Ship windmills in New Zealand

Warning: Draft Information.

This page presents draft information, that is still being actively researched and fact checked. It may be incomplete, and contain more than the normal level of mistakes and factual errors. If you have any corrections or additions please get in touch.

There are two key reasons to fit wind-driven aparatus to a ship - either as a mechanical engine, driving a pump, or as an electrical generator. Such wind-driven devices were fitted to a number of ships that were in use in New Zealand.

Bluff (#nz32)

Date: 1902
The old "Chance", as man of war, merchantman, and whaler for over one hundred years. In her last resting place. Bluff, N.Z. Photographer: David De Maus. Reference No. 1/1-001999-G De Maus Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, 1902
Closeup of the windmill on the Chance., 1902

I've given the location of this windmill as Bluff (since that's what the photo caption says), since that's where the ship called the Chance had its final resting place of the ship in 1902.

The Chance spent 100 years at sea, as variously man of war, merchantman, and whaler, though I doubt that the windmill was a feature for all of that time. It most likely drove a pump - as an old ship it's very understandable that the hull was not necessarily watertight.

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Port Chalmers Harbor

Date: 1868

A proposal for raising water for sluicing purposes using windmills mentioned in passing that they were used on the hulks in the harbor: Dunstan Times, Issue 339, 23 October 1868

What is wanted is water, and that at a level sufficient to wash away the banks by sluicing. There is abundance of water rushing past the river terraces every day. Why cannot this be raised? I think it may most easily, and on the very same principle as that by which the hulks in Port Chalmers Harbor are now regularly pumped out, viz., small windmills.


Date: 1888

Auckland Star, Volume XIX, Issue 156, 3 July 1888

During the gale the ship was thrown almost on her beam ends, at times her lee side being entirely under water, the men being washed from the pumps and everything moveable about the decks started. It was at this time she was found to be leaking badly, so much so that the windmill and main pumps were kept constantly going.


Date: 1891

Auckland Star, Volume XXII, Issue 182, 3 August 1891

The ship Captain Stevens stated to be perfectly tight to 15 feet draught of water. She was fitted with two good pumps, likewise a windmill pump such as you may frequently see in good ships alongside our wharves, and the ship was as well found as colliers and timber drogers usually are.


Date: 1891

Auckland Star, Volume XXII, Issue 293, 10 December 1891

Further particulars are to hand to-day from Dunedin regarding the ship Everest, 1680 tons, Captain Hibbert, from. Sydney, November 18th, to Liverpool, with a cargo of shale, which put into Port Chalmers yesterday in distress, having sprung a leak. The Everest sprang a leak immediately after leaving Sydney, but as the windmill pump kept the water down and the weather was fine, the captain proceeded on his way. When to the south of New Zealand, the weather became stormy and the leak gave more trouble, and on November 26th, after being at work nearly all night, the men asked the captain to make for a New Zealand port.


