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This website is developed from the site originally conceived developed & maintained by Marcus Castell and associates. Opinions are those of the various authors of the articles, and are not those of the NZ National Maritime Museum unless specifically noted. Information in this site has been updated to 2002 and will be progressively updated as resources allow. More information on historic ships (etc) is contained in the MARITIME INDEX website

The steam ship Rangatira of 1890

Expanded versions of the above images open in new windows
The profile view is 353 Kb. and the deck plan is 143 Kb.
Restored from Shaw Savill & Albion's original lithographs of February 1893, the scale is 1:384

Introduction

Little is known of the first of the six Rangatiras, but with a British crew, she was carrying passengers from London to Australian ports in 1857. The next Rangatira was a steamer built in Scotland of iron in 1863 and displaced 196 tons.  She sank in New Zealand on the 7th of September 1880 on Pefferies Rock, en-route from Manakau to New Plymouth with passengers and mail.  Subsequently there were two ships named Rangatira built for the Shaw Savill and Albion Company and then a another two built for the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand.

Specifications

William Gray and Company built the Rangatira in 1890 as a frozen-meat carrier, with a single funnel and two masts. The Shaw Savill and Albion Line purchased her on the stocks and she had a gross tonnage of 4,045 tons, a length of 365 feet, with a beam of 47 feet and a depth of 29.4 feet.  Rangatira was powered by a single triple expansion engine developing 415 Nautical Horsepower at a cruising speed of 10 knots.  With Southampton as the port of registry, she was designated with the Official Number of 97216.

Rangatira was originally square rigged on the foremast, but before she left London on her voyage in 1906, the hoist of the fore-topmast was found to be sprung.  Sail was gradually disappearing from steamers so to save the expense of a mast and the yards, they were removed and put ashore.

As it turned out, those very yards and sails would have proved invaluable to her during what was to be her most amazing voyage in 1906.  It was to form one of many thousands of stories about man's endurance against the sea, before the advent of wireless communications, in which ingenuity was taxed to the utmost.


Log

1890     June 4     Launched at West Hartlepool and completed by the following August.

1890     September 22     Departed on her maiden voyage from London for New Zealand ports.

1891     March 30     Arrived at the Port of London.

1891     May 22     Departed from London for the port of Auckland.

1891     July 23     Arrived at Auckland.

1891     October 12     Arrived at the Port of London.

1891     November 30     Departed from London for the port of Auckland.

1892     April 27     Arrived at the Port of London.

1892     June 13     Departed from London for Port Chalmers (Dunedin).

1893     January 20     Arrived at the Port of London.

1893     May 7     Departed from London for Port Chalmers (Dunedin).

1893     July 18     Arrived at the Port of London.

1893     September 16     Departed from London for Wellington.

1894     February 14     Arrived at the Port of London.

1894     March 12     Departed from London for the port of Auckland.

1894     July 27     Arrived at the Port of London.

1894     September 30     Departed from London for Port Chalmers (Dunedin).

1895     February 2     Arrived at the Port of London.

1895     April 20     Departed from London for Port Chalmers (Dunedin).

1895     September 14     Arrived at the Port of London.

1896     June 1     Departed from London for the port of Auckland.

1897     January 1     Arrived at the Port of London.

1897     February 18     Departed from London for Wellington.

1897     June 20     Arrived at the Port of London.

1897     August 14     Departed from London for Wellington.

1898     January 31     Arrived at the Port of London.

1898     February 17     Departed from London for Wellington.

1898     June 21     Arrived at the Port of London.

1898     July 12     Departed from London for Port Chalmers (Dunedin).

1898     November 11     Arrived at the Port of London.

1899     January 3     Departed from London for Port Chalmers (Dunedin).

1899     May 13     Arrived at the Port of London.

1899     June 30     Departed from London for Port Chalmers (Dunedin).

1899     December 12     Arrived at the Port of London.

1900     June 29     Departed from London for Port Chalmers (Dunedin).

1900     November 21     Arrived at the Port of London.

1901     January 4     Departed from London for Port Chalmers (Dunedin).

1901     May 27     Arrived at the Port of London.

1901     August 3     Departed from London for the port of Auckland.

1902     February 9     Arrived at the Port of London.

1902     March 1     Departed from London for the port of Auckland.

1902     July 16     Arrived at the Port of London.

1903     September 5     Under the command of Captain G. Nicole, she departed from the Victoria Docks in the Port of London for Lyttelton.

