Original German Ownership: Dorette

      Owners P. de Voss and C.L.Melosch, of Altona bought their beautiful iron, full-rigged sailing ship from the Hamburg builders, Reiherstieg Schiffswerft in 1868. They named her Dorette. Only four years earlier, 1864, Altona was Danish administered being one of the Danish monarch’s most important towns and only one year earlier, 1867, Altona became a part of the Kingdom of Prussia. At that time it was ruled by William 1st, William Friedrich Ludwig, who was proclaimed German Emperor at Versailles in 1871. They were turbulent years. Altona is on the right hand bank of the Elbe and has always been an extension to the commercial hub of Hamburg itself. With

severe restrictions on the number of Jews allowed to live in Hamburg, Altona also became developed as a Jewish community and their business influence would have existed when Dorette was launched on the Elbe. Almost certainly, with a name like de Voss, Dutch links also probably prevailed. 

Technical Specifications

1868 Built by Reiherstieg Schiffswerft(R.Goddeffroy),

     Yard #172, Hamburg.

     Full-rigged 3 masted iron ship

     GRT 848 tons NRT 803 tons

     Dimensions: 190’2” X 31’7” X 19’[English feet]

Second Ownership : New Zealand Shipping Co Ltd

In December 1873 Dorette was bought from R.Godeffroy, Hamburg and by the New Zealand Shipping Co.Ltd. Of this Company’s fleet, Dorette was the smallest and was intended to meet the continuing demand to transport emigrants from England to New Zealand outbound and move wool, principally, on the return.

      On 14th January 1874 Dorette was first registered in London with Vessel ID # 1068507 to its new owners. She retained her original name on the initial passage under command Captain Ayles leaving England on 22nd January 1874 and arriving Auckland, New Zealand on 14th April 1874. This was an exceptionally swift and uneventful initial passage of 83 days;    days land to land.

      Renamed Waimea on 5th May 1875 in New Zealand she began her schedule of many passages as an emigrant ship.

The name of Waimea, of the Maori language, originates from one of the earliest political, electoral areas in the South Island of New Zealand. It is relatively flat land between high mountains and was opened up by the early settlers for agricultural development. Fortunately, one of New Zealand’s finest artists, John Gully, painted the Waimea Plains in 1875, the very same year that this name was chosen to replace Dorette. Gully’s picture is represented below.

Emigration Boom To Colonies

      Below is a picture drawn at the time of the boom years in London when migrants jostled at the Docks to board their various vessels bound toward the colonies. Arrangements for boarding were primitive in the extreme and it is often wondered what tremendous patience passengers must have had to secure allocated berths! This was at a time when families would have endured immeasurable stress as almost all would make one way journeys! 

      1877 :  Capt Mathers

      1883 :  Capt Canese

      1886 :  Capt Pottinger

      1887 :  Capt Sinclair

      1888 :  Capt Pottinger

      1892 :  Capt Reston

      1895 :  Capt Haslum

      1902 :  Capt Oredorp -   Norway


Explosion On Board

      On 26th April 1893 Waimea suffered an explosion in the accommodation area of the ship while bound from New Zealand to New York and Boston. She was put into Rio de

Janeiro where repairs took two weeks. One crew member, a boy Clements, was killed and it was he who was considered the cause of the accident.

1895 Reduced Rig

     At some point it was resolved to reduce the rig to that of a barque. In this picture below, of Waimea when in Port Chalmers, Dunedin, New Zealand, the mizzen mast has been reduced to fore-and-aft rig only.

Nowegian Ownership: Waimea

In July 1895 Waimea was sold to Westergaard & Co of Norway for £2,450/-. It was resurveyed, above, with the  ship’s name of Waimea retained with now the Norwegian flag. Her home port was Kristiannia(Oslo).


      On 1st September 1902 Waimea ran aground at 0530hrs, the hull broke in two, and was wrecked in Algoa Bay, Port Elizabeth in a hurricane force SE gale with loss of Captain Oredorp, Steward, Sailmaker and 5 crew on a passage from Fremantle carrying a cargo of wood. Captain Oredorp is remembered on the Memorial of this sad event in the SE Cemetery at Port Elizabeth, South Africa. It will be seen from the map just how exposed Algoa Bay is to SE winds. An exceptionally severe gale blew up with little warning and struck the Bay. Waimea ended up in one confused heap along with Limari, Agostino, and Hermanas. These were just a handful of the wider devastation of many ships strung along the beach. A local account of  “The Great Gale of 1902” is also recorded below. 

The Great Gale of 1902

      The North End beach, Port Elizabeth is associated with one of the worst single shipping disasters in South African history. On Sunday morning, 31 August 1902, 38 ships were riding at anchor in Algoa Bay under grey skies. As the day wore on, so the south-east wind picked up until it was blowing a gale. There was no slackening of its force at nightfall, if anything it began to blow more strongly.

      Huge waves tossed, the ships about as if they were corks, before running, foam-flecked for the beach where they crashed down upon the sand. Through the night the storm continued unabated and shortly before midnight the first guns, fired as distress signals, were heard. The rocket brigade hurried to the beach to set up their apparatus and give assistance, but in the dark and with the howling wind in their ears and the great breakers thundering about them, there was very little that they could do.

      As day dawned on Monday, 1 September 1902, a scene of absolute chaos was revealed. The whole beach was covered with shattered timber, beached vessels and sodden cargo. Whether ashore or still afloat in the bay, all the
vessels were being battered by enormous breakers.
Frantic efforts were made by the rescuers with rocket apparatus to get a line out to the stricken sailing-ships, but time and again the wind and waves prevented it from carrying to the desperate crews.

Four courageous
 men finally went out with a line to help some sailors, but their efforts ended in tragedy when the line broke and all were drowned. The wife of the captain of one ship, despairing of help, plunged into the waves with her baby. Miraculously she was able to grasp a plank with one arm while holding the baby in the other. The rolling combers brought them ashore to the cheers of the onlookers, but though the baby survived the
ordeal, the mother died. Another mother who jumped into the sea together with her two children was brought safely to the beach, but her children were drowned.

      The weather began to clear on the Tuesday and by the next day all was once again calm. It was then that the funerals began. Among the mourners, led by the mayor, Mr. C. KEMSLEY, were town councillors, harbour officials,
shipping agents and foreign representatives. Port Elizabeth came to a standstill as shops shut and thousands lined the route to the South End cemetery. Pall-bearers drawn from among surviving ship-mates carried the coffins. As the days went by, so more bodies were washed ashore and funerals became an everyday occurrence. A large memorial was erected recounting the tragedy. In this major tragedy of the 38 ships originally at anchor 21 ships were wrecked.



Wing Commander Roland R PARSONS,
RNZAF & RAFO(Rtd), FRGS,psc.,
19 Clyde Road
Christchurch 8041