SS Penguin

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SS Penguin.jpg
SS Penguin
Career (New Zealand)
Name: SS Penguin
Owner:
Builder: Tod and Macgregor, Glasgow
Yard number: 128
Launched: 21 January 1864
Identification: Official number: 47849
Fate: Sank on 12 February 1909 after colliding with rocks near Wellington. 75 people killed in what is classed as the deadliest maritime disaster of New Zealand.
Status: Wreck
General characteristics [1]
Type: Passenger/cargo steamship
Tonnage:
Length: 220 ft 6 in (67.21 m)
Beam: 28 ft 6 in (8.69 m)
Depth: 14 ft 4 in (4.37 m)
Propulsion:
Speed:
  • As built
  • 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
  • From 1882
  • 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph)

SS Penguin was a New Zealand inter-island ferry steamer that sank off Cape Terawhiti near the entrance to Wellington Harbour in poor weather on 12 February 1909. Penguin's sinking caused the deaths of 75 people, leaving only 30 survivors. This was New Zealand's worst maritime disaster of the 20th century.

Ship history[edit]

Penguin was built by Tod & McGregor of Glasgow, Scotland, for G. & J. Burns of Glasgow, and launched on 21 January 1864. Registered in Glasgow on 4 April 1864, she was finally sold to the Union Steamship Company in 1879, and was extensively refitted in 1882.[1]

Sinking[edit]

Penguin departed Picton on 12 February 1909 en route to Wellington in good conditions. However by 8 p.m. the weather conditions had changed, with very strong winds and bad visibility. At 10 p.m Captain Francis Naylor headed further out to sea to wait for a break in the weather. Unfortunately, as the ship turned, she smashed into Thoms Rock, and water started to pour in. Although women and children were loaded into the lifeboats first, the rough seas dragged the lifeboats underwater. Only one woman survived, but all the children onboard Penguin were killed. Other survivors drifted for hours on rafts before reaching safety. As the Penguin sank, seawater flooded the engine room. As the cold water reached the red-hot boilers a massive explosion violently fractured the ship.[2]

Following the disaster, a half-day holiday was declared in Wellington to allow the many funerals to be held.[3] About forty of the people who were killed were laid to rest in Karori Cemetery, where a self-guided walk now wanders past their grave sites.

A court of inquiry found the ship struck Thoms Rock, near the mouth to Karori Stream in Cook Strait. The captain maintained that it had struck the submerged hull of the Rio Loge, lost the month before.[4]

On the 100th anniversary of the sinking, Wellington's mayor unveiled a plaque remembering the disaster at Tongue Point, near the site of the wreck.[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "SS PENGUIN". Clyde-built Ship Database. 2013. Retrieved 31 January 2013. 
  2. ^ "SS Penguin - New Zealand Disasters". Christchurch City Libraries. 2013. Retrieved 31 January 2013. 
  3. ^ "SS Penguin wrecked in Cook Strait". nzhistory.net.nz. 2013. Retrieved 31 January 2013. 
  4. ^ Wood, Stacey; McDonald, Greer (11 February 2009). "Search for wreck of Penguin". The Dominion Post. Retrieved 11 May 2012. 
  5. ^ SS Penguin Sinking to be Remembered on South Coast, Wellington City Council, 9 February 2009.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]