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150th Anniversary of the Wreck of HMS Orpheus

Press Release

Friday 25 January

Voyager Maritime Museum commemorates the 150th Anniversary of the Wreck of HMS Orpheus.

It was on February 7 1863 that HMS Orpheus was wrecked on the Manukau Bar, on the west coast of Auckland. Of the 259 men assumed to be aboard, 189 men lost their lives. Only a quarter of the crew were from seafaring backgrounds. The rest were from a variety of trades ranging from perfumiers to shoemakers. The average age was 22 and most of the men couldn’t swim. HMS Orpheus was a Royal Navy vessel under the command of Commodore Burnett who was travelling to New Zealand for the first time to meet Governor Grey. For the sake of expediency he decided to enter Auckland via the Manukau Harbour rather than proceed around North Cape resulting in New Zealand’s greatest maritime tragedy.

Voyager NZ Maritime Museum is to play a major part in the events and ceremonies commemorating the 150th anniversary of the ‘Orpheus disaster’. Each day for 10 days from Friday 1 February – Sunday 10 February, Voyager will pay tribute to the 189 lives lost with a public display outside the front entrance of the museum. This display comprises 189 crosses representing the number of men who perished. Many of these crosses have been voluntarily decorated by local artists, sculptors and photographers with assistance from Lopdell House.

Voyager’s Orpheus Gallery graphically tells the story of this tragedy in pictures and prose with pen portraits of some of the key personalities and survivors. This display also includes memorabilia such as walking sticks, boxes and furniture made from the fine teak of the Orpheus that was washed ashore. Of special significance in this collection is the brass and leather telescope belonging to the Manukau Pilot and Harbour Master, Captain Thomas Wing who witnessed the sinking of HMS Orpheus. This telescope or one very similar would have been in use at the signal station as Orpheus foundered on the Manukau Bar.

A special Orpheus Remembrance day is to take place in the Orpheus Gallery on Sunday 3 February. Starting at 10.00am the Lopdell House team joins with Voyager in a public workshop decorating sea faring flags. There will also be the opportunity to view the magnificent and colossal book about the history of the Manukau Harbour, designed by artist Mary Kelleher. This will be followed at 12 noon by the Documentary Screening of the Shipwreck series presented by Paul Gittins and directed by John Milligan. Finally at 1.30pm there will be the launch of ‘Where the flag floats’, a childrens adventure story set against the events of the shipwreck. Meet the author D.C. Grant and hear about her tireless research about the HMS Orpheus and readings from the book. The book will be available for purchase, $19.99. on the day and you may have your copy signed by the author.

For further information on all HMS Orpheus activities relating to the commemoration of the 150th anniversary please go to http://maritimemuseum.co.nz/orpheus-150th-anniversary.

ENDS