Friday, April 17, 2009

The Dauntless vanishes

The second-to-last journey of the 72-ton topsail schooner Dauntless was to convey a cargo of cement to Port Chalmers in late June, 1875. She left Port Chalmers, bound for Wellington, but stopped at Moeraki to pick up 635 bags of oats. Finally, she left that port on Friday, 9 July. She was never seen again.

Built by Henry Nicol & Son of Devonport in 1871, she was owned by a Mr. Conroy of Auckland, and her agents were Bouman, MacAndrew & Co. She had had two mishaps before her disappearance: 7 February 1874, under the command of William Miller, she was involved in a collision with the Challenger in Auckland Harbour, between Breakwater and Queen Street Wharf during a gale. Next, on 24 September 1874, she struck a reef off Kawau Island. By June 1875, her master was Hans Poulsen, and her crew’s names were Jonathan Harpley, Charles Llewellyn, William Thomas, John Proctor, and Robert Whitefield. All disappeared.

The Dauntless wasn’t the only vessel to vanish at that time. The Pearl, a 53 ton schooner carrying timber from Auckland to Lyttleton, sailed on 8 July and disappeared on the seas. A librarian at Auckland Library’s research centre suggested cargo shift as a cause. The Pearl’s timber may not have been secured, and the Dauntless’ bags of oats may have tipped her over. We may never know. Five men died on board that vessel.

What brought my attention to the Dauntless’ mysterious fate was that of Captain Poulsen’s son Harry. He had been educated at the Parnell Orphan’s Home, supported by the Ara Lodge (his father had been a member). After Parnell Grammar School, he entered service with the Auckland Star, then journeyed to Sydney to take up a position as sporting reporter for the Sydney Daily Telegraph. Only 24 years of age, he met with a terrible accident.
“The following detailed particulars of the late Mr Poulsen's tragic death appear in the Sydney Daily Telegraph :-"It appears that Mr Poulsen mounted a fine animal belonging to Mr Ivey, of Surrey Hills. He rode safely along Bourke-street for some distance, when the animal bolted and dashed at full speed into Cleveland-street, Redfern. A few minutes afterwards Mr Poulsen was seen by a lad named Rogers, who was driving a butcher's cart, clinging to the horse's mane, while the reins, which had slipped from his hands, were hanging in front of the animal's head. He had, therefore, lost control over the horse, which the next instant dashed into the butcher's cart. One of the shafts grazed the horse’s side, and entered Mr Poulsen's left thigh, the force of the collision driving it clean through. As the horse broke clear, Mr Poulsen was left impaled upon the shaft, where he hung for fully half a minute. He then dropped to the ground, where he lay until picked up by some bystanders. As he fell the horse attached to the butcher's cart, started off, and the wheel just grazed Mr Poulsen's head.

“Mr Poulsen was conveyed to the Sydney Hospital. Dr Hollis there found that, besides the thigh being terribly lacerated, the pelvis bone was badly fractured. The patient was placed under chloroform, and conveyed to the operating-room, when nearly two hours were spent in attending to him. From the first the medical men were doubtful whether Mr Poulsen would survive the shock to the system.”
(Poverty Bay Herald, 30 July 1890)
He didn’t, and died 14 July 1890.

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