On at least one occasion the services of the Wimmera were called upon to lend assistance to search for a missing ship.

Hawea 1908

During August 1908 the Union Steamship Company’s collier Hawea was on a passage between Newcastle and Gisborne with a shipment of coal for the Gisborne Sheep Farmers’ Meat Co. when, during a period of heavy weather, she broke her tail-shaft in the vicinity of Lord Howe Island.

Amongst other vessels, the Wimmera, which was then at Auckland under the command of Captain William Waller was requested to keep a look out for the missing vessel. On departing Auckland for Sydney on 10 August the Wimmera proceeded North and rounded North Cape (before) deviating from her normal westerly route to proceed as far north as Lord Howe Island which she passed on Thursday 13 August. The search was fruitless and the Wimmera continued her voyage to Sydney where she arrived the following afternoon.



The steamer Wimmera made a search for the drifting steamer Hawea on her way from Auckland to Sydney, but without success.

Captain William Waller, upon arrival yesterday, stated after rounding the North Cape of New Zealand he set a course to the northeast of the Three Kings, which were passed within a distance of about five miles. The Wimmera was then diverted from the usual track and a course was shaped for Lord Howe Island. Ball’s Pyramid was passed at 8.45 a.m. on Thursday, but as no trace of the missing vessel was soon the Wimmera then steamed direct for Sydney Heads.

The captain of the Wimmera was of course unaware that news of the Hawea had been received, and he was ignorant of the fact that half the crew was on Lord Howe Island, The Wimmera found the currents setting strongly to the northward, and the winds experienced were moderate in’ strength from the south, coast and north-east.’ Fine clear weather ruled throughout, and the seas were moderate all the way.

Under ordinary circumstances the steamer Muniara, of Burns Philp, and Co.’s Island fleet, should reach Sydney to-day from the Gilbert and Ellice Groups. There is, however, a strong probability that she has fallen in with the drifting Hawea, and taken her in tow, in which case the Muniara will be a few days late. The Union S.S. Company’s steamer Koromiko, from Newcastle bound to Auckland, will steam a zig-zag course in the hope of finding the Hawea, and the same company’s steamer Rakanoa, on her way from Auckland to Newcastle, to load cargo for Fiji, has been instructed to conduct an exhaustive search.

The Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday 15 August 1908, page 13

The missing vessel remained adrift until off the coast of New South Wales until late August when she was eventually ‘picked up’ by the Union S.S. Co.’s vessel Rakanoa off Manning Head, and towed to Sydney. The vessel was then docked to receive a new tail shaft.

Postscript: It was not long after her breakdown at sea, and following repairs that the Hawea was once again in service. It was short-lived however, for, on 30 October the Hawea was forced aground off Greymouth due to a gale and heavy seas and became a total wreck.

[Hawea aground at Greymouth, New Zealand]
[Hawea aground at Greymouth, New Zealand]
Postcard. Author’s Collection.

Monowai 1907

Union Line — S.S. “Monowai,” 3433 tons G.R. 3000 I.H.P.
Postcard. Author’s Collection.

On another earlier occasion the Union Co’s steamer Monowai was overdue at Sydney from Wellington. It was reported by the Wimmera that she was passed some 500 miles out and that all appeared well.





At the time of this edition going to press the Wellington steamer Monowai was seven days, out on her voyage  to Sydney, all but five hours. This makes her over three days behind time.

Three search vessels are hurrying out after the overdue steamer.

Brown’s powerful tug Champion left Newcastle’ early this morning, and as it is surmised that wind and current haven driven the vessel away to the north-east the Champion will ziz-sag [sic] in that direction. The freight steamer Kaiapoi, belonging to the Union line, and Fenwick’s big tug Leveret will be despatched to assist in the search today. These vessels are under instructions to proceed in certain directions, and then meet at sea.

There are 147 passengers aboard. Of  these 113 are from Wellington, 27 from Lyttleton [sic], and seven from Dunedin. Altogether the ship’s company numbers just under 200.

The Union Co. has arranged for the R.M.S. Manuka to take the place of the Monowai in the Wellington run, and she will get away from Sydney at 11 p.m., tomorrow. She arrived at Newcastle to coal this morning.

The company’s tug, Terawhiti, left Wellington during the night to endeavour to pick up the Monowai. Shipping experts are at a loss to guess just where the steamer is, or what has happened to her. Some are inclined to think that she has broken down whilst others favour the theory that, through a long battle with the prevailing westerly gales, she has run short of coal. But at the best, any guesses are  hazardous.

A cable from Wellington states, that the Huddart, Parker liner Wimmera sighted the Monowai on Monday last about 498 miles off Sydney Heads, and proceeding all well on her course. This indicates, then, that something, has happened to the vessel on the last 500 miles of her journey. She had steamed 741 miles from Wellington when she was sighted by the Wimmera, but she may have drifted many miles with wind and sea since then. Still the vessel’s position was then lat. 36.38 south, long. 160.42- east, and this gives the search vessels a clue to the whereabouts of the overdue steamer.

It is more than probable that if some derangement has occurred to her machinery, the vessel-may turn up under her own steam, if repairs can be effected. 

Australian Star, Friday 13 September 1907, page 1

SS Mokoia picking up disabled SS Monowai 12.9.1907
SS Mokoia picking up disabled SS Monowai 12.9.1907
Postcard. Author’s Collection.

Eventually, in the early hours of 12 September, the steamer Mokoia encountered the Monowai and took her under tow to Sydney where they arrived on 15 September. The cause of the breakdown was a broken rudder shaft which had occurred at 3am on the morning of the 10th.

© Ralph L. Sanderson 2004-2021