Ship of Rings

Mahia Peninsula has recently been put on the map because it is the location for rocket launches by New Zealand’s Rocket Lab. Prior to this, the area was little known to most New Zealanders. Therefore, it’s not surprising that a ship that was wrecked beside the peninsula at the end of the 19th century has faded into history without so much as a ripple – that is until it was discovered the ship was carrying a large amount of Victorian era jewellery.


An hour before midnight on the 29th July 1897, a southerly storm raged as the Huddart-Parker Co. steamer Tasmania, on its way from Auckland to Dunedin, struck rocks at Māhia Peninsula. A freezing wind battered the 148 passengers and crew as the ship settled lower and lower into the black sea.  Six lifeboats were launched but unfortunately one capsized and the nine men onboard were drowned. As well as this, a seaman and passenger were lost overboard on one of the other lifeboats. The ship sank in deep water within an hour, taking with it 20 poor horses that were also onboard with no hope of survival. This was a time when coastal shipping was the main mode of transport for moving people and goods around the young colony. It was also a time when ships were frequently lost due to poor navigation, engine breakdowns and incompetent (often drunk) captains. In fact, there are over 2000 shipwrecks around New Zealand with many of them happening during the last decades of the 19th century. To date, only 140 have been located so there must be many other treasures lying beneath the waves that bash against the country’s dangerous, rocky shores. read more