NEW ZEALAND's FAR NORTH
PHOTOGRAPHY by donhammondimage
The Loss of the Karu ...
27th February 1926
On the 26th February the auxiliary steamer "Karu" had finished
loading 200,000 ft of fine timber and was made ready for passage
to Sydney, Australia. She left Whangape with the bar being calm
although there was a good NW breeze. Through that day the wind
gradually increased, rising to near gale and come nightfall the "Karu"
was labouring in a very heavy sea. By the time the vessel was off
Twilight Bay her plight had become desperate, with the hull badly
strained and her steam pump unable to cope with the ingress of
water. With a heavy list to starboard and well down at the stern
all hope of saving the steamer were gone. At 9:30 on the Saturday
Capt. Richmond gave the order to abandon ship. A two and a half
mile row through precipitous seas brought the lifeboat within sight
of safety only to be capsized halfway through the surf line by a
tremendous wave. Of the crew of 12 only 10 were to come ashore
safely on Twilight Beach.
By a strange twist of fate the abandoned "Karu" did not founder
as anticipated, but with sails still set drove in to a small cove at the
base of high cliffs just north of Twilight Bay, to eventually become
a total loss.
Given the location of the "Karu's" final resting place her remains
have withstood the continual battering from the prevailing west
coast conditions for over 60 years reasonably well. Her foredeck
section, still wedged between the rocks is mainly intact with
steam-winch for'ard and covered with large "flapjack" seaweed.
Further seaward the boiler lies upright, her copper pipe-work
reshaped by sand and the continual swell action into bizarre shapes
Strangely the stern section of the "Karu" is missing and is nowhere
to be found in the vicinity of the wreck-site.