The story of the SS Ventnor: A tragic shipwreck, hungry ghosts, and a bitter controversy

In 1902 the SS Ventnor sank, carrying the bones of 499 Chinese language miners with it. Their descendants inform the story of lastly recognising the Chinese language miners.

In 1902, the SS Ventnor sank off Hokianga harbour, carrying the stays of practically 500 Chinese language goldminers being returned to their villages. The ship’s discovery in 2013 has sparked a decade of accusation, and antagonism in direction of those that helped discover it. Now, that group’s facet of the story has been instructed. However, as Mike White experiences, it’s performed little to quell an issue involving the Chinese language group, iwi, prime authorities officers, and among the world’s most well-known divers.

When Liu Shueng Wong reveals individuals the place the Ventnor lies, she drives to the tip of Sign Station Rd in Ōmāpere, overlooking Hokianga harbour’s heads.

As soon as there, going through the ocean, she tells them, 10 o’clock, 10 miles out to sea. That’s the place you’ll discover it.

That’s the place you’ll discover the hulk of the SS Ventnor, which wallowed and pitched under the floor in October 1902, with 13 crew, a bellyful of coal, and the stays of 499 Chinese language males.

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* Chinese language group upset with lack of session after stays of gold miners discovered
* Shipwreck of SS Ventnor and its useless lastly discovered

The Chinese language have been goldminers who’d died in New Zealand, and whose disinterred bones have been being transported again to their villages in Guangdong province, the place family members may keep in mind and honour them.

Opononi’s wharf points towards the Hokianga harbour heads. The wreck of the Ventnor lies 10 miles out to sea, in 150m of water.


Opononi’s wharf factors in direction of the Hokianga harbour heads. The wreck of the Ventnor lies 10 miles out to sea, in 150m of water.

Wong learnt of the Ventnor story in 2007, when residing in close by Rāwene, and started researching it. She rapidly learnt some bones and coffins had washed ashore, and been buried by native Maori.

However the majority remained entombed aboard the Ventnor, 10 miles out, 150m under the Tasman Sea’s storm-swept floor.

And that’s the place the ship remained for greater than 100 years, disturbed solely by blundering backside trawlers, and locals who knew the positioning as a great spot to hook hāpuka.

Then in 2013, a staff led by Auckland property supervisor John Albert despatched down a take away operated automobile (ROV), which lit up the Ventnor’s encrusted hull, verifying this was the place its voyage ended.

However what adopted wasn’t congratulations and kudos. As an alternative, there have been accusations of astonishing insensitivity and cultural trampling.

And as Albert’s group has continued exploring the wreck, requires them to cease have risen, and the gulf between these concerned has widened, deepened, and change into unfathomably bitter.

The SS Ventnor leaving Westport with 5000 tons of coal, headed for Hong Kong. After a stop in Wellington to load the coffins of more Chinese miners, it struck a reef near Taranaki, and sank two days later.


The SS Ventnor leaving Westport with 5000 tons of coal, headed for Hong Kong. After a cease in Wellington to load the coffins of extra Chinese language miners, it struck a reef close to Taranaki, and sank two days later.

Keith Gordon was the primary individual to see the Ventnor that day in 2013 as his ROV’s lights introduced it to life from the gloom of the ocean flooring.

He was on the floor, hunched over the ROV’s display screen, and recollects the fun of seeing the ship’s silhouette, a time capsule immediately revealed.

Gordon, an internationally recognised underwater explorer and one of many nation’s foremost shipwreck specialists, had been contacted by Liu Shueng Wong concerning discovering it, some years earlier.

But it surely was John Albert who was sitting beside him at the present time, watching the ROV slowly hint the Ventnor’s buckled deck and iron hull sitting upright on the sandy seabed.

Keith Gordon


Main New Zealand shipwreck professional Keith Gordon

Albert (Ngāpuhi, Tūhoe, Ngāti Maniopoto, Te Arawa) had recognized of the Ventnor all his life. As a child within the Hokianga, his dad and mom would warn him to behave, or ghosts from the shipwreck would come for him.

