17 April 2014

Ships Cats - Unlikely Heroes

Mrs Chippy, Trim, Jenny and Aussie - all cats and seafaring heroes.  For centuries, felines were welcomed on board merchant and Navy ships, as pets, protectors, pest controllers and highly intuitive creatures. And the four-pawed voyagers took their roles very seriously.

Wockle on the capstan
 Ship cats were also great survivors. When an explosion tore through the trans-Pacific liner NIAGARA off the Northland coast in 1940, fortunately no-one was seriously injured - including Aussie, the resident cat.

Several people tried to rescue Aussie, but he refused to join the passengers and crew in lifeboats.

Using one of his nine lives, the cat survived the shipwreck by clinging to a water tank, his fur caked in the sticky fuel floating on the sea surface. The tank deposited Aussie on the beach at Hora Hora, north of Whangarei.

A farmer, who discovered him asleep in a shed, put Aussie into a sack to clean the oil from his fur. But Aussie escaped, and his Canadian genes are sure to be found in some moggies around Northland today.

Mrs Chippy
photographer Frank Hurley
Despite the name, Mrs Chippy was a male tabby cat and mate of Henry Chippy McNeish - a carpenter and master shipwright, who sailed with Ernest Shackleton on his expedition to the Antarctic continent on the ill-fated ENDURANCE in 1914.

In Mrs Chippys "personal journal" of his polar expedition, the cat doubted the wisdom of taking dogs - 69 Canadian huskies - as they did no work on the ship and ate a lot. A champion mouser, Mrs Chippy also excelled at seal watching while the ENDURANCE crew were stranded in the Antarctic, alerting the men when one came to a blow hole for air.
Although all of the men were rescued, sadly the dogs and Mrs Chippy did not survive.

Young Englishman Matthew Flinders defied his parents and went to sea, sailing to Australia on board HMS RELIANCE in 1795. When the ship's cat had kittens, Flinders adopted one and named it Trim.

Trim was Flinders' companion for many years - acting as ship's entertainer and guard against vermin brought ashore with the ship's stores.  Three times, Trim circumnavigated Australia, surviving shipwrecks and imprisonment with Flinders in Mauritius before finally disappearing.

Bildgewater modelling
the latest uniform
Many whaling ships recorded the births, deaths and losses of cats in the ships logbooks.

A Southland whaler, Johnny Jones, was recorded as having over 200 cats.  Jones owned at least seven whaling stations on the southern coast of the South Island in the mid-1800s.

Just one cat, named Jenny, lived on board TITANIC in 1912. Legend has it she had a litter of kittens on board, and when it docked at Southampton, Jenny transported her four kittens off the doomed ship, one by one, and left for a new life.

An Irish crewman charged with looking after Jenny took her departure as a bad omen and he too left the ship, later claiming the cats had saved his life.

11 April 2014

Captain James Cook – Adventurer, Explorer and Seafarer.

James Cook, portrait by Nathaniel Dance-Holland,
c. 1775, 
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, UK
He might have been looking for an unknown southern continent, but what James Cook really discovered when he sighted land near modern day Gisborne was equally important. 

Cook’s voyage was not just about exploration, but was also a quest for new knowledge, scientific observation and map making.  Having found the East Coast, Cook and the crew of Endeavour spent the next seven months, October 1769 - April 1770 sailing in a figure of eight, proving to themselves that there was indeed two distinct large islands – North and South. They charted the coast as they went creating a map of remarkable accuracy bar two famous mistakes – Banks Peninsula, Canterbury drawn as an island and Stewart Island drawn as a peninsula to the lower South Island.

Cook was able to communicate with Maori that he met around the coast via his Tahitian navigator Tupaia. Tupaia’s language shared the historic Polynesian roots of Te Reo Maori.  This didn’t prevent tragedy entirely, with the first encounters being misunderstood, but Cook persisted and was able to establish respectful exchanges with many iwi around the coast.

We continue to live with Cook’s legacy to this day in many of the English names for the major coastal landmarks including Poverty Bay, Hawke Bay, Bay of Plenty, Mercury Bay, Firth of Thames, Bay of Islands, Doubtless Bay, North Cape, Mount Egmont, Queen Charlotte’s Sound and of course Cook Strait.Cook went on to explore the East Coast of Australia for the first time, but it is his exploration of New Zealand that makes him one of our Maritime Heroes.

04 April 2014

Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie – Olympic gold

When Aleh and Powrie lined up at the start-line of the 2012 Olympic regatta off Weymouth, England, it had been 20 years since a New Zealand sailor had won gold at an Olympic games. That honour was held by another Auckland woman, boardsailer Barbara Kendall: “The Rainbow Girl” who had won a medal of every hue over five Olympics.

