Saturday, April 16, 2011

The 'Wakatere' and ships to Thames NZ

In the pre-1900s travel to Thames was principally by water, as the roads (tracks) were few and far between.  The wharves of Thames and further along the rivers were kept busy with a large number of boats (of all sizes) bringing passengers and cargoes to the busy goldmining town.

From the time the first miners arrived on the Enterprise 2 "The Thames goldfield was opened to the world from 1st August 1867...A code of regulations was hastily drawn up, to meet the first requirements of the rush, and Mr Mackay left Auckland on the 1st of August in the ps Enterprise No 2, with his policemen and about 40 other persons, the pioneers of the goldfield." (Thames Diamond Jubilee 1867-1927 by F Weston)

An excellent resource on the Northern Steamship Company that operated many of these ships that came to Thames is "The Servants of the North" by Cliff Furniss, 1977.  For years the Thames playground has had a model of one of the most famous ships - the Wakatere.

The picture below of the Wakatere, shows what a magnificent picture she must have been steaming down the firth. The paddlesteamer was built 1896 by Napier, & Bell, at Yoker in Dumbartonshire.  The book noted above, records that the Wakatere was employed on the Thames run until 1926.  Sadly suffering damage to the bottom of the ship from dragging over the shelly bottoms off the Thames.

On the 16 December 1896, the maiden voyage took place of the Wakatere, from Auckland to Thames. The full report is at bottom of the page.  There were 700 passengers and the voyage took 3 1/4 hours, which was deemed as being very impressive.  There were many reasons that led to the decline of these services, but the constant silting of the Thames harbour area, always caused major problems given the tidal nature of the firth.  What great days they must have been as the Thames wharves truly made Thames a very busy port of call.

"The Wakatere racing into Auckland Harbour from the Thames NZ"
pg 115 "Servants of the North"

Maiden voyage to Thames from Thames Star 16/12/1896

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