Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Bad Luck Saga of the Schooner Orpheus (1875 -1907)

The Orpheus was an ill fated schooner with a history of bad luck and deaths to go with it. She started life from the ship building yards of Henderson and Spraggon at Smales Point in Auckland, New Zealand. Built in 1875 she was launched from her builder's yard on the night of 8 March 1875 to begin her maiden voyage under the ownership of Schapp & Ansenne. Her maritime career however would be full of losses of life and two sinkings. I've followed her journey through the papers of the past. Sadly her journey ended in 1907 with the tragedy of her second and final sinking off the coast of Western Australia.

A new schooner was successfully launched from the yard of Messrs. Henderson and Spraggon, at high-water last night. She was built to the order of Mr. James Ansenne, of the name of Schapp and Ansenne, and is of the following dimensions :— Length of keel,63 feet beam, 19 feet ; depth of hold, 7 feet 4 inch. ; registered tonnage, 56 ; builders measurement, 165 tons. She was named the Orpheus.

- Daily Southern Cross 9 March 1875

The new schooner Orpheus cleared for Napier this afternoon with a cargo of timber, shipped by Mr. D. H. McKenzie.

- Auckland Star 25 March 1875


[Per Press Telegram Agency]. This day. The Orpheus, schooner, from Mercury Bay for Napier, put in here yesterday through stress of weather.

- Auckland Star 26 April 1875

The first death came with the drowning of Seaman Thomas Blair when he was washed overboard in June of 1875.

NAPIER. A Seaman Drowned Monday Evening.

Monday Evening. Thomas Bair, a seaman, has been washed overboard from the Auckland schooner, Orpheus, and drowned.

- Waikato Times 15 June 1875

In 1882 the second loss of life came with the captain one William Doughty again being washed overboard during a fierce gale near Bank Peninsula in March of that year.


Captain Doughty Washed Overboard.

Mr Player, agent for Schappe and Ansenne's estate, has received a telegram from Dunedin conveying the mournful intelligence that Captain Doughty, master of the Auckland schooner Orpheus, was lost overboard during a gale on the 14th inst.

The schooner arrived at Dunedin to-day. No further particulars are yet to hand. The Orpheus left this port in ballast about a month ago, proceeded to the Thames and loaded with timber, for Dunedin. While on her way thither she had most likely been caught In one of the late terrible gales which have been experienced down the coast, and her captain while endeavouring to save his vessel, lost his own life.

Captain Doughty is one of Auckland's oldest coasting captains, having been engaged in that capacity for the past thirty years. During that time he has been most fortunate, and until the present lamentable occurrence, has never experienced & mishap of any kind. He was a first-class seaman, and was known to all as a thorough gentleman.

Many Auckland residents will regret his loss, but none more so than his wife and family of five children, who reside in Auckland. To them the intelligence of the drowning of their husband and father will be a heavy blow, and one which will be long and severely mourned.

- Auckland Star 20 March 1882


[United Press Association.]

Dunedin, March 20. Win. Doughty, master of the schooner Orpheus, timber laden, from the Thames, and washed overboard off Banks' Peninsula on the morning of the 13th and drowned. He leaves a wife and four children at Newtown, Auckland.

- Grey River Argus 21 March 1882


(Otago Daily Times, March 22nd.)

An inquiry into the circumstances under which William Doughty, the master of the schooner Orpheus, was lost overboard on the morning of the 20th March, was held before Mr Hackworth (Collector of Customs) yesterday morning . The following evidence was taken : — Thomas Walsh (the mate of the schooner) deposed : The schooner Orpheus is 52 tons register, and belongs to James Ansenne. We sailed from the Thames on the 3rd of March, bound for Dunedin.

Nothing particular occurred until we reached the neighborhood of Banks Peninsula, on the evening of the 13th inst. The wind was then blowing from the north-east, and the vessel was going about five knots before the wind. I took the wheel at 8 o'clock, and kept it until midnight, when the captain came to relieve me.

The weather at that time was thickening. The captain gave orders to take in two reefs in the mainsail, and to jibe the ship. After jibing we steered S.W. by S. Seeing that everything was clear, and the captain not requiring me up to do any more, I went below at 20 minutes to 1. At 10 minutes to 1 I had occasion to go on deck, and as I was passing forward I saw that the jib was hauled down, and I also saw the captain out on the boom making the jib fast. I went into the lee rigging, and whilst there I heard a loud shout aft. The cook, who was at the wheel, called out " Man overboard."

