Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Childhood memories often fade over time. This particular memory is not only fading - but literally sinking out of sight!
As a kid, my family often visited a shipwreck on Waitarere Beach (on the west coast of the lower North Island, NZ). It was the remains of an iron-hulled cargo ship, Hydrabad, which was driven ashore in a gale on 25th.June 1878.
[There're good accounts of the event on the 'Dive New Zealand' and 'Waitarere Beach' websites].
Over the years, the Hydrabad hulk became a well-known landmark and it wasn't just kids of my era who enjoyed clambering all over it. 
Dad would tell us tall tales about the "haunted" wreck, but a true story he did not know involved the ship's figurehead. It had black curly hair and big black beard, and wore a white turban, red jacket and green sash.
It stood with swarthy brown arms crossed and holding a sword, in a front garden in nearby Foxton Beach township until the 1930s, when it was destroyed... because local children were too scared to walk past it on their way to school! 
Over the decades, the Waitarere coastline has altered. The beach is designated as a public road, and sightseers can drive right to the site...through it's possible to completely miss the remains these days.

The wreck used to lie along the high-tide mark but is now several hundred metres inland, gradually sinking down into the soft sand below and being covered by encroaching dunes. In fact, the rust-flaking pieces that jut up through the sand are now more dangerous than curious. But my memories of balancing on the collapsed mast, as the waves surged and curled around it, will stay with me long after the Hydrabad has finally sunk out of sight...
All that remains...
PS: 05 July 2011 - the Hydrabad wreck site gains heritage recognition.

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