Richard Bennett joined the vessel as Ship's Boilermaker for the voyage, his wages were £10 per month, which included £5 advancement at the time of engagement and £5 monthly allotment.  He was discharged on the 5th of April 1904 at Victoria Docks, London and was paid £22, 17 shillings and 5 pence, being the balance of his wages on discharge.

1903     October 27     Arrived at Port Chalmers (Dunedin).

1903     November 6     Arrived at Lyttelton

1903     November 27     Returned to Port Chalmers.

1904     January 31     Arrived at the port of Oamaru in the province of Otago

1904     February 7     Returned to Port Chalmers.

1904     February 10     Departed for London.

1904     April 5     Arrived at the Royal Victoria Dock on the Woolwich Reach of the Thames in the Port of London.

1904     May 3     Departed from London for Lyttelton.

1904     November 8     Arrived at the Port of London.

1904     December 3     Departed from London for Wellington.

1905     April 29     Arrived at the Port of London.

1905     May 2     Voyage abandoned.

1905     May 20     Departed from London for the River Plate.

1905     August 14     Arrived at the Port of London.

1905     December 31     Coasting in home waters under a half-yearly agreement,

1905     September 9     Departed from London for Lyttelton.

1906     February 2     Arrived at the Port of London.

1906     March 3     Departed from London for Rio de Janeiro.

1906     June 5     Arrived at the Port of London.

1906     July 6     Sailed for New Zealand with general cargo and a crew of 36 hands.  The master Captain R. Chudley was a Royal Naval Reservist, a splendid type of sailor held in high regard.  The crew were to mould into a team of enterprising men and came into their own when the tail-shaft was broken and the ship drifted for 21 days.  Upon arrival at Port Chalmers, the ship discharged her cargo and left for Manila with coal from Newcastle in Australia.

1906     November 13     Departed from Manila for Newcastle, Australia to bunker before crossing the Tasman to New Zealand.

1906     November 19     A fine passage had been anticipated but about 6 a.m. the engine raced loudly and Captain Chudley, looking over the taffrail observed that the propeller had jagged and bent blades.  The tail-shaft had broken resulting in the propeller and boss being driven against the rudder post.  Both were of Manganese Bronze, fortunately for had they been of cast iron, the lot would have been lost.  It is believed that the Rangatira may have struck a rock, which snapped the shaft and buckled the propeller blades.

Without radio, the plight of the ship looked a sorry one.  Fortunately fine weather was prevailing, although the ship was rolling considerably as she drifted beam on to the North-westerly swell.  In the words of the fourth mate, "The first job was to secure the propeller.  I was sent away with a boat rowed by four hands.  As soon as the boat was lowered on to the shark-infested sea, the sharks rammed it in an alarming manner.  We managed to keep them at bay by striking them with a boat-hook.

Finally, we were able to bend on chains, shackled to their own parts, led to the after winches and hove tight on either side.  It was then decided to cut away the stern tube shaft casing and try to connect the fractured shaft by means of the Thompson's patent coupling.  We were fortunate by having six engineers, two of them being refrigerating engineers.

To get at this stern tube meant working in the after peak in a very limited space.  This was a difficult task because the tube shaft casing had to be cut away by drilling holes and joining them until the metal could be lifted off.  Cutting and drilling the tube was a very long and arduous job, for the men worked night and day.  On the deck, the hands were busy rigging derricks as yards, two of which were sent aloft on the foremast, spare canvas awnings, and tarpaulins being used for sails.  A jumper stay was set up between the fore and main lower-mast heads, and on these we rigged boat booms with tarpaulins to form a square sail.

With all these gadgets of sails set, the ship now looked like a Chinese Junk.  Whenever there was any wind it was all hands trim sail and try to bring the ship to her course, but it was helpless and the ship drifted like a log.  In addition to this, the temperatures from the burning tropical sun right overhead beating down on our steel decks without awnings, made the Rangatira like a furnace."

