Category Archives: Maritime history

The paddle steamer ‘Emu’

On 1 May 1860 an 80-foot long paddle steamer, Emu,  started to offer a regular ferry service between Devonport and the CBD. Prior to that time, North Shore residents were reliant on an open sailing ferry boat to get to the city, which had to be rowed by the passengers when winds were light.

The Emu‘s service in the Waitematā harbour was unfortunately short-lived. On 20 October 1860, she was hired by Motutapu Island owner Robert Graham to take a party of Parliamentarians to his home on the island for a picnic. Fifty-five people turned out for the event and had an exciting day, feasting on ‘turkey, chicken, duck, ham, tongues, beef,  tarts and pies’ and playing a variety of games including throwing stones at bottles, running races and leap frog.

Reid homestead, Motutapu Island-2
The Reid Homestead at Home Bay, Motutapu Island, close to where the Parliamentarians picnic was held in 1860 hosted by Robert Graham.

On the way home disaster struck when the ferry came to pick up a group who had walked back to the southern end of the island near Islington Bay. As the ferry neared land a squall hit and the vessel came to a juddering halt. Water rushed into the bilges and it was clear that Emu had hit a rock. Luckily there were no casualties but the ferry was a complete wreck.

Emu rock-2
Emu Rock off Motutapu Island was named after the steamer that struck the rock and sank in 1860.

The rock on which the steamer hit, the bay where the disaster occurred and the nearby point have all been named in memory of Auckland’s first ferry (Emu Rock, Emu Bay and Emu Point respectively).

Origin of the name Coromandel

Coromandel harbour was named after the visit of the HMS Coromandel to the harbour in June 1820. The entire peninsula now also bears the vessel’s name. The name itself originates from India, where the Coromandel was originally built, and refers to the Indian south-eastern coast.

Coromandel harbour showing oyster farms
Coromandel Harbour looking towards Whanganui Island and showing an oyster farm and moored boats.

Development of Auckland Port

The development of port infrastructure on Auckland’s waterfront has been underway since 1851. The shores in front of the CBD were initially very tidal and this made loading and unloading cargo difficult.

Container ship unloading at the Auckland port
The Auckland port is located on reclamations extending out into the Waitemata harbour. Shown here is a ship unloading at the container terminal.

By 1859 work had start reclaiming Commercial Bay in an ongoing process of reclamation which is still going today. A list of the reclamations, their dates of construction and sizes is shown below.

Flotilla of boats protesting aginst port expansion
A flotilla of boats took to the water to protest against continued port expansion into the Waitemata Harbour in March 2015.

More recently proposals for ongoing port development into the Waitemata Harbour by Ports of Auckland have prompted protests and an investigation into other options by the Port Future Study. Options canvassed include constraining the port to its current footprint, allowing further growth or potentially moving the port to the Manuaku harbour, Firth of Thames or Muriwai.

Steinlager 2 in Port Protest
‘Steinlager 2’ joined the protest against further expansion of the Auckland port into the harbour.

 

Reclamations in Downtown Auckland

Date Place Size (hectares)
1859 Commercial Bay between Fort St and Customs St 3.6
1872-79 Official Bay 7.5
1973-74 Hardinge St to Patterson St 1.5
1975-77 Queen St to Albert St 3.2
1875-77 Nelson St to Hardinge St 2.2
1876-77 Albert St to Nelson St 4.7
1878-79 Graving dock site at bottom of Hobson St 0.4
1879 – 86 Queen St to Britomart Pt (railway station) 7.6
1884-86 Cool store and power station site 2.7
1885-86 Freemans Bay 1.2
1886 Freemans Bay 2.5
1886-1901 Freemans Bay Victoria Park 9.5
1901-10 Mechanics Bay 6.8
1902-08 Hobson St 1.5
1904 St Georges Bay 0.9
1905-07 Freeman’s Bay 28.0
190910 Northern wharf and approaches 1.4
1911-12 St Georges Bay 0.8
1912-15 Mechanics Bay 13.1
1913-14 Fanshawe St 0.4
1913-14 Hobson St city Markets 1.7
1915 Graving dock site 0.4
1915-16 St Georges Bay 9.7
1916-19 East of power station 2.9
1919-23 Eastern reclamation No 1 7.0
1924 Princes wharf approaches 1.0
1924-26 Eastern reclamation No 2 5.9
1926-28 Western reclamation 9.5
1928 Eastern vehicular landing 0.2
1929-31 Eastern viaduct 0.6
1937-38 Westhaven 4.0
1938 Viaduct basin Nelson St 0.5
1937-45 Bledisloe wharf approach 1.4
1937-46 East of Kings wharf 1.4
1940-46 Western viaduct basin, Pakenham St 2.0
1951-54 Jellicoe wharf approach 1.0
1952-55 Eastern reclamation 4.6
1952-57 Harbour bridge reclamation 7.1
1958-60 Base of Freyberg wharf 2.4
1963-65 Viaduct basin 1.4
1967-70 Fergusson wharf 7.7
1969 – 73 Solent St 4.0
1970 – 75 Kings Bledisloe 8.5
1980 – 83 Bledisloe Stage 2 8.5
1989 – 90 Fishermans Wharf (Viaduct Basin) 0.2
2000 – 05 Fergusson Extension Stage 1 6.6
2005 – Fergusson Extension Stage 2 (ongoing) 3.3

 

The Last Scow

Scow Jane Gifford
Scow ‘Jane Gifford’ taking out a party of school children on the Waitemata Harbour.

The first New Zealand scow was built in 1873 by the Mieklejohn family at Omaha, inspired by the timber scows which operated on the Great Lakes in North America. They were ugly, clumsy square boats with flat bottoms designed to draw little water and to beach squarely on the beach. They also carried all their cargo on deck making loading and unloading easier.

Over 130 scows were built in New Zealand over a period of 50 years. They were a common sight around all the beaches and bays of the Hauraki Gulf. They were used to transport timber, sand and all manner of goods.

The remains of the last scow trading on the Hauraki Gulf under sail, Rahiri (formerly called Daphne) can still be seen on Blackpool Beach, Waiheke Island as shown in the feature image.

Scows Jane Gifford and Ted Ashby
Two restored scows still sail the waters of the Hauraki Gulf, the ‘Ted Ashby’ shown on the left which is based at the New Zealand Maritime Museum and the ‘Jane Gifford’ which is based at Warkworth.

The scow Jane Gifford can still be seen sailing on the waters of the Hauraki Gulf. She was built in 1908 by Davey Darroch at his Ōmaha boatyard and named after the Scottish immigrant ship which had brought Darroch and his family to Auckland in 1842. She had a busy and varied life carting granite, shell, road metal and general cargo.

By the 1950s the Jane Gifford had reached the end of her working life. In 2005 Peter Thompson and Hugh Gladwell set up the Jane Gifford Restoration Trust and purchased the old hulk for $10. Through fundraising and volunteer labour they restored her to her former glory.  The Jane Gifford can now be seen tied up to the wharf at Warkworth. She operates a full schedule of sailings for schools and members of the public.