I ran aft, and then ran forward again, and called the other man, telling him that the captain was overboard. Then I lot go all the gear belonging to a squaresail which we had set at the time, thinking it would come down. It did not come down, but got flat aback and around the rigging, and the vessel became unmanageable for some time. It took us some 15 to 20 minutes to get her clear. There were three of us working at it to get the sail clear. After that we tacked to and fro for two hours.

We could see nothing of the man overboard. It was very dark and thick. We could not see or hear anything of the captain. Sometimes we laid the vessel to the wind. There was a six-knot breeze and a high sea from the north-east. We had a boat on board (a double-bowed boat), but did not use it. We might have got it out in time, but there was too much sea on for us to launch it. The boat was lashed across the main hatchway. There were no lifebuoys on board. We did not throw anything overboard. There was nothing we thought of at the time; but we had a deck-load of timber, and I thought afterwards we might have thrown some of it over. We must have got two miles away before the vessel became manageable. The master's name was William Doughty. He held a certificate of service " Home trade." He was between 50 and 60 years of age, and was a native of Whitby, England. He was married in Auckland, and leaves a wife and four children there.

After two hours, we stood in to the land. We could not see the land on account of it being so foggy. We then hove the vessel to, and lay that way for three days — until the 17th, when we ran the vessel to the N.W. On the night of the 17th, about 9.30, we made Cape Saunders light — south of it; then we had clear weather till we arrived in port. We got into Port Chalmers on Sunday, 10th. There were no means of getting the sail clear quicker than we did. I went aloft to clear the sail, and tried to roll it so that it would hold loss wind, and the two men on deck were pulling at it. We lost no time. The captain was very sober. There was no one on board who drank, and the captain had been an abstainer for three or four years. If the squaresail had not been set, we should have had a better chance of picking the man up. I think the captain must have gone under the vessel, as I did not hear him cry until he was aft. We did not keep the vowel away to get the squaresail down, because the vessel would not answer her helm. George Erse (an A.B. on board the schooner Orpheus) gave corroborative evidence, and also stated that on the following morning ho noticed that the gasket was carried away, not a particle being left. He thought that upon the gasket broke the captain must have gone under the vessel. Alfred Melgren, the cook, also gave corroborative testimony. This was all the evidence, and the inquiry being a preliminary one, it therefore closed at this stage, the evidence will be forwarded to the proper quarter.

- Timaru Herald 23 March 1882

By 1897 we see the Orpheus off the coast of Western Australia ending up stranded at the Albrolhos Islands in the Indian Ocean. She became a total loss but was later sold at auction, then refloated several months later. With the repair came a new name "Harriet Constance'



GERALDTON, February 7.

By the lighter lone, which arrived from the Abrolhos on Saturday night, intelligence reached Geraldton that the schooner Orpheus was hard and fast between two reefs at the islands. The Orpheus left the Bay on Thursday to load guano for Bunbury. Reaching the Abrolhos the same night, she anchored out about a mile and a half from the Woody Island passage. The next morning, getting under weigh, she drifted between the two reefs. The efforts so far to extricate the vessel have been unavailing. It is feared that the schooner will be in grave danger should southerly wind spring up before she can kedge out.

- The West Australian 8 February 1897



Geraldton, February 14.

Captain Mackenzie and crew of the schooner Orpheus arrived at Geraldton , from the Abrolhos Islands on Friday night. The captain reports that the vessel is a total wreck and is rapidly going to pieces. He states that Mr. Beddoes, of Messrs. Broadhurst, McNeil and Co., was in charge of the schooner. At 9.30 p.m. on the 4th inst. they anchored about half a mile from Woody Island in two fathoms of water.

Getting under weigh the next morning the anchors dragged. The schooner dropped suddenly into a twelve fathom hole, and before she could be checked was on the reef. Every endeavour was made, under Mr.Beddoes' directions, to take her off, but without success. On the night of the 9th inst. she filled with water, and was abandoned, lying on the reef with the bottom out. The vessel was not insured.

Captain McKenzie leaves again to-night for the Abrolhos Islands in the fishing boat Defiance to try to save a portion of the stores and gear. He complains that Messrs. Broadhurst, McNeil and Co. have refused to render him any assistance.

An inquiry will probably be held, at Geraldton concerning the wreck.

- The West Australian 15 February 1897


Cable advice has been received by Mr. J. Ansenne, of this city, stating that the Auckland schooner Orpheus is a total wreck near Houtman Islands, Western Australia. The Orpheus is a wooden schooner of 53 tons register, built in 1875 at Auckland, and owned by Messrs John Ansenne and others, of this city.

- Auckland Star 15 February 1897

PERTH, February 22.

