Sail and Steam in New Zealand: an outline

(updated 1 July 2004)

 

 

 

Introduction:

 

This section of my site outlines the transition from Sail to Steam in New Zealand within the context of a series of graphs illustrating major features of the historical development of New Zealand shipping with a connecting narrative. No attempt is made to extend the coverage beyond the 1930’s. Potentially, the series of graphs could form the basic core of a documentary presentation augmented by from a few to many dozens of other graphics elaborating the sub-components, introducing additional topics and comparisons with other countries and fleshed out with suitable pictures of representative ships and alternately suitably nautical and pastoral background music. The approach will appeal to some and not to others. It is, simply, useful for those things for which it is useful and unsuitable for others. The necessary material exists to treat many other countries and regions in a similar structure.

 

Consent is granted for reproduction of individual graphs by teaching institutions and museums for educational and display purposes with acknowledgement to R.J. Lowe, Wellington, N.Z. Please consult regarding any other use besides strictly personal use.

 

The graphs have been compiled in a deliberately basic format both to keep them simple for a non-specialist audience and also to limit the web site costs. Each shows only two variables. In each, Sail is represented in green, Steam in red. All tonnage figures are net which makes for a fairly consistent comparison between Sail and Steam in terms of cargo capacity. In line with widespread contemporary practice, Steam includes motor vessels and Sail includes unpowered barges in all cases.

 

 

Shipbuilding in New Zealand

 

Traditionally, shipbuilding in New Zealand by Europeans dates from 1795. Thomas Moore, the carpenter of the sealing ship Britannia, almost completed a 65 ton schooner at Dusky Sound, Fiordland, in 1792 but left it unfinished. The ship Endeavour (not Captain Cook’s ship of that name) had to be abandoned there in 1795 as unseaworthy.  The crews of the Endeavour and her consort the Fancy completed Moore’s schooner, named her Providence and sailed her in company with the Fancy to the convict settlement on Norfolk Island. Another boat was constructed out of the Endeavour’s longboat.er crewHer

 

 

Small-scale informal European settlement gradually developed during the following decades in association with sealing, whaling and an expanding trade with Māori*, particularly in the north. Further vessels were built and by the 1820’s shipyards had been established though the output was small. Māori, with their long maritime and canoe-building traditions and conducive social structure were involved in maritime activities as seamen, whale ship crew members, providores, in ship-building and as owners.

 

* For the information of international readers, contemporary general New Zealand practice uses “Māori” as a plural as well as a singular noun, in line with Māori linguistic convention. Māori has equal official status with English in New Zealand. 

 

Difficulties of international law arose when ships built in New Zealand started trading with the established British settlement of Sydney, for they could not fly any internationally recognised flag, New Zealand being outside the territory of any recognised state. Accordingly, when the New Zealand built, 109 foot long, Sir George Murray arrived at Sydney in November 1830 she was seized and her cargo impounded.* The incident and the situation led to the adoption in 1834 (at British instigation) by northern chiefs of a New Zealand flag which the British Admiralty directed its naval vessels to acknowledge and respect.**  The resident British agent issued the local ships a certificate of registration and they were accorded the same rights at Australian ports as British and other colonial vessels. When Britain annexed New Zealand in 1840 the system of ship registration that applied throughout the Empire was introduced. Some decades later the Shaw Savill & Co. shipping company adopted this flag as its house flag in recognition of its New Zealand connections so it will be familiar internationally to many who do not know its origin***.

 

*     Sensitive to the legal technicalities, the owners named the Sir George Murray after the Private Secretary of State for the Colonies but it availed them not.

**   For an account refer The Treaty of Waitangi, Claudia Orange, Allen and Unwin and Port Nicholson Press, Wellington, 1987, pp 19-21.

*** An image of this flag appears – erroneously – for New Zealand in the colour chart “National colors worn by merchant vessels of different countries” at the beginning of the 1893 volume of the List of Merchant Vessels of the United States (and possibly some other volumes of around the same date although the feature had been dropped by 1898). However, some use of this flag continued as it was used on a South African (Boer) War Medal design. The present New Zealand flag was not adopted until 1902. For further details see  http://www.mch.govt.nz/nzflag/index.html.  Given the flag’s use by the Shaw Savill and Shaw Savill & Albion shipping companies it is likely that a substantial proportion of living New Zealanders are descended from someone who migrated to New Zealand on a ship flying this flag or even did so themselves.

