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The Sinking of the ship 'Lyttelton' at Timaru 1886

Otago Witness, 30 November 1899, Page 28
Ship LYTTELTON, Timaru. June 12th, 1886. The Harbour Board tug was being docked at Port Chalmers, so the s.s. Grafton was engaged to tow the Lyttelton out of Timaru roadstead. As soon, however, as she had got clear of the buoys the Grafton took a short turn north-east. The tow-line slackening fouled the propeller of the Grafton, and prevented her keeping up a steady strain. Captain Boorman, of the Lyttelton, let go his anchor. When towing was recommenced the vessel must have struck the fluke of this anchor, for she began to fill so rapidly that her crew had hardly time to get the boats out and could not save anything. In 20 minute she settled on the bottom, and the sea broke over her poop. The Harbour Board was much blamed for not getting someone well acquainted with the harbour to tow the vessel out. Master and mate exonerated from blame.

     The 'Lyttelton' at Port Chalmers.  Photo in "White  Wings" Vol. 1 page 151

It is generally believed that the fluke of the anchor went through the ship's side, while others say she struck on a wreck.  It seems that the tow rope on the Lyttelton was on the wrong side of the vessel, when she met the force of the swell after leaving the shelter of the breakwater and those on board finding her drifting towards shore, let go her anchor.  In the meantime the s.s. Grafton, getting into proper position, and not knowing that the anchor was dropped, began to pull the Lyttelton and the anchor, it is supposed struck her.  The vessel was fully a mile out of the course for vessels to go when being towed out of this harbour as laid down by the regulations.  It was reported that the Lyttelton had struck the wreck of the Duke of Sutherland, but she was well to the windward of the bouy marking that spot. The Harbour Board's tug, Titian, was in Dunedin getting repaired along with the harbour-master at this time.

It was first reported as A Most Extraordinary Occurrence in The Star Saturday June 12 1886 

The ship Lyttelton was being towed out of Timaru by the Union Company's s.s. Grafton, Captain Hill, this morning, and set too much to the northward and she struck on the wreck of the ship Duke of Sutherland, and began to take in water rapidly and sank shortly after in twenty-six feet of water in about twenty minutes.  A vessel that has on board 9000 caucuses of frozen mutton and sixty bales of wool from this port. The crew managed to save all their belongings, but the captain lost everything, and only had time to save the ship's papers and chronometers.

The surf-boats and a number of hands have been sent out to the Lyttelton to dismantle her, and the agents have arranged a diver Collis should go down and examine the bottom of the vessel as soon as low water permits of work being undertaken.  A lot of the deck lumber is floating about the ship. The waves were breaking fore and aft over her decks. 

The cargo taken on board from Dunedin was 647 bales of wool and 40 bales rabbit skins, 840 sacks of flour, 966 sacks of oats, 34 tins boiler composition, 88 casks of oil, and 23 casks tallow and 21 quarter-casks and 19 cases of whiskey. The wool and nearly all the frozen mutton that was loaded here was insured. Mr Elworthy, unfortunately, has one thousand caresses on board uninsured. Two thousand of the carcasses of mutton on board has been shipped by Messrs Miles, Archer and Co. From Timaru she took 9084 caresses of frozen meat and 400 tons coal, the latter for her own consumption. The coal was taken from the s.s. Kawatiri.

Her cargo was valued at 23,000 of which about 10,000 was shipped at Timaru. The insurances of the local shippers are as follows; South Canterbury Refrigerating Company, 3,000; Miles , Archer and Co., 2500; Loan and Mercantile Agency 1200; Canterbury Farmers Association 200. The value of the hull and machinery is 26,000. Captain Ticehurst, the Marine Surveyor of the Port of Lyttelton, has received instructions to proceed to Timaru to make a survey of the wreck.

The Lyttelton was an iron clipper ship rigged vessel, of 1180 tons gross register and 1111 tons net register. She was 223ft 8im long, 35ft broad, and of 21ft depth of hold. She was built at Glasgow in 1878 by Robert Duncan. She was owned by the Shaw Savill and Albion Co., and was classed 100A1. Before the amalgamation of the two companies was owned by and traded for, the Albion Shipping Company between Glasgow and Port Chalmers. Two or three years ago she was fitted with a refrigerator and cool chamber. Made seven voyages out New Zealand all to Port Chalmers. The first three from the Clyde and the rest from Lyttelton and only once exceeded 90 days. Arrived at Port Chalmers May 2 1886.  She was last surveyed on March 3, 1881(?January, 1885). She was commanded by Captain H.W. Boorman, formerly chief officer of the Lady Jocelyn.

