Columbia RiverColumbia River
Photos supplied by Chester Kyle, son of Chester Raymond Kyle, 2nd mate

Columbia River 5


Below is as recalled by Chester Kyle

"After spending two years transporting lumber from New Zealand to Australia from 1919 to 1921 it was time to head back to Oregon. It was a moonless night night and Chester Kyle was on duty, when the cry came 'Land Ho'. Kyle ran out of the wheelhouse and there was a black wall straight ahead. He tried to come about but there wasn't room, and the Columbia River sailed parallel to shore. Kyle said they began to feel the heave of the surf and suddenly they were on the rocks. They tried to get the ship off the rocks at high tide, but it was solidly stuck."

On passage from Auckland to Portland, Oregon, the schooner struck Raoul Island in the Kermadec Island group at 4am on the 8th September 1921 and  became a total wreck. It struck just west of D'arcy Point on the south coast. On the 11th the master and six of the crew set out in one of the boats to obtain assistance. After a voyage of 750 miles occupying 15 days, they arrived at Suva on the afternoon of 25th September. Six of the crew, including 2nd mate Chester Kyle, remained on the wrecked vessel for two days after the boat party left. An equinoctial gale blew up and the Columbia River began to be pounded and slowly went to pieces. A boat was launched over the bow of the schooner and a line taken ashore.

The crew were cradled ashore, and it was subsequently used to land stores, tents and water. They also landed the ship's whisky, placing it in a cave. In 1937, when the radio station was set up, several of the crew found and sampled the whisky.

In response to the master's request for assistance, HMS Chatham left Suva Harbour on the 26th September for Raoul, and conveyed the six members of the crew there to Auckland, arriving on the 6th October. The master and boat party arriving on the 30th September on the steamer Niagara.

In 1972, two goat hunters, Rheet Brown and Roy Philips found the ship's bell among the rocks.

The Columbia River was 1200 tons gross, 1064 tons net, built at Aberdeen, Washington, USA in 1916 by A Peterson. Length 231.6ft, beam 42.8ft, depth 17ft. Owned by the Fife Shipping Co. commanded by Captain Neil Murchison.

Many sources suggest that this wreck also introduced the Norway Rat to Raoul. However in Nerger's book called SMS Wolf published in 1918, said that when crew members were ashore shooting goats, they saw some enormous rats. Could the kiore be seen as enormous ?. SMS Wolf was at Raoul in 1917.


Columbia River 2   Columbia River 3
   Photos supplied by Chester Kyle, son of Chester Raymond Kyle, 2nd mate


Chester Kyle, the son of the 2nd mate, Chester Raymond Kyle, has been in touch and supplied me with these images. Columbia River on the rocks and a painting Chester had done a few years from the photo.

Columbia River 4Photo supplied by Chester Kyle, son of Chester Raymond Kyle, 2nd mate




D'Arcy Point
D'Arcy Point.         Photo: Mike Fraser 1982


HMS ChathamHMS Chatham

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