Survivors, family mark Wahine disaster anniversary

  • 10/04/2016

Survivors, their families and the rescuers who went to help the stricken Wahine ferry are marking the 48th anniversary of the maritime disaster.

Fifty one people lost their lives on April 10, 1968 when the Wahine ferry, travelling from Lyttelton into Wellington Harbour, ran into difficulties caused by tropical cyclone Giselle and eventually sank. A further two people died after the disaster, from injuries sustained on the day.

The Museum of Wellington City and Sea will mark the anniversary today with the laying of a wreath, hourly bell ringing, a musical tribute, a talk by a weather forecaster and the showing of documentaries made about the disaster.

The storm which exploded upon Wellington was one of the worst ever recorded in New Zealand. Two storms merged directly over the city, according to a history put together by Wellington City Libraries.

The winds forced the ship on to Barrett's Reef. This resulted in the loss of her starboard propeller and the failure of her port engine, leaving the ferry without any propulsive power.

With capsize inevitable, the order to abandon ship was given to the 734 passengers and crew on board.

The storm also marked the coming-of-age for television news broadcasting in New Zealand as camera crews rushed to report on events as they unfolded. The footage was screened around the world.