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Wreck of the 'Invercauld', Auckland Islands

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New Zealand Bound

Wrecked on the Auckland Islands when bound from Melbourne to Callao 

West Coast Times, 23 September 1874, Page 2
A gallant ship bailing from the Land o' Cakes, the Invercauld, commanded by a stout old Scotchman, Captain Dalgarno, sailed from Port Phillip, en route for London. Weeks passed, and no report of the noble clipper. It was difficult to realise that a splendidly built and well appointed iron ship, under an able commander, officers, and crew, could possibly have come to grief ; but as months rolled on no underwriter would have ventured, at the most extortionate rate of premium, to take a risk upon one of the best models that ever sailed. " Hope deferred maketh the heart sick," and reluctantly those to whom he was most near and dear had to abandon the hope of ever seeing the jolly rotund figure again. Imagine the frequent enquiries day by day made by the relatives of the missing one at Lloyd's and the ship's agents � the same response and the heart breaking feelings with which the enquirers would return to others equally anxious to the result. A considerable time had elapsed, I think nearly two long years, when Captain Dalgarno's family received the unexpected intelligence that he had returned, but with only a small residue of his companions who had left with him, in such gay spirits, to the port of Melbourne. The ship had struck on the ironbound coast of the Auckland Islands.

The Invercauld was wrecked on May 10th 1864, six of the crew being drowned, commanded by Capt. George Dalgarno. Only 3 out of 19 castaways survived.

What indication caused the journalist to conclude that the castaways were slowly starving so turned to cannibalism to stay alive?

The English mail which arrived in October, 1865, brought the news of the second wreck, and of the strange fact that a second party of men had for one year and 12 days been on the island with Capt. Musgrave and his party - each unknowing of the presence of the other, although each had done what it could to explore, on an island the whole area of which is roughly calculated to be not much more than 100,000 acres.

Capt. Musgrave, in the account which he gave of his sojourn on the island, stated that at one time he saw, far off, some smoke, or what he believed to be smoke. This left it possible that men were still on the island; and because of that possibility, mainly, the Victoria was despatched, at the joint cost of the Governments of Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland. Mr Stafford's Government (NZ) despatched the Southland

The Invercauld, a new Aberdeen clipper, sailed from Melbourne, for Callao, on the 2nd May, 1864. On the night of the 10th of that month, she was driven ashore on the N.W. end of the island, during a heavy gale from the northward, and thick weather. The mate's account was "She was driven in between two very high cliffs; I suppose they were not less than 3000ft high." Captain Dalgarno and 18 of his crew and officers were washed ashore, the whole number of men on board having been 25. Before relief came, 16 of the 19 had died, or were believed to have died - some of them having gone searching for food and not having returned. The succoring ship was the Julian, a Peruvian vessel, from Macao for Callao, with Chinese emigrants, which sprang a leak when off the island, and sent a boat ashore to seek assistance. But the seekers were to be the assistants of the men in a desperate strait. The captain of the Invercauld, with his chief mate (Andrew Smith), and a seaman (Robert Houlding) (?Holding), were alive; but said the captain, "we were miserably reduced, and could not have survived much longer."  The Julian, under command of Captain C. Arrabarini, took the three men from the island on the 22nd May, 1865, (10th May wrote Holding) and went on her voyage to Callao. On the 28th June (25th June wrote Holding) reached Callao. On our arrival at Callao, the British Consul, the merchants and shipmasters at Callao, as also Captain Cook, of the 40th Regiment, then at Callao on his return to England from New Zealand, were most kind and handsome in their treatment of us. On the same evening the Captain sailed by the mail steamer for England, leaving Mr Andrew Smith and Robert Holding in Callao, from whence the men made their way home. On the 6th July the Captain sailed from Panama; on the 13th arrived at St Thomas, and sailed the same day for Southampton by the steamship Shannon.
    Captain Dalgarno arrived in Aberdeen on Tuesday and proceeded to Buxburn where his son and daughter had lived since his departure. His health is still delicate. The Captain also lost a medal presented to him in the year 1862 by the United Sates Government, for saving the lives of the crew of a water-logged vessel, and a telescope presented to him by the British Government in the same year. The only means the Captain had of noting events during the stay on the island was the margin of a fragment of a Melbourne newspaper, and a pencil which he had in his pocket at the time of the wreck. This he preserved to furnish to relatives of the deceased seaman of the Invercauld some information.

