The Maria wrecked near Cape Terawhiti

23 July 1851

Report of the Maria shipwreck (PapersPast)

Twenty-six lives were lost when the barque Maria was wrecked on Wellington’s rugged south-western coast, near Cape Terawhiti. This provided more ammunition for locals who were trying to convince the government of the need for a lighthouse.

The Maria left Port Cooper (Lyttelton) for Port Nicholson (Wellington) on 22 July 1851 with a crew of 22 and six passengers. Having carried stock south from Charles Clifford’s sheep stations in Wairarapa and Marlborough, it was returning with just a few casks of whale oil as ballast. Four of the passengers were stockmen.

As it neared Wellington Harbour the barque crossed a reef, and then, a few minutes later, struck a rock which pierced the hull. This was probably Thoms Rock, which has subsequently caused other wrecks, including that of the SS Penguin. The barque soon broke across the waist and separated into two halves about 400 m from shore.

Those on board tried to free a small boat, but the lowering mechanism gave way and it was smashed to pieces. Those not killed in this incident then salvaged material to use as rafts. Only two men reached the shore: a Malay crew member and Stewart, an ordinary seaman who had been at the wheel at the time of the accident. He had clung to a raft with others, but swam away as the breakers neared; the raft was smashed against the rocks, killing its occupants.

Among the dead were the captain, who left a wife and three children, and two Canterbury settlers, G.P. Wallace and William Deans. William and his brother John Deans are remembered for establishing Homebush, a sheep and cattle station near Darfield.