Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What Hulk On Herald Island?

From the start of the 20th.century, the Waitemata Harbour's upper reaches were the dumping ground for many old ships.
Until the 1940s, the area past Herald Island (between Hobsonville and Greenhithe) was regarded as "fair game" for ship owners who wished to get rid of unwanted hulks: they simply towed them past Herald Island and left them to the elements.
When the Auckland Harbour Bridge opened in 1959, the Devonport Steam Co.-owned vehicular ferries Goshawk and Sparrow Hawk were no longer needed, so were just run aground up at Lucas Creek and burnt.
The skeletons of many abandoned ships lay undisturbed until 1996, when the now-defunct Auckland Regional Council began a big waterways clean-up. The remains were lifted out and taken to the Albany landfill. Some of the vessels' heavy timbers, such as keels and sternposts (submerged in mud) were still sound.
The oldest remains left are of the 115ft.paddle steamer Tongariro, built on Auckland's North Shore (of components made in Scotland) and launched on 10 January 1878. She was originally used for trading with Thames on the Coromandel Peninsula. In her first months on the job, after criticism of her abilities, a race was arranged between her and rival steamer City of Cork to Brown's Island and back. Tongariro won (by only a few minutes) but her bearings became so hot that water needed to be poured on them! Later she worked the Kaipara, then served as a stand-by passenger ferry on the City-North Shore run for the Devonport Steam Ferry Company, and took fishing excursions around the Gulf.
When her survey expired in 1905, she was sold for £60 and left on the Little Shoal Bay mudflats. Some newspapers said once her engines and paddles were removed, the hulk was towed to Herald Island (then called Pine Island), to be used as a breakwater. But were those sources correct? Was she dumped there?
Other Devonport Steam Ferry Co. ferries Alexandra, Takapuna and Tainui were taken to Browns Island and left to rot. The Alison family who operated the company bought the island in 1906 and abandoned several vessels there. Later that trio was joined by the ferry steamer Victoria, PS Birkenhead and the tug Young Bungaree. By 1946 nothing remained...
As the historic Toroa (being lovingly restored in Henderson) and the Kestrel (recently returned to Auckland) were both part of that fleet, we can be thankful they did not go the same way...
I searched the Herald Island mangroves for the PS Tongariro, but only succeeded in filling my boots with stinky mud! I spoke to several locals and none knew where she lay. Finally after more hunting, and guidance from Timespanner, I did find her...but over 5km south of Herald Island in Limeburners Bay, Hobsonville (where she had been used by the Carder Pottery Works for brick and water storage).
The overgrown coastal strip off Bannings Way is littered with old bricks and clay pipes, and the rusted skeleton still contains some bricks too. Someone has sprayed its name on the seaward side, and also written Carder's Water Tank inside. A 2m high part of the fo'c'sle, a small amount of each side (visible at low tide) and a portion of the stern are now all that remain of PS Tongariro...

4 comments:

Mad Bush Farm said...

Hmmm...........what about if it was possibly the ps Birkenhead. Lisa and I have been muttering over this for s few days. One source says she was scrapped..another says she was towed to Pine Island aka Herald Island as you said. Either way it's an interesting mystery is it ps Tongariro or possibly ps Birkenhead. Great post! and thanks for sharing the great photo. Right back to my hole now...

Writer Of The Purple Sage... said...

Someone in the past thought it was the ps Tongariro, as they wrote its name on the side. Ok, that doesn't prove much...but I'm sure it's the Tongariro - its location fits with Lisa's info about the Carder Brickworks site.
As for the ps Birkenhead (c.1884): one source says it was broken up in 1910, while another says it was left to rot on Browns Island.
Who knows?

Mad Bush Farm said...

Well...I went digging further. There's those photos of the vessels at Brown's Island with ps Birkenhead named as being one of the derelicts. Also I read that there had a vessel that had been used as a break water elsewhere in Auckland Harbour before it was moved elsewhere. Could well be that ps Tongariro did end up at Herald Island as a breakwater for a time and THEN was nabbed by Carder and used at the brick works I think we are both right. So it probably is the ps Tongariro you've photogrpahed. Exciting find anyway regardless! Meantime I have four vessels I'm digging into that were dumped up past Herald Island. All of them have fascinating stories. Oh well back to digging in old papers past again. Have a good one!

morif said...

Just for confirmation regarding the remains not being Birkenhead, that ferry was timber of double diagonal build. Well found Mad Bush Farm!