TheWhite Swan Incident
The shipwreck that could have sunk a government

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On 29th June 1862 the s. s. White Swan was holed by a rock while steaming down the New Zealand coast from Napier to Wellington. Captain Allen Harper deliberately ran the ship aground on Waiorongo Beach, at Uriti Point, in order to save the lives of those on board.


Waiorongo Beach and Uriti Point

Passengers and crew were lucky to get ashore without injury. In less favourable circumstances, this incident could have given New Zealand a different history because the passenger list included the leading politicians of the colony. They were travelling to Wellington for the first meeting of the General Assembly to be held outside Auckland - the capital at that time.

One eyewitness wrote,
"Had the accident occurred an hour sooner, while it was yet dark, many lives would most probably have been lost in the confusion ...... Had the weather been boisterous it appeared to us impossible that all could have been saved. It may also be stated as a fact that had she struck a few feet further aft, ripping open the engine compartment, she would have gone down at once and not a soul could have been saved."
(Edwin Utting).

The survivors camped on the beach, or at John Moore's homestead four miles away, until rescued by Captain George Mundle and the s. s. Storm Bird three days later.

Why did it happen?
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