Left Auckland on 2 March 1857, bound for Sydney, and on the following night went ashore near the North Cape. The steamer was on her usual course, and on the fog clearing, land was clearly visible, bearings and distances agreeing with the vessel’s course. To be on the safe side the master had the William Denny’s course altered several points, and when she struck her course was NNW. At this time the fog was very dense, and there was just time to reverse the engines when the steamer grounded on a soft bottom. In a few minutes she floated off. The fog then cleared a little, and a high headland close to the vessel was thought to be the North Cape. The William Denny was steered south-east for a time, and then north-east and while steaming on this course suddenly grounded at midnight. In the morning it was found that the vessel had grounded on the south side of the North Cape, between it and the island, in a small cove sheltered from nearly all the winds. A diver examined the steamer and found that a small rock had penetrated the starboard side, and the lower hold was full of water. Hopes of refloating the William Denny were dissipated by a heavy gale which raged on 7 and 8 July 1858. All the necessary repairs had been effected and everything made ready for launching, and but for this misfortune the steamer would have been in her proper element. On 8 July the wind blew with hurricane force and the William Denny was lifted bodily from the blocks, her stern stove in, and her counter plates and poop deck started. The steamer surged 30 feet further seaward, where she ultimately settled down and began to break up. Mr Scott, the Sydney engineer who was entrusted with the task of refloating the vessel, was finally compelled to abandon the William Denny. Most of the cargo, ships fittings, including anchors and two bells, were sold at auction, yet an anchor supposedly from the vessel was recovered in 1964 and is in the Russell Museum.
The William Denny, No. 32,289, 595 tons gross and 422 tons net, built at Dumbarton in 1853 by William Denny and Brothers, and her engines were 200hp. Owned by the Auckland Steam Navigation Company, and commanded by Captain Robert Mailer.

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


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