Star Monday 14th June 1886
Sunday Afternoon.
On Saturday the gang of men that Mr Spalding (the local agent) employed were successful in unrigging the vessel and sending ashore most of the sails, with the exception of the mainsail and some of the yards. This gang worked until 7 p.m., and saved a good deal. The covering of the main hatch has been lifted off by the force of the waves, and it is thought two or three bales of wool have been washed out. A great quantity of small wreckage is floating round the ship and in the harbour. On Saturday the evening train brought down Mr Meares and Mr Barns, Secretary of the Insurance Association; and the special from Dunedin brought Captains Russell (Marine surveyor) and Anderson (Messrs Shaw, Savill and Company's representative), with a gang of 14 men, carrying the necessary tools and appliances. Some of these men helped to stow the Dunedin portion of the cargo. They went off in a boat at dead low water, and found that the sea was making a clean breach over herm and that it was impossible to get on board. This looks like she was settling down in the mud and top sand, as she was not so submerged yesterday at low water. She seems to be lying on an even keel, and her head is about south-east by south. The ship and cargo have been abandoned to the Underwriters.

The Star June 16
The cargo, stores, &c. were sold by Messrs James A. Gracie and Co, in several lots and altogether they brought 790. The hull, anchors, masts, and refrigerating machinery sold her 125. Mr Strachan was the purchaser. The wool for 400.

15 March 1887 pg 3
Court case Shaw-Savill v. Timaru Harbour Board on account of the loss of the ship Lyttelton and her cargo on June 12 1886 while the vessel was in charge of Robert Storm.

Evening Post, 15 March 1887, Page 2
Supreme Court. Yesterday. Civil sitting. (Before Mr, Justice Richmond and a special jury.) SHAW, SAVILL AND ALBION COMPANY V. TIMARU HABBOUR BOARD. Evidence in this action, a claim of 32,802 16s 8d on account of the loss of the ship Lyttelton and her cargo in Timaru harbour on the 12th June, 1886. Captain Boorman, now in command of the ship Euterpe, but commanding the Lyttelton when she was wrecked, deposed that the vessel was towed into Timaru on the 28th May, 1886, by the tug-boat, which was in charge of the Harbourmaster, the pilot giving the orders on the ship. Captain Boorman, recalled, deposed that there were five anchors on board the vessel when she sunk, four being on deck and one below. Storm was the ship's pilot. William James Tenant, Secretary of the Timaru Harbour Board
Samuel M'Dougall, a clerk in the service of the South Canterbury Refrigerating Co., gave evidence that there were 9096 carcasses of prime quality mutton on board the vessel when she left on the 12th June, 1886.
Frederick Jones, railway clerk, who was tally clerk to the Refrigerating Co. in June,
1886, deposed that 00D6 carcasses were shipped.
Ernest Joseph Jones, a clerk in the Timaru branch of the National Mortgage and Loan Company, who also acted as a tally clerk in June, 1886, gave corroborative evidence.
Frederick Clulee, Secretary of the South Canterbury Refrigerating Company, deposed that at London rates the meat was valued at from 4d to 5d per lb.
Thomas Roney, fellmonger, Temuka, gave evidence that there were 60 bales of wool belonging to him on the Lyttelton. The soured wool average 16 or l7 per bale, and the sliped from 9 to 15 a bale.
Henry Rose, manager of the Timaru Branch of the New Zealand Mortgage and Agency Company, was examined as to the value of the wool on board.
Thomas W. Pratt, storeman in the Timaru a New Zealand Land and Mercantile Agency Company, gave evidence as to the shipment of wool.
Frank Brickwell, chief officer of the Lyttelton, was examined at length rejecting the circumstances connected with the sinking of the vessel.

Timaru Shipwrecks
South Canterbury NZGenWeb Project

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