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The s.s. Bruce 1874 - a coaster trader Dunedin to Lyttelton, New Zealand


South Canterbury NZGenWeb Project

New Zealand Bound

1874-1875 coasting steamer on the Dunedin, Lyttelton and intermediate ports route.

Timaru Herald September 4 1874 page 3
The Harbor Steam Company have just received a splendid addition to their line of coasting steamers in the Bruce, which arrived at Port Chalmers, on August 28, 1874, on Friday last, after a lengthy passage of 138 days from Glasgow. The vessel will trade between Dunedin, Lyttelton and Intermediate ports. 

Particulars from the Otago Daily Times of August 29th.
 (also see Otago Witness Saturday 5 Sept. 1874 pg12)
The Bruce was signalled in the morning, and the Geelong at once proceeded to the Heads, and towed her to the anchorage off the Port by noon. Commander J. MacFarlane (in Oct. 1875 he was the commander of the s.s. Taupo). The Bruce was taken in tow by the steamer Golden Age and conveyed to Dunedin. She is a handsome, substantial, and remarkably well-furnished vessel. She is built of iron, and is heavily plated, and is fitted with all the latest and most approved appliances used in the construction of modern steamers. She is a commodious and staunch passenger and cargo steamer of great carrying capacity, full power, and first-class accommodation. She has a poop and top-gallant forecastle, and the former being 54 feet long, covering in the roomy cuddy, that comprises the salon accommodation. The latter consists of a main saloon, 40 feet long by 22 feet wide, a ladies' cabin, 14 feet by 11 feet, and the pantry and other offices. The main saloon is beautifully finished, and furnished in crimson velvet-covered settees, lockers with mirrors and highly-polished swing trays, tables &c. It has room for 41 passengers. In the case of the main saloon, the side seats can , by a simple contrivance, be converted into comfortable sleeping berths. The table is of truly original construction being a combination of the properties of a dining table and washstand, and is built to completely hide the ulterior purpose it can be put to. The ladies' cabin has accommodation for 11 passengers. The main saloon accommodation is supplemented by a house on the poop, termed the smoking-room, but which can be used for ordinary passenger purposes, and is roomy enough to accommodate six. The fore-cabin accommodation is also good - 18 passengers can be berthed there. She is fitted with a compound engine of 90 horse-power nominal, capable of being worked up to 400 effective horse-power. Built by Alexander Stehen and Sons, of Glasgow, The diameter of the low pressure cylinder is 27 inches, and that of the high pressure cylinder is 23 inches, length of stroke 3 feet. Steam is supplied by one large boiler, having three furnaces; and there is also a donkey boiler to feed the steam winches. The connection between the main shaft and the pistons being on the grasshopper principle, so termed, but it is not to be confounded with the plan of the hold grasshopper engines. The steamer has two steam winches -one at the main hatch, and the other at the fore; and her windlass - a a most compact and strong piece of mechanism - one of Baxter's patents, can also be worked by steam by the aid of a messenger. There is also a fine roomy galley, and very comfortable officers' quarters. 

Her dimensions are:
Length of hull 179ft; length over all, 180 feet; breadth of beam 32 ft; death of hold, 10 feet and 6 inches; and she registers 204 tons. The Bruce made the passage under canvas. She was lightly rigged as a barque, and this lightness of rig, combined with her heavy draught -for she is deeply laden with general cargo -no doubt was conducive to the long passage she made. She also had to contend with a great deal of light weather, and miserable trade winds, especially to the north of the Line. She was favored by moderate weather. Her passage commenced on the 12th April. 

The Bruce was built in accordance with the orders of the Company, from plans submitted to and approved of tem, by the well known iron ship-builders, Steven and Son, of Point Huse, Govan, N.B. at a cost of �19,000. Mr McKenzie was employed, under the directions of the Company's engineer, Mr Darling as inspector of the work while in progress, and on completion he was appointed chief engineer. Mr Thomson, chief officer.

We congratulate the harbor Steam Company upon this latest addition to its fleet, and sincerely hope that very much prosperity will attend the handsome Bruce's career.

