On 23 May 1912 the Wimmera arrived in Auckland from Sydney with General Sir Robert Baden-Powell (1857-1941), the founder of the Boy Scout movement, who was on a lecturing tour of the world.
The steamer, which was delayed by bad weather, was a day late, and made port early in that morning. This was the Chief Scout’s first visit to Australia and New Zealand…
In the book of his tour Boy Scouts Beyond the Seas: My World Tour published the following year Baden-Powell recounts his voyage across the Tasman aboard the Wimmera…
No sooner had we passed out between “The Heads” from Sydney Harbour on our voyage to New Zealand than our gallant ship began to “tuck her nose into it” as we faced a big sea and a strong wind against us.
This remained our amusement for the next three days, our ship heaving and shoving into the waves and being washed with spray from stem to stern.
At length, on the fifth day out, we sighted and passed a group of steep, rocky islands called the “Three Kings,” a nasty, dangerous place with reefs and outlying rocks all round it. Here, among others, was wrecked the steamship Elingamite a few years ago.
A number of the people on board had never been brought up as Scouts and were in no way prepared for a shipwreck; a panic seized them when, in a dense fog, the vessel suddenly crashed on to a rock and began to sink. Many lost their heads and jumped overboard, while others made a rush for the boats and scrambled in in such numbers as to swamp them while they were being launched. Most of these people were drowned.
Those who kept their wits about them and acted coolly under the captain’s directions were saved. They got out the ship’s rafts and three boats, and putting the women and children into these they got safely ashore on to the rocks. And here they stayed for three days while one of the boats made its way over to the mainland of New Zealand to get help.
In the meantime, the poor creatures on the rocks suffered terrible privations from cold and hunger. A little rain water was found in some hollows in the rocks, and there were a few apples which floated up from the ship as she sank; but there was no regular food and no dry clothes for them.
At last someone (could there have been a Scout there?) thought of a way of catching fish, and made a fishing-line out of some of the women’s stay-laces with hooks made from hairpins and baited with bits of red flannel. In this way they managed to get enough food to keep them alive, though they had to eat it raw as they had no means of making a fire…
After our four days of banging through head winds and heavy seas from Australia., it was a relief to find ourselves early one morning steaming along in calm water. We were in the Hauraki Gulf, North Island, at the head of which lies Auckland, the chief port of New Zealand.
As you run up the Gulf, Auckland itself is not visible, because in front of it there rises out of the sea a great conical mountain, an extinct volcano, which completely hides it.
Rounding this, our ship turns sharply into a wide creek which forms the fine harbour of Auckland, full of shipping, tugs, and ferry-boats. The business and in¬dustrial part of the city is not so very large, but the suburbs, where people live, extend for miles over the wooded hills on both sides of the water.
On the wharf was drawn up a guard of honour with the Chief Scout of New Zealand, Lieutenant-Colonel Cossgrove, V.D., waiting to receive me. It was my first sight of New Zealand Scouts, and a fine, clean-looking, well-set-up lot they looked; and dressed and looking exactly like their brother Scouts at the opposite side of the world.
Boy Scouts Beyond the Seas: “My World Tour” by Sir Robert Baden-Powell, K.C.B., London, 1913.