A long time later, standing on the Hokianga’s cliffs on a heat summer season day, he was seized by an inexplicable chill. Albert describes it because the second the spirits from the Ventnor entered him, and he was satisfied their message was, assist us proceed our voyage house.

Chinese language custom holds the useless can’t relaxation till they’re returned to the village they have been born in, and buried with their household. There, descendants can keep in mind them, and provides choices throughout the Ching Ming Pageant, or Tomb Sweeping Day.

That’s what the miners whose stays have been on board the Ventnor had wished for.

Whereas working the goldfields of Otago and the West Coast, that they had paid a price in case they died earlier than making it house to their households.

Choie Sew Hoy and son


Choie Sew Hoy, left, together with his son Kum Poy Sew Hoy, led efforts to return the stays of Chinese language miners to their homeland. After his loss of life in 1901, Choie Sew Hoy’s stays have been on the SS Ventnor when it sank.

Led by profitable Dunedin businessman Choie Sew Hoy, the Cheong Shing Tong society in the end organized for the bones of practically 500 miners to be dug up throughout 40 New Zealand cemeteries, washed, separated, positioned in calico baggage, and sealed in coffins earlier than being loaded aboard the Ventnor.

Sew Hoy’s loss of life in 1901 meant his stays have been additionally on board.

The Ventnor, which had been launched in Glasgow the yr earlier than, sailed from Wellington sure for Hong Kong on October 26, 1902, its essential cargo being hot-burning West Coast coal prized by the British Navy.

A tragic shipwreck, hungry ghosts, accusations, and a bitter controversy.


A tragic shipwreck, hungry ghosts, accusations, and a bitter controversy.

Neglect of navigation noticed the steamship floor on a Taranaki reef simply after midnight. The captain, Henry Ferry, perplexingly determined to sail round North Cape to Auckland for repairs, reasonably than return to Wellington.

However the 105m Ventnor continued to ship water, and two days later it sank, taking a lifeboat stuffed with panicked crew with it.

For the miners’ family members, this was seen as a second loss of life: Now their family members had been flung to a watery grave hundreds of miles from house, a international limbo the place their spirits would roam like hungry ghosts.

Divers at a decompression station after exploring the SS Ventnor.

Dave Moran/Provided

Divers at a decompression station after exploring the SS Ventnor.

Greater than a century later, Albert grew to become satisfied he had been chosen to finish the spirits’ unsettled wandering, and assist the miners full their journey house.

So, like Liu Shueng Wong, he too contacted Gordon, and New Zealand diving authority Dave Moran, to assist find the wreck. Their newly-minted Undertaking Ventnor Group was augmented by Ōmāpere stalwarts and fishing guides John and Linda Pattinson, who led them to the positioning, the place the ROV confirmed the wreck.

Earlier than lengthy, Albert had co-opted among the world’s most skilled deep divers, an Australian group dubbed the Moist Mules.

Amongst them have been Richard “Harry” Harris, and Craig Challen, who grew to become internationally famend in 2018 after they helped rescue 12 boys and their soccer coach from Thailand’s Tham Luang cave. Each have been later awarded bravery medals, and named Australians of the Yr.

In April 2014, after Albert had been requested to offer definitive proof the wreck was the Ventnor, Harris and Challen retrieved 5 objects from the wreck, together with a small bell, porcelain dishes, and a porthole.

However the group had barely returned to shore earlier than their celebrations soured, following protests from Liu Shueng Wong and officers.

Overhearing the Undertaking Ventnor Group speaking in Ōmāpere’s lodge that night, two locals phoned an alarmed Wong, by then recognized regionally as “the Ventnor lady’’,who instantly contacted Heritage New Zealand’s Northland supervisor, Invoice Edwards, suggesting the wreck was being looted.

Artefacts recovered from the SS Ventnor, including from left, a lamp holder, a porcelain plate, a porthole and a small bell.

Keith Gordon/Provided

Artefacts recovered from the SS Ventnor, together with from left, a lamp holder, a porcelain plate, a porthole and a small bell.

New Zealand’s regulation mechanically protects all pre-1900 shipwrecks. However as a result of the Ventnor sank in 1902, Albert’s group was completely allowed to dive on it, and retrieve objects.

