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Date: 1889
Image: 300 x 415 mm
Overall (Includes mount): 520 x 717 mm
Medium: Printing inks, gouache and lead pencil on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Painting
Object No: 00015664

User Terms

    Pencil and wash watercolour painting by J S Wheeler, 1889, of the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand's passenger ship SS MARAROA under steam at sea. The company's house flag is shown on the mainmast, and also incorporated into the title lettered on the painting. The MARAROA, of 2,465 gross tons, was built for the trans-Tasman service from New Zealand to Australia. At the date of this painting it was operating on that service, but it also served on several different routes for the USS Company during its lifetime, from 1885 to 1927, when it was laid up, to be scuttled in 1931.
    SignificanceThe painting is significant as a contemporary representation of SS MARAROA. It is a record of the trans-Tasman passenger traffic at the end of the 19th century, and more broadly of the Union Steam Ship Company's place in Australian maritime history.
    HistorySS MARAROA was built in 1885 by W M Denny & Bros of Dumbarton, Scotland. It was 2,465 gross tons, 320 feet (97.5 metres) long, with a single screw driven by triple expansion engines, making a service speed of 14 knots. It had a tiller rather than a conventional wheel and was difficult for masters to handle because the rudder was moved by hydraulic power necessitating a full head of steam at all times. It was built for the trans-Tasman passenger trade between Australia and New Zealand, in which the Union Steam Ship Company had much of the trade, but when it was delivered from the builder the company had won the mail contract between San Francisco, New Zealand and Australia, jointly with another company. MARAROA was put into this mail service, but having been designed for the shorter trans-Tasman route had insufficient coal bunkers and after four voyages was replaced by other ships. MARAROA was then re-assigned to the trans-Tasman service until around 1900 when it was placed on domestic services in New Zealand, and continued in this coastal trade until 1927, with the exception of six months in 1906-1907 operating between Sydney and Hobart. In 1927 the ship was laid up in Wellington harbour with major repairs necessary. In 1930 it was dismantled and emptied, and the remainder was scuttled in Cook Strait in 1931.

    The Union Steam Ship Company survived as New Zealand's premier shipping company for 125 years, from 1875-2000. Many famous USS Company liners and cargo ships plied the ocean routes to ports in eastern North America, the Far East, Australia, Pacific islands and of course, around the coast of New Zealand. A vital trade route was Cook Strait which linked the North Island with the South Island. At one stage the USS Company was the largest single private employer of personnel in New Zealand. The company also played a significant part in Australian shipping operations.

    Additional Titles

    Web title: SS MARAROA

    Primary title: SS MARAROA

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