Appeasing 499 Hungry Ghosts: The Ventnor Documentary

From Jesse Mulligan, 1–4pm, 4:06 pm on 18 August 2013
The SS Ventnor sank in the Hokianga Heads in 1902.

The SS Ventnor sank in the Hokianga Heads in 1902. Photo: Auckland Library

On the 28 October 1902 the S.S. Ventnor struck a reef and sank off the coast of Hokianga.

Along with coal destined for Hong Kong, it was carrying the exhumed bones of 499 Chinese miners who had died while toiling the gold fields of New Zealand. Their last dying wish was for their remains to be re-interred with loved ones back home in China.

Embraced by tiny kauri coffins, many bodies washed ashore. At the time, local Maori took up the bones to protect them until family could come to honour them.

A Poon-Yu descendant herself, Lynda Chanwai-Earle joined generations of Chinese New Zealanders from across the country to attend a historic once-in-a-lifetime Ching Ming event in the Far North. One-hundred-and-ten years after the first bone washed ashore, 499 hungry ghosts were finally appeased.