Friday, August 7, 2009

Dealing With Cook Strait Stowaways - 1882

The SS Penguin Negotiating French Pass. Postcard view early 1900s

Star , Issue 4485, 8 September 1882, Page 3

"A couple of knowing travellers who thought they would get a cheap steamboat trip were very much deceived on the last run to Nelson of the s.s. Penguin from Wellington.

On the purser going his rounds to collect tickets as usual while the vessel was going down the harbour, two individuals, says the New Zealand Times, were found in the steerage who had no tickets, and who told the purser to go to a particularly warm place. He appealed to the captain and the chief officer, and they received from the intruders similar replies.

The skipper wasted no time in parleying. As the men would neither produce tickets nor money, and were still abusive, he slackened speed, put the men in a boat, their exit over the side being expedited by the remark of the burly and muscular chief officer that if they did not look sharp he'd help them along, and they were landed on the rocks at Pencarrow Head, with the cheerful prospect of night closing in, and a thirty-five miles walk before reaching Wellington.

Pencarrow Head, lighthouse on the cliff top (shoreline light built 1906). View looking north up harbour from outside entrance. Wellington city is in the far left top corner direction. Stowaways must walk the circumference of the harbour. Petre, photo, circa 1940s.

How they fared on the journey we do not know, but this effective method of dealing with stowaways seems infinitely better than detaining a vessel in port while the offenders get sentenced to a week's free board and lodging in gaol, after having had a free trip to the port they have desired to reach."

Pencarrow Head Lighthouse, Wellington Harbour entrance with steamer passing through harbour entrance, circa 1920s. Wellington City lies in a direct line beyond the line of sight of the lighthouse in this view but over the headland in the distance. Photographer unidentified. Alexander Turnbull Library collection.

Anyone who knows Wellington harbour, knows that's a very loooooooooooooooong, cold, and most likely windy walk. And that you can see your final destination for much of the way.

Footnote: The Penguin was to have a terrible fate. On 12 February 1909, a hundred years ago, the Penguin on a crossing from Nelson hit Thoms Rock at Cape Terawhiti outside Wellington Harbour. 72 of the 102 persons on board were lost, making the Penguin sinking New Zealand's worst maritime disaster in the twentieth century.

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