Otago Witness October 28 1865 page 15 
Captain George Dalgarno, late of the Aberdeen ship Invercauld, which sailed from London on the 10th of January, 1864 for Melbourne, reports that after a fine passage of 85 days to Melbourne, where she remained a month, she sailed thence to Callao, in ballast, on the 2nd May, 1864. On the night of the 10th she struck on the NW end of the Island of Auckland, in a small bay, in lat. 53 S. long. 106 E, and went to pieces in less than half an hour. 19 survivors. Not one succeeded in saving anything but what he had on, and not one had a pair of boots. Returning to the wreck the following morning all that could be obtained was some two pounds of biscuit and three pounds of salt pork. There was a good supply of water on the island. Nothing in the shape of subsistence but roots and a species of limpet could be found on the island.

Letter from the Captain
Captain Dalgarno writing from Southampton to the owners, says: In about twenty minutes after striking, she was in atoms; The boys Middleton and Wilson, and four seaman were drowned; the remainder nineteen of us, getting washed ashore through the wreck, all more or less hurt - the night being dark and cold. We saved nothing but what we had on our persons; and before being washed from the wreck, I hove off my sea boots, so as to enable me to reach the shore.
    We all crept close together as we could to keep ourselves warm. The spray from the se reaching us made it one of the most dismal night ever anyone suffered, and we were all glad when day broke. We went and collected a few of the most suitable pieces of the wreck to make a hut to cover us from the weather, where we made a fire, the steward having saved a box of matches.
    We remain four days at the wreck, we proceeded to go on the top of the island to see if we could find food or any inhabitants. It was no easy matter to reach the top, it being 2000 feet high, and almost perpendicular. On the following morning we made towards the bay that was on the east side, which occupied some days, the scrub being so heavy to walk amongst. The cook and three seamen died during this time. All of us were getting weak for want of food and from cold. We reached the bay and found some limpets on the rocks. We caught two seals and found them good food.
    After living three months on limpets, they got done, we all had again was roots and water, seeing no more seals. By the end of August the only survivors were myself, the mate and Robert Holding; the carpenter, the boys Liddle and Lancefield, being among the last that died. 

The Mate's Story -abbreviated
Writing his wife. "When we commenced to climb to the top of the cliff, one of the crew was unable to accompany us, and we found that he died the day after. Having no shoes, it was very uncomfortable, especially as there was frost and snow on the top. "We began to travel across the island and five of our men went after some wild pigs which we saw, and I am glad to say they managed to catch some of them. We travelled all that day, and about dark we began to light the fire and lay down for the night. It was very cold. We started next day, and travelled along with great difficulty. We arrived that night on the other side of the island, but not before another of our company had died of cold and hunger. We here made a sort of shelter for ourselves, and lived on this spot for twenty-one days on nothing but roots and water. Seven of our company went back to the wreck, but they never came back, and we never saw anything more of them. Our four and I made for the beach, with great difficulty, through the thick bush, and we rejoiced to find plenty of shell-fish.  We sent one of our party back for the remainder, sending a few shell-fish with him, and he found two more had died the day after we left. The others came along with him. We here made a sort of shelter for ourselves, and began to look about the rocks for what we could eat. We stopped here for six or seven days. A party of five of us made for the next bay, where we found traces of human beings, and the places they had lived in. These we found very comfortable. There was also plenty of shell fish in this bay. One of our party went for those we had parted from. We were now all getting very weak. I am glad to say we now caught a seal. We now began to make a sort of raft to carry two or three of us, and about 20 days after we got another seal, but between these times several of our party died from starvation. There was James Sansfield, George Liddle, and a few more whose names I cannot tell. The carpenter died, I think about September or October. Little Johnnie and the oldest apprentice were drowned at the time of the wreck. Other two and I commenced to go further along towards the point of the island, and there we found another seal and plenty of fish. Three of us lived for three weeks on this point of the island, when one left to induce the others to join us, but never returned; and some time after the Captain joined us, and we three were sol survivors of the nineteen.
    The seal meat was the old meat that did us good. Sometimes they were plentiful, and sometimes it would be three or four weeks between our times of catching them. We dried their skins, and made shoes and leggings of them. We also made a small boat out of seal skins. There are two or three islands close together, with plenty of seals upon them, but it was only on fine days that we could go in the small boat. We however built a boat of wood, that carried all three of us, and in it we removed to another island where there were quantities of rabbits, but could only get such of them as had been killed by the hawks. We got on pretty well here, having plenty to eat, and we built a house, and endeavoured to make ourselves comfortable as possible. In many parts of the islands there were human traces and the appearance of a good deal of work having been done, and this encouraged us to look anxiously for the coming of some whaler or sealer - but no!