Timaru Herald Oct. 15 1875

Timaru Herald Oct. 18 1875 Monday
Port of Timaru
Arrived. Oct. 15 - Bruce, s.s., 205 tons, Jones, from Lyttelton
Oct. 16 - Beautiful Star, s.s., 146 tons, Pieterson, from Dunedin

Sailed Oct 15 - Bruce, s.s. 205 tons, Jones, for Dunedin. Passengers -Miss Gunn, Messrs Sibley, Mackenzie, Swanson and Munro. Exports: 10 sacks wheat, 15 cases. Russell, Ritchie and Co., agents.

Wreck and Total Loss of the Union Company's Steamship S.S. Bruce

The steamer Bruce struck on a ledge of rock between Wickliffe Bay and Taiaroa Heads at 3.40 am, a quarter of a mile south of the Heads. She left Timaru at 6 p.m. yesterday, and came along under easy steam. At 3.30 a.m. she hove-to and got soundings in 16 fathoms of water. She shortly afterwards struck stem on about six feet below the water line. The weather being extremely foggy the out line of the land could not be discerned. The passengers were landed on rocks, and walked to the pilot station. The ship heeled over on the star broadside, fracturing about two feet of the bow. She now lies submerged, and should a north-east breeze set in, little hopes of saving any part of her can be entertained. The steamers Geelong and s.s. Jane are tendering her. She is insured for �15,000 The luggage and crew's effects are partly recovered. 

Timaru Herald Oct. 20 1875 Wednesday
The news was communicated to the harbor authorities by Captain Moore, one of the pilots stationed at the heads. The telegraph wires were immediately put into use and the unwelcomed facts communicated to Mr Mills, the manage ring director of the company. A part of the cargo, and some of the cabin fittings and passengers' luggage were picked up on Saturday by the crew of the whaleboat and the s.s. Jane, and deposited in the Customs shed at Port Chalmers. 

Passengers by the ill-fated boat from Canterbury ports to Dunedin
Misses Jones and Gunn; Messrs Gallic, C. Reid, McDonald, W. Reid, Munro, Quilch, Waring, Silby, and Swanson. 12 Passengers. 21 crew.

The representatives of the Dunedin Press made preparations to proceed to the wreck without delay, but were, for the moment, doomed to disappointment, as on getting alongside the Geelong, they were informed by Captain Sinclair, that he could not permit them to accompany him, urging the orders he had received as a reason for his non-compliance with the request urged by the gentlemen. Not a whit daunted by this refusal, the irrepressible reporters returned to the jetty, determined not to be far behind the Geelong in reaching the wreck. In order to do this the means of speedy transport were to be obtained, and these, thanks to an excellent crew of four stalwart watermen and alight-pulling wheery were soon got at. A few moments sufficed to procure some slight refreshments for the men during the long pull before them, and the shipping reporters of the Guardian and the Daily Times started for the Heads. A bright, cloudless sky and smooth water betokened a pleasant pull down the bay, and the boat's crew gave way with a will which showed their determination to reach the destined spot without loss of time, a feat which they accomplished in little over an hour, meeting they accomplished in little over an hour , meeting on the passage down the s.s. Jane, with the Bruce's passengers on board and towing the lifeboat with several of the crew in it. On arrival at the Pilot Station the boat was beached, and the reporters proceeded to climb the hills and make for Lili-Wahine or Women's Head, on which the Bruce had struck, and off which point she lay. They were met opposite the station by Pilots Kelly and Moore, the former gentlemen kindly sending one of his sons to guide them to the spot, which after some ten minutes' walk, was reached without much difficulty. The scene which presented itself to our reporter's eyes on arrival was most painful. Under a solid wall (almost perpendicular) of stone about 40 feet high, lay the fine steamer Bruce, which a few days before had steamed gracefully down the harbor bound for ports in the sister province of Canterbury. She lay helpless on her broadside a total wreck, almost submerged, the forecastle, engine room, and part of the deck house aft being under water, and as the tide made the sea entered her funnel. The rocks were tenanted by a crowd of Maoris - men, women and children - who as parts of the ship's fittings floated about, screamed and gesticulated to each other in utmost excitement; while the vessels' boat and those from the Pilot Station were pulled round the wreck for the purpose of removing any floating packages which the action of the sea had washed from the ship's hold.

