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With Reuben Goossens
Maritime Historian, Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer & Author
Union Steam Ship Company
S.S. Moeraki & Manuka
Manuka is seen departing
The Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand
(USSCo) had been operating since the 1860s and their first passenger
ships/liners were five small ships, the 174-ton SS Maori, 177-ton Beautiful
Star, 355-ton SS Bruce and the somewhat larger 721-ton SS Hawea and her 723-ton
sister SS Taupo. Thereafter other new ships between 1,000 to 2,000-tons came
into service, operating on
Then between 1898 and 1911 USSCo decided it was time to replace their earlier Trans-Tasman liners and with a new design the placed an order with William Denny & Brothers ship builders at Dumbarton to build the first two of six new larger ships. The first to be built was the SS Moeraki in 1902 and she was followed a year later by her identical sister the SS Manuka in 1903.
Moeraki seen berthed at Wellington New Zealand
after arrival from the
A very early postcard of the SS Manuka
What was amazing, by the end of 1899 USSCo with their fleet of small ships had already transported a remarkable 212,500 passengers as well having carried a good 1,389,917 tons of cargo and covered an amazing 2,124,704 miles or 3,419,379.6 km.
On Wednesday July 9, 1902 the future of the Union Steam Ship Company began a brand new era of a bright innovative time of shipping for New Zealand, as this the first of two identical liners that featured, two x 3 cylinder triple expansion steam engines, with dual shafts and two screws that whilst in her sea tails could manage a remarkable 15+ knots, which was excellent for the times! The Moeraki was launched on this day (September 9) by Miss Sedden in the presence of her parents and Lord and Lady Overton, Captain Cameron of the USSCo and many other distinguished guests at this grand occasion!
The Moeraki was launched on Wednesday July 9, 1902
was launched on September 8, 1903 and she ran her trails on November 14, and
was delivered ten days later on November 24. She arrived in
*The delightful SS Manuka was launched on September 8, 1903 and here she is seen
Please note: There are slight differences between the two ships and this will be seen as follows such as the dinning room seats on the SS Moeraki 112/104 = on the SS Manuka The same will apply each time the forward / slash is used in the main copy, whilst in the specification section it will be ship 1. or 2.
Sadly I do NOT have any interior photographs of these wonderful ships
Should anyone have any suitable photographs I would greatly appreciate them!
Email me at – firstname.lastname@example.org
1. First Class. Both ships provided accommodations for 187-193 First Class passengers as well as 124-135 in Second Class. First Class staterooms were all beautifully fitted out and they were the most modern and up to date accommodations to be found on any ship of the time. Each room had two lower beds having the finest inner spring mattresses and each bed could be folded away during the day to make the room into a lounge, thus increasing the floor space of the room. In addition there was also ample storage with drawers and wardrobes, and yes even a secret, well hidden fold away toilet with a privacy screen, which was unheard of in those days, but certainly appreciated. Each room had flowing water and a hand basin, thus these ships were considered as the most up to date liners of their day! However bathrooms were located down the hall and these were very complete as each had a shower with a fold down seat, a full size bath with a hand held shower, toilet and a bidet and every other possible need required! All First Class staterooms were located amidships of the vessel where both motion and vibration would be at a minimum! All staterooms were well ventilated, especially whilst these ships were sailing on the Trans-Pacific service. Ventilation was both from a natural source, such as the windows, or by the means by the electric fans installed that would be very useful to keep the room a littler cooler whilst in the topics.
Manuka was launched on September 8, 1903 she is seen here
The Dinning Room was located forward on what would be called later, in the 1950s “Shelter Deck”, being the deck just above the hull, and it was able to seat 112/104 dinners at a time. To enter the venue you had to go though large swinging doors that were filled with leaded glass, The venue was clad in waxed oak that was richly carved, decorations in ivory and gold, whilst there was a wall covered with an new feature first created in 1877 Anaglypta wallpaper. The ceiling was beautifully panelled to match! The upholstery was in a rich sylvano relief velvet., whilst the window boxing tops were of a “wheel” design, which was most unusual on board a ship, and strangely enough that feature was found throughout the ship, such as her decorative mirrors, etc., which were all circular.
Tone deck up was the Smoking Room being the traditional venue and it was fitted out in a true classic style, being fully panelled in a polished mahogany, with additional smaller panels of embossed green Buffalo leather and the upholstery was of course in the same luxuriouant green buffalo hide! This venue was located just aft of the Music Room with only swinging doors separating the two rooms.