Jo Aleh (left) and 'Polly' Powrie (right)
 at the 2012 London Olympics

Friends since childhood, Aleh and Powrie were rated the best chance of the 2012 New Zealand sailing team to break the drought.

Polly Powrie came from a distinguished sailing family; Jo Aleh was captivated by sailing after watching Sir Peter Blake guide Team New Zealand to victory in the 1995 America’s Cup.

As young girls, they had their first taste of sailboat racing on the same day – at the 1998 Auckland Anniversary Day Regatta at Kohimarama Yacht Club, sailing little Optimist dinghies.

They became friends and rivals through the typical Kiwi dinghy classes – Optimists, P-Class and Starlings – before sailing together on a 420 dinghy, and winning the world title off Auckland’s Takapuna Beach in 2007.

Aleh went to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, finishing 7th in the Laser Radial, but the pair were drawn together again later that year to launch a campaign for Olympic gold in a two-handed 470.

'Team Jolly' are carried by supporters after taking out the
gold in the Two Handed 470 at the 2012 London Olympics. 
In a boat they named “Muppet”, Team Jolly went into the final race of the Olympic regatta wearing the leaders’ yellow bibs, but tied on points with the Great Britain crew.  Out on the racecourse, they outwitted the Brits, winning the double-points race to clinch the gold medal.

Another 20 members of the New Zealand team carried the women and their boat from the water high on their shoulders in a traditional celebration.

In 2013, Aleh and Powrie won their first world 470 title in France before becoming the first New Zealand women to win the ISAF Rolex World Female Sailor of the Year Award. Their sights are now firmly set on another gold, at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

28 March 2014

Volunteer Rocket Brigades

Before a harbour was built around the turn of the 20th century to tame the wild seas, many ships were wrecked off the coast of Timaru.

In October, 1867, a revolutionary device called the Boxer’s Rocket Apparatus was trialled under the watchful eye of the Port of Timaru’s Harbourmaster, Captain Alexander Mills.

Timaru Rocket Brigade, c.1883; William Ferrier, photographer.
South Canterbury Museum

The rocket was fired from shore, carrying a hemp line out to a stricken ship.  Attached to the line was a tail-block with a simple pulley, with a second, stronger line running through it. The block could then be attached to the mast of the ship, allowing a breeches buoy to bring seamen safely to shore.

Men from the Timaru Lifeboat Service used the rocket, until a withdrawal of funding forced the service to disband. So the Harbourmaster advertised for volunteers to man the lifeboat and the Rocket Brigade was born in July 1877.

Captain Mills trained the volunteers – duties were divided amongst 15 men – and drills were carried out to ensure the brigade was ready for emergencies.

Sadly, Captain Mills could not be saved in 1882, while assisting with the rescue of crew from Timaru’s most dramatic double shipwreck of BENVENUE and CITY OF PERTH.

BENVENUE, laden with coal, was swept under the high cliffs, and soon CITY OF PERTH was also in distress. Surf boats and whale boats tried to save the drifting CITY OF PERTH – but several capsized and nine men died, including Mills and Rocket Brigade member William McLaren.

Several other Rocket Brigade members received medals for heroism after the rescue. Following the tragedy, a paid lifeboat crew took on the duties of the Volunteer Rocket Brigade.
CITY OF PERTH was salvaged, rebuilt and sold to the New Zealand Shipping Company, renamed TURAKINA. A swift ship under sail, she made 15 return voyages to the United Kingdom, bringing new settlers to New Zealand. 

The Boxer’s Rocket was used around the world until 1946.

Photo courtesy of South Canterbury Museum http://bit.ly/1emGd2y

27 March 2014

Sea Shanties and Rum Tasting Harbour Sail’ – A Folk Festival experience on the Briny

‘Sea Shanties and Rum Tasting Harbour Sail’ – A Folk Festival experience on the Briny.
On Sunday, April 6 it’s ‘all aboard m’hearties’ for Voyager’s heritage vessel, Ted Ashby as she takes to the seas for ‘Sea Shanties and Rum Tasting Harbour Sail’.  This exceptional experience is Voyager NZ Maritime Museum’s way of celebrating Folk Fortnight Festival.  Don’t miss a full 90 minutes of sailing on the Waitemata with those redoubtable vocalists, The Maritime Crew who will keep your toes tapping with traditional songs and shanties of the sea.  Top this up with a tot of rum, courtesy of Wild Days Rum, from Waiheke Island and you’ve got a memorable day on your hands.
Paul Howarth of the Maritime Crew says that “even though it has been popularized by the film Pirates of the Caribbean ‘yo ho ho and a bottle of rum, 15 men on a dead man’s chest’ is not part of our repertoire but, the lads are busy looking to see what they can come up with that is rum related”.  The Maritime Crew would have to be a group of vocalists, most democratic in composition.  They all consider themselves ‘lead vocalists’ and spread this duty evenly around the band.  Surely, even further testimony to their diverse and considerable talents.
For a day that’s that bit ‘different’ don’t miss “Sea Shanties and Rum Tasting Harbour Sail”.
The Rum Tasting is strictly R 18.  Ted Ashby will depart from the Maritime Museum at 3.30pm returning at 5.00pm.
Adults - $35.00.  Children - $15.00.  Voyager Crew Membership Adult - $30.00. 
Bookings recommended.
Call 09 373 0800

