The Rotorua Daily Post front page of 10 September 1964. Note names of the deceased have been removed. Source: Rotorua archives.
Rotorua scouts say they are talking with the Rotorua Lakes Council about providing an appropriate memorial to four sea scouts and an instructor who drowned on Lake Rotorua in 1964.
The Rotorua Central Scouts’ building on the lakefront has recently been demolished as part of a $40 million redevelopment of the area being undertaken by Rotorua Lakes Council and the Pukeroa Oruawhata Trust.
A former sea scout contacted The Mud recently concerned that the base was being demolished, taking with it memories of the tragedy in 1964. He wondered whether a memorial was or could be put in place.
Scouts Volcanic Zone leader Amanda Roberts told The Mud that local knowledge still existed about the tragedy and it was still talked about five years ago when she came in place.
The Rotorua Daily Post of 10 September 1964 carried coverage of the deaths across its front page under the main headline “Sea Scouts Die After Cutter Swamped”.
The story told how land, water and air searches continued that day for the bodies of two Rotorua sea scouts lost with three companies when their 17-foot cutter, Hinemoa, foundered on Lake Rotorua the previous day.
“Dismasted and swamped, probably by a sudden squall, the Mokoia Sea Scout Group vessel was found last night with two of the bodies lashed to it.”
The body of the instructor was found in the water nearby and the other two were found toward Ohau Channel.
The former sea scout told The Mud the deaths were shocking for the town at the time, more so as he had been acquainted with the boys, aged 14, and had been scheduled to go on the outing.
However, the weather had turned bad and he decided against joining the others on the lake.
Lake Rotorua had always, and continues to be, renowned for chopping up badly during storms, and he had a premonition that made him reluctant to go sailing that day.
The Daily Post article states that the five dead had sailed the cutter to Mokoia Island without mishap, when a sudden squall appears to have dismasted and swamped the boat.
“They are believed to have struggled to right the vessel for some time before succumbing in the chill water.”
The Hinemoa was eventually found by searches swamped, though right side up, a quarter mile off-shore from Te Ngae. The mast, sails, and rigging lay in the water alongside the craft.
Adding to the tragedy was the backgrounds of the five – the four boys who lost their lives were high achieving scholars at Rotorua Boys’ High and top scouts. Their instructor was equally accomplished in his professional and personal life.
Amanda Roberts said there had been mention that a plaque existed, and the scout den was cleaned out before the recent demolitions. The plaque had not been seen at that time but a more meticulous search through the large number of items may uncover it.
The scout group was working with the council to provide a way of remembering the youngsters and their instructor who died in the tragic events in 1964.
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