Nevertheless, noting Wong’s need that the wreck stay untouched, Edwards urged decreeing it an archaeological website, and Wong rapidly contacted the Chinese language group for assist.

Letters flowed in, claiming the wreck was being “disrespectfully pillaged”.

Inside weeks, with little or no session, Heritage New Zealand made an unprecedented exception to the regulation and gazetted the Ventnor as a protected archaeological website, claiming it was successfully a Chinese language burial floor.

This meant nothing might be disturbed, or taken from the wreck, with out its permission, although filming was nonetheless allowed.

Richard Harris prepares to dive on the SS Ventnor


World well-known diver Richard “Harry” Harris prepares to dive on the SS Ventnor. Harris, from Australia, was one of many heroes of the rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded Thai collapse 2018.

In the meantime, within the media, the dive group have been being labelled grave robbers and memento hunters.

Albert, who was making a documentary concerning the Ventnor, was shocked.

He’d had countless discussions with authorities departments; Chinese language group members, together with descendants of Choie Sew Hoy; New Zealand Chinese language Affiliation members; the Chinese language Embassy; authorities and opposition MPs; and been to China a number of occasions to satisfy officers there.

Equally bemused was Dave Moran, who presumed they’d get a pat on the again for verifying the Ventnor’s location and id, however obtained a slap within the face as an alternative.

“We thought they’d be over the moon. However the antagonism and pushback and resentfulness was simply unbelievable.

“We’ve been very, very respectful of the wreck. And other people have painted us as pirates and promoting skulls and, oh my god, unbelievable.

“I simply couldn’t perceive the ‘them and us’ perspective, nearly proper from the get-go. I’d like to know, what’s their agenda? What’s the issue?”

The Ventnor memorial on the shores of Hokianga Harbour.

Keith Gordon/Provided

The Ventnor memorial on the shores of Hokianga Harbour.

Kirsten Wong, talking on behalf of the New Zealand Chinese language Affiliation, outlines among the issues.

Primarily, they really feel there was an absence of session with the Chinese language group earlier than exploration of the wreck began, undermining their function as their ancestors’ guardians.

“They wanted to speak to us.”

Then there are the practicalities of retrieving the bones and taking them to China, as Albert has at all times needed to do.

Past the difficulties of recovering the stays from the wreck, how would they be individually recognized? How would they find yourself on the right village?

And as soon as there, do the villages and cemeteries stay?

The names of some of the 499 miners, on the Ventnor memorial in Opononi. Many of the names were anglicised, making it difficult to know their true identity and trace family members in China.


The names of among the 499 miners, on the Ventnor memorial in Opononi. Most of the names have been anglicised, making it tough to know their true id and hint relations in China.

Wong, who led efforts to create a Ventnor memorial, factors out that the realm a lot of the miners got here from has been swallowed by Guangzhou’s enlargement because it has grown to be China’s fifth-largest metropolis with a inhabitants of greater than 15 million.

“So all the gorgeous land, groves of lychee timber, and all that romantic stuff, has now given solution to bus stops, metro terminals, and the tombs are having to be relocated or put in combination burial websites.”

However there’s one other highly effective motive nearly all of the Chinese language group oppose disturbing the bones of the Ventnor miners.

And that’s to do with the deep relations they’ve developed with Hokianga iwi within the final 10 years, the identical iwi who reburied bones and coffins they discovered washed ashore after the Ventnor’s sinking.

They’ve visited Te Roroa and Te Rarawa, and there at the moment are three memorials to the Ventnor that attest to the robust bonds between iwi and the Chinese language group.

As Kirsten Wong explains, the spirits are now not wandering: They’ve been cared for, and their descendants now have locations to recollect and honour them.

“They’re house, as a result of we’re house.”

Trevor Agnew and Jenny Sew Hoy Agnew who are opposed to the Ventnor miners’ bones being taken back to China, pointing out that many family cemeteries have been swallowed by development.


Trevor Agnew and Jenny Sew Hoy Agnew who’re against the Ventnor miners’ bones being taken again to China, declaring that many household cemeteries have been swallowed by growth.

