HMS Orpheus

28th October 2007, 07:41
I spent a interesting afternoon driving around the north shore of the Manukua Harbour which is to the west of Auckland.

It was here on the 7th February 1863 the HMS Orpheus founded while crossing the bar. She was a 21 gun Corvette with a steam engine.

From the crew of 256 only 69 were saved and to date it is the biggest maritime disaster in new Zealand

With two of my grand children we first visited a grave site where three unknown sailors of the ship are buried. Their graves along with another local person is amongst native bush and has a picket fence around the graves. Truly a place of rest. It was quite something to stand there and listen to the native birds and in the distance the sea.

Some 10kms further down the road is the small village of Huia where there is a museum that contains parts of the ship.

Here is a link to one of several web sites containing info on this tragedy.

28th October 2007, 18:49
Thanks for relating this, Ray. A terrible tragedy by all accounts but by the sound of it a peaceful place to be laid to rest. Apart from the graves of the three unknown sailors, do you know if there any graves of Orpheus casualties that have headstones?

There is plenty in The Times on the Orpheus. Here's some info on the launch of the screw corvette just 3 years before it sank:

The Times, Monday, 25 Jun 1860
The launching of the fine screw corvette Orpheus, 21 guns,
took place at Chatham on Saturday afternoon with
complete success. This is the third vessel completed and
launched from Chatham dockyard during a very short
period. A large number of persons were present on the
occasion. The Orpheus, although inferior in point of size
and tonnage to many of the noble line-of-battle and other
ships recently launched and now in progress at Chatham, is
nevertheless a fine specimen of the modern class of 21-
gun screw corvettes, and her symmetrical proportions
and fine outline, viewed as she lay on the stocks
before the launch, excited very general admiration. As
regards her architectural design and build, it may be
stated that she has been little more than two years in
progress, her keel having been commenced on the 12th of
May, 1858. She has been constructed from the designs
of Admiral Sir Baldwin W. Walker, K.C.B., Sur-
veyor of the Navy, under the superintendence of
Mr. O. W. Lang, the master shipwright, and his
assistants. The following are her dimensions:- Length,
extreme, 226ft. 6in.; length between perpendiculars,
197ft. 2 3/8in.; breadth, extreme, 40ft. 8in.; breadth for
tonnage, 40ft. 4in.; breadth, moulded, 39ft. 8in.; depth in
hold, 24 ft. 2in.; burden, in tons, 1,705 55-94. She
is to be furnished with a very heavy armament, and is
pierced to carry 21 guns, which wil be thus disposed:- 20
8-inch guns on the maindeck, each of 60 cwt. and 8ft.10in.
in length; and one 68-pounder pivot gun, of 95 cwt. and 10 ft.
in length. Her propelling power will consist of a pair of
400-horse power (nominal) trunk engines, by Messrs. Hum-
phreys and Co. She is to be immediately fitted with her
machinery, and prepared for service.

The names of the casualties and survivors:

Note: Henry Naylen should be Henry Nelson Aylen, Clerk, youngest son of Capt. Jon Aylen, R.N., Welton, Brough, Yorkshire. He was 18.

Finally, part of a letter to the Editor on the praiseworthy efforts of the locals at the scene in tending to the survivors and those who died (hence my question about the graves):

The Times, Wednesday, 20 May 1863
Letter to the Editor (C.D.)
Having done what they could for the living, the generous-
hearted people of Auckland did not neglect the dead. John
Pascoe, the chief boatswain's mate (whose body was the first
found), was buried with due military honours. He was fol-
lowed to the grave by a vast band of civilians as well as of
military and naval men, including General Cameron and his
staff and the governor's aide-de-camp. His Excellency
himself was only prevented from attending by reason of ill
On the 24th of February the remains of Commodore Burnett
were also conveyed to their last resting-place amid
military honours such as were never witnessed before
in the Australasian world. The body of the late chaplain
has been found and buried, and the remains of
about 50 other members of the crew of the Orpheus
have been washed ashore and decently laid in their
last resting-place. Some of the bodies were found
about seven miles to the northward of the Manukau
harbour, and it is expected that the rest may be washed
ashore about the same locality. The care and attention
paid by the Maoris in the performance of the last rites to
the naked remains as they came to land have been most
praiseworthy. They clothed "with their own garments
those which were uncovered; burial service was read over
the remains; and a distinguising mark has been placed at
the grave of each of the dead."


28th October 2007, 19:31
Hi Martin I believe there are more graves in one of the older cemetery in Auckland itself. These I hope to find over the summer months. Will keep you informed.

28th October 2007, 22:28
Thanks, Ray. Appreciate that.