HMS OSPREY, wooden brig:
At about 3pm on 11 March 1846, the vessel was totally wrecked about 18 miles north of Hokianga. On Monday, 9 March the Osprey left Whangaroa for Hokianga, calling at Mangonui, which she left the same day, and rounded the North Cape at 6.30pm. On the 10th the vessel made the western coast and the captain was able to take an observation, which showed that his command was in the latitude of Hokianga, but the weather coming on thick and hazy, the brig was kept off the land until the evening, when it cleared. She then stood in, fired two guns to announce to the pilot at Hokianga that she was off the harbour, and again stood out to sea for the night. On the following morning a high southern headland, similar to Hokianga, was seen, with what was presumed to be the pilot’s house, but which subsequently proved to be a white spot on the cliff. Soon afterwards, perceiving a red flag run up, it was confidently anticipated that it was the entrance to Hokianga, and the brig stood on over the surf, bringing the northern and southern heads in line. After crossing the breakers the vessel touched ground, but it was thought she was merely on the bar. Almost immediately she struck with increasing violence, and a succession of shocks brought the alarming conviction that the vessel was ashore, and that it was not the entrance to Hokianga, but of Herekino or False Hokianga. The guns were instantly thrown overboard, the masts cut away, which in falling with the sails set towards the shore dragged the Osprey still higher upon the beach. On the tide receding, the officers and crew were able to land about 2 o’clock next morning with their small arms and some dry ammunition which had been saved from the wreck. All the stores were landed by the crew, assisted by some 150 friendly Maori. There was no hope of refloating the brig, as the shore on this part of the coast is extremely shallow for a long distance seawards, with heavy surf and breakers even when the wind is off shore. By May, the wreck had been driven far above high water mark.
On 17 April, Lieutenant Benthall, from the Osprey, left the wreck with some stores in the schooner Neptune, together with four hands, towing the pinnace and intending to make Hokianga. In the evening it fell calm, and in his anxiety to reach Hokianga, Lieut. Benthall began to tow the schooner, but it is conjectured that the swell and surf at the bar exhausted his men and they cast off with the intention of beaching. However, the boat was seen the following morning by the natives to upset about nine miles north of Hokianga. Lieut. Benthall, one seaman, two boys of the Osprey, and Mr Thomas, owner of the Neptune, were drowned. The bodies of Lieut. Benthall and three others were later washed ashore. The Osprey mounting 12 guns, built at Portsmouth Dockyard, was commanded by Captain Patten. The commander, officers and part of the crew arrived at Gravesend on 6 December 1846, in the Post-humus, and were ordered on to Portsmouth, where a court marital was to be held concerning the loss of the brig. The Osprey was sold on 9 May to Mr Munro. (See Ship on Shore by Jane Foster.)
Text from New Zealand Shipwrecks, 8th edition (Hodder Moa, 2007). Used with permission of the publisher and authors.