Lyndsey Craig and Port Bowen photo. Photo / Paul Brooks
Upstairs at the Whanganui Regional Museum, in a large exhibit celebrating the harbor and seaside suburb, museum staff member Lyndsey Craig found a photo that resonated with her memories of Castlecliff.
The black and white photo, taken from Karaka St and overlooking the beach, shows the Port Bowen washed up on the sand and a large number of cars parked on the beach as people come from all over the country to see the view.
The 8267 ton steel twin-screw steamer ran aground on Castlecliff beach just after midnight on July 19, 1939.
Lyndsey moved to Whanganui five years ago and they bought a house in Castlecliff.
“My mother-in-law and both of my parents’ sisters passed away recently,” she says, and therein lies her connection to Castlecliff.
With the port’s revitalization underway and a renewed interest in the suburbs and its history, Lindsey shares her story with one eye on the photo.
She researched the Port Bowen and the stories surrounding the grounding, the efforts to refloat it and the eventual salvage operation of the ship to salvage what they could, especially with the onset of WWII. and an increased need for materials.
“It was a refrigerated ship with mutton and lamb carcasses, and one of the ship’s generators went to Whanganui Hospital,” she says. There he produced electricity.
“My Aunt Bev has this story. Her husband, Don grew up in Castlecliff and as a child he swam and played around the wreck of the Port Bowen. In my mother’s family there was someone who worked for the shipping company.” This provided a Castlecliff link between Bev and Don. Bev and Don Hogg lived in Karaka St when Lyndsey was young. It was an old villa and Lyndsey remembers the historic charm and the toilets with the traditional pull chain.
“I also had an aunt on my dad’s side, Grace, who passed away this year, and when we celebrated her 80th birthday, we hung out together, just the two of us, and she took a lot of pictures of can -may be in the late 1940s or early 1950s. She had trained as a nurse in Gonville.
There were pictures of her at Castlecliff Beach.
“My partner’s mother was Dutch and she came to New Zealand in the late 1950s and spent her whole married life here. She took all her children to Castlecliff beach and that was the main thing I “they used to be together as a family. Her name is Ellie Metekingi – she was married twice. My partner’s name is Te Ua. Lyndsey says he spent a lot of time at the beach and was a surfer passionate in his youth.” He remembers swimming around the wreck of Cyrena, another ship that did not survive, 14 years before Port Bowen.
“So there are all these connections.” And now she and her partner live in Castlecliff.
The photograph resonates with Lyndsey and her memories of people and their connection to Castlecliff.
Bev Hogg, Ellie Metekingi and Grace Scott are the three women Lyndsey associates with Castlecliff and her new home of Whanganui.
In the photo from Tesla Studios, the Port Bowen stands in front of the foreground of buildings and cars. The buildings shown later became the Alwyn Motor Court.
It’s a classic shot of an event that temporarily boosted Castlecliff’s fortunes as people from across New Zealand drove in their now vintage vehicles to park on the beach and watch the rescue process or just admire the view of this huge ship stuck on the ferrous sands.
“[The Port Bowen] was traveling from Picton and he already had a lot of stuff on board and he was supposed to come to Castlecliff to pick up more, but he didn’t make it.”
The grounding made headlines around the world, even with a war when so much was going on.
The museum preserves several objects from the wreck, including the ship’s bell, a brass lamp, a six-meter mast, a serving tray, a piece of ballast and numerous photographs.