Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Tales from the Trunk #1

A diary & a feather pillow.

On 26 September, 1873, with a complement of 271 passengers and 37 crew, the Surat set sail from London. Amongst those 271 passengers were brother and sister James and Margaret Mulligan.

The 99-day voyage of the Surat to New Zealand was relatively uneventful. At least until they reached Stewart Island.

On 31 December, 1873, New Zealand's Stewart Island was first sighted. This was a significant moment: the eve of a new year, within sight of a new land, indicating the start of a new life. But at approximately 9.50 that evening, the Surat, ‘grated as if she were going over a gravel bank’. The Surat had hit land at Chaslands Mistake, on the Catlins coast of the South Island of New Zealand.

One moment some of the passengers were celebrating and dancing, the next they were being flung across the deck. Four times more the ship struck and they clutched at fittings to stop being tossed about.

After a period of confusion, she reached her final resting place. The time was 11.15 am. The remaining 170 passengers and crew were now able to take to the boats and land safely.

James and Margaret made it ashore. They were dressed. But apart from the clothes they were wearing, the only other belongings they had were a small pocket diary (in James' possession) and a feather pillow (carried by Margaret)!

Welcome to New Zealand, folks!

See The voyage out.

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