In the month of December, 1915, the Pitcairn Islanders, urged
on by resident missionary Melville Adams, renew their efforts
to build a small ship in which they can go on trading voyages
to Mangareva in the Gambier Islands, and to Tahiti. The vessel,
it is decided, will be called Messenger.
The New Zealand Shipping Companys steel, twin-screw
steamship Ruahine calls at Pitcairn on November 26, 1916. Aboard
the ship is J. B. Kattern, a soldier returning to New Zealand
from European service in World War I. He, Captain E. T. Smith
of the Ruahine, three other soldiers and several fellow passengers
go onto the Island.
Ashore we took a good look at the schooner Messenger
being built, writes Kattern. It is 45 feet long,
with a 15-foot beam. The vessel is a credit to the builders.
We also saw a life-boat presented to the Pitcairners by Queen
Victoria. It is in good repair, and is reserved for special
duties such as rescue work. . . .
On January 15, 1917, the Messenger, 30 tons, is launched.
Almost immediately she sails for Tahiti. The Islanders decide
to give the ship to the Seventh-day Adventist mission in Tahiti
for missionary use among the islands of the South Pacific. Aboard
are Parkin Christian and George Warren, two of Pitcairns
most skilled seafarers. When these two arrive in Papeete they
then work their way on ships to Australia to visit relatives
and friends before working their way back to Pitcairn. Because
the Messenger is built almost exclusively with donated materials
and labor the Islanders estimate her cost at $1.50 (15 schillings)!
On June 4, 1917, the Messenger arrives at Pitcairn Island,
having been gone for four and a half month in her maiden voyage
to Tahiti. At a public meeting two days later it is announced
that the schooner is being returned to Pitcairn by the acting
consul in Tahiti with the request that it be run and operated
by the government of Pitcairn Island.
The Messenger begins making trading voyages between Pitcairn
and Mangareva, and on April 8, 1918, she returns from one of
her voyages with Pitcairn George C. Warren as her Master. On
January 19, 1919, Messenger, along with two Pitcairn longboats,
sail to Oeno Island to salvage material from ships wrecked on
that atoll. In May, 1919, Pitcairner E. R. McCoy reports that
the Messenger was badly broken up in a gale, but at present
she is more than half repaired. She will be ready to sail for
Mangareva the end of this year or the beginning of next, if
nothing unusual happens to prevent it.
On April 10, 1920, it is reported that the Pitcairn schooner
Messenger is lost returning from Mangareva while in sight of
Pitcairn Island. Walter Fisher Young, who was aboard, tells
of the loss:
We stayed at Mangareva only seven days, then left for
home. . . . We were in sight of Mangareva for about four days
owing to a calm, then a light wind blew, but not fair for Pitcairn.
Afterward the wind increased to a strong head blow and it lasted
for a long time. This seemed to strain the vessel, and it began
to leak very badly.
On account of the strong head wind we made very slow
progress. We sought the Lord that He would favour us with fair
wind that we might soon reach home, but it seemed as if the
fair wind would never come. . . . Our food supply was fast running
out. We were fifteen or sixteen days out before we sighted Pitcairn.
The day we sighted land was Sunday and we were that
evening many miles to leeward of the island. Our last known
food supply was cooked and eaten that evening. Though many miles
from shore our captain lowered the boat and sent five men to
row ashore to let the Pitcairners know of our present condition
Floating on a leaky ship, without provisions, the few
men left on board having to be at the pump day and night to
keep the water from overflowing the ship, and working without
feeod, we were growing weak and feeble.
Day and night the boat from the shore tried to reach
us, thus bringing relief, but this was all in vain, for they
never found us. From Sunday till Tuesday we were there in an
almost helpless condition. The wind was contrary for us to make
the land. In our distress we on board sought the Lord. Those
on shore assembled in the house of God to seek help in behalf
of those left on board the Messenger.
On Wednesday morning we sighted a steamship. We put
the distress signal up, but the captain of the steamship did
not see it, so it passed us by. That same steamer passed close
to Pitcairn. The Pitcairn boats made for her and succeeded in
getting aboard. They presented the condition of the Messenger
to the captain, and God used that captain to answer the prayers
of His people.
The captain turned his ship around and went in search
of the Messenger until he found it. He saw the condition of
the ship as well as those of us on board, and he took it in
tow, trying to get it to land. But the Messenger was fast filling
with water, and would not be able to get to land. All cargo
was taken from her and placed on board the steamer, and all
hands left the Messenger. Not a life was lost.
The Messenger, which was now nearly filled with water,
was sent adrift and has probably gone to the bottom. . . .
In his book The Romance of Pitcairn Island, W.
Y. Fullerton names the American steamer Sassenach as being the
vessel that came to the aid of the Messenger. During her lifetime
the little ship made a dozen successful voyages to Mangareva
for both commercial and religious purposes. Not one of Pitcairns
better ship-building efforts, the Messenger was characterized
by Pitcairner Fred Christian as going just as fast sideways