Date: 1874

New Zealand Times, Volume XXIX, Issue 4253, 6 November 1874

A Leaky Ship and a Refractory Seaman. — At the Resident Magistrate's Court on Monday, John Reymond was charged by Captain Veal with being a seaman on board the ship Rosalia, and with having unlawfully assaulted him on the 13th inst. He pleaded not guilty. The evidence of the captain and chief officer, Robert Reid, went to prove that shortly after leaving Puget Sound in Washington Territory, bound for Dunedin, the ship became leaky and experienced very rough weather. The pump had to be kept going, and a windmill had been erected to work the pump. On the day in question the captain told defendant to assist the mill, as the wind was not sufficient to work it. He refused, and they had words together, when the defendant picked up a large piece of wood and threatened to strike the captain, and going close up to him said he would knock his brains out. For this offence he was sentenced to be imprisoned for one month with hard labor. He was also charged with wilfully disobeying lawful commands on the 16th inst. This he also denied. It appeared the ship had been running before the wind, making for Tahiti. The day in question the wind chopped round, and the captain called the ship's crew aft and consulted with them as to going on to New Zealand. They all agreed except the defendant, who said he would rather go in irons than go on to New Zealand. The crew being unanimous, except him, the ship was headed for this country; he refused to work, and he was put in irons and kept there until arrival here. The Resident Magistrate said the defendant's conduct was very bad, and if the Act had allowed it he would punish him more severely. He was sentenced to one month's imprisonment with hard labor, to run concurrently with the other conviction, and to forfeit two days' pay. — Napier Daily Telegraph, October 27.
and New Zealand Times, Volume XXIX, Issue 4273, 30 November 1874
The Voyage of the Rosalia. — We were glad to see the ship Rosalia yesterday, the reports about her condition having been anything but reassuring. She sailed in before a heavy north-east gale. Captain Crabbe acting as pilot, and brought up on the lower side of Deborah Bay. She is a large full-rigged ship of Yankee build, and looks as if she had been severely strained, her lines being somewhat wavy. Her appearance on deck was certainly peculiar. Midway between the main and mizzen masts stood the framework and wings of a windmill that had been rigged to work the pumps, but broke down when the ship was some distance from the New Zealand coast. Close to the main mast was a donkey engine attached to the pumps, and in full work with both pumps going, and the water discharged by them was as pure as that in which the vessel floated. We are informed that the ship was making at the rate of fifteen inches per hour, and we very readily believed the statement, and congratulated Captain Crabbe, who was in charge, Captain Veale having gone on shore to see the Harbor Master — upon his safe arrival in port. Not that the ship would have been likely to founder in the event of the engine breaking down, for being timber-laden, she would only have waterlogged at tne worst, that, however, being a very unpleasant contingency to contemplate without a beaching place under her lee. As our readers are aware, the Rosalia is originally from Puget Sound, and put into Napier on account of her leaky condition, and also because that course was insisted on by the crew. Captain Veale informs us that she loaded at Port Blakely Mill with 500,000 ft. of timber under hatches and 60,000 ft. on deck, and left on the 31st of July. She was then making water at the rate of about one inch per hour, and before she got clear of the Sound, the pilot being still on board, the crew refused to go on with her, and insisted on returning. The ship was accordingly run back, and the captain had her surveyed, the result being in favor of the vessel. Part of the crew then relented, but five of them still held out, and were taken to sea in irons, and when the ship was clear of the land, returned to their duty. All went well until the ship was abreast of Honolulu, when the leak began to increase and gradually gained, until the Rosalia was 30 degrees south of the Equator. There she fell in with heavy westerly weather, which told upon the leak. Previous to this a windmill had been rigged to work the pumps, and answered well enough until it broke down. The regular watches of the crew were not interfered with until then. The Rosalia struggled against the bad weather, and reached to within 350 mile of the New Zealand coast, and then the crew came aft and represented that they were worn out by pumping and reefing, and insisted that the ship should be kept away for the nearest land, which they assumed was Tahiti. She was accordingly kept before it (wind W.N.W.) for thirty-six hours, when the wind veered to the eastward, and then the captain persuaded them to keep the vessel on her proper course for Port Chalmers. A change of wind to south, however, drove the Rosalia north, and she eventually fetched into the north side of Poverty Bay. There the captain offered the men ten dollars a-piece extra if they would try and take the ship to her destination, but they stubbornly refusing, she was run into Napier on the 22nd October. We have already reported what took place there. The ship was supplied with a steam-engine to work the pumps, and after a stay of twenty days, put to sea for Port Chalmers on the 15th instant, with Captain Crabbe who had joined the ship as mate and coasting pilot, on board. All the hands, mates included, having refused to proceed in her, a fresh crew was shipped, and at the last moment, four of the original crew consented to go with her. She was favored with light weather by the way, and arrived yesterday. We may observe that a quantity of the deck load she shipped at the Sound was jettysoned during the bad weather above mentioned, so that she is now considerably short of 60,000 feet of timber on deck. Her original crew are now working out sentences inflicted upon them at Napier for refusing duty. — Otago Daily Times, November 23.


Royal Tar:
Date: 1901

Auckland Star, Volume XXXII, Issue 282, 7 December 1901

In answer to Captain Ruthe, the Captain said he never placed any very great dependence in the bearing from the standard compass; it was situated on the top of the deck house about 18 inches above it, and between two angle irons; there were iron beams in the cabin under the house, and iron in the windmill, which stood not far away.


Date: 1877

(whilst a hulk) - New Zealand Times, Volume XXXII, Issue 4986, 16 March 1877

The old India, which has been used in this port some fifteen years as a hulk for the storage of coals, has been sold by Messrs. W. and G. Turnbull and Co. for the sum of £10. the old vessel became so leaky that steam power had to be used to keep her from sinking, the ordinary windmill not being sufficient. Mr. Smith, an oyster seller on Lambton-quay has bought her. She was taken round to Evans Bay yesterday, where it is the intention of her owner to sink her in a small bay just round Point Jermingham, to be used as a breeding bed for oysters.


Date: 1861

Page 2 Advertisements Column 1, Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, Volume XX, Issue 96, 9 November 1861

MESSRS. N. EDWARDS AND CO. have been instructed by the Nelson and Marlborough Steam Navigation Company to SELL by AUCTION, without reserve, on TUESDAY, the 19th instant, at One o'clock precisely — THE BRIG COLORADO,
200 tons burden, as she now lies in the Nelson Harbour, together with all her GEAR and APPURTENANCES, consisting of
3 Bower Anchors
100 fathoms Chain Cable
Windmill complete, in working order
Rigging, Sails, Yards and Blocks, Pumps, &c., &c.
And a quantity of Tackle Rope and other Gear too numerous to particularize.
The sale will take place on board the said vessel in the Nelson Harbour. Terms at sale. Nelson, November 8.


