The bow of the Northern Steamship Company's S.S. Gairloch - wrecked in 1903 - may be seen on the beach a few kilometres west of Ōākura (inter-tidal at the end of Lower Timaru Road, Oakura. Also accessible from Lower Weld Road via the Timaru Stream bridge).

The vessel was launched at Glasgow in 1884. She was designed for a stock, goods & passenger service for the west coast ports between Onehunga, and Nelson.

On 3 January 1903 under master, Captain Arthur Austin, she left Onehunga with a general cargo but with no passengers. Having called at Raglan & Kāwhia, Gairloch made course for Opunake & Whanganui but at 11.40pm on  5 January she ran aground on Timaru Reef, a few kilometres west of Ōākura. The 31 crew stayed on board until morning, when they took two lifeboats and rowed to Port Taranaki..

Although the ship was a total loss, she was well up the shore which made recovery of the salvageable cargo possible. A shipment of timber, two gigs and drapery were among the salvaged items, along with the ship's silverware and the crew's personal possessions. After the vessel broke up, locals were able to recover additional items which washed ashore

The following weekend, West's Stables in New Plymouth advertised that they would run horse busses to the wreck site so that, by Sunday afternoon, over 500 picnicking visitors were present on the beach and boarding the Gairloch.

A court of enquiry in February that year found that Captain Austin had committed an error of judgement in coming so close to shore on a dark night. It suspended his master's certificate for three months and ordered him to pay £10 in costs.

Further Reading:

Bruce, David: Ship's Loss - Family's Gain 

de Jardine, Margaret: Shipwrecks on & off  the Taranaki Coast, The Author, [1981] Note: The entry for the Gairloch is mistakenly entered under 1887.

Wreck near Oakura, Taranaki Herald 6 January 1903



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