time the wind, still from SSW, increased greatly, the sea was in a state of great turbulence, visibility was reduced to zero, and Wahine was unresponsive to her helm and became virtually out of control. Her master sought to regain control by use of helm and engines for the next 28 minutes but was unsuccessful. At about 0641 hours the starboard quarter of the vessel struck, or was flung upon, the southern extremity of Barrett Reef where the vessel grounded, and then, and shortly thereafter from further contact with the reef, suffered severe damage to her hull under water whereby sea water entered certain parts of the ship. Upon impact her starboard motor failed, followed within a few minutes by the port motor, whereupon Wahine was without propulsive power.

Wellington harbour, Point Dorset middle distance, Breaker Bay Road foreground.

Wellington Harbour. Follow the ship’s course on this diagram map in a separate window.

Wahine came off the reef, both anchors were dropped, and she dragged her anchors into the eastern entrance to Chaffers Passage, and thence along and close to the western shore north of Point Dorset with her head to the violence of wind and sea. At about 1315 hours the vessel, in the vicinity of Steeple Rock Light, and under the influence of a prematurely outgoing tidal flow, swung with her port side to the wind, and a list to starboard, which had already appeared, increased.

Wahine list

Short, Jack, active 1977. Ship Wahine sinking in Wellington Harbour – Photograph taken by Jack Short. Evening post (Newspaper. 1865-2002) :Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: PAColl-7796-85. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23198846

The order then being given at about 1320 hours to abandon ship all persons aboard left the vessel alive, but of those 734 persons 51 lost their lives thereafter.

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Policeman Ray Ruane holding a young survivor of the Wahine shipwreck. Ref: EP/1968/1574/26a-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22508739

The list increased rapidly from the time abandonment was ordered and at some time after 1400 hours (this time not being precisely fixed) Wahine sank to the seabed, coming to rest upon her starboard side, …. and became a total loss. The top of the front of her bridge was distant 805 feet from Steeple Rock Light….

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Aerial view of Wahine shipwreck with Seatoun in background. Dominion post (Newspaper) :Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post and Dominion newspapers. Ref: EP/1968/1571/25-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23053881

Above text extracted from the Court of Enquiry report, November 1968.

The Wahine, 8,948 gross tons, was a roll-on, roll-off ferry built by Fairfields of Govan, Scotland, for the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand. She was less than two years old at the time of her loss. The wreck was cut up where it lay over the next five years.
The Wellington-Lyttelton ferry service ended in 1976.

Read survivor stories in their own words.

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The inbound Wellington-Picton ferry Kaitaki passing Barrett Reef, February 2009.

Maiden voyage

Titanic

The White Star liner R.M.S. Titanic sailed from Southampton on her maiden voyage 105 years ago today.

This painting, ‘Departure into History’, is by the renowned marine artist Colin Verity (1924 – 2011). It was reproduced on a postcard in 1998 by Marine Art Posters of Hull, England.

A bad week at the office

Postcard of RMS Edinburgh Castle arriving at Capetown.

RMS Edinburgh Castle. Photo: Arthur English Colour Prints (PTY) Ltd.

The R.M.S. Edinburgh Castle (1948 – 1976) was one in a long list of Union-Castle liners that serviced the mail run from England to South Africa for three quarters of the 20th century. We can tell by the angle of the sun in this image, and the choice of berth, that she has just arrived at Cape Town “down coast” from Durban, East London and Port Elizabeth. The doors in her side are already open to receive the gangway and two tugs, unseen on her port side, are pushing her towards the dock. Along with other ‘Castles’ she ran to a regular timetable. Like a bus service. Most of the time.

The message on the back of this card, posted in 1970, reveals that life in a shipping company didn’t always run to plan. Some of the people mentioned here are possibly still alive so I’ll use their initials only.

Dear A.,
We leave Capetown at 4p.m. today. Much delayed arrival yesterday after floods and engine trouble in East London. Its been quite a week for our agents what with a fire on Clan Macinnes, all the mailboats late and someone overboard on the Vaal. Spent the evening with R. H. yesterday. Due to our late arrival N. and I have missed each other but hope to have a quick word with him before we sail. Please excuse writing. I’m standing in Heerengracht [Street, Cape Town] with this balanced on my hand. Regards, R.

Poor ‘R’ was so stressed he didn’t know what month it was. He dated the card 2/7/70 (2nd July) but it should have been 2/9/70 (2nd September). The events he mentions didn’t happen until the last week in August. The Clan Macinnes had a fire in a cargo of charcoal off the S.W. African coast but managed to reach Walvis Bay safely. The now legendary case of ‘man overboard’ happened on 26th August when a male passenger fell from the S.A. Vaal and, against all odds, was rescued 11½ hours later after he was reported missing and the captain retraced the ship’s course.