He Only Ever Went To Sea Pt.6

The Aparima was launched by Mary Courbarron in April 1902 at the yard of Messr’s Denny Bros. Dumbarton. Here is an extract from the New Zealand Times on the 18th September 1902 regarding the eventful voyage:

” the Aparima is intended for trade between New Zealand and Calcutta. Captain Courbarron, a well known Officer in the Union Company’s service, is in command and Mr J. McDonald is the Chief Officer. These two Officers proceeded especially from New Zealand to bring out the Aparima. The Steamer left Scotland on 1st May to load 860 horses at Fiume on behalf of the Imperial Government of Durban. The war (Boer) was still in progress when she started on the voyage, but on arrival at her destination peace had been declared. From Durban the vessel went to India to load general cargo for New Zealand. She called at Calcutta and Singapore, loading some 8000 tons comprising mainly of jute, rice, tea and spices. ”

The Aparima left Singapore on the 8th August for Wellington direct. All went well until Sunday 17th August when it was noticed that the coal in the bunkers was smouldering:

” There was nothing to cause uneasiness. At eleven o’clock in the morning of the following Tuesday it was ascertained that the coal had taken fire in the forward bunker. Water and steam were at once poured into the compartment, but it very soon became apparent that the bulkhead must have become sufficiently heated to fire the cargo in no.2 hold. The hatches were promptly taken off and with the admission of air flames burst forth rising above the bridge. It was discovered that the bulkhead was red hot between the decks and that much cargo was alight. At three 0′clock the Captain decided to pull back for Albany which was 70 miles away. In Albany the ships pumps were used to flood the bunker. On the evening of the 20th the bunker was still smouldering but the volume was much reduced. That the situation was not without great danger was revealed by the fact that on the following morning three explosions took place in the bunker, the hatches on two occasions being blown from their positions almost as high as the funnel. Two or three days later the fire was successfully subdued and the steamer was able to continue on to Wellington. ”

At Albany James had asked his wife to return overland to Sydney but she had refused. She joked when telling the story and said she would have gone straight to the bottom if the ship had gone down as she carried a bag around her neck containing 500 gold sovereigns. For his efforts in saving the ship Capt Courbarron was rewarded by the Company with 50 gold sovereigns and all the seamen received a new pair of boots.

Image Link: SS Aparima at Port Chalmers after the fire, 1902.

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