Certainly one of Choie Sew Hoy’s great-great-granddaughters, Jenny Sew Hoy Agnew, accepts it will be significant, similar to Māori okōiwi (human stays), to return individuals to their homeland.

“But when your stays are literally in a spot you can pay respects, then that’s completely effective. And that’s what we’ve been doing yearly, on the shores the place the Ventnor sank.

“I feel individuals have to understand that this can be a new custom that we will construct, as a result of we’re right here now, on this land, not over there.”

Sew Hoy Agnew, who, with husband Trevor, wrote a e-book about her well-known ancestor, says no person requested permission, or requested how the Chinese language group felt, earlier than divers went down on the Ventnor.

“It was simply go in – it’s nearly like grave-robbing, isn’t it.

“Relaxation in peace means one thing, doesn’t it?”

Lynette Shum says removing bones from the Ventnor is abhorrent, and the dive team led by John Albert needs to “get a grip”.


Lynette Shum says eradicating bones from the Ventnor is abhorrent, and the dive staff led by John Albert must “get a grip”.

The main target for a lot of the ill-feeling and accusation concerning the Ventnor is John Albert, whose willpower to hold out the miners’ needs, has seen him vilified by many.

Lynette Shum, secretary of the Poon Fah Affiliation, which succeeded the Cheong Shing Tong, says Albert could have begun with good intentions of not upsetting anybody.

“However when you realise you might be, what do you do?

“Do you say, ‘I’m going to do it anyway, as a result of that is my proper,’ and blaze by? Or do you simply again down and say, ‘I’m actually sorry, how can we work collectively?’

“That they had a plan, and it appeared to me they have been going into it for glory as a right of the cultural sensitivities concerned.

“It’s a bit like boys and their toys.”

Liu Shueng Wong says she and the Chinese language group had each proper to problem Albert’s diving plans and defend the Ventnor.

“And Māori stated, ‘Go for it, woman, get these Pākehā off there.’”

When reminded that Albert just isn’t Pākehā, Wong responds: “Nicely, he’s. He’s a come-by-lately Māori.

“He’s a Māori by selection, with out actually understanding Māori tikanga. Actually, I don’t assume he actually understands it in any respect.”

Liu Shueng Wong, left with Peter Martin of Te Rarawa and Venerable Zhuji of Baoguang Temple, Chengdu, China, perform Buddhist blessings for the Chinese men lost on the Ventnor wreck.

King Tong HO/Provided

Liu Shueng Wong, left with Peter Martin of Te Rarawa and Venerable Zhuji of Baoguang Temple, Chengdu, China, carry out Buddhist blessings for the Chinese language males misplaced on the Ventnor wreck.

Elevating the actual fact Albert’s accomplice is from Guangzhou, Wong says, “he thinks having a relationship with anyone in China signifies he understands Chinese language tradition – and he actually doesn’t perceive ours.

Relating to claims Albert’s group has rummaged among the many miners’ bones, Wong claims, “Nicely, he’s the one who’s been closest to having performed it, if it was being performed.”

Albert says years of such allegations towards him have been impressed by one factor.


He says till he grew to become concerned with the Ventnor, Liu Shueng Wong was a central determine in telling its story.

“We took away somebody’s narrative, and he or she was bitter.”

The response to his challenge has stung, Albert admits.

“As a result of I’ve lots of people who don’t know me, abusing me, accusing me of being a criminal, of desecrating graves, of promoting physique elements to earn cash.”

John Albert


John Albert, who has led the Undertaking Ventnor Group’s efforts to find and movie the wreck of the SS Ventnor.

As for Wong’s claims that he’s “a come-lately Māori”, Albert factors to each his dad and mom being Māori (his mom was a kapa haka tutor), rising up on household marae, and a lifelong involvement with cultural occasions.

“How far more Māori do I should be?

“She is method, method out of line, on my facet, and I truly assume that’s fairly insulting.”

Albert is satisfied many within the Chinese language group truly assist the miners’ bones being repatriated to China, however are scared to talk out, or “they simply don’t need me concerned”.

“They’ve been misled or lied to – truly, put ‘lied’ in capital letters – by Liu Shueng – and she will sue the shit out of me.”

