Although not a large vessel, the 48.5 ft cutter Brothers has a place in New Zealand history and a connection to early Australia. Built in 1837 by Mr Hydes of Sussex St, Sydney, the vessel went through a number of owners before being purchased in 1842 by Capt. James Bruce.

The Brothers crossed the Tasman in 1842 arriving in Wellington on July 3rd. On July 12th the vessel departed for Akaroa and the South Island coast to serve whaling stations. On board was the pioneer settler William Deans who in 1843 with his brother John settled in Riccarton, Christchurch.


The vessel later departed Wellington with the Surveyor-General to the New Zealand Company, Capt. W Mein Smith, on board to carry out an official survey of the harbours on the east coast of the South Island. On November 10th 1842, while entering Akaroa Harbour after completing a survey as far south as Stewart Island, the Brothers was struck by baffling gusty squalls blowing from all points of the compass. The vessel was struck by a strong squall full on broadside and healing over reportedly sank in 9 fathoms (54 ft) of water. Mein Smith lost all his charts, books and surveying instruments, which went down with the vessel along with the effects of the crew and passengers who eventually reached Akaroa in the vessel’s boat. A salvage attempt aided by the French Navy was unsuccessful.

Having sunk complete and in relatively sheltered waters, the wreck has interested divers since the 1950’s, however the low visibility in the harbour made locating the wreck difficult. The 9-fathom depth of water where the Brothers was recorded to have sunk placed the wreck’s position as towards the harbour entrance.
Underwater Heritage Group members have carried out a number of surveys of Akaroa Harbour using side scan sonar and have located targets of interest. UHG divers working in near zero visibility are investigating these targets - a NZHPT permit to carry out a non-disturbance survey has been granted. Further surveys and investigation using both side scan sonar and magnetometer systems are planned. Once confirmed as the Brothers and a non disturbance survey has been carried out of the wreck site, a plan and proposal will be actioned for a full archaeological survey and recovery of artefacts for preservation and museum display telling the story of this historical vessel.The Group are most interested to obtain any historical information about the Brothers and its loss, or about Capt. Bruce.

Persons and organizations interested in involvement or support of the project are invited to contact Keith Gordon at email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Team with side scanner at Akaroa
The Team with side scan sonar fish.

Akaroa sonar target image
Akaroa sonar target image.

Akaroa sonar target image
Akaroa sonar target image.

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