It was on February 7 1863 that HMS Orpheus was wrecked on the Manukau Bar, on the west coast of Auckland. Of the 259 men assumed to be aboard - 189 men lost their lives.
Only a quarter of the crew were from seafaring backgrounds. The rest were from a variety of trades ranging from perfumiers to shoemakers. The average age was 22 and most of the men couldn’t swim. HMS Orpheus was a Royal Navy vessel under the command of Commodore Burnett who was travelling to New Zealand for the first time to meet Governor Grey. For the sake of expediency he decided to enter Auckland via the Manukau Harbour rather than proceed around North Cape resulting in New Zealand’s greatest maritime tragedy.
The Orpheus Gallery graphically tells the story of this tragedy in pictures and prose with pen portraits of some of the key personalities and survivors. Of special significance in this collection is the brass and leather telescope belonging to the Manukau Pilot and Harbour Master, Captain Thomas Wing who witnessed the sinking of HMS Orpheus. This telescope or one very similar would have been in use at the signal station as Orpheus foundered on the Manukau Bar.