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The Twin Screw Steamer Rangatira     1908-16

Shaw Savill's second Rangatira and her sister ship the Pakeha were designed by Captain Richard J. Noal, C.B.E. (Shaw Savill's Marine Superintendent) specifically to carry emigrants to the Antipodes via the Cape of Good Hope and return to Britain with frozen meat products.  His style can be seen in later Shaw Savill & Albion vessels right up to 1960; a remarkable tribute to the success of his designs.


Type:  Steel hull, twin screw steam ship. Shelter Deck sheathed in wood; 8 cemented bulkheads; fitted with electric light, wireless & refrigerating machinery; cellular double bottom, aft 117 feet long, under engine & boilers 77 feet, forward 221 feet.

Tonnage:  10,118 tons gross, 6,988 under deck and 6,545 net.

Dimensions:  494 feet overall, 477 feet at the waterline, 61 feet beam and holds 31.3 feet deep; Bridge Deck 180 feet long; Forecastle 50 feet.

Construction:  1908 by Workman, Clark & Co. Ltd. at Belfast, she was one of five similar ships commissioned by Shaw Savill for the frozen meat trade.

Propulsion:  Triple expansion engine with 6 cylinders of 23, 38 1/2 & 66 inches diameter each pair; stroke 48 inches; operating at 205 p.s.i.; 920 nominal horsepower; 5 single ended boilers; 20 corrugated furnaces; grate surface 333 sq. ft.; heating surface 13,590 sq. ft.; forced draught; engine built by the same company as the hull.

Cruising speed:  14 knots.

Passenger accommodation:  1,000 steerage class.

Capacities:  Coal: 5,338 tons, Water: 1,490 tons. Cargo: Bale capacity: 655,245 cubic feet, Grain: 693,613 cubic feet, Carcases: 96,720 or 16,378 tons of general cargo.

Owners:  Shaw, Savill & Albion Co. Ltd.

Port of registry:  Southampton

Official Number:  124523

Code letters:  HQKR


1908     December 16     Launched at Belfast on the River Lagan.

1909     February 7     Commenced maiden voyage under the command of Captain R. D. Lowden on the Liverpool to Wellington service via Capetown, Fremantle and Sydney.

1911     January 20     Left England for Sydney.

Deck crew, 1912

1912     January 11     Departed from the Victoria Dock at Tilbury (London) with 1,154 passengers for Australia.

1912     February 23     Arrived at Sydney, where Ordinary Seaman Walter Phillips obtained his Certificate of Discharge, he received a good offer from Captain Lowden to continue on to Canada, but he had promised his intended that he would leave the ship at Sydney, set up home and bring her out.

1912     March 15     Departed from Lyttelton for Napier.

1913     March 20     Arrived at Sydney from London.

1914     January     Replaced the Athenic on the Company's main line service with outward calls at Teneriffe, Capetown and Hobart and homeward calls at Ri de Janeiro, Teneriffe and Plymouth.

1914     September     Converted to an auxiliary troop transport by the Naval Dockyard at Sydney and designated A22.

1914     September 29     The 3rd Field Artillery Brigade and the 1st Division of the 3rd Field Ambulance Corps departed Brisbane aboard the Rangatira for Egypt.

1915     April 25     Landed Australian and New Zealand troops at Gallipoli.

1916     February 15     Commonwealth control ended and the Navy handed her back to the Shaw Savill Line.

1916     Departed London for Hobart and New Zealand ports.

1916     March 31     While en-route to Tasmania and New Zealand, the six year old liner was stranded in dense fog in what is now known as Rangatira Bay on the North West corner of Robben Island at Table Bay, Capetown.  She was abandoned as a Constructive Total Loss, but much of her 7,500 ton cargo was salvaged in the five months that it took for the ship to break up.

Notorious Robben Island has claimed 26 vessels and Rangatira grounded in a large kelp bed in 30 feet of water, at the same spot as the Tantallon Castle on the 7th of May 1901.  The island had long been a prison (Nelson Mandela was later incarcerated there) and a great drunken orgy developed when convicts were sent to help with the salvage operations.

The Royal mails were recovered as the Public Records Office at Kew (London) list in their records information on payments made for mails salvaged from the vessel.

She was carrying a heavy lift crane for the port of Lyttelton's Gladstone Pier in her holds and it is also reputed that she could have been carrying twenty "Maori" motorcycles built for Johns Bannister and Company of London and intended for the New Zealand market.


Maber, John M.
Northern Star to Southern Cross
Prescot: Stephenson, 1967. 335 pp. Illustrated.

Solomon, Cyril
The Wrecking of the Rangatira
Liverpool: Sea Breezes Magazine, Volume 74.

Scotter, W. H.
A history of Port Lyttelton
Christchurch: Lyttelton Harbour Board, 1968. 356 pp. Illustrated.


Thanks to Peter Barnett, Scott Bennett, Faye Kenwrick and Marcus Castell

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