A rough passage

The rules and regulations of the Passengers’ Act, posted in my last, were all very well in theory, as long as the ship went along smoothly. But when sailing ships met storms, as they invariably did, the daily routine of scrubbing and cleaning went by the board. During one voyage of the Hydaspes to New Zealand in 1869 even the surgeon, Dr. Alexander Fox, was felled by seasickness for several days and the steerage class emigrants, battened down below deck, had to fend for themselves.

Mrs Fox recorded in her journal that, when the clipper was running before a gale –
“The seas were breaking over the ship and about 7.30 p.m. in came a great splash of water which rolled all round the saloon …. The water was so high in our cabin that it came over my goloshes.” Another wave lifted the skylight and more water poured in from above.

“…we had not been long in bed when there was a bang and a burst and a great wave of water came rushing down the saloon and into our cabins and everywhere. The frame of one of the stern windows gave way and the iron shutter bent right in….. Sails and huge beams of wood were quickly brought in and the great leak was patched up…. The same squall that brought in the water carried away the main lower topsail. The three men at the wheel were swept away along the deck. Amid the roar of the wind and the seas and the flapping of the torn sail as loud as cannon shots, we could hear the captain shouting: ‘Cut away! Go on! Make haste!’, which was not at all consoling.”

In the morning, Mrs. Fox was told “how the Irish girls had been praying all night, while others cried. Some of the poor emigrants suffer much from the cold.”

MA_I134417_TePapa_Hove-to

‘Hove to’ by Arthur Briscoe. Te Papa collection (1967-0002-8)

Emigrants were still being transported by sailing ship as late as 1885. Maggie Campbell, writing as ‘Hopeful’ in her book ‘Taken In’, left this memory of the barque Merope when, after seven weeks at sea, the ocean ran “mountains high and the saloon rocked about.” The table rose bodily and the bench seat where the second officer and a passenger were sitting “was quite uprooted, and they were both carried against the wall with a bang, but not hurt.”

“I was terribly frightened, and expected the same fate to happen to our side every moment; the waves came booming down the deck stairs, and it was impossible to keep dinner things on the table such was the lurching of the ship; at times it was horrible, and we felt as if we should be hurled we did not know where. It was impossible to read, or write, or work, and we could only cling to the benches.

In the cabins it was fearful; it was a business to get into bed or undress, or do anything. We were banged here, banged there, and I passed a terrible night, not sleeping a wink, being oppressed with various ills besides the dreadful lurching and swinging of the ship. I had a violent toothache, and – and – a flea! Little terror! to take advantage of one’s painful position in that way – when to light a candle was impossible, so that there was no relief to be found either for tooth or flea. In my despair I vowed no more sea voyages for me except to return to Old England.”
‘Taken In’, by “Hopeful”. W.H. Allen & Co, 1887. Republished by Capper Press, Christchurch, 1974.

Excerpts from Mrs. Fox’s dairy taken from ‘Shaw Savill Line, One hundred years of trading’, Sydney D Waters. Whitcombe and Tombs Ltd. 1961.

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The Edwin Fox

From ‘Shaw Savill Line, One hundred years of trading’, Sydney D Waters. Whitcombe & Tombs, 1961. (Abridged)

[One of] the many remarkable ships owned by Shaw Savill & Co. was the Edwin Fox, whose hulk, now 105 years old, has been lying for many years at Picton, port of Marlborough [New Zealand]. She was built of the best Burma teak-wood in 1853 in Sulkeali, a province of Bengal. She was laid down to the order of the Hon. East India Company, but while still on the stocks was sold to Sir George Edmund Hodgkinson of Cornhill, London.

Edwin Fox 1-2

Originally a full-rigged ship, later a barque, Edwin Fox carried troops to the Crimean War, convicts to Australia, and passengers to India.

The ship continued to trade to India and the Far East until 1873 when she was chartered by Shaw Savill & Co. …. After clearing the Channel she was damaged in a gale in the Bay of Biscay. The crew broached some cases of spirits and became so drunk that the passengers had to man the pumps as the ship was leaking badly. She was towed into Brest and there repaired.

The Edwin Fox was purchased by Shaw Savill & Co. in 1875 and during the next decade she made a yearly voyage out to New Zealand, firmly establishing her reputation as a ‘slowcoach’. …. in 1880 she arrived at Lyttelton with twenty saloon, twelve second-class and seventy-seven steerage passengers, all of whom were full of complaints about their accommodation. In the following year she was 139 days on passage from London to Bluff.

Some years later the rapidly growing frozen meat trade gave new employment to the ship.

Edwin Fox 2-2

In 1885 The Edwin Fox was fitted with refrigerating machinery and, stripped of her rigging but with lower masts still standing, was used as a freezing hulk in various New Zealand ports.

Finally she was towed to Picton under engagement to freeze for the Wairau Freezing Company. In 1899…. she was converted into a coal hulk and loading stage and moored at the foot of the hill on which the freezing works stand. There she lies, a relic of a past era and a never-ending source of interest to sightseers.

