On 7 February 1863, the worst maritime disaster in New Zealand history occurred. British warship HMS Orpheus ran aground on a notorious sandbar at Manukau Heads, with the loss of 189 of the 259 onboard. Directed by John Milligan (Trio at the Top), this documentary was part of a series examining the country’s worst wrecks. Presented by Paul Gittins, it discusses the disaster, its cause, and the consequent investigations. While the British admiralty laid blame on the harbourmaster, local Māori interpreted the wreck as utu, for a breach of tapu by a Pākehā settler the previous day.
At the tip of the island, facing the wreck site, stood a sacred puriri tree, a scene of ancient phallic and fertility rights ... It was felled for fenceposts by a European settler. The day it was felled: February the 6th 1863, the day before the Orpheus arrived at the Manukau Heads.– Presenter Paul Gittins, on why local Māori attributed the wreck to utu
Made with funding from NZ On Air