“Survivors” Come together 80 years after Shipwreck.

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On 1st of May 1931 in New Zealand the steamer SS Progress was driven against the rocks on Wellington’s rugged south coast after her tail shaft snapped during a southerly gale.

Four seamen died that day but one of the survivors, Fritz Degerholm was saved after Wally Hammond tied a rope around his waist and swam out to rescue him.  Mr Hammond was awarded the Kings Service Medal for bravery.

Eighty years later on the anniversary of the sinking fifty descendants from both men assembled at Owhiro Bay where the Progress sank to thank the pair for surviving in turn allowing them to be alive today. Mr Degerholm’s grandson Peter was one of the group and recalled how his grandfather was eternally grateful to Mr Hammond for saving his life.

On the day the Progress sank, Mr Hammond had a bottle of whiskey on him which, on returning safely to shore, he shared with Mr Degerholm. To honour Mr Hammonds memory, his son Ken Hammond poured a bottle of whiskey into the sea.

Wally Hammond was born in Kent, England, later joining the merchant navy and then settling in New Zealand where he spent 15 years with the New Zealand police, during world war two he served with the New Zealand Navy.

Fritz Degerholm was originally from Finland where he was conscripted into the Finnish Navy and went to work on sailing ships. He later joined a merchant navy and arrived in New Zealand on a merchant sailing ship in 1926. He settled down in Wellington, got married and had five children.

Where the Progress sank is today a popular dive site for Wellington divers with wreckage from four shipwrecks in the area and many have experienced their first open water dives here.

The area is very rocky with very strong currents further out off shore, however withing the main reef there is a sheltered lagoon area where divers can begin and end their dives.

Swimming out from the shore and descending to around ten metres you find the first and most complete wreck, the Yung Penn. There is only half of the hull of this wreck left nearly but not quite blocking the entrance to the lagoon. The Yung Penn was a squid fishing ship so squid lures can be often found around the site. As four wrecks, the Progress, the Wellington, The Cyrus and the Yung Penn all sank in virtually the same spot it can be hard to ascertain what wreckage belongs to which ship, however, if you head south east from the hull of the Yung Penn you can still find boilers from the Progress with the odd Crayfish living inside them, along with the boilers are many metal plates lying around and you can find the propeller shaft lying in about 13m of water.

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published on May 5, 2011 by jason
tags: , , , , , , , , , category: wreck

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