New Zealand Walk: On the Pen­guin Ship­wreck Walk

Walking New Zealand - - Contents - By Ju­dith Doyle www.walk­ingnewzealand.co.nz

It was one of Welling­ton’s sunny wind­less mid­win­ter days – there weren’t too many of those last win­ter – when I fol­lowed the Pen­guin Ship­wreck Walk in Karori Ceme­tery, Welling­ton. The sun slanted down on the stone ma­sonry, coun­ter­act­ing - just a lit­tle - the har­row­ing sto­ries of these vic­tims.

The in­ter-is­land ferry, S.S Pen­guin, sank in 1909, at night, in Cook’s Strait (only a few kilo­me­tres from where the Wahine sank). Next morn­ing wreck­age washed up on the coast be­tween Cape Ter­awhiti and Sin­clair Head.

There were 72 vic­tims of the ship­wreck (46 pas­sen­gers and 26 em­ploy­ees) and many are buried in Karori Ceme­tery. Only one of 17 women sur­vived and 14 chil­dren died in the ship­wreck – New Zealand’s worst of the 20th Cen­tury.

The Pen­guin Self-Guided Walk brochure has de­tails of the vic­tims buried here (thanks mainly to lo­cal his­to­rian Deirdre Wo­gan).

It comes with a map that would have been eas­ier to fol­low if more of the ceme­tery’s fea­tures (chapels, work de­pot, dif­fer­ent en­trances) had been named on it. But the walk’s mark­ers on graves and paths are clear and stand out well.

I parked near the Seaforth Me­mo­rial Gar­den en­trance, and took the foot­path up­hill to­wards a large eu­ca­lyp­tus tree. Just be­fore reach­ing it, is No 1, the Hale grave - the start of the walk. Clarence and Mar­ion Grave, in their 20s, had only been mar­ried a year. Their grave is iden­ti­fied with the Pen­guin Ship­wreck Walk marker like all the graves on the walk.

Go­ing back down­hill, you pass on your left, eight more rows of graves with rough grassy paths be­tween them - four of them with Pen­guin mark­ers at their en­trances.

The third path con­tains the im­pres­sive me­mo­rial with its 14 con­creted graves of crew mem­bers who died. The fourth con­tains that of Alice Ja­cobs, 49, one of two cabin stew­ardesses. Survivors praised her courage in help­ing them into the lifeboat, wrap­ping them in blan­kets and giv­ing words of cheer.

Back at the en­trance to the Seaforth Me­mo­rial Gar­den, take the path with a gate and walk along un­til you come to a down­hill path on your right with a Pen­guin marker on the post.

Walk through what is the ear­li­est and most des­o­late part of the ceme­tery with most graves un­kempt and some derelict. Stone crosses lean at an an­gle, many plots are full of weeds, oth­ers have tree

branches across them or bro­ken walls. With trees shad­ing the path the sun can­not pen­e­trate here and it feels haunted and ghostly.

Af­ter a while you reach No 7, the McGuire grave, con­tain­ing the four McGuire chil­dren, aged 5, 9, 10 and 12. They were about to be re­united with their fa­ther who had been wi­d­owed but later re­mar­ried.

A lit­tle fur­ther on, a di­rec­tional marker will guide you up­hill to the left and into the sun. Here seven more Pen

guin graves are found. Five were pas­sen­gers – one a ‘lady’s maid’ -- the oth­ers were men, in­clud­ing an engineer on the ship.

Af­ter the Bishop grave where El­iz­a­beth and her 3-year-old son are buried, turn left (fol­low­ing an­other Pen

guin marker) and onto the tar­mac road. This road con­tin­ues up­hill to­wards the main part of the ceme­tery, turn­ing right then left.

Oc­ca­sional lo­cals ex­er­siz­ing their dogs out in the sun give a lighter-hearted feel to this part of the walk.

From the high­est point on this road you can look down to the white mar­ble an­gel atop the Un­der­wood Vault. Henry James Un­der­wood was the last body to be found, six weeks af­ter the ship­wreck, iden­ti­fied by an in­scribed wrist­watch.

A lit­tle fur­ther on, turn right past the lit­tle chapel and con­tinue past the Works De­pot on your left. Fol­low­ing my query about the lo­ca­tion of No 17 grave, a cheer­ful worker of­fered me a lift on his lit­tle open ve­hi­cle, though it wasn’t far ac­tu­ally.

This is the grave of Sylvester Hol­croft. He was trav­el­ling with his friend who sur­vived. His friend re­counted how the two of them were washed off the keel of a lifeboat they were grasp­ing but then grabbed a spar. How­ever Hol­croft couldn’t con­tinue to hold it and slipped away.

Fur­ther on, the road makes a sharp right turn. Here, two women from the Pen­guin are buried, one of them a 22-year-old cham­pion swim­mer. Lastly, there is a small me­mo­rial that is sim­i­lar to the large one near the start of the walk. Buried here are the ship’s trim­mer (heaver of coal; the don­key­man (lead­ing en­gine-room rat­ing) and a greaser (ship’s me­chanic). This is the end of the walk.

Re­trace your steps back to No 16, the vault with the an­gel on top. Fac­ing the vault, take the right hand path which soon turns from gravel to grass and goes up­hill for a while. Through a gate, you turn right, walk down­hill and there is the eu­ca­lyp­tus tree where you started the walk.

Time: Read­ing about the Pen­guin vic­tims turns a 90-minute walk into a fascinating his­tor­i­cal trail – so al­low a cou­ple of hours.

Park­ing avail­able near Seaforth Me­mo­rial Gar­den, in Rose­haugh Av­enue be­hind the Ser­vice­men’s Ceme­tery or at the main en­trance.

Brochure avail­able: Welling­ton City Coun­cil In­for­ma­tion Cen­tre at 101 Wake­field Street or on­line at www.welling­ton. govt.nz..

Above right: Three pas­sen­gers and one crew mem­ber are buried here. Below left: The smaller of the two me­mo­ri­als com­mem­o­rates three crew mem­bers.

Below right: Alice Ja­cobs was a cabin stew­ardess -- survivors praised her courage.

Above: The Un­der­wood Vault con­tains the last of the bodies to be found - six weeks af­ter the ship went down. in­sert map left: Mark­ers are on graves and path­ways.

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