Went ashore off Lookout Point, Bluff, on August 9, 1886, and became a total wreck. The vessel was bound from Greymouth to the Bluff, and approached the port in fine weather. The master watched for signals from the semaphore, but none was made. Immediately afterwards the steamer struck what was later to be named Pelham Rock, and continued to pound heavily. When the pilot boat came alongside, the Pelham’s engines were still going full steam ahead, but she did not move.
At the inquiry into the loss of the Pelham the court was of the opinion was that the master, having been to Bluff only once before, and being without an exemption certificate, committed an error of judgement in attempting to enter the harbour before daylight. If he reversed the engines when the soundings showed four and a half fathoms, he would have saved the ship. The court suspended the master’s certificate for three months. It was stated at the inquiry that the pilot, before coming alongside, did not show any signal.
The Pelham, No. 52,657, was an iron, screw steamer of 423 tons gross, and 228 tons net register, with two engines of 62 h.p., and her dimensions were : length 157.8 ft, beam 22.8 ft, depth 12.7 ft. She was built at West Hartlepool, Durham, in 1865, by R. Irvine and Co, as a brig, was later altered to a three Masted barque, and in 1855 was converted to a steamer by her owners, Messrs. M. Kennedy and M. O’Connor, of Greymouth. The steamer was under the command of Captain Christen Erikson Greager.
Below is taken from the Southland Times 10th August 1886
The s.s. Pelham, owned by messers Kennedy Bros, of Greymouth, while coming into port at 7 o'clock yesterday morning, and before the harbourmaster got on board, ran onto the reef of rocks which lies in a south-easterly direction from the flagstaff at the pilot station, and known as 'Howells Rock'. The tide was almost at its full at the time, and no hopes are entertained of the vessel being got off. She lies with her head to the E.N.E. in almost the same place as the s.s. Scotia was wrecked some twenty three years ago.
There was a moderate breeze from the eastward at the time (which still continues)with a heavy swell. The extent of the damage has not yet been ascertained, but from the rapidity from which the steamer filled it is sumised that there must be a large hole amidships. At high water the Pelham was bumping heavily, and at times striking the rocks forward, but there was plenty of water aft.
The affects of the captain and crew and all movables were landed at the pilot station after an effort which had been made to get the ship off had failed. The Pelham had a full cargo of coal on board for the Invercargill Gasworks. The hull is insured for 4,250 pounds in the National Office, part of which is re insured in other New Zealand offices. The value of the vessel is estimated at between 7,000 and 8,000 pounds. The coal was uninsuerd.
Up to closing time last night the steamers position had not altered. The swell increased with the ebb tide but no further damage to the vessel could be seen up to last night.
A survey will be made this morning if practicible. This was prevented yesterday owing to the heavy weather. An inquiry will then be held by the Customs Department.
Capt Greager reports that he left Greymouth at 2.30 a.m. on Saturday with a strong easterly breeze and thick rainy weather, but after crossing the bar light variable winds were met with. Passed Breaksea Sound at 8.00 a.m. on the 8th and Preservation Inlet at noon. Breasted Windsor Point at 1.20 p.m. where a strong easterly gale with strong seas was encountered. Had Centre Island abeam at 10 p.m. and stopped the engines off the Bluff at 2 a.m. yesterday morning, wind blowing fresh from the eastward, with moderate sea.
The Pelham was originally a sailing vessel, barque rigged, and was built at Hartlepool twelve years ago. About two years ago her owners deceided to convert the vessel into a steamer, and the necessary alterations and additions in the way of boilers and machinery were made in Wellington. She was 340 tons register, 151ft 8in long, 22ft 8in beam with a depth of 13ft 7in. Under these new conditions the Pelham had proved very successful, and it is much to be regretted that such a disaster should have occured before the Messers Kennedy could possibly have reaped the reward of theie enterprise in converting the vessel.
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