Official number 31638. Iron, screw steamer of 322 tons gross, 197.72 tons net when built by Simons and Co. at Whiteinch, on the Clyde, Scotland in 1854 (yard no. 72). Dimensions in feet, 145.4 x 22.1 x 13.2 (1 foot=0.305m).
Originally brig rigged. Later fitted with a third mast (1861). Two and a quarter decks, square stern, bird figurehead, standing bowsprit, two direct acting engines of 72 horse power. Engine room 31.5 feet. Accommodation for 130 passengers. (Source – J.D. Wilkinson, Early New Zealand Steamers, Maritime Historical Productions, 1966).
Australia – The White Swan worked on the Adelaide to Melbourne route from 1855 to ’58 until she lost her contract to the s.s. Admella.
New Zealand – An approach to the New Zealand government secured a two year contract to deliver mail between Onehunga and Dunedin, calling at New Plymouth, Nelson, Wellington and Lyttelton. This began in June 1858 but the Swan was soon marginalised with the arrival of the Intercolonial Royal Mail Steam Packet Company ships. Her route changed to the east coast, leaving from Auckland’s Waitemata harbour and calling at Napier in Hawke Bay.
A lengthy ownership dispute between her managing owner, William Kirkwood, and other shareholders saw the White Swan laid up in Wellington in 1860 and, when Kirkwood lost the battle, she returned to Melbourne for a refit in May 1861.
When she arrived back in New Zealand a year later to take up a new government contract, the Otago DailyTimes reported –
“extensive improvements in her boilers, machinery, and shaft….” and that speed was “considerably increased at a less consumption of steam. Her cabins have all been altered and redecorated, and the lumbering deckhouses which used to occupy her decks, have all been removed.” She had also been lengthened by 19 feet.
Wrecked – Conditions at the time of the accident were described as dead calm, although other reports said there was a heavy surf breaking on the beach. The wreck broke up in a storm the following night. The boiler was still visible into the 20th century but nothing is left of the wreck today. The only tangible remains are these books, saved from the ship’s library.