146-year-old Wrecked Ship’s Bones Uncovered

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Wild spring tides have revealed the skeletal remains of a ship that sank off the coast of Taranaki nearly 150 years ago.

A row of what appears to be the ends of ribs from a sailing ship’s hull have appeared at low tide in the sand at Opunake Beach.

There are five pieces of timber sticking out of the sand; four in a row and one a couple of metres away from them.

The placement makes it easy to imagine they could be the remains of a sailing ship.

Jenny Russell-McKenzie, who is the owner operator of Opunake Beach Kiwi Holiday Park, said she heard about the wreck when chatting with an elderly local man who had spotted it.

“It’s just reappeared.  As far as I know, it’s never been ‘unsanded’ so to speak.  It’s quite interesting.”

The line of timbers appears when the tide is low, about 120 metres from the edge of the beach in front of the holiday park office.

“It might be a lifetime thing, you might not get to see it again,” she said.

Wondering what the ship’s story could be, she turned to social media on to ask if anyone knew more.

It didn’t take long for the mystery to be solved.

Mollie Oliver from Aotea Utanganui Museum of South Taranaki, Patea, posted a reply: “After extensive research we have come up with a possibility for the name of this uncovered ship.”

“The Falcon, schooner, was stranded at Opunake Bay on March 23, 1870, and became a total wreck.”

“The vessel was loaded mostly with timber, and went ashore in moderate weather.  No lives were lost.”

“The Falcon, No. 46,481, was a wooden schooner of 42 tons register, built at Coromandel in May, 1864.”

“Her dimensions were: length 62.2 ft, beam 16.5 ft, depth 5.8 ft.  Her master, Captain J.T. Cicely, was exonerated from all blame by the Court of Inquiry.”

New Plymouth’s Puke Ariki Museum also sent a reply: “There are only two records of shipwrecks in the Opunake area – the first one was the ‘Arthur Wakefield’, a schooner, which foundered about three miles south-west of Opunake on July 19, 1879.  No lives were lost and the captain gave no reason for the disaster.”

“But we think that these remains are more likely to be of the ‘Falcon’, also a schooner, which was stranded on March 23, 1870.”

“The vessel was loaded mostly with timber, and went ashore in moderate weather.  No lives were lost.  An inquiry found the captain blameless.  (Source: New Zealand Shipwrecks by C.W.N. Ingram (1990)).”

“It will be interesting to see if any more of the wreck gets revealed with the bad weather and king tides we are expecting in the next few days.”

Russell-McKenzie was pleased with the interest the posting generated.

“People were saying the earthquake might have uncovered it, but it had reappeared a bit before the earthquake.”

“The sand here moves all the time, the water takes it from one side of the bay to the other side of the bay.  It was obviously just time for the shipwreck to be revealed.”

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Source: Stuff

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