Wreck of the screw-steamer "William Miskin" at Timaru 

Caroline Bay August 1999. The steeple of St Mary's can be seen.  Dashing Rocks below.

"She now lies a total wreck, every portion of her hull, spars, and rigging are literally smashed to atoms."

Reference: North Otago Times  Feb. 11 & 14 1898 online at PapersPast
    The recent storm burst upon Oamaru, Timaru and Lyttelton almost simultaneously. The William Miskin went ashore on the beach about one and a half miles north of Timaru on 4th February, 1868. One drowned.  

The William Miskin made her appearance in the Timaru roadstead early on Sunday morning, from Dunedin, with passengers and miscellaneous cargo, from 12 to 15 tons of goods. The passengers were early that day put ashore, and the steamer lay at her usual anchorage waiting to discharge on Monday. Sunday a fine calm day, but the weather towards evening looked threatening, there being heavy masses of cloud to seaward. It rained all night, and on early Monday morning the wind increased in violence, raising a heavy sea.
    About 10. a.m. on Monday, the Miskin was observed to anchor further seaward from the berth she had until then occupied. She was riding a single anchor, with about fifty fathoms of chain. A second chain was dropped about half-past ten. Between three and four o'clock sea commenced to topple over the vessel, and every sea something or other was washed off the deck, till at last, when she came to drag, the steamer's deck was almost swept clean - water casks, gangways, oil-locker, water-closets, galley, and lifeboat having all disappeared. The officer in charge, the first mate, (Capt. Bain being onshore) had from 6 pm. on Monday till 1.30 a.m. the following morning kept the vessel under a full head of steam, head to sea, but at that hour the steam failed, the constant seas pouring over having extinguished the fires, Just before this a heavy sea swept the deck, washing overboard one of the sailors, a man named John McDonald. At that time the crew were busily baling water out of the engine room, as the pumps there were found useless. Soon after 11.30 the steamer began to drag, and at half-past 2 o'clock the mate perceived that both cables had parted. The mate ordered the topsail and jib to be set to keep her steadily and end on to land. In an hour and a half after the cables parted, the steamer took the ground within a few yards of the rocky promontory on Mr Belfield's property. The Miskin was thrown almost high and dry on a shelving sandy beach, and all hands, to the number of 12, without the least difficulty got to dry land. Immediately, on striking, the steamer commenced to break up, and was actually broken in two when the last man to leave, the second steward, jumped from her shattered deck on to "terra firma." 

We learn that at the time the officer in charge shifted the steamers position, no danger was then apprehended, for there cannot be a doubt if he had gone to sea all would heave been well, and we should not now have to deplore the loss of the steamer

The beach from Whale's Creek to the rocky promontory the entire length being strewn with fragments of the broken-up vessel, iron plates, cabin furniture, parts of doors, planks, tea, chests, bits of passengers' luggage, tins of kerosene, &c. all in inextricable confusion. There were on board under bond 185 bags of sugar and 25� chests tea. Mr McPherson, a young man just arrived by the ship Bouverie from Glasgow had transhipped his luggage to the Miskin, valued ay �100, and loss all, among which was a full Highland dress, with cairngorm and silver ornaments, skene dhu, &c. Not a vestige of deck, or an atom of wood-work is there - all completely destroyed. Along the whole length of the beach where the remnants are thrown up, we found dotted here and there dead sheep and other animals. At first it was supposed they formed part of the vessel's cargo, but on enquiry we find they must have been washed down the Pareora or the Opihi rivers. Timaru Herald 5th inst.

The Wm. Miskin was bought about three months ago by Mr R.B. Martin for �1500, and insured for �2000. Capt. Bain estimates his loss in personal property at �40.  The William Miskin had only of late been put on the Timaru and Dunedin trade, being formerly employed on the West Coast.

The carcasses of 40 to 50 sheep are lying amongst the wreck, with the Levels station brand on most of them. Mr Bristol of Saltwater Creek, has been a looser to the extent of 1200 to 1500. The country for miles around Timuka has been under water; the Opihi River having burst its banks and flooded the town. Parr's flour mills and Williams's Brewery have been carried away, and the loss of property is great. Eight persons are known to have perished in the floods.


North Otago Times  Feb 18. 1868.
The wreck of the William Miskin only realised at auction �47 10s. A court of inquiry into the wreck has been held at the Customs House, conducted by Mr C.E. Cooper, before the Resident Magistrate, Sub-Collector, and Capt. Scott as nautical assessor. The findings of the court having been forwarded to the Governor for approval and insertion in the "Government Gazette," The general opinion is, that had the Harbour master here been as alive to his duties as Captain Sewell at Oamaru, we should have has no wreck to chronicle, as the Miskin could have steamed out to up till noon Monday, and made Akaroa harbour in safety.

Timaru Shipwrecks
South Canterbury NZGenWeb Project

New Zealand Bound

Otago Witness Saturday 8th February 1868 page 4 column 3
Wrecks at Timaru 15th Feb 1868 page 5