PHOTOGRAPHY by donhammondimage



     The Foundering of the KAITAWA ...
        Of all the losses in the Far North it is perhaps the foundering of the collier
  "Kaitawa" that epitomises the true essence of a maritime tragedy. The "Kaitawa" left
  Westport, New Zealand, May 21 1966, loaded with 3000 tons of coal on passage to
  Portland, Whangarei. Her course would take her north up the West Coast, around the
  most northern tip of New Zealand, before heading down the East Coast to her final
  destination. At the same time she cleared Westport a complex depression was forming
  in the western Tasman sea, gathering strength as it advanced steadily on to New
  Zealand. Come evening of May 23 the ship and storm converged near the north western
  tip of the country, the "Kaitawa" labouring in the westerly gale and heavy seas.
    At 9:00pm a weak "MAYDAY" call was picked up by Auckland Maritime Radio .....
  "MAYDAY, ZMVC. Kaitawa - require immediate assistance". This faint call was the last
  thing ever heard from the vessel and her crew.
    Over the next two days mute evidence of the ships fate began to come ashore. Broken
  timber, life-buoys, shattered doors, a partially inflated life-raft. All of these were to
  become pieces of a complex jigsaw puzzle in the following inquiry into the vessels loss.
  The true events of her sinking will never be fully known but it was concluded that while
  deep in a trough the "Kaitawa" was swept by one or more great waves. The seas tore
  and shattered teak doors from their fittings allowing tons of water to enter the ship
  causing a sudden list of 30˚. From that point on the vessel would have been beyond
  human control and merely drifting. It was concluded that sometime after midnight the
  "Kaitawa" would have drifted on to the Pandora Bank. In a seaway already in a state
  of wild turbulence, the Pandora would have been an area of inconceivable violence and
  fury. On striking, it is likely that the vessel then capsized but due to residual air
  trapped in the hull. she would eventually drift off the Bank to a point some 2 miles off
  Cape Maria van Dieman where she then plummeted to the ocean floor taking all but one
  of her compliment with her.
    It is not easy to dive the "Kaitawa", the remote location, tide races and depth
  make her difficult and dangerous to reach. Lying upside down at 144 ft. she is an eerie
  scene and in the stillness her two big propellers sit motionless, a bizarre memorial to the
  entire crew of 29 mariners who lost their lives over 40 years ago.