Otago Witness October 28 1865 page 8 column 4
An expedition to the Auckland Islands, while probably confirming the circumstances of the loss of the Invercauld and her crew, may throw light upon the fate of several other ships, the Fiery Star (she was found to have burned off the Chatham Is. ) Jack Frost, Comet and Citizen. In the case of the three last mentioned, it is not at all improbable that survivors of their crews are upon the Auckland or Campbell Islands. The Comet and Citizen sailed from Melbourne for Otago and never arrived. The Jack Frost sailed from Melbourne, on November 25, 1863, for Bluff Harbor, with the following as a crew :-

Brownlow, W.
Bungay, F.
Dugwins, W.
Emerson, J.
Emery, J.
Finlay, A.
Hanser, J.
Jackson, Wm.
Jones, E.
Jones, H.
King, S.M.
Lawson, E. 
Lawson, G.
Manton, W.
M'Cann, J.
M'Kenzie, J.
Paterson, H.
Rains, L.
Riley, J.
Roberts, J.
Smith, C.G.
Smith, W.A.
Stevens, A.
Taylor, J.
Thomas, W.
Tomkins, J.
Turner, J.
Wassch, J.
Wilkinson, J.
Williams, J

The Invercauld, whose captain, Dalgarno, with two others, Mr Andrew Smith, mate, belonging to Aberdeen, and Thomas Holding, seaman, had arrived home had on board as a crew:-

Bonner, W.
Bruns, Aug.
Burns, A.
Cowan, W.
Goble, William
Hawser, Fritz
Henderson, Alex.
Hervey, William
Hipwell, W.
Holding, Robert
Lancefield, James
Liddle, George
Lagos, Juan

Maloney, John
Middleton, William
Page, Thomas
Peenbo, Richard
Peterson, John
Smith, Andrew
Southerland, James
Teason, John
Tait, John W.
Turner, Jacob, T.
Wilson, John


Of those who were lost and died, five only belonged to Aberdeen, whose names are:
Alex. Henderson, the carpenter, a married man, of excellent character, and who has left a wife and one child;
and four boys viz.:
William Middleton, George Liddle, James Lancefield, and John Wilson.
The rest of the crew had shipped at Melbourne, none of them, it is believed, belonging to Aberdeen.

Otago Witness, 5 December 1895, Page 17 H.M.S. Lizard
A tiny cemetery of more than ordinary interest was visited near the depot for castaways at Peror Cove, Port Ross. The headstones, two of which were of marble, contained headings. One read : " Sacred to the memory of John Mahoney, master mariner, second mate of the ship Invercauld, wrecked on this island 16th May 1864. Died from starvation."
And ..another was marked: "J. Y. Died 22nd '�November 1850 ; aged five months."
A third, made of a wooden cross, was erected by the crew of the s.s. Southland. It was erected over the remains of a man who had apparently died from starvation, and was buried by the crew of the Flying Scud on 3rd September 1865.

