Friday, May 10, 2013

The Death of Edward James Harper Diver at the Elingamite Wreck 1907

While I was looking around during a visit to Leigh Cemetery a week ago, I came across the broken headstone of Edward James Harper, who had died while diving to recover gold from the wreck of the Elingamite sited at the Three Kings Islands.

Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19070131-10-1

The Elingamite sank on Sunday November 9 1902, taking with her a substantial amount of gold down into the depths. The London Salvage Company in 1903 engaged a New Zealand firm to start recovering the gold from the wreck. Edward Harper was employed as a diver to go down into the depths and recover the sunken treasure. The expedition after nineteen days of recovery attempts was a complete failure. In December 1906 Harper was employed again to go and dive on the Elingamite wreck. During early January, his dives yielded a great deal of success for the salvage company with the recovery of a large amount of gold from the wreck. On the 22nd of January 1907 however, things went terribly wrong for James Harper. Earlier he had been complaining of 'pains' from the numerous dives he had been undertaking over the course of the month to retrieve the gold from the wreck. On this particular day, he had already gone down twice with a dive duration of 15 minutes, however on the third and final dive the time went on to 23 minutes. When he resurfaced Harper complained of feeling unwell. He died of heart failure on board the Huia a short time later. Over the decades there have been many attempts to salvage the last of the gold from the Elingamite wreck. Auckland Museum have a blog post on their website about the latest diving activities. Check it out here.

1 comment:

Michael Fleming said...

Thank you so much for this blog, I am the great great great grandson of Edward and I’m currently in Iraq, I guess adventure runs in the family. I recall my granddad (Edward Neil Harper) telling me stories of the Elingamite when I was knee high and on a rare raining day here in Basrah I decided to Google-I’m ever so glad I did, your blog has brought back many memories for me and I can now point my daughters to the stories that will be passed down. There are family members that have a gold coin here and there and I recall seeing one but this was many many years ago and like life a few stories in between to match. Thank you so much. Regards Michael L Fleming 22 March 2015 Basrah, Southern Iraq