- Torrington, Reg
- History - general
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- December 1999 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
On the 16th February the Coroner’s Inquest was held on the body of John Pascoe, the Chief Boatswains mate, one of those who drowned. The most important evidence given here was that by Frederick Butler, the quartermaster from HMS Harrier who was in the ‘`brig” :n the Orpheus. His evidence was on the use of the wrong chart.
The two significant matters that came out of the inquest were:
(1) the chart being used by the Orpheus was out of date:
(2) that six copies of the new regulations and signals for the new directions of the 21st August 1861 had been forwarded to the Senior Officer of the Australia Station in Sydney before HMS Orpheus had sailed for New Zealand. Orpheus had not received these new directions.
The finding was, in the opinion of the jury, that the circumstances attending the wreck of HMS Orpheus ought to be enquired into by the Authorities of the Colony.
On the 27th April, the Court Martial was held in HMS Victory in Portsmouth Harbour as the loss of one of HM ships automatically resulted in a court martial of all the surviving officers and men. The officers and men were absolved from all blame, the shifting nature of the middle banks of the Manukau Bar which rendered navigation particularly difficult was blamed. No mention was made of out-of-date charts!
In March 1974 an historian, Mr Peter Blacklock led a group of sailors from HMNZS Taranaki and other interested groups, to Cornwallis Peninsula on the north side of Manukau Harbour where the Blacklock family had rediscovered, cleaned up and had arranged re-dedication of the graves of three of the Orpheus sailors who were drowned.
There they mounted a bronze plaque which reads:
“This plaque marks the graves of three unknown sailors of the Queen who lost their lives when HMS Orpheus foundered at the Manukau Entrance on February 7, 1863. Unknown friends who recovered the bodies from the sea below laid them to rest in this quiet place.“