And he merely doesn’t purchase lots of the arguments put ahead by the New Zealand Chinese language Affiliation for not touching the wreck and the bones.

He factors to the actual fact the miners’ bones have been exhumed and cleaned as soon as earlier than.

He notes that archaeologists usually uncover and take away bones from websites world wide, together with in the event that they change into uncovered in New Zealand.

And he says if a ship or airplane went down whereas returning okōiwi to New Zealand, each effort can be made to retrieve them.

“If these stays had been European, they’d’ve been picked up 50 years in the past.

“In the event that they have been Māori, they’d’ve been picked up 20 years in the past.

“However as a result of they’re Chinese language, no-one gave a shit.”

Keith Gordon chats with Donald Sew Hoy in the Hokianga after a monument to the Ventnor was unveiled.

Dave Moran/Provided

Keith Gordon chats with Donald Sew Hoy within the Hokianga after a monument to the Ventnor was unveiled.

Not everybody within the Chinese language group regards Albert as a villain.

Certainly one of Choie Sew Hoy’s great-grandsons, profitable businessman and former Senior New Zealander of the Yr Donald Sew Hoy, breaks an obvious homogeneity of negativity, by lauding Albert’s group.

“I give them full credit score and far thanks, and I’ve nice pleasure in what they did to find the ship. In any other case, it could nonetheless be one other 100 years and we wouldn’t know the place it’s.”

He additionally accepts Albert and the Undertaking Ventnor Group have been unfairly attacked, by individuals who have “no relationship to Choie Sew Hoy, or any of the homeowners of the bones. They haven’t any reflection on what was performed – they simply open their mouths.”

That stated, he feels the bones ought to stay the place they’re.

Due to the Sew Hoy household’s affect, Donald and his brother Duncan have been among the first individuals John Albert contacted, and data present they each supported efforts to retrieve the bones from the Ventnor.

Nevertheless, in January 2015, Duncan’s son Peter emailed Albert asking him to not disturb the shipwreck in any method.

The collapsed aft mast head on the SS Ventnor.

Definitive Productions/Provided

The collapsed aft mast head on the SS Ventnor.

Peter Sew Hoy instructed Stuff he and his father are comfy the human stays keep undisturbed on the Ventnor.

“However my 88-year-old father nonetheless needs and goals that sometime, his great-grandfather, Choie Sew Hoy, and his fellow 498 Chinese language goldminers’ stays be repatriated to, and buried in, China as this was the want of all 499 of them earlier than loss of life.

“My father desires the voyage accomplished in order that the spirits misplaced at sea, ‘hungry ghosts’, can lastly be at peace. That is so vital in Chinese language tradition.”

When requested to make clear how these apparently contradictory positions may co-exist, Peter Sew Hoy didn’t reply.

They’re not the one individuals who have left Albert confused.

In August 2015 he met with then-Gisborne mayor and newly elected New Zealand Chinese language Affiliation (NZCA) president Meng Foon, and Foon praised the group’s work.

Foon added he personally supported recovering extra artefacts from the wreck, and believed the Chinese language group had a accountability to return the miners’ stays to China if doable.

Nevertheless, inside weeks, talking on behalf of the NZCA, Foon criticised the group for disturbing the wreck, later calling Albert, “misleading”.

John Albert and Meng Foon, centre, met to discuss the Ventnor project in 2015, and Foon expressed his support for the divers and recovering more artefacts, only to change his view shortly afterwards.

Keith Gordon/Provided

John Albert and Meng Foon, centre, met to debate the Ventnor challenge in 2015, and Foon expressed his assist for the divers and recovering extra artefacts, solely to alter his view shortly afterwards.

Foon, now the Race Relations Commissioner, says his preliminary assist was based mostly on his opinion on the time, however he subsequently consulted a wider group, and believes Albert ought to have approached the Chinese language group earlier than beginning diving.

Albert stays barely bemused by the sudden shift in assist, and hints on the affect of Liu Shueng Wong and others.

And he’s equally confused by some official feedback and selections.

Heritage New Zealand’s Northland supervisor, Invoice Edwards, accepts the group have acted legally, applauds their talent and tenacity in salvaging objects, notes they consulted quite a few individuals, and acknowledges the artefacts they retrieved have been recovered in good religion to assist determine the wreck.

