Built in Scotland in 1889 as the gunboat HMS Sparrow, this 165’ three masted barque saw active service in the Persian Gulf and around Africa in the suppression of the Congo slave trade. She migrated to Sydney, but served the crown again as an escort for the Royal yacht Ophir when the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York (later King George V and Queen Mary) toured New Zealand in the winter of 1901.

Five years later she was purchased by the NZ government, renamed Amokura, and converted to a maritime training ship for 12-14 year old boys. Living aboard the Amokura (in port) sixty boys at a time were prepared for careers at sea, being schooled in seamanship, navigation, gun drill, and marine engines, and crewing on summer cruises to the sub-Antarctic Islands and the Kermadecs. The training scheme was a success on one hand, but tremendously expensive on the other, and when Amokura failed her survey in 1919 the government gave up on the controversial program, and the Amokura.

Stripped and sold in February 1922, her remaining days were spent as a “coal hulk” (a floating storage bunker), a far cry from her tropical escapades with the Royal Navy. The years she lay tied up in Port Nicholson, Wellington, must have been especially heartbreaking to the local sailors, many of whom could fondly recall their apprenticeships aboard her as this was where she had been based as a training ship. She was finally sold one last time in 1953, and towed to Saint Omer Bay in the Kenepuru Sound for use as a store hulk and jetty. Though reported to be broken up in 1955, she was in fact only stripped, and Amokura‘s collapsed hull is still here in Saint Omer Bay.

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