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Taioma Tug Propeller

Est. 2009.  Facing Mauao and the harbour entrance this bronze propeller is a memorial to naval and merchant seamen who died during World War II. Originally the Empire Jane, the tug towed Mulberry Harbour off the coast of France after the 1944 D-Day landings. She helped rescue survivors of the Wahine Shipwreck in 1968 and in 1978 was sold for $2 and towed to Tauranga.

Map No. 15.
Te Pari Taha | Sulphur Point (nr. Yacht Club),
Tauranga, 3110.

SEPT. 2009
read this Bay of Plenty Times article on the propeller's final resting place looking out past Mauao from the tip of Te Pari Taha | Suplhur Point, Tauranga.

Taioma Tug Propeller [Empire Jane] (1944-2000), Te Pari o Te Tai | Sulphur Point

In the early hours of D-Day 6 June 1944, an invasion of Nazi-held territory saw a fleet of more than 1000 ships carrying 156,000 men headed towards the coast of Normandy in northwest France, and the individual sections of two Mulberry Harbours going with them. Allied ships could safely anchor at these artificial ports which had around 6 miles (10km) of flexible steel roadways floating on steel or concrete pontoons with sunken caissons (massive chambers filled with water) to keep them on the seabed. The parts were pulled across the Channel by tugs and assembled off the French coast, becoming operational within 12 days of the landings. Mulberry A was to support the American sector opposite Omaha and Mulberry B the British and Canadian beaches, opposite Arromanches-les-Bains. Mulberry A was destroyed in a storm a few days after construction, but Mulberry B was operational for 10 months after the landings and used to land over 2.5 million troops, 500,000 vehicles and 4m tonnes of supplies. From 29 June 1944 until August 1945 the tug Empire Jane was on war service duties in the English Channel with the Mulberry Harbour. The Empire Jane had been completed on 31 May 1944 by Alexander Hall & Co., of Aberdeen, Scotland for Ministry of War Transport (France, Fenwick Tyne & Wear Co Ltd, managers). A steel screw steamer, her tonnage was 232grt, length 105.2ft, breadth 27.1ft and depth 11.7ft. After service in the English Channel, she performed salvage and rescue duties in the Omaha Beach area in the United States before being sent to Bombay and then Singapore. Declared surplus to requirements she was sold to the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand on 21 August 1947 and her name changed to the SS ‘Taioma’. From 1947 to 1977 the Taioma worked on the Wellington Harbour. On the evening of 9 April 1968 another Union Steam Ship Company vessel left Lyttleton carrying 610 passengers and 125 crew and sailed into one of the worst storms ever to hit New Zealand when Cyclone Giselle merged with another storm over Wellington. After crossing Cook Strait, the captain of the large roll-on roll-off ferry Wahine tried to enter Wellington Harbour in the early morning of 10 April but was walloped by winds of more than 100-knots (185.2kmh). The radar system failed, and a massive wave estimated at 45-feet (13.7m) high drove the Wahine towards nearby Barrett Reef, throwing many on board off their feet. Run aground on the reef, engines no longer working, dragging her anchors, and rolling violently in the ferocious storm, the Wahine was in dire straits. The harbourmaster called for the sister tugs Tapuhi (Empire Shirley) and Taioma to be loaded with salvage gear and prepared for sea. On shore emergency services were overwhelmed with calls for help as with the gale causing flooding, felling trees, causing slips and breaking windows, telephone, and power lines. Seatoun, an eastern suburb of Wellington, was severely affected by the strong winds which saw cars flung into heaps, a five-ton truck dumped on its side, and power poles wrapped with roofing iron ripped from houses. At noon the Wahine started listing to starboard and at 1pm the unusually high tide started to run out the harbour entrance an hour before schedule. This caused the bow to point towards Seatoun and was the first opportunity to launch the lifeboats. Just before 1.30 pm the order was given to abandon ship and by 1.45pm Taioma was one of several vessels involved in the rescue mission. Shrouded in mist and unable to see the shore, those on board the Wahine had to take their chances in the still wild sea, strong winds and driving rain, whether they made it into a lifeboat, floated, clung to wreckage, or were picked up by one of the rescue boats. The rescue boats encountered 18ft waves and often had zero visibility, but the whistles attached to the lifejackets of those in the water meant many were saved. Instead of being carried nearby to the sheltered Seatoun side of the harbour, the current pushed people and vessels towards Eastbourne, the bleak and rugged eastern coast, with its strong undertow, shingle beaches and rocky coastline which many survivors would be dashed against by the strong surf. Rescuers on land had trouble even accessing the coast there, lifeboats were splintered, and many of those in the water were seriously injured or killed as they struggled ashore. The Taioma had been picking up people from the water and rafts and came dangerously close to grounding on the treacherous shoreline, her intakes choking on sand and kelp. She managed to steam out to deeper water in time and with 26 survivors on board, including four hospital cases, she made it to Ferry Wharf. A total of 53 people died in the Wahine Shipwreck. Survivors included Tauranga couple Arthur Gregory Gatland and Edna Mavis Gatland (nee McMaster) who had married in 1934. The Taioma suffered extensive damage on 16 September 1971 whilst lashing-up to the ‘Holmlea’ which yawed in 70-knot winds. The wheelhouse of Taioma was smashed with all the electric lighting, wiring and fittings ripped out, the starboard flying bridge was buckled, all the VHF equipment was soaked in water, the aerial twisted, the voice pipe cut, and the mast set back. Repairs and modifications were carried out. In April 1975 she was sold to British Petroleum NZ Ltd for towing oil barges. In July 1978 Taioma was sold to former Mayor of Tauranga Robert Arthur Owens (later Sir Owens) for $2 and towed the 450 nautical miles to Tauranga by the ‘Herenui,’ arriving in Tauranga on 15 July 1978. She spent eight months open to the public at Coronation Pier until she was slipped on 5 March 1979. Four large steel beams were welded to her bottom plates to make a permanent cradle, and her funnel, wheelhouse, mast, and some engine equipment was removed to lighten the load. Taioma was side slipped onto a 13-axle, 104-wheel, trailer and begun the 5km journey to Tauranga’s Historic Village on 7 April. The heaviest load to be transported in New Zealand at that time, she arrived on 9 April and was officially opened by Sir Keith Jacka Holyoake on 23 June 1979 and dedicated by the Bishop of Aotearoa, the Rt Rev. Manuhuia ‘Manu’ Augustus Bennett. For 19 years the Taioma was an icon, but when the village was put up for sale in 1998, she became homeless. The ‘Taioma Reef Society’ quickly formed, with the aim of sinking her as an artificial reef. Resource Consent was granted in late 1999 and another mammoth transportation took place on the night of 11 March 2000 as Taioma was moved from the village to Tauranga’s 600-tonne slipway. A week later Taioma returned to the sea, being sunk off Mōtītī Island on 19 March 2000. Her bronze propeller had been removed before scuttling and stood outside the Tauranga RSA rooms in Cameron Road as a memorial to naval and merchant seamen who died during World War II. When the RSA moved to new premises in Greerton in June 2009, the Owens Family Trust decided the memorial should finally stand by the sea. The Taioma propeller was placed at the northern end of Sulphur Point facing Mauao and the entrance to Te Awanui | Tauranga Harbour. Kaumātua Morehu Ngatoko Rahipere unveiled the memorial along with Tauranga Sea Cadets squadron leader Lee White. Naval chaplain Chris Haines provided the blessing, stating that the four blades reflected lasting values - courage, commitment, comradeship, and love. “Symbolically, the last blade has a nick out of it... love will always cost us something.”