153-yr-old Shipwreck Successfully Removed Remarkably Intact

Nancy Bilyeau
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It took five days — and it reportedly cost more than $1 million — to remove a 153-year-old shipwreck from a beach in West Auckland, New Zealand, but miraculously it was lifted almost fully intact.

The 55-foot schooner Daring was driven ashore by gale force winds in March 1865. It was uncovered by the shifting sands at Muriwai Beach in May 2018, and removed by the “Daring Rescue Team” in mid-December.

Photo by Daring Rescue Team

“The shipwreck is a significant find, and provides archaeologists with a rare opportunity to record and gather information toward analysis of colonial ship construction and adaptations. The Daring is a great example of this,” says Heritage New Zealand’s Mid Northern Manager, Bev Parslow.

Larry Paul, from the Classic Yacht Charitable Trust, told media that volunteers slept on the beach between tides as the ship was excavated.

“It’s a beautiful piece of work,” Paul said. “The Daring was made in an earlier era of boat building, and it is the only kind probably in the world that is still fully intact.”

Photo by Daring Rescue Team

A shoe, coins, a cup, clay pipes, and multiple wine bottle caps dating to the 19th century were found on the ship.

The Daring belonged to Onehunga storekeeper David Kirkwood, according to Recon, commissioned by Heritage New Zealand to laser scan the ship.

In its 18 months of service it proved to be a solid, reliable “workhorse,” said Recon. Its final journey was transporting a cargo of grass seed from Taranaki up to the Manukau.

Paul said it took months of paperwork to get the necessary approvals to remove it. On December 10th, the removal of the Daring from the sand began when artifacts were taken out of the vessel.

Photo by Daring Rescue Team

The next day, two big excavators on each side of the vessel managed to wiggle out sand from inside the ship.

On day three, the Daring was successfully lifted from the sand and placed above the water level mark.

“It was a huge challenge, mainly because we had to get it ready and work with the tide,” Paul said. “We had four hours to work on each day and some of the crew slept on the beach waiting for the tides.”

Photo by Daring Rescue Team

The Daring was moved 25 miles (40 kilometres) across Muriwai Beach with a big loader truck.

“It took 45 minutes to move it to hard sand, and another two and half hours more after that using road track maps,” he said in the interview with Stuff.

Recon reported the events that sent the ship to its resting place of more than 100 years. “Things were going to plan but as the Daring hove off the entrance to the Manukau a strong south-west gale developed and blew the ship off course until the crew found themselves off the Kaipara,” says Parslow.

Photo by Daring Rescue Team

Despite all their efforts, Captain Phipps – who was at the helm of the Daring – realized that the ship was being driven onto land. With no chart of the Kaipara on board, Phipps decided to put the ship ashore in as controlled a manner as they could by dropping the anchor just prior to the ship striking the sand in order to ease its landing.

Phipps’ decision saved his own life, the lives of his crew, the ship and its cargo.

Photo by Daring Rescue Team

“The Daring was undamaged, and the crew escaped safely and sheltered on the beach,” said Parslow. “Phipps, two passengers and a seaman set off for Onehunga the next day to get help.”

After the ship re-emerged in May 2018, it attracted media attention. Unfortunately, part of the wreck was damaged by scavengers – “one of whom used a chainsaw to cut part of the structure off and take it away.” One of the reasons for the aggressive plan for removal was to protect it from more criminal acts.

After being excavated, the Daring was taken to the edge of Muriwai forest and hosed down by the Muriwai Volunteer Fire Brigade.

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It was then moved to a location in Hobsonville, where it will remain until plans for its preservation and final destination were finalized.