Shipwreck Is Grave of 499 Who Were Already Dead

Miners were being brought from NZ to China for burial
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 21, 2014 8:57 AM CST
Shipwreck Is Grave of 499 Who Were Already Dead
A drawing of the SS Ventnor going down off the Hokianga Heads on October 28, 1902.   (Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19021113-2-1)

The watery grave of more than 500 people has been found off the coast of New Zealand after more than a century—but most of those aboard were already dead when the SS Ventnor sank in 1902. The steamer was carrying the exhumed remains of 499 Chinese gold miners back to their homeland when it hit a reef and sank about 13 miles off Hokianga Harbor in the far north of New Zealand, TVNZ reports; 13 crew members perished. In the years after the wreck, bones would occasionally wash ashore and would be buried with respect by the local Maori, but the ship's location was a mystery until it was found in 2012 with an echo sounder; using footage taken by an unmanned sub the next year, the ship's identity was confimed.

The miners had died and been buried at various locations in New Zealand, but money was raised to return their remains to China so that their souls could be at rest and their graves tended by family members. Divers have yet to spot human remains, and it's not clear whether the dead will now finally make it back to China. But the great-great-great-granddaughter of one of the miners being transported by the ship tells, "For me it's about my children's heritage as well, and it would be nice to see him make the trip home." (More fascinating shipwreck news: a WWII German U-boat ... found off North Carolina.)

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