Captain Herbert Greenstreet (1851-?) – sailed the world!


[The Times, Saturday, August 4th 1917]

Captain Herbert Edward GREENSTREET (b1851) – who is believed to have made many more voyages round the world than any other man, has, after bringing into port this week one of the finest liners in the New Zealand service, retired from the sea.

Captain Greenstreet has made 90 complete voyages round the world, or, including two voyages through the Panama Canal, 92 round voyages to the Antipodes and back. He has rounded the Cape of Good Hope 95 times and Cape Horn 75 times, has passed through the Straits of Magellan 14 times, and crossed the Equator 192 times. He has travelled, approximately, 2,500,000 miles at sea, has never had a serious mishap, and has never been off duty for a single day at sea owing to illness. He was born in 1851 and joined H.M.S. Worcester as a cadet on August 2, 1866 – just 51 years ago. Two years later he went to sea as a midshipman, and then served consecutively as an A.B., third, second, and first mate in a number of sailing ships trading to Australasia and the Far East, until he was appointed in 1881 master of the barque Mataura – the first ship to be fitted with refrigerating appliances. In those days of the inception of the frozen meat industry the sheep were collected at the bays of New Zealand and frozen on board, the total capacity of the Mataura being only 4,000 carcases. The liners now employed in the service carry 120,000 carcases, in addition to other cargo.

Captain Greenstreet served as second and first mate of the Aorangi, one of the first mail steamers to be built for the New Zealand Shipping Company, and in June, 1885, was appointed master of the Ruapehu. Then, as Commodore of the Fleet, he was given command of a number of new vessels as they were built. Fifteen voyages were made, how- ever, in the old Rimutaka and 22 in the present Rimutaka, one of the most successful liners ever built for the Australasian trade.

The vessels commanded by Captain Greenstreet have always been “happy ships.” It has been said that no man has ever been better known or better liked in New Zealand. Certainly very many passengers always chose to travel by the ships commanded by him, and officers and crews were always glad to serve under him. It was his custom every Sunday morning at sea to read the Prayers and to deliver a little homily. For many the effect of the simple, straight- forward address spoken by this slight, weather-marked, unassuming seaman, as the ship pounded through the water, must have remained for years as an inspiring impression. Captain Greenstreet’s immunity from accident has been remarkable, and he is firmly convinced that more than once the direct intervention of Providence saved his ship and those within his charge from disaster.

Captain Greenstreet was perfectly willing to go to sea again. The strain, however, of navigation and responsibility at sea under present conditions is very great indeed, and the directors of the New Zealand Shipping Company are convinced that he is now thoroughly entitled to a rest. They would be loath to think that a splendid sea career was being brought to a forced close – for Captain Greenstreet would necessarily be retiring before long – under the harassing conditions which now prevail.

Telescope presented to Cpt Greenstreet in October 1888 by the officers of the RMS Ruapehu.


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