When I saw this documentary posted, I knew I had to do it for this blog. 499 coffins were sunk in a shipwreck and I wondered how that happened. So I thought that my readers would be interested in this story.
A ship was bound for China. It had a ghostly cargo of 499 Chinese gold miners. The ship sunk and its cargo disappeared. This ship lies off the coast of New Zealand. All the names were lost, except for one: Choie Sew Hoy. He was considered one of the pioneers of New Zealand. In 1861, gold was discovered in a valley in New Zealand. Miners from all over the world. However, this gold rush was over as soon as it was started. This documentary tells the story of the gold rush and the Chinese miners.
Chinese gold miners were invited to New Zealand to see if more gold could be discovered. These Chinese miners took part in a rebellion in China and decided to take their chances in New Zealand. Choie Sew Hoy was one of these men that came in. He established a store and provided provisions for the Chinese miners. His story was the first stop for the miners. He was a businessman and a merchant. He also helped his fellow countrymen adjust to their life.
Descendants of Choie Sew Hoy trace his footsteps to learn more about their ancestors. They go to the mines where the Chinese men worked. A historian talks about the history of the mine and the miners. It would take two weeks to get to the valley by horse, for others who did not have horses it would take a month walking. The work was backbreaking and the climate was harsh. In summer they would be hot and they faced extreme cold in winter. Death was a constant companion. The men who supplied the miners became rich men.
Choie Sew Hoy married a European woman and had two children. He heavily invested in gold mining as well. His local community became rich and he provided charitable funds for the Chinese. If a Chinese man would die in New Zealand, their families could petition for their remains to be exhumed and shipped back to China. Choie made sure the families had the funds to do this. In 1883, over two hundred coffins were exhumed and shipped back to China.
In 1901 another hundred bodies were exhumed to be shipped back to China. This horrified the local New Zealanders, however, permits were issued and could not be stopped. Choi Sew Hoy died suddenly before the second shipment was ready. His death was a major setback for the body repatriation plan. His son took over and a ship was packed with 499 bodies. This ship would never make it back.
The ship struck rocks and sunk, taking with it the coffins. Fifteen men died in the shipwreck. An official board of inquiry was convened. Navigational error and incompetence were the causes of the wreck. The Chinese community in New Zealand is devastated. It was a second death for them. For the Chinese, it was important to be buried where they were born.
Choie Sew Hoy’s coffin went down with the ship. His son went to look for the ship and the coffins. However, he was unable to find it and the coffins. The ship had never been found and is one of the deepest wrecks in New Zealand history. Remains and coffins washed up onshore and were buried where they washed up.
This is a documentary done for fun and the subject was interesting. I would not be showing this to a history classroom.
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