1950: Visiting vessels

By Clyde Williams

While I was at Raoul Island Radio in 1950, we had three visitors.

Lady Sterling

The first was the New Zealand ketch Lady Sterling out of Papeete for Auckland. She called in the autumn of 1950. Although she only stayed for a few hours some of our party were shown over her and reported that the vessel was very well kitted out. Unfortunately I was the duty operator at the time so missed out. I do believe that she was very well known through out the South Pacific and in Auckland yachting circles.


Schooner Huia
Schooner Huia. Kinnear, James Hutchings, 1877-1946: Negatives of Auckland shipping, boating and scenery. Ref: 1/2-014649-G. Alexander Turnbull Library

There was some problem with the scheduled August re-supply, and by September our diesel stocks were causing concern. The island trading schooner Huia, in Fiji at the time, was chartered and came down with enough diesel to carry us through until our main replenishment arrived.

Aboard the vessel were a couple who were touring the world and happened to hear of the trip while they were in Fiji. The husband was a very keen ornithologist and was eager to see the Raoul Island mutton bird. We invited them to lunch before we went to the place where the birds were. Being a completely male group we had become somewhat careless with the spoken word and on odd occasions common expletives were flung about. During our lunch it happened that a couple of times the Word slipped out, much to our embarrassment. The lady was very gracious however, and told us not to worry too much.

When we went out to the mutton burrows the husband put his hand down a burrow and remarked that there were two chickens there, pulled one out and handed it to his wife while he got the other. The wife had clutched her bird to her chest when suddenly the bird ejaculated all over her clothing. Her language, which went on for some time, would have made a freezing worker blush. We did not feel so bad then.

[Editor’s note: The schooner Huia was launched in 1894 in the Northern Wairoa River of Northland, New Zealand. She carried cargoes around New Zealand, Australia and the southwest Pacific. In 1950 she was sold to owners in Fiji and was wrecked on a reef in January of the following year.]

Störtebeker II

In late November we saw early one morning a small sailing vessel on the horizon. By midday the vessel was close inshore and seen to anchor very close to the surf off Onerahi Beach, the long beach adjacent to the settlement. This was not normal and indicated that the occupants had little idea of where to land, if that was their intention. Vic Morgan swam out to Störtebeker II and shortly thereafter the yacht’s dinghy was launched and its two crew plus Vic came through the surf and onto the beach.

The yawl’s owner was a middle-aged Englishman and his companion a young Norwegian man. The yawl was on a round-the-world trip and the Norwegian had joined the owner somewhere in the Pacific. He had developed severe salt water sores all over his body and they were anxious to get fresh vegetables to improve his health. They stayed almost a week, and totally on shore, before they returned to the yawl and resumed their voyage to New Zealand. They were very lucky the weather stayed mild as their vessel would not have lasted long anchored close to the beach if gales had developed.

The yawl was German-built in the mid 1930s and was a German government-sponsored entry in the 1935 trans-Atlantic single-handed yacht race. The owner, I gathered, was in the British army of occupation and stationed in Bremen where he acquired the vessel.

Clyde Williams was a radio operator at Raoul Island 1949-1950.