Wahine Disaster – 53 Years Later

Wahine sinking in Wellington Harbour

Wahine sinking in Wellington Harbour. Dominion Post (Newspaper): Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post and Dominion newspapers. Ref: EP/1968/1647/14-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22327912

On the morning of 10 April 1968 one of New Zealand’s worst recorded storms hit Wellington. This storm produced freak winds of up to 230 km per hour around Cook Strait. The Christchurch–Wellington ferry Wahine was driven onto Barrett Reef, at the entrance to Wellington Harbour.

When the ship hit the reef, one of its propellors was knocked off and an engine was damaged. The Wahine could no longer be steered properly so it drifted into the harbour before leaning to starboard (nautical term for the right side of a ship). Because of the heavy list (another nautical term for a ship leaning dangerously in the water), only four of the eight lifeboats could be launched, and most of the inflatable life rafts flipped in the savage seas.

The Wahine finally capsized at 2.30 p.m. Most deaths occurred on the Eastbourne side of the harbour, where people were driven against sharp rocks by the waves. Of the 734 passengers and crew, 51 died that day, another died several weeks later and a 53rd victim died in 1990 from injuries sustained in the wreck.

It remains one of New Zealand’s worst maritime disasters, after the wreck of SS Penguin in 1905.

Want to know more?

Wellington City Libraries Heritage pages have got loads of info, photos and footage from that fateful day: https://wcl.govt.nz/heritage/wahine

Other useful sites are:

Many Answers

Museums Wellington

Christchurch City Libraries

Want to read all about it?

No safe harbour / Hill, David
“Stuart and his twin sister Sandra are coming home to Wellington on the ferry. Stuart knows he’ll enjoy the trip – he’s a good sailor. But it’s April 1968 and the ship is the Wahine. As the tragic events unwind Stuart and Sandra must battle to stay alive. A vivid and compelling picture of the Wahine’s last hours.” (Catalogue)


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Get ready to Shakeout!

If an earthquake happened right now, would you be ready? Would you know what to do?

New Zealand is an earthquake prone country and we all know how devastating the ones in Canterbury have been. You need to know and practice what to do when an earthquake strikes -have a plan for when you are at home, at school, at a friends place, or anywhere!

There is a nation-wide earthquake drill coming up called SHAKEOUT.

On Wednesday September 26th at 9.26am there will be a pretend earthquake that will hit New Zealand, so you can practice what you will do when a real one hits. over 1 million New Zealanders have registered to take part in the drill -are you participating?

If you school or family is taking part make sure you listen to the instructions of the adults around you and Drop, Cover and Hold. The Civil Defence website has information, instructions and videos about what to do in an earthquake (check out the info about other disasters like floods, volcanoes and tsunamis while you are there).


100th anniversary of the Titanic sinking

Titanic at the docks of Southampton April 1912If you had been alive in 1912, and scored yourself a ticket on the RMS Titanic, you would have been jumping up and down with excitement. It was the biggest most fancy passenger steamship ever built at the time. It was like a really posh floating palace. Some of the richest and most famous people in the world bought tickets on that first and only voyage.

You would also have felt very safe, because the Titanic was built with 16 double strength watertight compartments, so she could survive a head-on crash that would only flood the first four compartments. Or if another ship rammed her in the middle only two compartments would flood.

And then the unimaginable happened. On her first voyage, less than three hours after hitting an iceberg on April 14, 1912 she sank. Over 1,500 people lost their lives.

Find out more about the Titanic by taking part in fun stories and activities to mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, at your local library during the April holidays.

The Library has lots of books and resources in the collection too. Search for Titanic in the easyfind catalogue You can also find loads of Titanic websites here.