Almost 200 years of history washes up near the Kaipara Harbour

Last Updated : 31 May 2018
Kaipara Shipwreck 3.jpg
Kaipara Shipwreck.jpg

Archaeologists and historians are excited over a shipwreck that has been exposed by high tides at the entrance to Kaipara Harbour.

Identified as the Daring, the 17m two-masted schooner was built at Mangawhai in 1863 and driven ashore by wild gales back in 1865.

The trading vessel had been carrying a cargo of grass seed from Taranaki to Onehunga with a Captain Phipps, an unknown number of crew members and two passengers on board and was beached intact with no loss of life.

The wreck is remarkably well preserved for its age with the deck and hull mainly intact.

Finding the wreck

Daring was discovered the way many events are these days – on social media.

The New Zealand Maritime Museum came across a post of the wreck on Facebook and alerted Auckland Council’s heritage department. Auckland Council then swiftly pulled together a team to investigate the wreck, with both their own and Heritage NZ archaeologists and a representative from the NZ Defence Force.

Robert Brassey, Auckland Council’s Principal Specialist in Cultural Heritage and maritime history expert, says the wreck offers an extremely rare opportunity to examine a literal fragment of our history.

“It’s an astounding discovery,” he says. “It’s extremely rare for a wreck of this age to have survived in such good condition; it is a significant part of our maritime heritage. However what’s even more astounding is that someone has been selfish enough to have damaged the ship within days of it being exposed by scavenging timber off it.”

Scavengers and souvenir hunters have already been scrabbling at the wreck, with several deck planks and a section of railing removed, much to the horror of both locals and archaeologists.

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A protected archaeological site

The wreck is on a section of foreshore controlled by the New Zealand Defence Force which is part of the Kaipara Air Weapons Range. The range is strictly off-limits to the public at all times including when there is no military activity.

The wreck is an archaeological site protected under the provisions of the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act.

“An archaeological authority from Heritage New Zealand is required before anyone can modify or damage this site says Beverley Parslow, Heritage New Zealand Auckland Area Manager.

“This wreck is part of the nation’s history and needs to be recorded in the first instance without being tampered with. Its full story can then be told for all New Zealanders to appreciate and learn from. That story is not as complete with parts of the wreck missing due to fossickers taking items that do not belong to them.” 

Any person damaging or destroying any part of the wreck or wreck site is liable to a fine of up to $60,000.

As to why Daring is so well-preserved, it appears to have been buried in sand since it was driven ashore. This has provided a constant environment protected from wave action,  wetting/drying processes and fungal growth that normally cause wrecks to deteriorate.

According to Robert, the ship suddenly popped up on the beach due to the unusual tidal conditions.

“This stretch of coastline is highly dynamic and the sand is constantly moving,” explains Robert. “There have been elevated high tides recently which explains why such a substantial wreck that has been buried for many years has become exposed like this. It may well get covered up again!”

Kaipara shipwreck_sketch_credit Bev.jpg
Original sketch of Daring by Edwin Brookes 1863. Photo Credit: Bev Ross 

Interesting Facts:

  • The wreck of Daring was reported in the Daily Southern Cross on 27 February 1865 (Volume XXI, Issue 2373)
  • It was Captain Phipps first voyage on the Daring
  • Daring had previously been stranded at Waikato Heads in June 1864, but in that case was repaired and refloated
  • Daring was owned by Mr David Kirkwood of Onehunga
  • The cargo of grass-seed was worth between 400 and 500 pounds
  • Neither the cargo nor the vessel were insured (oh dear!)
  • Mr Kirkwood replaced Daring with the ‘fine schooner’ Fairy

For history fans, find out more about Auckland’s ship heritage here

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