After a few moments observing, our reporter scrambled down the face of the rock, and, jumping into the ship's boat, was pulled alongside the Bruce, on the port side of which Mr Angus McInnis, the second engineer, together with the second officer and some of the crew. The sea at this time was breaking into the fore-hatch. Shortly after our arrival the tug Geelong returned to the wreck, bringing Mr Mills, Captain Russell (marine surveyor for the Underwriters' Association), Captain McCallum (piermaster) and several other gentlemen connected with the shipping interest. The tug was speedily followed by the Harbor Department's steam launch Vire, with Captain Thomson (the harbor master), Mr Hackworth (Collector of Customs for Port Chalmers), Captain Logan (superintendent of the Albion Company's ships), and others; Captain Jones, the master, being there to afford all possible information as to the cause of the disaster. In addition to the local steamers, the s.s. Lady of the Lake, bound in from Port Molynoux, slackened steam, and remained for some time by the Bruce in order to afford any assistance that could be rendered.

The S.S. Bruce

Captain Jones - statement
Left Timaru at 6 p.m. on Friday, and ran under slow speed. At about 11 p.m. the weather became extremely thick, and continued so during the rest of the passage, the vessel still running under easy steam, the gauge indicating 45 lbs, and the number of revolutions made being 60. At 2.40 a.m. on the 16th hove-to and took soundings; found between 16 and 17 fathoms of water. Consulted the chart, and judged the distance from Taiaroa Heads to be about eight miles. Determined to run under reduced steam for about three miles, and heave-to, waiting for daylight. At this time the sea was perfectly calm. Continued on easy steam, and a 2.40 a.m. struck a on a rock, between the Women's and Taiaroa Heads, about a quarter miles distant to the southward of the latter Head. Must have been about high water. The engines were immediately turned astern. She would not pay astern. The pumps were immediately tried, but the ship mad no water. A kedge anchor was at once ran out, and the best bower got in readiness to let go. As the tide ebbed, the vessel was inclined to list over, Captain Frederick Jones determined to land the passengers without delay, and Mr McInnis, the second engineer, dropped from the steamer's bow on to the ledge of rock on which she struck, and having with great difficultly reached the top of the cliff, endeavouring to find out some habitation . He was guided by the sound of a cock-crow and shortly reached the Pilot Station across the hills. The Bruce was stuck on the rocks about 4ft from the water-line, ripping open part of her stern, but making no water. Having but little cargo on board as the tide left her she listed over to starboard, and in settling down struck on a rock on the starboard bow, which fractured on of her plates. There can be no doubt that had the Bruce had a sufficiency of cargo on board to have kept her on an even keel, it would have been an easy matter, with the assistance which could have been procured, to have got her off the rocks and brought her into port. As she listed over Mr MacKenzie, the officer in charge of the engines when the vessel struck, ordered the fires in the port furnaces to be drawn, to preclude the possibility of burning the boxes; and before she heeled over he personally put out the lamps and opened the safety-valves. 

Captain Jones appeared most positively that he did all that could be done for the safety of his vessel, and had there existed any system of warning approaching vessels of their proximity to the land during thick weather, the loss of the Bruce would not have occurred. The expense of providing a powerful-toned bell, which could be fixed close to the lighthouse in Taiaroa Heads, and tolled at intervals of say 11 minutes during foggy weather, would surely be very small item when taken into consideration against the danger to life and property which is incurred through the absence of proper danger signals at the Heads.

Finding of Court of Inquiry

Loss caused by default of master, neglecting while nearing land in dense fog, to heave lead often enough, and continuing voyage at too great speed. Mate, William Cormack, blamed for increasing speed without order. Master's certificate suspended for six months, and mate's for three.

Taiaroa at the Otago Heads

 Located at the extreme end of the Otago Peninsula. Situated above the rock is the Marine Department's lighthouse, signal station, no longer used, and telephone office and in 1875 the Pilot Station. This is the south side of the entrance to Otago Harbour, which is out of view just to the right. The Bruce wrecked a quarter of a mile south of the Heads, a ten minute walk to the left from here. This white, conical tower lighthouse, still an active aid to navigation, was built in 1865. The area near the lighthouse is restricted because of the albatross breeding colony. Photo taken August 2003  by Olwyn.

Timaru Herald Wednesday September 11 1878 page 2 col 1
Captain Cromerly, late chief officer of the Rotorua, was presented to-day with an elegant timepiece, barometer, and daily register, in the shape of a ship's anchor and wheel, appropriately inscribed; together with a pair of binocular glasses, as a mark of esteem from Captain Carey and the officers of the Rotorua on the occasion of his taking command of the Beautiful Star.