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Shipbuilding since 1840 is represented in the graph below based on Watt’s Index of ships registered in New Zealand. It has not yet been cross-matched or integrated with the official statistics. All the early ships were sailing ships but small steamers were built locally from the early 1850’s onward or assembled from kitsets shipped from the United Kingdom.

 

Some 1,798 sailing ships and 525 powered vessels were built in NZ in the period 1840 to 1950 - small numbers in global terms. Most were small in size by the standards of larger countries for only 67 of the sailing ships and 50 of the powered vessels exceeded 100 tons net. However, fairly small wooden ships were what was most needed to provide local transport in an initially roadless country. Established Australian and other British shipping was adequate to cover the trans-Tasman and United Kingdom trades although locally built and locally-owned overseas-built shipping quickly developed to become a significant presence in the trans-Tasman, Pacific and trans-Pacific trades.

 

 

           

                                   

 

 

The graph shows that the majority of ships built in New Zealand were sail-powered up to around 1900 after which steam predominated. The declining trends in the numbers of both sailing and steam ships built reflect their increasing average size. The first sail construction peak reflects initial European settlement; the second the impact of the gold rushes and the military activity of the 1860’s. The third sail construction peak and the first significant steam construction peak reflect the impact of the mass assisted immigration of the 1870’s.

 

Even though most construction was small by world standards the local ship-building industry developed a tradition of skill in wooden shipbuilding that persists to the present day. Local development of the sailing scow concept from the 1870’s through to World War I, was recognised as innovative (refer NZ Scows). Locally built schooners were in demand in the Pacific Islands in competition with Californian vessels. The largest sailing ship built in New Zealand was the 410 ton ship Stirlingshire, built at Great Barrier Island in 1847. The last of those of more than 100 tons to be built without an auxiliary engine was the three-masted topsail schooner Zingara, the largest of the scows, in 1906. The last scow was built in 1925.

 

The most comprehensive published accounts of New Zealand shipbuilding in the days of Sail are Cliff Hawkins’ Out of Auckland (the author, Auckland, 1960) and A Maritime Heritage (Collins, 1978), which were both widely sold internationally and are available on the second hand market. Hawkins’ accounts deal only with Auckland Province (the northern half of the North Island) but it accounted for most of the construction and for all of the scows.

 

Most NZ-registered ships not built in New Zealand were built in Australia or the United Kingdom although more than 200 North American ships came under New Zealand ownership (refer North America). More than forty Scandinavian and other European-built ships were also locally owned.

 

 

                       

 

 

Most of the larger ships owned in New Zealand were built overseas, particularly when steam, iron and steel became predominant for there was no possible basis for local competition with the world-leading United Kingdom production of such ships. Although there wasn’t the raw material or manufacturing base or a sufficiently large economy to support the development of such an industry, local repair activities eventually developed into a minor one.* A neat example is the shipyard of the Anchor Shipping and Foundry Company which built and serviced ships at Nelson. In 1906 it assembled the 123 (gross) ton Koi from parts supplied by the Glasgow firm of John Shearer and Co. A few years later the company cut the Koi in half and lengthened her by 20 feet.**

 

*The New Zealand Shipbuilding Industry, Department of Industries and Commerce, Wellington, 1968).

** Captain’s Log. New Zealand’s Maritime History, Gavin McLean, Hodder Moa Beckett,, Auckland, 2001, p. 115.

 

I have not yet compiled a graph similar to the one above showing tonnage by decade and place of construction. It would show the bars for later decades larger relative to earlier decades and feature the United Kingdom much more prominently as the place of construction. Note that the above graph is based on when the ships were constructed – they did not necessarily come under NZ ownership or registration until much later, particularly in the case of the North American, Australian and European ships. On the other hand, larger iron and steel steam ships purchased by the leading local shipping companies were often built to order in the United Kingdom and NZ-registered on their delivery voyage.

 

 

Ship ownership in New Zealand

 

Local ship ownership is reflected in the following two graphs based on official statistics showing ships registered at ten-year intervals from 1870 although at times significant tonnages of locally owned ships were registered overseas (the British maritime registration system being world-wide). As far as numbers are concerned, Sail predominated until around World War I. Many of these ships were extremely small by any standards. The carrying capacity of many was no larger than that of one or two modern standard shipping containers but appropriate to their fulfilment of roles performed today by motor vehicles. Larger ships could have been and were built but much of the need throughout the 19th century was for small vessels that could tranship small cargoes more or less anywhere. Broadly similar ships played similar roles to varying degrees throughout the 19th century and into the 20th in the other colonies of Australasia and in North America. The vulnerability of the small early sailing ships is appalling. There were more shipwrecks locally during the 1860’s than during any other decade, constituting a quarter of the total up to World War II.