Edwin Fox 4-3

The Edwin Fox in Shakespeare Bay, Marlborough Sounds, in 1983.

This story has a happy ending. Twenty-five years after Mr. Waters published his book and three years after these photographs were taken, the hulk of the Edwin Fox was saved from total disintegration. It is now housed in its own covered dry dock on Picton waterfront, only a few minutes walk from the Cook Strait ferry terminal, and is still a never-ending source of interest to sightseers.
Read full details of the ship’s fascinating career on this page from the New Zealand Maritime Museum.

Boulogne-sur-Mer

My last post, about Folkestone on the south coast of England, included a vintage postcard image of the cross-channel steamer Invicta leaving for Boulogne in France, so I’ll follow that today with a few postcards of the ship’s destination.

Boulogne quay

The harbour as you see it here, before the First World War, was completely destroyed by British bombers in the Second, when Boulogne was occupied by German troops.

Boulogne fish quay

Buying fresh fish straight off the boat. The ferries are now gone from Boulogne (and Folkestone) but the rebuilt harbour is still the premier fishing port in France.

Boulogne beach

There isn’t enough room to plant a deck chair on this beach thanks to the bathing machines (ladies changing rooms on wheels) for hire.

B_aurevoir

The caption for this card says the locally owned paddle steamer Au Revoir is arriving even though, at first glance, it looks like it’s leaving. Look closely at the wake and you can see she’s going backwards. It seems that steamers entered Boulogne harbour stern first and reversed to their berths.

B_au revoir 2

The Au Revoir began life in 1896 as the Calais, a night ferry on the Dover to Calais route, before being sold to Boulogne interests in 1911. She was used as an excursion steamer and tender to trans-Atlantic liners for the next three years. Taken over by the French navy in 1914 she served as an auxiliary patrol vessel until torpedoed and sunk, with the loss of three crew, two years later.

Flying to Milford

Friday Flashback

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This is New Zealand’s Queenstown airport in August 1979, ten years before the first jet aircraft arrived. Much of the business then relied on tourist flights in small ‘planes like these. I had something bigger for my flight to Milford Sound

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but not by much. I was lucky enough to get a seat beside the pilot after the Britten-Norman Islander had been refueled at a mobile Mobil station.

Milford flight 1-4

Queenstown is a mountain resort so the views of the Southern Alps are spectacular if you fly there. I don’t know about you but when I’m faced with a magnificent scene like this, with the natural environment stretching away to the horizon in all its awe-inspiring grandeur, I can’t ignore the little voice inside that says …..
“If anything goes wrong with this aircraft, there’s nowhere to land”.

Milford flight 6-2

A view to the left from the cockpit.

MacKinnon Pass

Approaching MacKinnon Pass on the Milford Track. It’s the little snow covered ridge in the foreground. Once over the pass, turn left.

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Fly directly at Sutherland Falls – the highest in the country with a 580 metre (1908 feet) vertical drop – until the cliff face ahead completely fills your windshield then pull up for a glimpse of Lake Quill, flick the ‘plane on a wingtip to execute a 180 degree turn, and continue to Milford Sound.

M_Mitre

Images of Mitre Peak have become something of a tourist cliché but you can’t fail to be impressed when you stand in its presence. It dominates the landscape and demands your attention.

Unfortunately my visit was cut short. I barely had time to fire off a couple of cliché’s and get bitten by the infamous sandflies when the pilot called us back to the aircraft. A nasty weather front was heading our way from the Tasman Sea and it would be best if we got out ahead of it. You should expect this in Fiordland where conditions can change rapidly, especially in winter.

We piled back into the Islander and he flew us to the seaward end of the Sound. It was part of the flight plan we’d already paid for, and maybe he wanted to prove there really was a nasty front out there. And there really was. Dark cloud, rain and, no doubt, turbulence rolling towards us. Time for another one of those 180 degree wingtip turns.

A London Excursion

This undated vintage postcard is part two of an unknown number of cards written as a letter and posted in an envelope.

Regent Street

“2/  Yesterday Will Humphries, another and I went into London – Had a fine ride on the Motor Busses & Electric trams which are very cheap to ride on – we went all the way from Barking to Victoria Station for 6d & from here to Barking for 5d. Last week we had a day at Southend by the sea – it is a great place for picnicers. Crowds go there from London. We have been getting a lot of rain since July – hardly any summer.

We get fairly easy times here, about 20 minutes light exercise each morning & half hours on “Arts & Crafts” at Y.M.C.A. – either basket making, carving, drawing or writing (illuminated etc). I chose the latter, and others if we like we can please ourselves. There are fine Recreation Rooms – Y.M.C.A. & War Contingent Assn. – Miss Mira McNab is helping in the latter!
Please give my kind regards to Mrs & Mr Wensley & family”.

