Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Kaipara Ship Wrecks - 1839 Tory - Grounding on the Kaipara Bar

Ship: Tory 3 masted Barque built 1834 by Frederick Preston, Southdown Suffolk for Joseph Soames. Registered 8th May 1834. Purchased by the New Zealand Company November 1834. Sailed from London in May 1839 under the command of Captain Edward Mein Chaffers with 35 passengers on board. She arrived in Queen Charlotte Sound on the 17th September 1839 and entered Port Nicholson (Wellington) 20th September 1839. Wrecked in the Palawan Passage 23rd January 1841.

The Tory was the earliest of the recorded vessels to come to grief at the entrance to the Kaipara Harbour. (She was not the first European vessel to enter the the Kaipara Harbour). She ran aground on the morning 19th of after setting anchor in 10 fathoms of water the night before in the Harbour entrance. It was fortunate Captain Chaffers had chosen to sail in summer. Winter time on the Kaipara Harbour was a dangerous time for sailing vessels. Storms from the Tasman would blow up without warning the fierce westerly gales dashing many an unfortunate ship upon the western shores. Her reasons though for entering the Kaipara were in themselves fascinating.

Colonel Wakefield had received instructions from the New Zealand Company to proceed to the Kaipara as follows (NZ Spectator 6th September 1839)

Extract from the Instructions given to Colonel Wakefield, the Company's Principal Agent in command of the Preliminary Expedition: -

Considering the excellent sailing qualities of the Tory, and that you are amply supplied with provisions and water, we trust that you may reach Cook's Strait, without touching anywhere, by the end of August. As soon as you have completed your business there, which we are in hopes may not occupy you more than two months, you will proceed to Kaipara, and thoroughly inspect that harbour and district. You will also take the best means in your power of ascertaining whether there is; to the southward of Kaipara a spot more suitable than that port to become the seat of the commercial capital of the North Island; and if you should discover such a spot, you will endeavour to make an extensive purchase there.

At Kaipara you will exhibit to the natives the original contracts of Lieutenant McDonnell, and will claim, on behalf of the Company, the lands therein named. You will also inform the natives, that Lieutenant McDonnell intends to proceed to New Zealand ere long; you will deliver to the chiefs the letter, whereby he informs them of his having transferred his lands there to the Company; and you will take whatever steps you may think most expedient, to obtain possession of this tract in the name of the Company.

Supposing you to have selected from any purchases that you may make in Cook's Strait, or in the neighbourhood of Kaipara, or in the district of the Company's lands at Kaipara that spot which you shall deem the fittest for a first settlement, - that spot which shall present the most satisfactory combination of facility of access, security for shipping, fertile soil, water-communisation with districts abounding in flax and timber, and falls of water for the purposes of mills, - and where the native inhabitants shall evince the greatest desire to receive English settlers, and appear most anxious to obtain employment for wages; there you will make all such preparations for the arrival of a body of settlers, as the means at your disposal will allow. Amongst these it occurs to us that the natives should be employed at liberal wages, in felling the best kinds of timber, taking the logs to the place which you may have marked out for the site of a town, and so in collecting and preparing flax and spars as a return freight for vessels which may convey settlers to the place. You should also make the native thoroughly aware of the nature and extend of the intended settlement, so that they may not be surprised at the subsequent arrival of a number of large ships. At this spot, when you quit it, you will of course, leave such persons as you may be able to spare, and shall be willing to remain, for the purpose of assuring the natives of your return, and of pursuing the labours of preparation.


After calling at several places the “Tory” set sail for Kaipara on the 16th December, 1839, and anchored in ten fathoms outside the entrance of that harbour on the 18th. The following morning Dr. Dorset, who was left in charge of affairs during the Colonel's absence up north, announced that the ship was aground, so the usual methods to get her off were taken, but in vain. Captain Chaffers and his crew exerted themselves unceasingly; five guns, three or four anchors and cables, a deck load of spare spars and several other heavy articles were cast over; some heavy mill stones and paving flags were hoisted from the hold and rolled overboard. One of them was carelessly sent through the best whale-boat, which lay at the gangway.

She was hove down on a sandbank at the first spring tide, and the necessary repairs proceeded with. Colonel Wakefield then proceeded overland to the Bay of Islands in order to charter a small vessel to take him to Port Hardy, to meet the first fleets of Emigrant ships.

- from Early Wellington P22 Author Louis E. Ward

Further Notes:
  • Post update 18th March 09 The personal account as written by Colonel Wakefield to a Sydney Newspaper

  • Lt Thomas James McDonnell had sailed into the Kaipara Harbour in 1835/36 in the schooner Tui and, announcing that he acted by authority, declared the harbour tapu and claimed extensive timber rights. In fact McDonnell only had a claim to his land at Horeke and nothing else. The New Zealand Company would later find out their so-called land purchases were in fact completely invalid. The Company in their journal from 1842 would later declare McDonnell as being a 'crimper' a comparison to the press gangers of the early sailing days. McDonnell was also known by many of the early settlers who had had dealings with this colourful Irishman as "McDiddle" a story I'll be doing a little later on once my research has been completed.


Read a full account of the Tory's voyage to New Zealand here
More on the Tory here

5 comments:

Timespanner said...

Sorry, just a couple of points: my copy of New Zealand Shipwrecks has it that the commander of the Tory at the time was Captain Edmund Mein Chaffers, not William Chaffers. NZETC seems to agree with the initials "E.M. Chaffers".

Also, the last two links go to the same webpage.

Mad Bush Farm Crew said...

Thanks Ice I'm still in here so I'll fix it it's late and I'm half brain dead. Ta heaps

Mad Bush Farm Crew said...

Ice the links and the wrong name are now fixed. Dead of night mistakes are made thanks for pointing it out.

Jayne said...

McDonnell seems like a rouge, I'll be interested to read more of that character!

Mad Bush Farm Crew said...

Both a rogue and a well respected citizen. Interesting guy