 

 

                                   

 

 

As the following graph shows, the tonnage of locally-registered steam ships expanded rapidly during the 1880’s and 1890’s. A particularly significant contributor to the trend to steam was the Union Steamship Company of Dunedin (founded 1875) which quickly became a dominating presence in coastal shipping and an aggressive and successful competitor in the trans-Tasman trade and spread its activities to the Pacific.

 

 

                                   

 

 

The tonnage of sailing ship registrations peaked in 1884. The declining tonnage of steam ships after World War I reflects both the increasing technological efficiency of the fleet on one hand and the increasingly strong and successful competition of rail transport with coastal shipping on the other. A sharp dip occurred with the transfer of Union Steamship Company ships from New Zealand to British registration during World War I for insurance reasons.*

 

* The Ship’s Register. A History of British Ship Status and Registration Procedures including their adoption in New Zealand, Robert D. Campbell, Ministry of Transport – Marine Division, Wellington, 1980, p. 55.

 

 

Coastal shipping

 

Although the majority of locally registered ships up to World War I were sailing ships and their total tonnage remained significant into the 1900’s, the greater capacity of steam ships for frequent and regular passages saw Steam activity predominating over Sail in the coastal trades before 1880 even when judged by numbers of ships. (The available statistics do not differentiate between sail and steam before 1880.)

 

 

 

                                   

 

 

When coastal shipping is measured in terms of the tonnage of shipping movements, Steam was already predominant over Sail in 1880 by a large margin, reflecting the ability of even steam ships of quite primitive capability by modern standards to out-perform a fleet of sailing ships of similar tonnage.

 

 

                                   

 

 

Steam ship tonnages cleared in the coastal trade expanded to 12.1 million tons by 1914, more than six times the 1880 level. In contrast, Sail coastal clearances had fallen to less than half their 1880 level by 1914 constituting less than two percent of the total.

 

Further work is necessary to fully determine to what degree statistical conventions may mask aspects of analytical interest. The universal contemporary statistical convention treats the coastwise passages of an overseas ship between two loading ports as a coastal movement. Thus a ship arriving from Australia at Bluff, discharging and loading cargo and passengers at Bluff, Dunedin, Lyttelton, and Wellington and departing for Australia from Wellington is counted as a Bluff overseas arrival and coastal departure, Dunedin and Lyttelton coastal arrivals and departures, a Wellington coastal arrival and a Wellington overseas departure – one overseas arrival, one overseas departure, three coastal arrivals and three coastal departures, one ship and its tonnage being added to the aggregate total every time. The regular trans-Tasman steamer services established in the 1880’s deliberately operated just such schedules in order to service all the main cities. (The four main cities of New Zealand all had roughly similar populations for many years. Bluff [the port for Invercargill and Southland] was the nearest port for the Melbourne and Tasmanian services and by 1879 had well-developed rail links with much of the South Island. Auckland developed its present primacy only in the period after World War II.)

 

In the 1920’s an additional alternative statistical series was introduced treating all the coastal passages in the above example as overseas shipping. The effect on the figures was considerable but it was too late to reveal anything about Sail although it is known that sailing ships often discharged imports and migrants and loaded exports at more than one port. Neither statistical approach is right or wrong in any absolute sense but there is much to be said for identifying the coastwise passages of overseas ships as a distinct category for analysis and comparison. A major argument in the debate over containerisation in the 1970’s was the cost to the shipping companies of two and three-port loading – it was not peculiar to Sail or the early days of meat and wool exports by Steam. Reconstructing the statistics from individual ship records for the period to 1922 is a significant undertaking but feasible as a co-operative venture over a period as the numbers are manageable. It would also be useful to be able to differentiate other categories of coastal shipping, notably the regularly timetabled WellingtonSouth Island services as distinct from general coastal shipping.

 

 

 

Overseas trade

 

Sail maintained a major role for much longer in the overseas trades. Steam competition was limited compared with the coastal trades until developments in the efficiency of steam engines gave them a sufficient margin over Sail on longer routes, for major developments also occurred in the capacity and efficiency of sailing ships for the long-distance bulk trades right into the 1900’s. The graph below shows that although steam ships competed strongly during the 1880’s in overseas departures, the cross-over point, as measured by the number of ships, occurred in 1893. (Overall, overseas arrivals closely track the trends for departures, for the ships concerned were the same apart from the small numbers shipwrecked or which were delivered from overseas to join the local coastal fleet.)

