The Sinking of the H.M.N.Z.S. Tui 20th Feb 1999


The Tui after her colourful career spanning more than 35 years with the American and New Zealand Navies, lies 32 meters underwater, about 500 meters off the coast, approx. 1 mile north of Tutukaka Harbour. The Tui was an oceanographic research vessel with the navy.

Tonnage's: 1200 std, 1380 f/l   Dimensions: 63.7 x 58.4 w/l x 11.4 x 4.7 meters (208.9 x 191.5 x 37.4 x 15.3 ft)

Machinery: l-shaft diesel-electric, bhp 1,000 (7400 kW) = 13.5/12 kts. A 620 hp (460 kW = 6.5 kts) gas turbine engine is housed in the funnel, for quiet running during sound experiments. Also fitted with a 175 hp bow thruster. Armament: Not armed Complement: (NZ)36, plus up to 10 scientists.

Class Notes Tui, built as Charles H. Davis, is one of nine specially designed 'Conrad' class oceanographic research ships built for the USA in 1962-69, the class being led by Robert D. Conrad of 1962. Named after notable naval oceanographers and hydrographers, they are equipped to perform deep-ocean floor studies.

Builder Christy Corp., Sturgeon Bay (near Green Bay), Wisconsin, USA l/d 15/6/61; 1 30/6/62; cp. 25/1/63 as Charles H. Davis UNITED STATES SERVICE. Placed in service 21/1/63, the USNS Charles H. Davis (AGOR5) was operated for the Naval Oceanographic Office, as one of a 'pool' of research ships, by the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS), later called Military Sealift Command
(MSG). The ship was in reserve for some years before being lent to NZ.

Acquisition After Tui (1) was scrapped, the RNZN was offered Charles H. Davis on loan from the U. S. Navy from 28/7/70. Later this was extended five years to 1980, and in 1979, on lease for a further 15 years.

Delivery After a partial refit, Charles H. Davis was renamed Tui (after the previous ship), and commissioned 10/9/70 at Brooklyn, New York. A formal commissioning and handover ceremony was held next day, and sea trials off New York, she sailed for New Zealand
24/9/70, via Panama and Tahiti. The Tui arrived at Wellington 7/11/70, then to Auckland to complete the refit, arriving 13/11.1970.

New Zealand Service Tui began sea trials 10/3.71, after scientific equipment had been installed and tested, she began a programme of for the Defence Scientific Establishment (DSE, formerly called the Naval Research Laboratory). Auckland . Since the Tui has gone unobtrusively about the kind of research she was designed for, primarily underwater acoustics, calling from time to time at various N.Z. Ports. Sometimes Tui has worked in Australia, Indian ocean and South Pacific waters, or on Auckland University research and with DSIR scientists, or with other oceanographic ships, e. g. H.M.A ships Diamantina and Kimbla in 1977-78, and the DSIR's ship Tangaroa. Tui has taken part in several American research programmes, at least one of which extended right across the Pacific ocean from near the coast off Peru. Though Tui's acoustic research is mainly to do with the detection and tracking of submarines, much of her research work is available to other science and industry spheres, and some data is useful in compilation of hydrographic charts. Occasionally Tui has been involved with ceremonial duties and fleet exercises. One of her last missions was in 1995 acting as flag ship to the protest fleet off France's Mururoa nuclear testing site. Alterations Cable - handling gear (over the bow though to the stern) and new gallows at the stern were fitted for Tui's RNZN service. Her port engine was replaced during a 12 week refit in 1973. During 1975-77 she received new scientific and navigational equipment and auxiliary machinery, to improve her usefulness and performance. Tui was given a major refit in 1979-80 after her loan was renewed. In 2-3/84 Tui was refitted at Lyttelton under private contract, the first time since WW11 that a large RNZN ship had undergone a refit in NZ away from Devonport. Subsequent refits have also been done in Lyttelton.

Mishaps: When shifting berth "dead ship" at Brooklyn New York 10/9/70 soon after being commissioned, Tui was struck on the stern and slightly damaged by the tug Michael Moran. Tui had a breakdown while working in the South Taranaki Bight. Unable to make headway with her bow thruster, she was towed to Port Taranaki by the Maui supply ship Austral Tide next day. After temporary repairs, left for Auckland 17/2/81 escorted by Taranaki. In 7/78 Tui was sent to Raoul Island to bring back to Auckland the men who had been aboard the motor vessel Picton, wrecked there 20/7/78. Tui's cutter capsized during shore to ship transfer. Service ended 18/2/98


 Photos below taken by Glen Edney just after the sinking

Photos below by Mark Thompson
NB Tim Cashman using rebreather

Joomla templates by a4joomla