21 March 2014

The Munich Rowing Eight

The New Zealand Rowing 8 in the 1972 
Olympic Games final / Photographer Joseph Ramanos.
Voyager NZ Maritime Museum
The “eights” is the glamour event of rowing regattas. When the New Zealand crew arrived in Munich for the 1972 Olympic Games, they were ranked favourites to win gold, with the 1971 world champions title under their belts.

Competition for gold was stiff. The East German crews had already won five gold medals on that finals day, and the United States were perennial eights champions. The Kiwis had a scare in the semifinals, with a surprising loss to West Germany.

But when it came to the final, on September 2, acclaimed coach Rusty Robertson had his men prepared for glory. The crew were buoyed by the silver medal won by the coxless four earlier in the day.

The eights, stroked by Tony Hurt and coxed by Simon Dickie, burst off the start line, held their lead at the halfway mark of the 2km race, and won by three seconds from the Americans, with the East Germans third.

Holding with tradition, Dickie was tossed into the water by his crew.

It was the first time a New Zealand eight had won Olympic gold – and it would be the only gold medal the New Zealand team won in 1972.

It was a hugely popular victory.  The nine New Zealand rowers were all amateurs in a mostly professional field; New Zealand Rowing had raised $100,000 – with the help of bingo and raffles - to get the team to Munich. The head of the International Olympic Committee, Avery Brundage, was so impressed by their efforts, he asked to present the gold medals himself.

On the medal dais, the Kiwi men openly cried as God Defend New Zealand was played for the first time, instead of God Save the Queen.
The cedar plywood Karlisch eight-oared shell that the New Zealanders rowed to victory was gifted to Voyager in 1996. It represented the end of an era for the wooden shell in competitive rowing – replaced by lighter, more expensive reinforced plastic shells.

  • The crew was Tony Hurt, Wybo Veldman, Dick Joyce, John Hunter, Lindsay Wilson, Athol Earl, Trevor Coker, Gary Robertson and cox Simon Dickie.
Gold medal winners NZ Rowing 8, Munich 1972
Photographer Joseph Ramanos. Voyager NZ Maritime Museum

The Rowing 8 shell is re-launched at the Maritime Museum,
November 1996. / 
Voyager NZ Maritime Museum    

14 March 2014

Joseph James Craig - entrepreneurial vision

Joseph James Craig, owner of the
 largest shipping and transport company
in Auckland Province.
Alexander Turnbull Library Collection
In 1885, Joseph James Craig inherited his late father’s 20-year-old general merchant and cartage contracting business. For the next 45 years, nearly every piece of cargo that arrived at the Port of Auckland was carted by a J.J. Craig horse and cart, or vehicle.
Wanting to be based where the action was, J. J. Craig Ltd built large premises on the city’s wharves on Auckland Harbour, and kept several hundred draught horses in stables near the sea.
In the 1890s there was an unprecedented demand for timber in Australia, and J.J. Craig built up an impressive fleet of sailing ships to carry wood across the Tasman Sea and bring back coal from New South Wales.

A wealth of cargo in sheds and on wharves inevitably led to the theft and damage of goods.  Merchants complained about their security, so in 1914, the Auckland Harbour Board installed the first cast iron red fences along the entrances to Queen Street Wharf and the Railway Wharf.  The Auckland merchants and shipping agents breathed a sigh of relief as now their cargo was more secure. 100 years on the red fences still stretch along the city’s waterfront today.
J. J. Craig’s interests were not limited to horse, cart and sail. In the early 1900s, he created New Zealand’s largest brick manufacturer, and he was involved in quarrying and mining.  His company became the New Zealand Government contractors for coal, lime, cement and carting – making J.J. Craig one of the colony’s largest and industrious enterprises.

J.J. Craig premises on Railway Wharf, Auckland. (top left); Craig's horse and carts on Quay Street, January 1905. Auckland Harbour Board Album 67, Voyager NZ Maritime Museum

On the 12th March 2014 we celebrate that 100 years ago the lamps along the red fence were lit and continue to be a reminder to Auckland of the early years of trade in our city.