 

 

                                   

 

 

The average size of steam ships was larger so that steam tonnage already predominated by a margin when the first statistics to differentiate sail and steam were published in 1886.

 

 

                                                     

 

More detailed analysis shows an important distinction between passages to the United Kingdom – literally half the world away - and the comparatively short passages to the Australian colonies. The cross-over points for each route occur within a few years when number of ships is the criterion, but tonnages tell a different story.

 

 

                                   

 

 

An important distinction between the United Kingdom and the Australian trades shows up when tonnage rather than number of ships is the criterion as larger sailing ships were involved in the United Kingdom trade. The tonnages of sail and steam ships departing to the United Kingdom remained more or less the same until after 1890, after which steam pulled rapidly ahead as shown in the following graph. A number of factors contributed to the difference. Firstly, it was at this time that the efficiency of steam engines developed to the point that steam ships could finally compete efficiently over such distances. It was a sailing ship that in 1882 pioneered the New Zealand frozen meat trade to the United Kingdom which within 20 years became one of the country’s export staples but steam ships quickly dominated the trade as their ability to make more passages, more reliably in a period enabled them to give a better return on the capital investment involved. The connection is at least partly circular because the regularity of the steam ship service must have been a factor in the growth of the meat industry. The steam ships were also aided by the superior service they could provide for outward general cargoes.

 

 

 

                                                                

 

The following graph showing the volume of exports from 1870 to 1910 illustrates just how much trade was picked up by steam ships and, conversely, was not being picked up by sailing ships. For the first decade shown on the graph, sailing ships carried more or less all of the major staple agricultural export. During the 1880’s, steam ships made inroads on that cargo and picked up the new developing staple exports. During the 1890’s, steam ships took over most of the wool trade. By 1910 they had nearly all of the former staple trade as well as virtually all of the new. We can divide the graph of exports between Sail and Steam as follows. Sail is represented by nearly all of the blue (wool) in the leftmost third tapering away in the middle towards the bottom of the blue area on the right hand side. All the rest represents the growth of Steam. The graph illustrates neatly how the Steam expansion was much more a case of leading the new, rather than fighting for the old.

 

 

 

                                   

 

 

The sailing ships never really got the chance to break out of the wool trade that had been their staple for the previous 20 years or so. Potentially, that left them plenty of scope because the volume of wool exports more than doubled from the early 1880’s through to 1910 as the graph shows, but they were unable to retain this trade. The sailing ships also lost a valuable source of income with the marked reduction in immigrant numbers during the 1880’s compared with the high levels of assisted immigration in the 1870’s. They had made the outward passage with immigrants in temporary accommodation in the ‘tween-decks in addition to the general cargo in their holds. In the 1880’s there were relatively few passengers available to either Sail or Steam. During the 1890’s, the steam ships took the immigrant trade too.

 

The use of sailing ships in the wool trade on a minor scale continued into the 1920’s, notably through chartering by the farmer-backed company of G. H. Scales*. In 1921 the five-masted barque France, the second of the name and conventionally acknowledged as the largest sailing ship ever built, uplifted the largest single wool cargo from New Zealand up to that date **. A number of photographs in local collections record her departure from Wellington on 5 September 1921 *** on what was to be the last passage of her last complete voyage as she was wrecked in New Caledonia the following year. The France loaded at both Lyttelton and Wellington. A large painting in the collection of the Museum of Wellington City and Sea commemorates the France on the coastal passage between the two ports. However, the artist confused the two five-masters of the name and painted the sail plan of the earlier France (built 1890, lost 1901) which never visited New Zealand ****.

 

* A Venture into Shipping. A Success Story. Geo. H. Scales Ltd. 1912-1972, T.G. Coveny, Whitcombe and Tombs, 1972., Rocking the Boat?: A History of Scales Corporation Limited, Gavin McLean, Hazard Press, Christchurch, 2002.

** The Last of the Windjammers, Basil Lubbock, Brown Son & Ferguson Ltd, Glasgow, 1929, Vol. II, p. 313.

*** one of which became the basis for a sketch published in Wellington Harbour: A Heritage of Tara, Donald R. Nielson, A.H. & A.W. Reed, 1970, p. 84, which was reproduced on a series of  table mats 50 or more years after the event, though few who dined off them knew what they signified.

