THE NEW ZEALAND MARITIME RECORD
The steam ship Rangatira of 1890
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
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.
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.
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.
Maber, John M.
Thanks to Scott Bennett for most of the research and Marcus Castell for bringing it all together.
New Zealand Maritime Record
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