Captain McKenzie, of the wrecked schooner Orpheus, has returned from Abrolhos Island to Geraldton and reports that he was successful in getting off most of the gear and cargo from the abandoned vessel

- The Advertiser 23 February 1897


The wrecked schooner Orpheus was sold by auction at Geraldton on Saturday. Mr. H. S, Ainsworth acted as auctioneer, and the vessel was quickly knocked down to Mr. F. C. Broadhurst for £40.

- Western Mail 5 March 1897


The schooner Orpheus arrived from Fremantle reports the latest issue of the Geraldton Express on Saturday morning.

Since she stranded on the Abrolhos, some nine months ago, the schooner was floated successfully by Messrs Broadhurst, MacNeil and Co , and repaired as required, when she was sent to Fremantle with a cargo of guano, in charge of Mr Neil Johnson, who has been so well and favourably known at this port as sailing; the lone out of Geraldton.

The vessel, after discharge, was submitted to Lloyds' Surveyor (Captain Webster) for examination, and it will be satisfactory to shippers to learn that he found the schooner in excellent condition, and has duly certified her as fit to carry dry and perishable cargoes on the coast of Western Australia.

The schooner's port of registry has been changed from Auckland, N Z, to Fremantle, so that she is now a local boat, and as soon as the necessary permission of the Board of Trade has been obtained, the name will be changed to the Harriet Constance.

While at Fremantle, Mr Johnson went up for examination before the Harbour Board, and duly passed for a master's certificate for Western Australia.

As the vessel is a smart one, and Captain Johnson can be relied upon for quick despatch, we trust Gerald ton merchants will give him ever encouragement.

She will trade principally between the Abrolhos, Geraldton, Dongarra, Fremantle and the southern ports.

The following is the Marine Surveyors report as to the present condition of the Orpheus

September 21

This is to certify that I have this day surveyed the schooner Orpheus, now lying at Fremantle, with no cargo on hoard, and the ballast shifted and timber boards taken up.

On examination I find the above vessel in good order, and showing no defects in hull She also has a good and sufficient equipment I consider her to he fit to carry a dry and perishable cargo in the coasting trade of Western Australia.

W.M. Webster, Marine Surveyor to Messrs Broadhurst and MacNeil, Perth, Western Australia. The Fremantle agents for the vessel are Messrs Jas Lilly and Co, and the Geraldton agents Messrs Burns, Philip and Co, Ltd.

- Western Australian 9 October 1897

In 1907 fears came for the Harriet Constance's safety. She had not shown up at her intended port of destination at Cossack. Despite many searches the vessel was never found - until three years later in 1910 when a report came that the wreck of the Harriet Constance had been found at Stewart Island off the North West of the Australian Coastline. All hands were lost.


The schooner Harriet Constance, 100 tons, Captain John Andersen, which sailed from Fortescue for Cossack on March 8, has not since been heard of and grave fears are entertained by the owners, Messrs Denny Bros. and Lynn, for her safety. Some ten days ago a message was rcceived at Fremantle to the effect that the schooner had arrived safely at Cossack, but it subsequentlyv transpired that this referred to another small coasting schooner. The Harriet Constance had a full cargo of general merchandise from Fremantle which port she left on Monday morning, February 18.

The mate is named Andrew Holm and is a brother in-law of Captain Andersen, whose wife and family reside in East Fremantle. The mate is also married his wife residing in Norway. He has no children.

Three other men constituted the crew, but their names are not known at present, as the articles were on board the ship. The Harriet Constance was one of the best known schooners on the coast, and within the last year was completely overhauled, and in leaving Freemantle was thoroughly well found. The belief is that she was caught in the willy-willy that did such damage to shipping on the north-west coast last month.

The owners have ordered the fullest inquiries and searches to be made for the missing vessel, but up to the present without success. In the ordinary course, of things the Harriet Constance should have arrived at Cossack within 48 hours of leaving Fortescue. The Harriet Constance was in Auckland, New Zealand. in 1875. The vessel, which was valued at £1.000, was uninsured.

- The West Australian 10 April 1907


Mr. R. Lynn. of Denny Bros. and Lynn. owners of the missing schooner Harriet Constance, stated yesterday that he had telegraphed to the Commissioner of Police asking him to send the police cutter out from Cossack to make a more complete search of the Montebello and Barron Islands to see if any discovery could be made which would explain the disappearance of the Harriet Constance. The Commissioner replied that he had immediately instructed the police at Cossack to act in conformity with Mr. Lynn's wishes.

- West Australian 13 April 1907




PERTH, December 4.

The wreck of the schooner Harriet Constance, which had been three years missing, has been found on Stewart Island, on the North-west coast. The vessel sailed from Fortescue for Cossack early in 1907, and was not again heard of.

- Brisbane Courier 5 December 1910

No comments:

Post a Comment