**** France (I) carried royals. France (II) did not.

 

Jackson’s account of the transition from Sail to Steam in the Sydney wool trade* appears likely to broadly fit the New Zealand pattern, though with some possible differences in timing which I have yet to fully explore (with the scale of its industry, Sydney may well have led the way for all the Australasian colonies; the steam ship route to Europe from Sydney was also shorter than that from NZ and the sailing ship route longer). He demonstrated that the proportion of wool cargoes carried from Sydney by steam ships leapt from two percent in the 1874-75 season to 25 percent in 1879-80 and 53 percent in 1884-85.** The percentage then remained at around that level for more than a decade during which the volumes carried by both Sail and Steam increased considerably. The Steam percentage did not exceed 90 percent until after 1900. Jackson notes that this could be interpreted as anomalous given that by 1884 steam ships had demonstrated their efficiency for the purpose. He demonstrated that the benefit that some of the early steamers in the trade had gained from mail subsidies benefited fewer of the steamers in the 1890’s but I find it convincing that his primary explanation is that the sailing ships involved remained profitable (having already depreciated much of the cost of their construction) and so were allowed to carry on, there being no great marginal return to speed in the wool trade compared with frozen produce. Insurance rates turned against them in the 1890’s as they aged when they were disposed of and replaced by steamers. 

 

* R.V. Jackson, The Decline of the Wool Clippers, The Great Circle, October 1980, pp 87-98. For a detailed comprehensive account of the transition from Sail to Steam in the Australian and New Zealand trades, refer Frank Broeze, Distance tamed: steam navigation to Australia and New Zealand from its beginnings to the outbreak of the Great War, Journal of Transport History, Third Series, 10 (1), March 1989, pp 1-21.

** Work in progress may show that the percentage was not as high at this time in the New Zealand wool trade but fuller analysis is required.

 

Quite specific as well as general factors influenced the particular timing of the transition from Sail to Steam in New Zealand overseas trade for there were only two major operators of sailing ships on the NZ-UK run after the merger of the Shaw Savill and Albion Lines in 1882. The decision by the New Zealand Shipping Company in 1882 (in response to governmental inducement) to quadruple its capital in order to go into Steam was decisive in the Shaw Savill and Albion merger to enable a competitive response.*

 

 *Sail to New Zealand. The Story of Shaw Savill & Co 1858-82, David Savill, Robert Hale, London, 1986, p. 126.)

 

At the same time, sentimental attachment by a single influential individual played a role in keeping Sail in the trade. Walter Savill, founding partner in 1858 of the company that bore his name, never welcomed the transition to steam. Not all of the Shaw Savill sailing ships were transferred to the new company and the terms of the amalgamation permitted the old company to continue in parallel with the new, provided its operations did not conflict. Savill kept going those of the remaining sailing ships that he could, chartered and purchased others and even had two more built. They all flew his old house flag, the 1834 New Zealand flag, even though it had been taken over by the new company and he generally found employment for them other than on the New Zealand run. Between 1892 and 1895 he progressively detached himself from management of the amalgamated company and set himself up afresh with his sailing ship fleet. In the words of his grandson “… it was just like the old days again. He was his own boss, he had his sailing-ships and he was having fun with his City friends, who were still prepared to invest in his restless spirit and to encourage his enterprise. He again had a sparkle in his eye…”* He still owned four sailing ships at the time of his death, aged 75, in 1911. His career spanned from the heyday of British clippers until almost the end of their successors. During his lifetime he witnessed a transformation in the nature of sailing ships arguably as radical as the transition from Sail to Steam itself.

 

                * Sail to New Zealand. The Story of Shaw Savill & Co 1858-82, David Savill, Robert Hale, London, 1986, pp 137-41, 177.)

 

 

 

The trans-Tasman trade

 

Most overseas shipping to and from New Zealand that was not in the United Kingdom trade involved trade with the Australian colonies. This was known at the time as the “intercolonial” trade, a particular local usage of words often found in historical NZ maritime writing that for practical purposes translates as “trans-Tasman” in relation to New Zealand. The same expression was used in the Australian context in the 19th century with no necessary implication of a trans-Tasman passage. Australian use of “intercolonial” when no trans-Tasman passage was involved, equates with “interstate” in post-1900 and current practice. “Trans-Tasman” will not be found in 19th century writing and records for the Tasman Sea was only named as such at the end of the century.

 

The following graphs show clearances other than those to the United Kingdom as a working approximation for trans-Tasman trade, for almost all of them were to the Australian colonies.

