Blown to Smithereens

During February 1918, wreckage began to drift ashore between Cape Runaway and Wairoa. A ship’s boat bearing the name Bertha Dolbeer made the coast at Whakaki, parts of a ship’s hull drifted onto the beaches at Te Araroa, Tolaga Bay and Pouawa. Portions of benzine cases were found on Kaiti Beach.

The mystery deepened when a hat amongst wreckage at Te Araroa contained a pad made from a San Francisco newspaper dated 17/6/1917.

It soon emerged that a terrible fate had befallen the master and crew of the American-owned schooner Bertha Dolbeer, en route from San Francisco to Wellington. A fire had broken out among her cargo of 9,000 cases of benzine, and she had been blown to pieces off the East Coast.

[source: Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z. J.A. Mackay, 1949]

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