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The “SCOTIA” 1864, Steamer

(above) The builders rigging plan of the screw steamer Scotia shows she carried a good area of canvas and was barque rigged. As completed the Scotia measured 872 gross tons, on a length of 210 feet (64 meters). She was powered by a direct acting inverted, surface condensing steam engine giving 10 knots on a coal consumption of about 20 tons per day. In addition to cargo she could accommodate 34 first, 36 intermediate and a substantial number of steerage class passengers. At the time she was probably the finest ship on the Tasman.

The steamer was on a passage from Melbourne when on June 3, 1864, she stranded on the reef off Stirling Point, Bluff Harbour, and subsequently became a total loss.

The rocks penetrated the vessels bottom for several feet, but she suffered no damage on either side above the waterline. The passengers and their luggage were saved on the night of the wreck, and the greater part of her cargo was afterwards landed, along with her gear and fittings.

The hull was sold to Southland buyers, who were engaged in several months in an attempt to float the Scotia off the rocks. No expense was spared in obtaining the requisite appliances for refloating the ship. Prepared canvas bags which were made waterproof and inflated were used, but these proved ineffective, and when eventually the steamer broke in two, efforts were concentrated on trying to save her machinery.

A court of inquiry into the loss of the Scotia was held, and it found that the wreck had been caused by the rashness, want of judgement, and culpable negligence of the master. According to the finding, the evidence clearly showed that the master was guilty of negligence in not using the means in his power to inform himself as to the port he was about to enter; that in approaching a strange port on a dark night he ought, in common prudence, to have fired guns and made other signals for a pilot earlier than he did; that after he had fired the gun the vessel should have stopped, and been kept in mid-channel without going any further until the pilot boarded her; that in running into a point so close to a bright red light , the master was guilty of such rashness and want of judgement as to render useless any precaution which could be taken to render the harbour safe and accessible. Masters of vessels were cautioned not to approach too closely, as a reef was in existence about a cable’s length to the south-east of the flagstaff. Notwithstanding this, the Scotia was run almost directly for the red light, and was accordingly stranded at less than half a cable’s length from the red light.

The Scotia No. 43,401, was a barque rigged, screw steamer of 872 tons gross, and 647 tons net register, built at Dumbarton in 1863 by Messrs Denny Brothers, and her dimensions were, length 209.7 ft, beam 27.2 ft, depth 14.45 ft. She was the first of the Otago Steam Ship Company’s fleet, and was under command of Captain Gay, who had been temporarily placed in charge in the absence of Captain Newlands, who was detained at Melbourne through sickness.

Wreck of the S.S. Scotia off the Bluff Harbour The Otago Daily Times of the 8th and 9th instants publishes the following accounts from various sources;-

The steamer Scotia, from Melbourne, was wrecked at 11.30 on the night of the 2nd June, on the rocks off Stirling's Point, and at low water will be nearly high and dry. Passengers and luggage saved. 1100 tons cargo, which probably will be saved if lighters can be obtained. The water reached the saloon soon after she struck, and filled the whole of her compartments.

Captain Robertson, of the Father Thames, corroborates the report of the loss of the Scotia at Stirling Point. On arriving at the Bluff, immediately after firing her gun, she bumped upon a rock, but passed over it and struck again, settling down between two rocks. Passengers luggage, cabin fittings, and some cargo -fruit, porter, &c. saved. All available punts and boats employed in saving cargo, but consequence of heavy surf, work was attended with much difficulty. One punt got upon the rocks, broke up, and cargo was strewed upon the beach. First SW wind expected to render the Scotia a total wreck.

Since the Scotia struck and settled down all hands, with twenty other men who were procured from shore, have continued to work discharging her cargo into lighters, and also clearing the ship of furniture and fittings, &c.

The weather continues quiet, which is a great boon. Should a S.W. wind set in, it would put a stop to any further work connected with the ship; but I trust the weather will continue moderate so as to enable all that can to be saved.

The greater number of Dunedin passengers have reached Campbelltown, and taken up there abodes at the different hotels, awaiting the return of a steamer for Dunedin. Messrs. Morrison and Law, the agents, though their agent, Mr. Tanton, have, I believe, made arrangements for forwarding the passengers by the Aldinga or the first boat that may arrive from Melbourne.

An unfortunate occurrence connected with the wreck took place last night. A punt belonging to a person named Macdonald had loaded with cargo from the Scotia, and when near Mac's beach, the punt went on to he rocks and sank and the cargo floating out of her. It is expected she is broke or is breaking fast. the steamer Ruby and cutter Aguila are in attendance on the wreck, and everything is progressing very satisfactorily in the clearing of it.

The following is an account of the wreck furnished by Mr. Whitton, one of the passengers. This gentleman states;-

We left Melbourne the 28th ultimo, shortly before four p.m. and up to the time approaching the Solanders had beautiful weather. As we neared the Solanders weather came on, and in the course of Thursday afternoon the captain decided to lay off and on until morning, and not to attempt Bluff Harbour. about half past six that evening the vessel was placed under half speed, and this was continued until nine o'clock when full speed was again resumed. The passengers found the weather was clearer, and land was more easily distinguishable.

The full rate of speed was continued, and shortly before eleven o'clock a gun was fired from the ship. In about two minutes after that report, the ship struck on the rocks with greatest force. Great consternation immediately ensued amongst all on board and the passengers who had retired for the night, were seen rushing up from the cabins, clad in the attire they had retired to rest. At this time shock after shock followed a quick succession, the officers of the ship busily engaged in attempting to lower the boats, while the screams of the females were such as to completely prevent the instructions being heard. Before the first boat was lowered the pilot boat was alongside, and twenty minutes had lapsed, after the vessel struck, before the boats were lowered and in readiness to receive the passengers. The passengers were at length all safely landed, and were taken to the pilot station, where attention was shown them by the Harbor Master (Captain Thomson) and the pilots.

With a few exceptions, the females had nothing to protect them from the piercing cold, but their night dresses, and in some instances a blanket was thrown over them. They were all in the most miserable plight when landed, but everything was done at the Pilot Station to make them as comfortable as possible. under the circumstances. Within ten minutes after the vessel struck, the water had gained such an ascendancy that it had put out all the fires.

We, learnt, yesterday, that the cargo of the vessel was being discharged as rapidly as possible, and that on Saturday, about 200 tons were stacked on the pier, there being still about 600 tons on board.

We were to understand that instructions were sent home two or three months ago to insure the vessel, which was valued at about £34,000

. The Scotia left Melbourne on the 28th May, under the command of Captain W. Gay. It is reported that Captain Newlands had given up command from ill health.

From the Invercargill Daily News of the 8th of June we glean additional particulars, supplied by their correspondent at the Bluff , under date Tuesday 7th inst.

Yesterday a Board of Survey was held on the steamer Scotia. During Monday, Kendall (the diver) examined the steamer's bottom, and he states that, so far as he can ascertain, that there are three or four holes in her. He stated that he could stop the holes and float her off for 100 should the weather be favourable. This offer has been understood, has been accepted. The wind is westerly and blowing fresh, and, I fear, will have an unfavourable effect upon the Scotia.

Tuesday 8 p.m. The official inquiry into the cause of the wreck commenced this morning at 10 o'clock, at the Court-house, Campbelltown. The members composing of the board were Mr. I.M. Watt, R.M., Mr. Heale, Captain Elles. and Captain Nicol.

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