The writer and recipient are a mystery but this fragment may tell us more than just the price of London bus fares. The second paragraph reveals these three men were undergoing rehabilitation at an army hospital in England during the First World War. Assuming the Association is for the New Zealand Contingent (not Australian or Canadian), then we might have an identity for Will Humphries.

The most likely candidate, from a short list of three, is George William Humphries who was a 20 year old farm worker when he enlisted in 1915. He was posted to Egypt first and then to France where he was wounded in the back two months after arrival. Patched up and stabilised in Boulogne, he was transferred to a hospital in Sheffield, England, on 27th June 1916 where he stayed until September. He arrived at Hornchurch convalescent hospital in Essex on 20th.

This fits in with the fact that their route to London approached from the east – “from Barking to Victoria Station” and “from here to Barking” (see map for Hornchurch). Humphries shipped out to New Zealand on 13th November, giving us an approximate date of October 1916 for the postcard.

George William Humphries was discharged from the army on 17th March 1917, unfit for service due to wounds received. He died in Napier in February 1961.

If anyone knows more about Miss Mira McNab, and why she deserved an exclamation point, please leave a comment.

Wakatipu reflections

Friday Flashback to 1979

If you ever get to visit Queenstown in New Zealand’s South Island, you won’t know where to point your camera first. The area is a photographer’s paradise. Lake Wakatipu is a good place to start in any season, whatever the weather.

Lake Wakatipu 4-3

A very cold morning in August 1979. I was grateful for the red boat to inject some warmth into the scene.

The Remarkables make a spectacular backdrop and you won’t have much trouble finding an angle to fit them in. An Australian travel writer once noted that if they were located in a less reserved country they’d be called the Bloody Astoundings.

Lake Wakatipu 1-3

Winter sun disolves the clouds to reveal the jagged face of the Remarkables.

You probably shouldn’t expect to find tranquil urban scenes like this, today, anywhere close to town. It’s safe to say, without linking to boring pages of stats and charts, that Queenstown’s resident population has at least doubled in the past 40 years – and is expected to double again in the next 40, although it’s anybody’s guess where they’re going to live with the area bursting at the seams already. And then you can add the tourists….. These images were made when most of the daytime action was still on the skifields, before Queenstown became the self-styled, year round, all seasons ‘Adventure Capital of the World.’

Lake Wakatipu 9

 The Cecil Peak barge moored at Queenstown wharf. This is an essential piece of farm equipment for the station across the lake which has no road access.

Now we have tandem paragliding, zip lines, and – heaven help us – the hydro attack, not to mention people jumping out of perfectly functioning aircraft at 15,000 feet. Before the bungy was invented there was the lake, Earnslaw cruises, amazing scenery, and fresh mountain air. They’re still there if you want them.

Lake Wakatipu 7

Cecil Peak is on the left, Walter Peak with cloud cap at centre. The red funnel at right belongs to the vintage lake steamer t.s.s. Earnslaw.

Next Friday – a flight to Milford Sound.

Old Whaling Days

Friday Flashback to 1983.

In my post about Wellington’s friendly whale (9th July), I mentioned that New Zealand’s last shore whaling station closed as recently as 1964. This is how it looked nineteen years later.

Whaling station 1 web

It sits in Fisherman’s Bay, Arapawa* Island, Marlborough Sounds, on the edge of Tory Channel. East Head and the exit to Cook Strait are in the background. If you travel from Picton to Wellington on the ferry today you’ll see what’s left of it from the port side.

The station was established in the 1920s by Joe Perano, a local fisherman who decided to go after something bigger, and the business continued with his sons in charge after Joe’s death in 1951.

Whaling station 2-2

It was a calm summer’s day when I visited but the corrugated iron cladding creaked and banged with every puff of wind that wafted in from the Strait. It has been removed in the years since then, leaving only the skeleton of the processing factory. The Department of Conservation took responsibility for the site in 2010.

Whaling station 4-2

A rusting harpoon head that should have been in a museum was just lying on the floor among the rubble. The Peranos are credited with introducing the explosive harpoon to New Zealand, followed by an electric version. I don’t know which this was – it had a hollow core – but it looked brutal.

The island has a long association with shore whaling. An easy walk back down a dusty track from here brings you to the neighbouring bay, Te Awaiti, where John Guard and Joseph (George) Toms established the first shore station in the country in 1827.

Te Awaiti 2-2

Guard moved to Port Underwood about three years later, leaving Toms – “a noted disciplinarian” – to rule over the unruly in the small settlement. He was known by several names during his life, a fact that has spawned numerous confusing and confused web pages.

Toms family grave 1-3

The fenced grave site at Te Awaiti for George Toms, son Joseph and his wife Harriet.

You can rent self-catering accommodation on the island, where the Perano family once had a farm, but be aware the only way in or out is by boat (or helicopter if your budget stretches that far) and there are no shops. Bring you own food supplies.

* Arapawa Island has been known officially by the more phonetically correct spelling of Arapaoa since 2014. Most of the web sites I’ve seen haven’t caught up with that yet.