The Daring Rescue: The Story of New Zealand’s Best Preserved Mid-19th-Century Schooner
Dr. Kurt Bennett & Bev Parslow (Heritage New Zealand)
The South Pacific Island nation, Aotearoa New Zealand, has a strong maritime heritage dating back to c.1250 AD. For centuries, the use of watercraft was the only way to access the group of islands. These complex ocean-going machines played an essential role from facilitating the transfer of people and culture to maintaining local and foreign connections. Following the arrival of Europeans, local European-styled shipbuilding yards were established that exhibited foreign shipbuilding knowledge and technologies. Today, however, little is known about early New Zealand colonial shipbuilding as limited archaeological remains of locally built vessels have been relocated and recorded in detail.
In May 2018, a significant rediscovery was made on remote Te Oneone Rangatira Beach, approximately 65 km northwest of the Auckland, New Zealand’s most populous city. At the time of being reported in the local community it was labelled as just an historic shipwreck, however, it was later identified as the earliest surviving and best-preserved archaeological example of a mid-nineteenth century ship constructed in New Zealand. In 1863, Donald McInnes built Daring in Mangawhai measuring 16.15 m (53 ft) in length with a 5.06 m (16.6ft) beam and a registered tonnage of 31.14 tons. The ship was constructed as a carvel planked schooner with a gaff rig and used for coastal trade around New Zealand. On a voyage to Auckland in 1864, the ship was intentionally beached and after an unsuccessful salvage attempt it was declared a total loss in 1865.
As a result of shifting sands and storm events in early 2018, the ship’s topsides became exposed and with further erosion later displayed incredible preservation with the hull and decking intact. HNZPT commissioned intermittent digital scanning and a programme of timber sampling as a means of preservation by record. Throughout the following winter months, the remains of the hull weathered storms, lay defenceless against souvenir hunters and ultimately became at risk of being lost forever. Finally, in December 2018 with the persistence of a small group of enthusiasts raising funds, generosity of volunteers and collaboration between organisations, the schooner was recovered from the beach to be conserved and presented to the public. The hull now resides where it was first constructed for the education and enjoyment of future generations.
Join us as we navigate New Zealand’s legislative framework towards intertidal shipwrecks, the history of Daring, its rediscovery, the salvage and the vessels future—one of New Zealand’s most significant maritime artefacts.
Cover image: Daring after excavation from the beach and awaiting transport to storage facility (Image: Kurt Bennett, December 2018)