Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Inter Island Ferry - The Maori

The Maori at the Ferry Wharf, Lyttelton

The SS Maori joined the Union Steamship Co. fleet in 1907 as the first ship in the fleet to be specifically designed and built for the Lyttelton - Wellington interisland overnight 20 knot ferry service.

SS Maori in Lyttelton Harbour

Her carrying capacity was a significant advance on that of the smaller Rotomahana, with normal accommodation for 423 1st class passengers and 130 in 2nd class. A crew of 1oo was her usual complement, with an particular role for stewards and stewardesses to attend to the needs of passengers. The after hold could be converted to carry an extra 50 2nd class passengers in the peak season. History seems to be silent on what they thought of that.

The Maori had a chequered beginning to her career. When launched from the Dennys Bros. shipyards in Dunbarton, Scotland, her anchors failed to brake her and she mounted the far bank of the River Leven, requiring use of the Yard's steel plate rollers to haul her off. Several months later being towed out for trials, two accompanying tugs grounded and the Maori became high and dry on Dumbarton Rocks but was floated off. A couple of days later she hit & sank the Kintyre, a later inquiry ruling the Kintyre had been at fault. Eleven days later, leaving the shipyard she grounded on a sandbar but was refloated 15 minutes later.

Fortunately, the Maori's working career was less chequered and she provided sterling service as an express steamer on the interisland run. In 1913 she was joined by her sister ship, the Wahine, the first of two ill-fated vessels of that name, both shipwrecked, the second most notoriously resulting in loss of 51 lives at the entrance to Wellington Harbour on 10 April 1968.

SS Maori reversing into her ferry berth at Lyttelton, perhaps with the help of her bow rudder.

Converted to oil-burning in 1923, the Maori continued her entire career on the interisland run. In 1946 she was sold to a Chinese shipping company, initially for use on the Shanghai - Australia run and then in the Chinese coastal trade. During a hurricane in 1951 she dragged her anchors, ran aground, and sank.

1 comment:

Jayne said...

Lovely photos!
What a sad ending for such a proud-looking ship.