However Edwards then refuses to disclaim Albert is a grave robber.

“How do you outline a grave robber? A grave robber goes in and takes issues with out informing individuals about what they’re doing and has no course of. So, if that’s the definition of a grave robber, then John Albert was actually on the sting of it.”

And regardless of telling New Zealand Geographic in 2020 that “there was nothing covert” concerning the artefacts’ restoration, Edwards now describes it as, “a secretive little mission in a ship when no-one was trying”.

(The group have at all times used the boat of a widely known native fishing information, made journeys throughout the day, and stayed within the space, and claims they labored undercover are “absolute bullshit”, says Dave Moran.)

Heritage New Zealand’s Northland manager, Bill Edwards.

jenny ling/Stuff

Heritage New Zealand’s Northland supervisor, Invoice Edwards.

It’s an instance of the fraught nature of the difficulty, the place these concerned tiptoe a fragile path, bounded by legality, ethics and cultural sensitivity. Past that, there are political, skilled and reputational issues.

Sadly, the Ventnor saga has often fallen sufferer to enthusiastic misinformation, exaggerated rumour and simple slurs.

Edwards precisely encapsulates your complete state of affairs in two phrases: “It’s tough.”

However Albert factors to the irony of his group being slammed by many within the Chinese language group for recovering the artefacts, but they’re now prized by the identical group as a vital method to assist inform the Ventnor story.

If they’re so treasured, why have they made it nearly not possible to retrieve extra, Albert asks?

One other irony is that Heritage New Zealand’s publication of the wreck’s actual coordinates now permits any fisherman to simply find it.

“They make it a historic wreck,” says Dave Moran, “however, hi there, you’ll be able to nonetheless throw an anchor on it and hook into it and mainly pull it aside.”

Dave Moran, left, and Keith Gordon, who have spent their lives diving and exploring shipwrecks.

Keith Gordon/Provided

Dave Moran, left, and Keith Gordon, who’ve spent their lives diving and exploring shipwrecks.

Keith Gordon says such is the misinformation and misplaced antipathy in direction of the dive group, their efforts in confirming the Ventnor’s location and state have been nearly completely written out of the official Ventnor narrative and historical past.

On the 2021 unveiling of a Ventnor memorial in Opononi, the group’s function wasn’t even talked about, seemingly inconvenient gamers in a narrative they’d helped carry to life

That was one motive Gordon just lately printed a e-book concerning the wreck: SS Ventnor, Ghost Ship of the Hokianga.

Partially, it was to set the file straight and set out their facet of the story.

But it surely was additionally to pay tribute to the exceptional effort to achieve the Ventnor – the deepest shipwreck dived in New Zealand.

The preparation is extraordinary – divers carrying $80,000 of kit will spend seven hours underwater, all for 20 minutes on the precise wreck – the remaining is decompression time throughout a gradual ascent.

Simply the helium for the gasoline combine they breathe prices $6000 every dive.

Keith Gordon's new book on the SS Ventnor


Keith Gordon’s new e-book on the SS Ventnor

Liu Shueng Wong labels the group “an newbie organisation – or not even an organisation”, and needs solely “professionals” to go to the positioning, resembling those that explored the Titanic.

Gordon says this reveals an utter lack of information of the calibre of individuals concerned, like Richard Harris and Craig Challen, who’re among the many few divers on the earth able to such exploration.

Gordon and Moran have just lately returned from Croatia the place they labored with worldwide archaeologists on a 2000-year-old Roman shipwreck, and Gordon says the truth is, wrecks are nearly at all times discovered by divers – not archaeologists, not to mention bureaucrats who make selections regardless of by no means visiting the positioning.

Gordon, whose spouse was part-Chinese language, as are his two kids, hopes some within the Chinese language group will learn his e-book, however none of these spoken to by Stuff had, many saying they didn’t need to pay for it.

In the end, he hopes their work, and the artefacts they discovered, contribute to the story of early Chinese language in New Zealand.

However Gordon, 84, stresses it’s not only a Chinese language story. There have been Scots and English among the many crew who died.