 

 

 

                                   

 

 

 

 

                                   

 

 

The pattern of the graphs broadly follows that of the earlier graphs for total clearances as the majority of ships and much of the tonnage was in the trans-Tasman trade, a pattern that persisted until into the early 20th century when trade with Australia fell to low levels that did not revive until the 1960’s when a different economic relationship developed.

 

The NZ statistics indicate that the transition from Sail to Steam in terms of tonnage had already occurred on the trans-Tasman run by 1886. They cannot indicate the actual date for they do not make the sail/steam distinction until 1886.

 

Fortuitously, most of the Australian colonies introduced the sail/steam statistical distinction some ten years earlier. It is therefore possible to examine the transition in trans-Tasman shipping from the other end of the route. I am still assembling the complete record as seven separately – and differently – compiled series of statistics are involved, which are not all available locally for all years. However, almost all the shipping links were with New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania for which I have sufficiently comparable coverage. These records show that Sail was still predominant in the trans-Tasman trade throughout the 1870’s and indicate the transition year as 1881 or 1882. The change in NZ statistical practice in 1886 therefore reflects consciousness of a recent change in the subject of the statistics.

 

The Victorian statistics show that Steam was already predominant in shipping between New Zealand and Victoria by 1876. This may, to at least a degree, reflect steamers from Britain to New Zealand stopping off at Melbourne for coal and supplies and being counted in NZ statistics as an arrival from Australia rather than an arrival from the UK. This would have been correct statistical practice but would still require some qualification to the earlier analysis. Only analysis at the individual ship level can provide the necessary detail. A well organised genealogical project is progressively providing (as a by-product) the information required.

 

 

 

Symbolising the transition from Sail to Steam

 

As far as the prestigious United Kingdom route was concerned, the cross-over from Sail to Steam, however measured, became decisive during the 1890’s. An event in 1895 has gone down in local, and to a degree international, maritime folklore as celebrating the struggle Sail put up in a competition which ultimately, thanks to the weight of technological change, it could not win.

 

The event was the occasion on 14 February 1895 when in lat. 46° 15’ S., long. 68° 16’ E., the New Zealand Shipping Company’s full-rigged ship Turakina sailed past the steamer Ruapehu which was logging 14 knots and above under both steam and auxiliary sail. The occasion is commemorated in a painting “When Sail beat Steam” by marine artist Frank H. Mason, R.B.A. that was prominently displayed in the company’s London office. It can be seen on-line at http://www.wise-art.com/SailVsteamBIG.htm

 

In the prosaic sense, the remarkable feature represented in the painting is the improbability of any two ships meeting at all given the vastness of the ocean and the small number of ships on the route. It isn’t so very remarkable that the Turakina overtook the Ruapehu for the sailing conditions were optimum for a ship of her type. Mason’s painting shows the Turakina with a strong breeze or near-gale on the port quarter under all sail except the mizzen topgallant and royal which were furled, a practice followed to ease the steering of a full-rigged ship in a strong following sea. Quite a few other sailing ships afloat at the time might well have accomplished the same faced with similar competition in similar conditions.

 

Of course, it wasn’t such mundane considerations that caught the imagination of artist and observers alike but the sentimental “last fling of a dying breed” construction that they put upon the image – a similar sentiment to that underlying a whole genre of lone Scottish Highland stag images of similar (?and older) vintage. The economic realities were well-understood by the contemporary observers. They did not expect to ever again hear of such an occasion. They could afford the painting. They could no longer afford the ship. The company sold her in 1899. Norwegian owners reduced her to barque rig and ran her for a few more years. By 1914 she had been scrapped.

 

Not to let a good story go begging for lack of reinforcement, painter Charles Dixon also recreated the scene in 1927 from a different angle of vision. The resulting painting was hung in the company’s Christchurch boardroom. Both paintings must involve a fair degree of artistic license as no person could have directly witnessed the scene from the perspective of either artist as no third ship was present. Both are reproduced in The Sailing Ships of the New Zealand Shipping Company 1873-1900, Alan Bott, B.T. Batsford Ltd, London, 1972. For a detailed account of the incident refer Bott, pp 105-7 and The Colonial Clippers, Basil Lubbock, James Brown & Son, Glasgow, 1921, p. 375 (second edition Brown, Son & Ferguson Ltd, 1948, pp 316-7).

 

Jeremy Lowe

Wellington

April 2004

 j_lowe@ihug.co.nz 

 

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