NEW ZEALAND's FAR NORTH
On the 5th November 1902 the Huddart Parker Steamer "Elingamite"
from Sydney wharf to begin a passage across the Tasman Sea to New
Zealand. On board a
crew of 58 and 136 passengers. There was a full compliment of general
cargo in the holds
and stowed in the aft turret £17300 of currency
destined for the Bank of New Zealand.
It could not have been foreseen that four days later the "Elingamite"
would steam into the
West Island of the Three Kings group, 30 kilometres to the west of Cape Reinga.
would sink in 20 minutes and in all 45 lives would be lost. While the
loss of the steamer will
rank as one of New Zealand's worst maritime disasters, the attempts in
to recover the fabled "bullion" would claim even further lives. Following
the sinking, a series
of three expeditions to the wreck-site took place to both locate the "Elingamite"
recover the coin on behalf of the Insurance Company. On all occasions the
divers were driven off by the wild and extreme conditions that prevailed
at the West King.
Following a third failure the Underwriters abandoned all hope of recovery
Elingamite treasure was now open to all comers ......
September 7. 1905 - Principal
Mr Gow on board the "Emma Simms" and Diver E. Harper set
sail to recover
the bullion only to return to Wellington 5 weeks
later, a failure apportioned to bad weather and heavy
February 8. 1906
- Mr Gow charters the tug "Pelican" and with
Diver Percy Leigh sailed for the Three Kings.
Diver Leigh was to make 5 descents and proclaim that
"the gold had gone".
March 1906 - An Australian Syndicate charter "Pelican" and
arrive at the wrecksite, the diver was to get
into severe trouble on the wreck and near perished.
January 1907 - The auxiliary Schooner "Huia" with Diver Mr.E
Harper aboard head for the "Elingamite" and
at last, a recovery of
The expedition returned to
Mangonui to re-stock the
back at the site January
22. Harper immediately resumed diving.
Disaster was to strike
with Diver Harper
dying from the "bends". The "Huia" returned to Mangonui
on the January 23rd with Mr. Harper's body.
- Divers Clarke & Leigh aboard
the "Claymore" raised a further
from the wreck before
being chased off the site by bad weather. They
returned on January 1st. 1908 and dived the wreck
heavily for a day and a half before weather
again, forced them to abandon the salvage and return to
Mangonui with Diver Clarke dying from the "bends"
on the way down the coast.
wreck of the "Elingamite" was then abandoned for over 50
years until March 1957,
when a diver, Les Subritzky made an exploratory descent on the wreck.
This intrusion came
very close to ending in disaster with Subritzky being swept away in the
tide-race, only just
being rescued in time by his boat crew. It would not be until 1966 when
Kelly Tarlton &
Wade Doak rediscover the wreck that any real salvage was to take
Although much of the "bullion" and cargo have been
recovered from the wreck of the
"Elingamite" it will still provide "treasure" for many years to come
as the remote location
and hostile nature of the Three Kings Islands help guard its'secrets well.