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The “OBERON” 1861, Steamer

The vessel sailed from Riverton shortly after midnight on July 23, 1861, and when entering Bluff Harbour about 4 a.m, struck on the Mid-channel Rock, and upon which there was no break, the weather being very calm. The screw became partly disabled with kelp, and the master deemed it prudent to run the steamer further up on the rocks, known as Hell Gate, as she might otherwise have sunk in deep water.

The after compartment had almost immediately filled with water, but the steamer having been got under way by pumping and the tide ebbing, the hole was discovered and stopped. It was ascertained at the same time that part of the keel was gone, and hopes of refloating the steamer when the tide made were dissipated by another rock bursting through the engine room and extinguishing the fires. The vessel began to grind heavily on the rocks, causing the forehold to fill. Eventually the two remaining compartments began to fill, and there being no salvaging appliances at hand, with a certainty of her going to pieces as soon as there was any heavy weather from the north-east, or south-east, the Oberon was surveyed and condemned.

However, the steamer did not become a total loss, but was recovered and repaired by her engineer, Mr. C. Campbell, and on Sunday, October 24, 1861, made her trial run. Renamed the Guiding Star, and given a new official number, a most unusual occurrence, the Oberon assumed a new identity, and is for that reason that her wreck is included in this book.

The Oberon, No. 31,588, was an iron, screw steamer of 102 tons gross and 69 tons net register, built at Dumbarton in 1854, and her dimensions were : length 100 ft, beam 19.4 ft, depth 7.6 ft. She was owned by mr. Frederick Greer, of Dunedin, and commanded by Captain McWilliam.

The Guiding Star was later to be totally wrecked in the New River Estuary, after striking the Bombay Rock, the captain beached her alongside Omaui village, where the remains can still be seen to this very day. Her funnel is marked by a pole, close in to Omaui Beach.

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