KARU, iron steamer:
The vessel left Whangape on 27 February 1926, bound for Sydney with a cargo of timber, and when a few hours out encountered very heavy seas, which caused her to strain seriously. Finding that the steamer was leaking badly, the master decided to run for the shelter of Cape Maria Van Diemen in order to beach his vessel in calm water. When approaching land, however, the leaking vessel began to settle down rapidly, and orders were given to lower the boat.
The 12 members of the crew embarked in the one boat, which was nearing the shore at the cape when it capsized in the surf and was smashed. All hands reached the shore safely, with the exception of a fireman and a seaman, who were drowned. There is very little settlement in the region immediately south of the cape, and the survivors separated into parties to look for signs of habitation. One man reached Te Paki station, about nine miles from the cape, on the morning of 1 March and in the afternoon the captain, engineer and two other members of the crew reached the station. The other five survivors reached Spirits Bay in an exhausted condition. The Karu stranded in Twilight Bay, where she became a total wreck, breaking up very quickly.
The Court of Inquiry found that the master, Captain J.W.R. Richmond, took the care usual in working bar harbours, that when leaving Whangape Harbour the vessel struck a rock or sunken log, which was carried in the vessel’s hull until dislodged by the heavy weather encountered 14 hours later, and which caused her to leak seriously; that the court could not say that the master committed an error of judgment in proceeding to sea in the circumstances. The court ordered the master’s certificate to be returned to him, and made no order as to costs.
The Karu, No. 117,677, of 267 tons gross and 197 tons net, built at Moss, Norway, in 1901 by the Moss Iron Foundry and Mechan Company Ltd. Length 137.6ft., beam 24.1ft., depth 10.2ft. Her engines were 27hp nominal and 130hp indicated. Originally named Torgauten, her name was changed to Holmdale in 1908, and altered again to Karu in the same year. The steamer had been owned by the West Coast Steamship Company, of Greymouth, then by the Maoriland Steamship Company, of Wellington, and in 1915 was acquired by the Union Steam Ship Company. In April 1924, she was sold to an Australian Company, and was towed from Port Chalmers to Sydney by the steamer Waikouaiti. At Sydney the Karu was laid up till bought by Captain A.F. Watchlin, who at one time owned and commanded the barquentine Louis Theriault.
Text from New Zealand Shipwrecks, 8th edition (Hodder Moa, 2007). Used with permission of the publisher and authors.