HMS Buffalo


On the morning of 28 July 1840, the vessel was totally wrecked at Mercury Bay, two of her crew – a man named Charles More and a boy named John Carnie – being drowned. The Buffalo, which had made previous voyages to Australia and New Zealand in 1833–34 and 1836, carrying convicts to Australia and loading kauri spars in New Zealand, sailed from England towards the end of 1839 with convicts for Tasmania. She then proceeded to Sydney, where in compliance with Captain Hobson’s request for troops, a detachment of the 80th Regiment was embarked. With Mrs. Hobson and her family as passengers, the Buffalo sailed from Sydney on 5 April and arrived at the Bay of Islands on the 16th. From the Bay of Islands the Buffalo sailed to Mercury Bay to complete her loading of kauri spars, arriving on 22 July 1840. The vessel sailed from Mercury Bay on 25 July but in consequence of bad weather was compelled to return on the same day. On the 26th a strong easterly gale commenced and increased in violence until on the 28th the Buffalo was driven ashore and became a total wreck.
The Buffalo, which on being commissioned was designated a ‘Timber Ship on Particular Service’. Built of teak at Calcutta in 1813 by Bonner & Horsburgh and named Hindostan. 589 tons. Purchased by RN, November1813. She carried six 18-pounder carronades and two 6-pounder guns. Her gundeck was 120ft. long, beam 33.10ft., depth 15.8ft. Commanded by James Wood, formerly her sailing master, but promoted to master-commander, and had a complement of 93 men. Many relics of this old wreck have been found on Buffalo Beach, named after the ship. In March 1947, a pair of leg-irons was found, a grim reminder of the days when the Buffalo was transporting convicts. On 24 May 1960, following violent earthquakes in Chile, powerful tidal surges occurred on the east coasts of both the North and South Islands. As a result, the remains of the Buffalo were exposed for a time, during which Whitianga residents prised away pieces of teak and copper sheathing, and one resident made an unsuccessful attempt to drag the keel up the beach with the aid of his bulldozer. The Buffalo’s anchor is in the Tauranga Museum, however it is unclear which one of three it is. The Mercury Bay Museum in Whitianga is anxious to have it for display. (See HMS Buffalo by Robert Sexton.)

Text from New Zealand Shipwrecks, 8th edition (Hodder Moa, 2007). Used with permission of the publisher and authors.



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