“There have been Māori concerned, and Pākehā, and Chinese language. So the best way I take a look at it, it’s a New Zealand story to be instructed.”


Descendant Peter Sew Hoy and Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon talk about the importance of honouring the forebears whose stays sank with the ship, and the bonding between Chinese language and tangata whenua that grew from the Ventnor story.

The place to from right here?

Albert, Gordon and Moran plan to return to the wreck with a brand new ROV later this summer season for extra filming.

Liu Sheung Wong says she has “pleasant spies” who will alert her to any exercise.

If she hears Albert has gone out once more, she plans to contact Meng Foon and Invoice Edwards and inform them to go to him.

“It’s about making it tough. In the event you make it harder, then individuals can’t be bothered.”

The gadgets recovered from the Ventnor have been by a convoluted bureaucratic course of, which is ongoing, however at the moment are held by the Crown, which paid Albert modest compensation for retrieving them.

(A standard declare, repeated to Stuff by even a senior museum official, is that the artefacts have been taken illegally and later seized by police. They have been actually taken legally, and voluntarily handed over to the Ministry for Tradition and Heritage by Albert whereas possession was determined, and at the moment are being cared for by Te Papa.)

Te Roroa common supervisor Snow Tane describes diving on the Ventnor as akin to desecration of a wāhello tapu (sacred website).

“They will come to us, and we’ll say we don’t need them to dive until they get the blessing of the Chinese language, after which we might take into account whether or not we might assist it.”

Te Roroa iwi general manager Snow Tane says the Ventnor divers should have consulted iwi and the Chinese community to get their blessing, before beginning exploration on what he considers a wahi tapu (sacred site).


Te Roroa iwi common supervisor Snow Tane says the Ventnor divers ought to have consulted iwi and the Chinese language group to get their blessing, earlier than starting exploration on what he considers a wahi tapu (sacred website).

Donald Sew Hoy simply desires to “let sleeping canine lie”.

The Ministry for Tradition and Heritage continues to be consulting varied teams about the place the Ventnor artefacts could also be displayed.

Heritage New Zealand has final management over whether or not bones are eliminated, however Invoice Edwards says they’ll be guided by the Chinese language group.

Dave Moran and Keith Gordon are comfy with regardless of the Chinese language group decides, however Moran notes lots of New Zealand’s 2500 shipwrecks have human stays on board, and the Ventnor has been handled otherwise.

Moran, who has led business dive groups world wide, printed Dive New Zealand journal for 27 years, and managed Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater World, insists Albert ought to be allowed to finish his documentary.

“If it was [National] Geographic out right here, they’d most likely assume, ‘oooh, this is excellent.’ However as a result of it’s outdated John Albert …”

The Hokianga harbour, on Northland’s west coast, beyond which lies the wreck of the SS Ventnor.


The Hokianga harbour, on Northland’s west coast, past which lies the wreck of the SS Ventnor.

“Previous John Albert”, now 70, says he is aware of bones stay on the Ventnor – some have been filmed on their final journey in 2020.

And he’s nonetheless decided to assist them return to China.

“Due to all of the raruraru (issues) that’s gone on round it, I’m now extra decided to do my best and get them taken house.”

To that finish, he hopes to contact family members of the miners in China, to steadiness the views of New Zealand Chinese language who insist the wreck shouldn’t be touched.

“My one downside is cash – I’ve run out.”

Up to now, Albert estimates he’s spent greater than $500,000 on the challenge.

“Within the outdated days, all my household and mates crossed the road after they noticed me as a result of they didn’t need to discuss rugby with me.

“Now they cross the road as a result of they don’t need to give me any more cash, as a result of they’ve run out themselves.”

The longer all of it takes, the extra the Ventnor will succumb to swell and storm, the less the artefacts that may survive, the much less the prospect any human stays can ever be recovered, Albert says.

After 11 years, Albert realises that if the miners’ homeward journey is to be accomplished, he has to do it.

“I’ve spent an excessive amount of time and an excessive amount of of individuals’s time to cease now, and I don’t need to let down individuals who helped me.

“And I additionally really feel that these individuals in that boat selected me to do what I’m doing – and I don’t need to allow them to down.”

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