Many remains of old wreckage were found, and in the course of a walk, or rather climb, around Enderby Inland (about six miles), what are supposed to be some of the graves of the of the Derry Castle, wrecked on the 20th of March 1887, with the ship's figurehead (the figure of a woman) in good preservation as a headstone, were seen on the north side.

Allen, Madelene Ferguson Wake of the Invercauld: shipwrecked in the sub-Antarctic, Auckland Islands May 10, 1864. After 375 days 3 men, of the 19 who made it ashore, were finally rescued. 5 maps, 50 photographs; Hardcover, pp. 256; ISBN 0-7735-1688-3: a great-granddaughter's pilgrimage / Madelene Ferguson Allen. [Madelene died August 2003)

The Yarn of the "Nancy Bell"

Otago Witness  
July 25 1874 page 25 column 2

'Twas on the shores that round our coast
From Deal to Ramsgate span,
That I found alone on a piece of stone
An elderly naval man.

His hair was weedy, his beard was long,
And weedy and long was he,
And I heard this wight on the shore recite,
In a singular minor key:

"Oh, I am a cook and a captain bold,
And the mate of the Nancy brig,
And a bo'sun tight, and a midshipmite,
And the crew of the captain's gig."

And he shook his fists and he tore his hair,
Till I really felt afraid,
For I couldn't help thinking the man had been drinking,
And so I simply said:

"Oh, elderly man, it's little I know
Of the duties of men of the sea,
And I'll eat my hand if I understand
How you can possibly be

"At once a cook, and a captain bold,
And the mate of the Nancy brig,
And a bo'sun tight, and a midshipmite,
And the crew of the captain's gig."

Then he gave a hitch to his trousers, which
Is a trick all seamen larn,
And having got rid of a thumping quid,
He spun this painful yarn:

"'Twas in the good ship Nancy Bell
That we sailed to the Indian Sea,
And there on a reef we come to grief,
Which has often occurred to me.

"And pretty nigh all the crew was drowned
(There was seventy-seven o' soul),
And only ten of the Nancy's  men
Said 'Here!' to the muster-roll.

"There was me and the cook and the captain bold,
And the mate of the Nancy brig,
And the bo'sun tight, and a midshipmite,
And the crew of the captain's gig.

"For a month we'd neither wittles nor drink,
Till a-hungry we did feel,
So we drawed a lot, and, accordin' shot
The captain for our meal.

"The next lot fell to the Nancy's mate,
And a delicate dish he made;
Then our appetite with the midshipmite
We seven survivors stayed.

"And then we murdered the bo'sun tight,
And he much resembled pig;
Then we wittled free, did the cook and me,
On the crew of the captain's gig.

"Then only the cook and me was left,
And the delicate question, 'Which
Of us two goes to the kettle?' arose,
And we argued it out as such.

"For I loved that cook as a brother, I did,
And the cook he worshipped me;
But we'd both be blowed if we'd either be stowed
In the other chap's hold, you see.

"'I'll be eat if you dines off me,' says Tom;
'Yes, that,' says I, 'you'll be, -
'I'm boiled if I die, my friend,' quoth I;
And 'Exactly so,' quoth he.

"Says he, 'Dear James, to murder me
Were a foolish thing to do,
For don't you see that you can't cook me,
While I can - and will - cook You!'

"So he boils the water, and takes the salt
And the pepper in portions true
(Which he never forgot), and some chopped shallot.
And some sage and parsley too.

"'Come here,' says he, with a proper pride,
Which his smiling features tell,
''T will soothing be if I let you see
How extremely nice you'll smell.'

"And he stirred it round and round and round,
And he sniffed at the foaming froth;
When I ups with his heels, and smothers his squeals
In the scum of the boiling broth.

"And I eat that cook in a week or less,
And - as I eating be
The last of his chops, why, I almost drops,
For a wessel in sight I see!

"And I never larf, and I never smile,
And I never lark nor play,
But sit and croak, and a single joke
I have - which is to say:

"Oh, I am a cook and a captain bold,
And the mate of the Nancy brig,
And a bo'sun tight, and a midshipmite,
And the crew of the captain's gig!'"

W.S. Gilbert