- On 19/11/2014
- In Wreck Diving
It has been 112 years since the ill-fated SS Ventnor left New Zealand shores carrying the bodies of 499 Chinese miners who died here and couldn't afford the passage home.
The gold miners had been buried in New Zealand then disinterred and sent home so that, according to Chinese culture, their souls could be tended to by their families and they could finally be at peace. Chinese community members had pooled their money to send the remains home but tragically, the men never arrived.
Today, Maori and Chinese community leaders announced that the ship's wreckage has finally been recovered and efforts are being made to bring closure to the families of those lost at sea.
The SS Ventnor sank off the Hokianga Heads after striking a reef near the coast of Taranaki in October 1902.
Officially 13 crewmen died in the shipwreck and local iwi on the coast buried the bones which washed up.
This is the first time artefacts and footage from the wreck have been shown publicly.
Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis and MP Jian Yang spoke at the conference as did the chairman of the Ventnor Project Group John Albert and vice president of the New Zealand Underwater Heritage Group Keith Gordon.
Yang said there was a saying in China that fallen leaves return to their roots. "So it is very important for these people to be returned to China."
The great great grand-daughter of one of the miners Angela Sew Hoy said it would be "just amazing" to be able to pay the respect to the dead men that they deserved. "For me it's about my
children's heritage as well and it would be nice to see him make the trip home."
The ship was only built a year before it sank so it didn't last long, Gordon said. "The wreck is in a state of deterioration and in a few years there won't be much there."
In 2012, Albert and Gordon studied the wreck using an echo sounder. Last year, the group travelled to the site and deployed a remote operated vehicle onto the wreck.