Lena

 

Bound from Coromandel to Auckland with a cargo of timber, the scow Lena capsized five miles east of Waiheke Island, Hauraki Gulf on 15th May 1957 and later foundered. Six persons, three men and three boys, lost their lives, there being only one survivor.

At 7pm on Wednesday 15th May the scow developed a leak and the bilge pumps failed. The vessel filled and 50 minutes later capsized. About 9pm the master, Captain Norman Thomas Fisher and the three boys, Captain Fisher's 12 year old sons Barry and David, and David Breen, 10 year old stepson of Mr Eustace Ronald Breen, a Marine Department fisheries inspector who was a passenger on the Lena, embarked in a small dinghy and set out in the direction of Ponui Island. About the same time, a crew member, Mr Ernest Parken, elected to try to swim ashore, apparently making for Tarakihi Island. The other two men on board, Mr Arthur Leo Doherty and Mr Breen, lashed themselves to the overturned hull of the scow to await rescue. This did not come until nearly 20 hours later and by then only Mr Doherty had survived, Mr Breen having succumbed about 11pm. At 3.30pm on Thursday, a RNZAF launch on a training cruise in the gulf sighted the  capsized Lena and brought Mr Doherty and Mr Breen's body back to Auckland.

In the days following, an intensive land, sea and air search in the lower part of the Hauraki Gulf, near the Tamaki Strait, was carried out by 11 vessels, aircraft and shore parties, and at 9am on Friday 17th May, the scow's dinghy, overturned, was sighted by an Air Force plane which dived repeatedly over it, attracting the attention of those on board the Salvation Army's vessel Lady Robert and the New Zealand Coastguard Service launch Stratus. The two vessels converged on the dinghy and found the body of Captain Fisher, lashed by the wrists to the rowlocks, but there was no sign of the three missing boys.

Meanwhile, the partly submerged hull was dragging its anchors, drifting from near Ponui Island towards Tarakihi Island, the cargo of timber being scattered over a wide area. However, when a navy tug was sent out os Saturday to tow the wreack in, no trace of the Lena could be found, having evidently foundered. Later, two vessels swept over the area for three and a half days and three divers had been dragged between the vessels in an unsuccessful attempt to locate the sunken vessel.

The Lena was 17 tons gross and 12 tons net, built at Auckland in 1905 by Bailey and Lowe. Length 45.7ft, beam 15.5ft, depth 3ft. In 1935 she was fitted with two diesel engines. Owned by Captain Fisher, who was found at fault for the casualty at the Court of Inquiry, which ordered his estate to pay £63 towards the costs of the inquiry.

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