Both the Marlborough and her sister ship the Dunedin vanished without trace in the same year.
While the dangers of shipping in the late 1800s were myriad, the coincidences with these two ships are spooky.
Both of the three-masted ships were built in the same shipyard at Port Glasgow and sold to the same company, Shaw, Saville and Co - later called the Albion Line.
They were considered fine ships of their time and were put to work travelling between England and New Zealand carrying emigrants looking for a home in a new country.
When refrigeration came about, the Dunedin was refitted in 1881 and became the first ship to successfully transport meat from New Zealand to England. So was born the New Zealand export meat trade.
The Marlborough, likewise, was refitted making her first voyage in 1882.
Both ships carried wool and meat regularly, and carried vast quantities of coal - on the Marlborough’s last voyage she was carrying 400 tonnes of coal. The refrigeration units used coal to fuel them.
They also still carried passengers, although nothing like their previous trips.
The Marlborough had made 14 successful trips while the Dunedin made nine.
But in 1890 both ships set out - the Marlborough from Lyttelton and the Dunedin from Oamaru.
The Marlborough left on January 11 and the Dunedin on March 19.
Both were carrying a full crew. Both were sighted a day or so out by other ships.
And then they vanished without trace.
In a weird coincidence both were carrying precisely one female passenger.
On board the Marlborough was Mrs W. B. Anderson, 37 of Dunedin. Mrs Anderson was born Emily Rhoda Inman in 1854 in Melbourne, coming to Nelson as a teacher. She married William Bain Anderson, a wool merchant. He had paid £33 for her passage on the ship to England.
The Dunedin’s passenger was the Captain’s daughter. Captain Arthur Roberts was a master mariner who had sailed many ships in his time.
There were a number of unconfirmed sightings of both ships.
Two years later a Singapore newspaper claimed the Marlborough had been discovered with “the skeletons of her crew on board that were slimy to the touch”.
They had found the ship in a cove. They thought the letters on the bow spelled out Marlborough. However there were no follow ups and that ship - whoever she was - was never found again.
The Dunedin was seen once near Cape Horn just before a storm.
So what happened to them?
The theory is both ran foul of icebergs, a large number of which had been noted in the Cape Horn area in the months before the disappearances.
Only one person ‘survived’ from the Marlborough. Alex Carson was an apprentice on the Marlborough and due to be on the journey. He had been taken ill while visiting relatives in Dunedin and had a lucky escape when he was told by a doctor not to sail.
Carson was later made Gisborne’s harbour master. He is buried in Taruheru Cemetery with his wife Mabel.