This is the story of RMS Niagara – the quest for New Zealand’s greatest shipwreck treasure.

Author:  Keith Gordon      ISBN No. 0-473-10056-8

Publisher:  SeaROV Technologies Ltd, PO Box 1094,
Whangarei. New Zealand

Ph 027 275 1872, fax 09 4344164. email


The story is that of the RMS Niagara - a famous name and ship once called "the Titanic of the Pacific". Sailing the Pacific route - Sydney, Auckland, Fiji, Honolulu to Canada from 1913, the Niagara was sunk in 1940 in Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand by mines laid by the German raider HSK

Lost with the ship in a depth of 120 metres was a consignment of 590 gold bars, weighing 8 tonnes, owned by the Bank of England. The bullion was consigned to the United States for the purchase of desperately needed war materials for the defence of Great Britain.

Part of the book recounts the epic salvage venture in 1941 carried out by a team of Australian and New Zealand salvors who recovered 555 gold bars. This was hailed as a world record for deepwater salvage. This feat still features today in the media as one of the greatest treasure recoveries of all time. The author includes events that have not previously been published concerning this famous salvage. He also relates for the first time, the story surrounding the second salvage. In 1953 a British company recovered a further 30 gold bars leaving 5 bars still unrecovered, an approximate value today of NZ$1.4 million.

The famous shipwreck with its remaining gold has for many years remained a dream for divers but remained beyond reach for conventional diving systems. This changed with the advent of the microchip, robotic underwater vehicles and mixed gas diving technology that opened the door to explore the greater ocean depths.

The author has been diving for over 50 years and in the story, relates these advances that have today enabled the dream of exploring the famous shipwreck to be a reality. He has held a salvage agreement with HM Treasury for the remaining gold and records the latest explorations of the shipwreck.

The narrative reveals for the first time political events and wartime secrets surrounding the German raid and the gold recovery. The author visited the Bank of England Archives and the British National Archives in 2004 and has documented the concerns of the British, Australian and New Zealand Governments over the salvage contracts, wartime censorship and accusations by the NZ Prime Minister of the time.

New material is included on the German Raider Orion and the mine attack on the Port of Auckland. The author visited a private maritime institute in Hamburg and reveals the Germans had knowledge of naval targets in Auckland at the time of the attack. The Orion’s commander painted scenes of the German action in Hauraki Gulf and three of his paintings are reproduced for the first time in the book. One of the unique paintings depicts the Niagara sinking to her grave.

Enemy action, a famous ship, a cargo of gold bullion, the sinking, treasure from the depths, underwater exploration and adventure, - the story with its large cast of characters is a story to hold the interest of all.

The narrative is in four parts:

Part One – THE SHIPS - opens with the German Navy merchant cruiser Orion sailing undetected from Germany to NZ and laying mines in the ocean gateway to Auckland. The history of the Niagara is then recounted including incidents involving the ship and those involved with her. Among past incidents is the ship’s involvement with the great influenza epidemic of 1918, when over 6500 souls perished in NZ. The ship’s sinking includes stories from those who sailed from Auckland on that fateful night when the ship struck the German mine. The author has obtained new information on the Orion’s raid, including paintings of the wartime action by the German Captain; these are included in the book’s illustrations.

Part Two – THE SALVORS - relates the story of the 1941 and 1953 gold salvage ventures. The author has interviewed survivors of the salvage crews and obtained records that reveal events that have not been previously published. Previous, and many records of today still hail the 1941 salvage as a world salvage depth record, the book corrects this misconception. The story of the Risdon Beasley recovery of 30 gold bars in 1953 is told, including details of the salvage for this first time.

Part Three – THE EXPLORERS – tells the story of the advances over the past 50 years with underwater exploration in New Zealand and the fulfilment of dreams to dive the Niagara and search for the remaining gold bars. The author’s personal involvement is recounted and records advances with exploring the depths using remote operated robotic vehicles and technical diving using mixed gas technology. The underwater explorers’ adventures and discoveries as they push the limits ever deeper to reach and explore the Niagara are told in a manner that is informative and which will also hold the interest of non-diving readers. The question of whether the shipwreck with its remaining fuel oil is an ecological time bomb waiting to explode in Hauraki Gulf is also explored.

Part 4 – REVELATIONS - Records the author’s visit to London and Hamburg in 2004 and his findings from researching documents at the Bank of England Archives and the British National Archives. He also obtained new material from a private German naval historical institute in Hamburg concerning the German Raider Orion including copies of paintings painted by Captain Weyher of his vessel’s action in the mine attack against the Port of Auckland. Much of this historical material is disclosed for the first time.

Soft cover – 284 pages including 53 b&w and 50 colour photos.

RRP. NZ$38 plus $ 3.00 postage.  Australia Aus$39 includes postage

Advocate's Book Review (pdf file  2.2Mb)

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