The fourth mate's account continues, "28 November 1906.  We are now nine days adrift and will soon be on the overdue list.  The ship is fast drifting eastward with equatorial current and out of the track of shipping.  The engineers have now succeeded in cutting away the stern tube.  Alas the couplings failed.  We are now trying to fit keys in the broken shaft ends."

1906     December 8     "The engineers are now fitting the third and last key to the shaft.  We hope to get under way tomorrow.

1906     December 9     Chains taken off the propeller and standing by while raising steam.  At 10 a.m. the engines started slow ahead, coupling and keys holding well.  What a rousing cheer went up from all hands."

"We have been adrift 21 days, three hours, 31 minutes.  Total distance drifted 563 miles.  It is our intention to make for a safe port in or about Astrolabe Bay, German New Guinea.

1906     December 13     "Lucky 13 - We arrived off Friedrich Wilhelmshaven (now known as Madang).  Not having a chart of the port, we decided to wait until daylight before attempting to enter the bay.  The ship was kept cruising in the offing, it not being safe to stop the engines or put them astern in case of anything carrying away."

"At daylight, Captain Chudley sent me away in charge of a boat to take soundings and look for a suitable anchorage.  As soon as we got in with the hand, a large fleet of canoes was sighted.  The natives were all made up in their war paint and headgear, and armed with spears and shields.  They looked a wild lot and of the head-hunter type so we gave them a wide berth."

And so Rangatira came to comparative safety.  Captain Chudley found a German settlement and took out to the ship one of the men with knowledge of the bay and the lame duck was taken to an anchorage.  Since she steamed away at the end of her drift, the vessel had travelled 554 miles at an average speed of 5.3 knots, a fine performance indeed under temporary repairs.

Even then the worries of the crew were not at an end, for the settlers had discovered a plot among the natives to murder the white sailors.

A cofferdam or caisson was constructed around the stern of the ship, this taking the shape of a box 13 feet square and constructed to deck height with hatches and covered initially with canvas palms.  The strange craft was flooded, sunk below the keel, hove into position, closely fitted round the rudder, propeller and stern-post, and caulked around the stern tubes.

Then the cofferdam was pumped out and the broken shaft drawn.  At the end of 24 days, the work was completed with the fitting of the spare shaft, but all hands were exhausted, Captain Chudley and a third of the crew being down with Malaria fever.

1907     January 7     Sailed for Sydney.  The sick members of the crew recovered as the ship travelled southwards.

1907     January 14     After an average speed of 6 knots, she arrived at Sydney.  It is interesting to note that she had even been given up for lost, since no other vessel saw her until she made Madang.

1907     April 23     Arrived at the Port of London.

1907     June 28     Departed from London for the River Plate.

1907     October 25     Arrived at the Port of London.

1907     June 30     Coasting in home waters under a half-yearly agreement,

1907     November 7     Departed from London for the River Plate.

1908     March 1     Arrived at the Port of London.

1908     October 5     Departed from the Tyne river for London.

1908     June 30     Coasting in home waters under a half-yearly agreement,

1909     December 3     Sold to the Vestey Brothers and chartered to the Russian Government along with her sister ship, the Pakeha.  Renamed Count Muravieff (Governor of the province of Moscow and Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs), and sailing under the Imperial Russian flag, she was used in the service of the Siberian Salmon fisheries.

1911     The vessel's name was Germanised to Graf Murajev.

1911     September     Returned to the Vestey Brothers and renamed Brodmore.

1912     January     Passed into the management of the Blue Star line under British registry.

1917     December 27     Torpedoed by the Austrian Submarine U-43, 70 miles North West of Marsa Susa on the Libyan coast (almost directly South of the Western end of Crete) en route for the port of Majunga on the island of Madagascar, with frozen meat.

With a displacement of only 272 tons and a length of 36.90 metres, U-43 was one of the smallest U-Boats built at Bremen in 1916.  She sank 22 ships with a total loss of 99,202 tons.


Bibliography

Maber, John M.
Northern Star to Southern Cross
Prescot: Stephenson, 1967. 335 pp. Illustrated.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Scott Bennett for most of the research and Marcus Castell for bringing it all together.

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