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A disaster at Whangape
As extracted from newspaper reports of the day.

Whangape is one of the small west coast harbours on the west of the Noth Island of New Zealand. In common with all western harbours except Fiordland there is a substantial bar across the mouth where the steady sou-westers meet the outflow

The next most southern harbour is the Hokianga, large enough to take large sailing vessels when they came to carry away the Kauri timber in the late 1800's. There was a major industry in sawmilling and to a lesser extent in flax, and businesses were set up to deal with each, and with the new gold of the north, kauri gum.

This latter was a form of amber and in new Zealand it can only be found north of a line of lattitude that runs through Kawhia in the Waikato, which is the southernmost point these trees will reproduce naturally.

So the Whangape harbour was a beautiful place, and an attractive place to live, and fishing was a common pastime. The following shows that even a place of great beauty can kill you...

Bush Advocate, Volume XIX, Issue 854, 24 October 1907, Page 5

AUCKLAND, Yesterday
'Details of the disaster on the Whangape bar on Sunday, by which seven persons were drowned, show that the party left Whangape shortly after dinner, and in a few minutes got down to the bar. The boy Poppelwell (sic) became frightened, and cried to be put on shore but Mr D. Wallace told him it was all right.

The bar was not very smooth, and some of those on board thought that perhaps it would be better not to go out. The others reassured them, and the crossing was made, the launch being nearly capsized in the operation. On going outside, fishing operations began but with indifferent success and all were anxious to get back again.

The position was so serious that each one aboard discussed the manner of getting ashore should the launch overturn. Being, in doubt as to what to do about coming in Mr D. Wallace asked Mr Newell Irving what he thought about it. He counselled waiting until flood tide as the sea was going down fast, and while hesitating the launch was headed for the bar.

When nearly there Mr Allen suggested turning round to meet the seas that were coming behind, and then come in after them. Mr Wallace remarked: "It's all right. Let her go" and they rode the first breaker, but the next one turned the launch clean over.

Nothing more was soon of the boy Poppelwell. He had been very sick, and was sitting in the bow and apparently never rose again. The others made the best of their way over the bar. Mr Harris and Wi Hare were side by side when a wave separated them, and the former called out for help, but to no purpose. Mr Richard Blundell got hold of a box, and being carried up the harbour, was picked up by a boat just in time. He was apparently at his last breath, and fainted when pulled into the boat. He was cut about the head somewhat.

Mr W. Allen had a marvellous escape by holding on to a plank given him by a native.

Mr Adamson's case is especially sad, as he only went to Whangape a few days ago as clerk to the Mitchelson Timber Company, and as the work did not suit he had intended to return to Auckland by the, 'Ohinemuri' tonight. He leaves a widow and one child.

The Messrs Wallace were owners of the local flax mill, and were well known in the Hokianga district. Mr Newell Irving, one of the survivors, was an exceptionally powerful swimmer. He'd no sooner got ashore than he ran all the way to the Coffee Palace to get help. Mr Allen, who also got ashore, did the same. Both escaped unhurt and seemed little the worse for the adventure.

No other bodies have been found as yet.
In 1878 five people were drowned at the same place when the steamer
'Lionel' was wrecked there.
Mr Adamson's body, the only one recovered, is to be taken to Auckland for interment by the
'Ohinemuri' tonight. The launch was of 5 horsepower, and was used for towing flax and logs.

An inquest was held last night by Mr A. J. Logan, J.P. acting-coroner and a jury of seven. A verdict of accidental drowning was returned.

Additional info from other sources:
Those lost were;

(1) Arthur Poppelwell (child),
(2) David Wallace (flaxmiller),
(3) Harold Wallace (flaxmiller),
(4) W. Adamson (clerk),
(5) Hawiri Rini (mill hand),
(6) Thomas York (Mill hand),
(7) George Harris (Saddler).

Those saved were;

(1) Woolsey Allen (Manager of Mitchelson's Mill at Whangape),
(2) Newell Irving (Bush contractor),
(3) Richard Blundell (engineer of the launch),
(4) Will Hare (mill hand),
(5) Ned Tepae (mill hand).