Ventnor Nov 14, 2017 16:33:13 GMT 12
Post by nzbc on Nov 14, 2017 16:33:13 GMT 12
The Wreck of the SS Ventnor – 28 October 1902
ARCHIVES NEW ZEALAND·TUESDAY, 14 NOVEMBER 2017
The wreck of the SS Ventnor on 28 October 1902 is a topic that often gets referenced in research enquiries in our reading rooms and via our remote reference service. Archives New Zealand holds a number of records of interest in relation to the event across our offices, some of which we will highlight in this Note.
SS Ventnor outward manifest page 1. Archives New Zealand reference: BBAO 5544 A78 211 / a 1902/948 - Auckland Regional Office of Archives New Zealand
The SS Ventnor set off from Wellington bound for Hong Kong on 26 October 1902. The ship was laden with unique cargo. As well as 5300 tons of Westport coal, 2 bottles of whisky, 15 pounds of dried fruit and 62 pounds of tobacco amongst other items, there were the coffins of 489 Chinese nationals who had died in New Zealand. The number of coffins on the ship is recorded in the ships manifest, recorded in 3 different entries of 478 coffins, 1 coffin and 10 coffins. The ship struck a reef off the coast of Taranaki early morning on 27 October. The captain tried to make for Auckland but the SS Ventnor sank about ten miles off the Hokianga Heads on 28 October 1902.
George Allport, for Secretary, Marine Department, Wellington - "Ventnor" - re Chinese crew and also re signal hoisted by Principal Keeper at Cape Egmont Lighthouse not being answered. Archives New Zealand reference: BBAO 5544 A78 212 / a 1902/991 Auckland Regional Office of Archives New Zealand
Although three lifeboats got away safely, the fourth was swamped, drowning 13 men. Searchers found only a few of the coffins washed ashore. As remains washed ashore in Northland, local iwi (Te Roroa, Ngāpuhi & Te Rarawa) accepted them and buried them in their own ancestral burial grounds. Other remains were reported to have been buried in Rawene cemetery.
SS Ventnor outward manifest page 2. Archives New Zealand reference: BBAO 5544 A78 211 / a 1902/948 - Auckland Regional Office of Archives New Zealand
Many of the coffins were of Chinese miners from Otago and Southland as many had moved to New Zealand to seek fortune during the gold mining rush of the 1860s. The SS Ventnor wasn’t the first vessel to carry the bodies of Chinese nationals back to their homeland. The Cheong Shing Tong benevolent society was set up to care for elderly and poor Chinese, and also to return their bodies to Canton. Choie Sew Hoy was the first president of Cheong Shing Tong. He was a merchant and successful gold dredger based in Otago. Records relating to Sew Hoy’s business interests are held in our Dunedin office and some can be seen in this online exhibition.
The Sew Hoy Big Beach Gold Mining Company Limited - 1889-1899. Archives New Zealand reference: DAAB 9055 D91/21l 209 - Dunedin Regional Office of Archives New Zealand
When the society began its first mass exhumation of deceased miners’ remains in 1883, all the fundraising and administration was run from Sew Hoy’s office at his store in Stafford Street, Dunedin, where Sew Hoy Oriental Foods continues to operate. In April 1883 230 bodies, mainly from Otago and the West Coast, were safely conveyed to China for reburial by the SS Hoihow.
List of Chinese dead bodies. Archives New Zealand reference: ACGO 8333 IA1 863 /  1902/3610 - Wellington Office, Archives New Zealand
Sew Hoy suffered a heart attack and died in 1901 and his body was one of the many lost when the SS Ventnor sank in 1902. Sew Hoy's elderly nephew, Choie Kum Foo, who was on the boat to accompany the coffins drowned during the event.
NZ Wreck Register 1880 to 1902 - Entry for SS Ventnor. Archives New Zealand reference: ABPL 7464 W5011 1 / 2 - Wellington Office, Archives New Zealand
In 2014 the wreck of the SS Ventnor was found 21km west of Hokianga Harbour in 150m of water. On 8 May 2014 the wreck was covered by the archaeological provisions of the Historic Places Act 1993. Discussions are ongoing between the government, descendants of those on board the ship and local iwi as to how the remains should be left.
Records referred to in this Note are also available in our The Wreck of the SS Ventnor Flickr album.
-Research Services, Wellington Office, Archives New Zealand
-Auckland Regional Office, Archives New Zealand
-Dunedin Regional Office, Archives New Zealand
Image in banner: Telegram from George Martin, Coastwaiter, Hokianga. Archives New Zealand reference: BBAO 5544 A78 211 / a 1902/948 - Auckland Regional Office of Archives New Zealand.