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Home arrow Articles by Topic arrow Heritage arrow "A Fatal Sleep"
"A Fatal Sleep" PDF Print
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Articles - Heritage
Written by PapersPast, National Library of New Zealand   
Sunday, 01 February 2009

Poverty Bay Herald, 12 July 1894, Page 4.

The other day we published a brief Auckland telegram relating to the finding of two dead men on board the Tamaki Packet. We take the following full particulars from the Auckland Star : — The mysterious deaths of the two men who comprised the crew of the little coasting cutter, Tamaki Packet, at Ngunguru, as reported from Whangarei yesterday, would seem to be accounted for by the theory that death was clue to suffocation from the fumes of charcoal. Such cases have occurred before, but tho most remarkable feature of this fatality is that no one is left alive to tell how it was brought about. The Auckland police yesterday afternoon received a telegram from Constable Sheeuan, at Whangarei, stating that two men had been found dead on board the cutter Tamaki Packet off Ngunguru, and that death was supposed to have been due to suffocation. Some time ago a man on board a river steamer on the Waikato river was suffocated in his bunk by charcoal fumes, there being a charcoal fire down below, and the scuttle closed. The Tamaki Packet is a cutter of 21 tons, belonging to Mr A. J. S. Gibbs, of Auckland. She has been engaged in trading on the Northern coast for some time past. A week ago she left Auckland for Ngunguru, near Whangarei, in order to load coals at the Ngunguru Coal Company's shoots for Auckland. She had only two hands on board, the master being Philip Hoare, and both of them have lost their lives. On Wednesday night the cutter, having been loaded with coals, dropped down the Ngunguru river to an anchorage opposite the sawmill, near the entrance to the harbor, intending to sail the following morning for Auckland. She never sailed, however. The sequel is worthy of a place in Clark Russell's stirriug descriptions of the "moving incidents " of sea life.

The two unforLunate sailor-men, having got all ready for sea, with the expectation most likely of being in Auckland to-day, " turned in " on Wednesday night with a charcoal fire in their little cabin. The sleep was a fatal one, for the luckless men never woke again. An old nail-can is the usual substitute for a stove on small coasting craft like the Tamaki Packet, and it is believed that Hoare and his mate brought the improvised stove down below, with a fire of charcoal, it being a cold night, in order to warm the cabin. Turning into their bunks, the crew of two apparently forgot to put the can with its charcoal contents on deck after the cabin had been warmed, and the scuttle of the cabin being closed, the men were suffocated in their sleep. Charcoal fumes, it is well known, are most deadly in their effects, producing asphyxia. The closing of the cabin scuttle, preventing the ingress of fresh air, seems to have been the immediate cause of the fatality.

There were, it seems, no signs that the men had died otherwise than painlessly, for both were found lying quietly in their bunk under their blankets.

Next morning the people of the Ngunguru mill were surprised to see no signs of life on the cutter. No fire issued from the tiny galley, and the sails remained unhoisted, though the cutter was to have left at daylight for Auckland. As the day went on, and no one seemed to be awake or alive on the vessel, the cutter was boarded by a boat from the shore, those in the boat shouting to attract the attention of the cutter's crew as they approached. No answer being received, the scuttle was drawn back and the cabin entered. There an unexpectedly sad sight presented itself. The two men lay apparently asleep in their buuks at the side of the small cabin ; but closer examination proved them dead. The bodies were cold, and they had evidently been dead several hours.

There being no telephone or telegraphic communication with Whangarei, the nearest township, a message was sent overland with a man on horseback

Seeing that nothing could be done for the unfortunate fellows, who had evidently been asphyxiated by the charcoal fumes, the men from the shore returned in their boat, and spread the news. There being no telephone or telegraphic communication with Whangarei, the nearest township, a message was sent overland with a man on horseback, by Mr Henry Stevens, of Ngunguru, to the Whangarei police. Constable Moore, of Kamo, and a doctor were to proceed to Ngunguru last night, in order to inquire into the circumstances attending the deaths of the men.

Of the two men who lost their lives, Philip Hoare, the master of the cutter, was the best known in this port. He was an old and experienced seaman, under middle age, and had sailed the Tamaki Packet for several years, with one hand to assist him. He formerly served before the mast on the Auckland schooner Sybil. Hoare was a married man. He leaves a widow and one young son, who reside in Sale-street, Freeman's Bay. The other man, whose name has been ascertained to be Davis, did not belong to Auckland. He was a young fellow, and had recently come across here from Australia. His parents, it is believed, reside in Melbourne. It is thought that the younger man brought about the deaths of the two by inadvertently closing the scuttle, or forgetting to take the charcoal brazier on deck, as Hoare was too experienced to be ignorant of the danger of going to sleep with a charcoal fire in a closed cabin. Hoare was a sober and careful man, and stood high in the opinion of his employer, Captain Gibbs.

No doubt something will be done before long to put a rising district like Ngunguru in direct communication with Auckland.

Much difficulty has been experienced in getting any particulars regarding the casualty, as there is no telegraph communication between Ngunguru and the outside world. Since the opening of the coal mines at Ngunguru the place has become of considerable importance, and as the establishment of a telephone or telegraph wire to Ngunguru from "Whangarei would not cost a great deal, it is time, too, that something was done. The Ngunguru Coal Company have approached the Government on the matter, but so far nothing has been done. No doubt something will be done before long to put a rising district like Ngunguru in direct communication with Auckland.

Hoare's mate on the cutter, it has been found, was named Frederick Davis. He was only about 19 years of age, and had only just joined the Tamaki Packet, having left the schooner Annie Hill, on which he had been serving as a seaman, on her arrival in Auckland from Lyttelton recently. It is believed that his father is a prosperous tradesman in Melbourne. A brother of the deceased is in the employ of Dr. Scott, at Onehunga.

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