Derry Castle (barque)

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"Derry Castle" figurehead Enderby Island.jpg
The figurehead of the Derry Castle, which served as a grave marker for victims of the 1887 shipwreck on Enderby Island
United Kingdom
Name: Derry Castle
Builder: Glasgow
Launched: 1883
Fate: Lost off Enderby Island, 1887
General characteristics
Class and type: Iron barque
Tons burthen: 1367 tons

The Derry Castle was a 1,367 ton iron barque built at Glasgow in 1883, and initially operating out of Limerick, Ireland. In 1887 while voyaging from Australia to the United Kingdom with a cargo of wheat, it foundered off Enderby Island, in the subantarctic Auckland Islands, on a reef which now bears its name.


The Auckland Group (click to enlarge)

On 20 March 1887, the Derry Castle, ran aground off of Enderby Island, nine days into its journey en route from Geelong, Victoria to Falmouth, Cornwall. Manned by a crew of twenty-three, it carried one passenger and a cargo of wheat. At the time, the Derry Castle was registered out of Boston, Massachusetts and owned by P. Richardson & Co. It was under the command of Captain J. Goffe.

After foundering, eight of the 23 crew made it ashore.[1] At that time the New Zealand government maintained a number of castaway depots on their subantarctic islands equipped with emergency supplies. Unfortunately, the depot at Sandy Bay on Enderby Island had been looted of all but a bottle of salt.[2] The castaways constructed crude shelters and subsisted on shellfish and a small quantity of wheat recovered from the wreck.[1]

On a cliff overlooking the water, they buried the bodies of their fellow crew members that had washed ashore. The grave was marked with the ship's figurehead.

After 92 days they discovered an axe head in the sand and were able to build a boat which became known as the Derry Castle Punt from the wreckage. Two men navigated the boat to nearby Erebus Cove, Port Ross on Auckland Island, where they obtained supplies from the government depot there.[1] The group lived at Port Ross until rescued by the 45 ton steamer Awarua on 19 July.[1] The Awarua arrived in Hobson's Bay, Victoria on 21 September 1887, returning from an illegal sealing expedition in the Auckland Islands. The Punt remained on the Main Auckland Island until in 1989, when during an expedition which included artists Bill Hammond, Laurence Aberhart, Geerda Leenards and Lloyd Godman, it was transported back to the Southland Museum and Art Gallery at Invercargill on a Royal New Zealand Naval Naval where it is on permanent display.

192 days after leaving Geelong, the Derry Castle had been officially posted as missing by Lloyd's of London.

The Derry Castle Memorial, Enderby Island (click to enlarge)

The Castle grave site was maintained for many years by the New Zealand government until it sank into the ground. However, during World War II, the figurehead was resurrected by those stationed on the islands. The figurehead can now be viewed (along with other items from the wreck) at the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch, New Zealand. The makeshift punt was used as a grave headstone for a while before being removed to the Southland Museum, where it is on display. In its place, a plaque now marks the site of the sailors' graves.


  1. ^ a b c d Ingram et al, pp. 259–60
  2. ^ Peat, p. 81


  • Ingram, Charles William; Wheatley, Percy Owen; Diggle, Lynton; Diggle, Edith; Gordon, Keith; (2007) New Zealand Shipwrecks: Over 200 Years of Disasters at Sea, 8th Edition, Auckland: Hodder Moa, ISBN 978-1-86971-093-4
  • Peat, Neville (2003) Subantarctic New Zealand: A Rare Heritage, Invercargill: Department of Conservation, ISBN 0-478-14088-6

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 50°29′04″S 166°18′10″E / 50.484323°S 166.302761°E / -50.484323; 166.302761