From White Wings Vol 2
Passengers who came out on the barque Gwalior in 1852 had the most awful experience that the hair of one poor lady turned white.
Afterwards there was a rumor that the vessel was never intended to reach port and the circumstances certainly lent colour to the suspicion.
She was unseaworthy, has a decided list and was manned by the scum of the docks - desperate men, ready to take any chance. To add to this unfortunate combination, the craft had a drunken captain and, in the latter part of the voyage, the food was scarce and unpleasant. Even the cabn passengers had only a little salt fish, weevly biscuits and the water was nearly as thick as oil. A month before reaching Auckland the food was so scarce that the cargo was broached and some salt fish and bags of rice were freely used.
To crown all, the barque took the unconcionable time of 186 days to make the voyage.
Auckland was her first port of call, and beng long overdue the worst fears were entertained. She had sailed from London on 10 Dec 1851 and it was not until the second week in the following June that she was heard of. Over six months out she at last made the coast of NZ and was spoken by the Children, a schooner that supplied the barque with some fresh water and also took off several of the passengers who could not stand the life on board any longer. Roumors of a strange kind were brought to Auckland by the schooner, and the barques agents induced the authorities to send out HM brigantine Pandora to search for her. However the two vessels passed each other at night and did not meet.
When the Gwalior came intoport a remarkable story was told. During the voyage the Captain had spent 17 days in irons as he was suffering from delerium tremens during which he threatened to stab the mate with a carving knife. He frequently strode about the deck with a drawn sword terrifying all the passengers. In his sober moments he was a first class sailor, but when on a drinking bout he was the terror of the ship.
Mrs Thomas Hirst, wife of one of the passengers, very good naturedly used to nurse the Captain when he was convalescing from these bouts. It is said that he was so saturated with liquor that the sponge with which she mopped his heated brow used to come away smelling strongly of rum. No wonder such a hard drinker came to such a violent end. Dr Matthews, the medical officer in charge, met his death shortlay after landing in Auckland. He was drowned when sailing over to the North Shore with 4 others in an open boat; Their bodies were never recovered.
The Gwalior then continued her voyage to New Plymouth where she arrived on 18th August & landed several passengers.
She was subsequently in the Colonial trade and we heard that in April 1853 a report of her arrival in Lyttelton states "We regret to state that Captain Davidson, the commander, threw himself overboard on April 16th being at the time in a state of delerium tremens."
The mate Mr Taylor brought the vessel safely into port.