T.S.S. Waverley

Last Modified: 21-2-2019 0:04

Waverley Shipwreck
Waverley Shipwreck
© Christopher Cookson  License this image

Fortunately for Marlborough, in 1928 environmental regulations were not as strict as they are in the 21st Century. As a result, the Wairau Lagoons hold a unique piece of New Zealand maritime history in the form of the rusting hulk of the steamer T.S.S. Waverley.

The final resting place of the Waverley is in the mud on the shore of one of the channels in the Wairau lagoons, swept there unintentionally by flood waters and abandoned. The original intent had been to scuttle the hulk at the Wairau Bar to form a breakwater, however things did not go according to plan, resulting in the Waverley ending its long and varied career in its current resting place.

Serendipitously, the Waverley came to rest on the side of the channel that is easily accessible on foot across the salt marshes of the Wairau Lagoons, and as a result is now a unique human artefact accessible via a walking track that passes through a unique natural environment that is otherwise largely devoid of evidence of human presence apart from the occasional foot bridges and signs on the path itself.

The Waverley began life in in 1883, built in Auckland by Bailey and Seager for the Patea Steam Shipping Company, however only remained with this initial owner until 1886 when the vessel was purchased by the Anchor Steam Shipping Company of Nelson, in whose ownership she served the greater part of her working life, with regular voyages from Wellington to Nelson, then Greymouth and Westport.

The West Coast voyages typically carried general supplies on the outward voyage, and coal on the return voyage. Coal was delivered to Picton, Foxton, Patea or Wanganui as well as Nelson.

Rigged as a schooner, and powered by twin 25h.p. steam engines, the Waverley was primarily intended as a cargo vessel, but was also equipped to carry up to 42 passengers, including cabin berths for 12 male and 10 female passengers.

In 1897, the Waverley was extended from 97 feet, 7” to 112 feet, and gross weight increased from 125 tons to 157 tons.

In 1898 was involved in a dramatic rescue attempt of the S.S. Ruhapehu which had stranded on Farewell Spit. Over her long career, the Waverley herself stranded numerous times at Patea.

In 1901 the Anchor Shipping and Foundry Company Ltd took over the vessel until 1916, using the Waverley for overnight passenger and freight runs between Wellington and Nelson up until 1909.

In the final years of her working life, the Waverley transported frozen meat for the Patea Farmers' Co-operative Freezing Company between Patea and Wellington.

The Waverley was finally dismantled, with only the hulk remaining at Wellington in 1928, and was towed to the Wairau Bar by the S.S. Wairau as already mentioned.

Although never achieving her intended purpose as a breakwater, for a time, the Waverley found one final, somewhat ignominious use as a target for practice by NZ Army artillery.

Today, the Waverley quietly rusts in her final, unplanned resting place, and perhaps appropriately for an old vessel whose active days are long gone, is at her most glorious as the rays of a sinking sun cast a golden glow across the salt marsh and the old rusting hulk that adds a striking, unexpected feature to an otherwise largely featureless landscape.


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T.S.S. Waverley. (2019) Retrieved May, 29, 2024, from