Date: 1901

The Polar vessel, Discovery, launched in 1901, and which visited New Zealand on its way to the Antarctic, had a wind engine on its foredeck for generating electricity: Auckland Star, Volume XXXII, Issue 221, 28 September 1901, Supplement

One of the outward visible signs by which mariners of all nations may know the Discovery long before she arrives within hailing distance of their craft is the conspicuous windmill on the upper deck, which is the driving agency in the novel lighting arrangements. The current is generated by a dynamo driven by this great windmill, both being portable, so that they can be set up on the ice and connected with the accumulators by means of a flexible cable. The wind-power, the great drawback, lies in the fact that, while at one moment the mill may take 200 revolutions at the minute, a strong gust will the next instant raise the speed to 2000, the rate falling with equal rapidity upon the disappearance of the wind. With a dynamo working so irregularly it is impossible to discharge accumulating cells. This difficulty has been overcome by Mr Bergtheil, of the firm of Bergtheil and Young, who are responsible for the lighting. The mill drives two dynamos, to one of which is fitted an arrangement which equalises the current, offering greater resistance when the wind is high and less when it falls. Thus the number of revolutions of the mill can vary from 500 to 2000 per minute without causing any appreciable difference in the current, which when the mill stops is automatically cut off, and when it re-starts is switched on to the accumulators, evenly supplying the lamps in the ship. An ingenious contrivance is fitted to the accumulators, causing a bell to ring when too much electricity is being taken from them, thus giving warning that readjustment has become necessary. To prevent the accumulators freezing they are placed low down in the vessel, next the engine-room, and as the acid will not freeze till 29deg. fahr. is reached the chances of the accumulators being "frozen out" are remote.


German South Polar Ship:
Date: 1900

A wind engine for electrical purposes was similarly installed on the contemporary German Polar ship. Auckland Star, Volume XXXI, Issue 180, 24 November 1900, Supplement

The ship for next year's German South Pole expedition is now. being built in the Howaldt dockyard, at Kiel (the "Standard" says). It is a wooden three-masted schooner, with strong ribs and triple woodwork of oak, pitchpine, and greenheart, for protection against the ice pressure.
The engine, of four-horse power, will give the boat a speed of from four to five knots. A captive balloon, with the necessary filling apparatus, and a searchlight apparatus, will also be taken, also a windmill for the working of the dynamo engine when the boiler is not under steam.


Date: 1868

Otago Daily Times, Issue 2015, 9 July 1868

Tha ship Ajmeer, from London, the arrival of which, was reported yesterday, sailed from Gravesead on the 24th of March, and experienced two days' strong N.W. gales in the English Channel. Moderate and variable weather was then met with until sighting Madeira, on the 3rd of April; shortly afterwards she caught the N.E. trades, which were vary indifferent. The Equator was crossed on the 21st of the same month, in long. 19.47 W. The S. E. trades, which were very light, were lost in lat. 17S. Variable winds were then experienced to the meridian of Greenwich, which was crossed on the 20th of May, and that of the Cape on the 23rd. In running down her easting, northerly winds prevailed; to the longitude of Cape Leuwin, when she encountered a terrific gale from N.E. with a tremendous sea, which lasted to off Tasmania. During the gale she had a number of her sails split, and blown to pieces; no other damage was sustained. Westerly winds prevailed from Tasmania until making Stewart's Island on the 6th instant, when it veered round southerly—continuing from that quarter to arrival off the Heads on the forenoon of the 17th: thus making the passage in 105 days from Gravesend, which, from her heavy draught of water, may be considered a very good one. The Ajmeer has fitted to her a novelty in the shape of a windmill, which, from its construction, can be made to work the ship's pumps in wind from any quarter, its sails being worked on a swivel. Her passengers were brought to Dunedin by the Golden Age yesterday morning.


Date: 1840's

The Indemnity was the ship on which a number of pioneers who went on to have milling connections in New Zealand, arrived in Wellington. These included Simmonds and Hoggard (who had a windmill in Wellington), and Barltrop (who milled in Nelson). Barltrop published a series of articles of reminiscences in the newspapers, and relates that the ship needed a windmill to keep the pups running on its return to England. Colonist, Volume LIV, Issue 13548, 16 October 1912, Page 3

Our vessel, the Indemnity, was condemned and sold by auction, and was the next to go on the slip. ... The Indemnity was repaired, and sailed Home again laden with oil and bone, but she leaked worse going Home than coming out. They had to rig up a windmill to keep her free, as they had taken all the copper off her and had none to replace it.


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