The Music Room was a grand venue indeed and
beautifully finished in mahogany and finished with Ivory enamel’s. This
venue had an especially high ceiling, as well it having a magnificent Dome
Skylight made of steel and stained glass, whilst the outer exterior casing
being made of teak and plate glass that reached out onto the top deck. In
between the two layers of the dome electric lights were fitted in order that
the rich and beautiful effects of the colours that could be enjoyed in the
evenings! Along the timber walls of the Music Room were images of various
popular destinations around
There was no doubt about it, but these sister ships were indeed the glamour liners of the Union Steam Ship Company in 1903!
2. Second Class.
This class is located in the after part of the ship and it featured a most pleasant Main Lounge that seated around 84 people. This room had its walls beautifully enamelled in French grey, picked out with a light of green and the room was beautifully furnished giving it a good of style, rather than the simple venues found on other ships!
The Dinning Room covered the full width of the ship and although it was relatively plain, painted in cream, but with the tables set it was pleasant. It seated 82 passengers. The accommodations offered were reasonably roomy and comfortable and there was excellent bedding. There was certainly no lack of facilities and bathrooms all being close to all cabins, etc, as they were all nearby!
Moeraki is seen arriving in
SS Moeraki - 1902 – 1933.
She was handed over to the company on
September 30, 1902 and was placed on the Trans-Tasman service. From 1914 to
1918 she was used as a troop ship and survived WWI and upon completion was
refitted and resumed pre-war services. Then from 1928 she worked with the
Australasian United Steam Ship Company on their
A wonderful photograph of
the SS Moeraki passing under the
complete in 1929. The great Bridge was just beginning, but sadly, the Moeraki was nearing her end!
Moeraki is heading for her berth in
In September 1930, this fine ship was laid up
in 1930 at
SS Manuka – 1903 – 1928.
Built for the Trans-Tasman 'horse-shoe'
A delightful postcard of the
SS Manuka berthed in
However, she was
replaced by newer turbine steamer SS Maheno in 1906 and thus she returned to
Trans-Tasman trade but she still made the occasional
Here we see some of the Manuka’s crewmembers
Then in 1927 due to economic
circumstances of the times, the Manuka was laid up in
SS Manuka is seen here in
her latter days, just before being laid up in
Then late in 1928, whilst on a
A tragic photo of the Manuka’s tragic end!
Thankfully all of her 203
passengers and crew that were on board took to the lifeboats
Thankfully all of her 203 passengers and crew that were on board took to the lifeboatsand had an uncomfortable long night in them, but they all landed safely on the beach nearby. However, as there was no one living nearby, they had to walk across paddocks until they finally reached a road from where they found and were transported to a place named Owaka.
Later when a maritime inquiry was held, the inquiry found that the Manuka was located south of the position where she was supposed to be, and that her being wrecked was “due to an abnormal westerly set.” In addition, “the ships captain, officers and her crew were praised for their actions after the accident.”
Above & below lifebuoy and a pennant that was located after the disaster and is now part of the memorabilia selection
Pennant image sent in by a supporter – Please see photo notes at bottom of page
Specifications: 1 = SS Moeraki – 2 = SS Manuka.
William Denny & Brothers
Yard: 1. 664 – 2. 689.
Launched: 1. July 9, 1902.
. 2. September 8, 1903.
Cost: 1. £113,499 – 2. £114,855 delivered.
Tonnage: 1. 4,392 GRT (Gross Registered Tons). 2,715 Net Tons.
. 2. 4,505 GRT. 2,812 Net Tons.
Length: 112.41m - 368.8ft.
Breadth: 14.39m - 47.2ft.
Draught: 9.51m - 31.2ft.
Propulsion: 2 triple-expansion steam engines, 4 cranks on the Otto-Schlick balanced system.
Speed: 14 knots service speed, maximum 15 knots during trails.
Passengers: 1. 187 First Class, 124 Second Class.
. 2. 193 First Class, 135 Second Class.
Cargo capacity: 3,928 cubic metres - 138,740 cubic feet.
Wonderful Memories of Two Great Early USSCo Liners!
SS Moeraki is seen berthed at the
To complete this feature, I will conclude with this superb painting of the SS Manuka by Mr. H.E. Coldbeck
Images marked with an * were colourised by the author.
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