Remembering the Wahine Disaster – 10 April 1968

The Wahine Disaster took place fifty years ago. Today we reflect on the loss of fifty one people on the 10th of April 1968. This tragedy resonates strongly down the decades.

Policeman Ray Ruane holding a young survivor of the Wahine shipwreck. Further negatives of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: EP/1968/1574/26a-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22508739

The Wahine Disaster played out across the nation’s television in grainy black and white, and the newsroom brought the story to our living rooms.  The ferry’s proximity to shore where people watched helplessly certainly added to our sense of powerlessness in the face of tragedy.

You can watch some of the original footage on NZ On Screen.

NZBC Classics - Wahine Disaster

Wahine at Lyttelton, 1965
The Wahine used as a backdrop for a shot on the Port at Lyttelton, circa 1965. Kete Christchurch 1965_g_-_Wahine.jpg

The storm affected many parts of the country including Canterbury. It tore of the roofs of houses on Canon Hill and forced many homes in Sumner to be evacuated.

I recall my parents pointing to the wreckage, which was still visible for many years, as we neared Wellington on our ferry voyage. Each time there is a rough ferry crossing, the fate of the Wahine ferry is remembered and our thoughts are once again with those who died and with the survivors of that ill-fated voyage.

Find out more:

Articles on the 50th anniversary of the Wahine disaster

Always bring a jacket!

Cover of The Wahine DisasterI love weather, (especially fine sunny weather!) but being a Wellingtonian I experienced storms on a regular basis, including the Wahine storm, against which every weather event is now measured, in my head anyway.

I then lived in a very sunny small town for 26 years. I would often think that what people needed was a good southerly storm to blow away the cobwebs; appreciation of lovely weather needs some experience of the opposite. My advice to my children, when they left town was, “always bring a jacket, there’s weather out there!”

So now Christchurch provides just enough weather to keep me on my toes, something to talk about and which does not allow too much complacency about saying “come over for a barbecue”. Take this morning: we planned a day at the beach, it’s already poured with rain, now the sun is shining and the wind is increasing in intensity. Alternatives must be discussed and explored. Life is never dull when weather has to be factored in to every activity outside the house.

Cover of This Barren RockSo I love to read about weather-related incidents, since coping with weather is almost a full-time job.

Try This Barren Rock: 1875, A True Tale of Shipwreck and Survival in the Southern Seas by Sylvie Haisman, a tale of astonishing survival. The good thing is that, having been written by the woman’s great-great-great-grand-daughter, you know there must be a happy ending!

  • If you want to read more about that fateful day of the Wahine storm in April 1967, check out these Wahine titles in our catalogue.
  • Since we’re now supposedly in spring and heading towards summer, here are some BBQ titles.

 Cover of The Kiwi Sizzler Portable Barbecue Book  Cover of Josh's Backyard BBQ Cover of Fired Up Vegetarian

What’s your favourite weather-related book? Or do you have any BBQ book recommendations?

Remembering the Wahine sinking

April 10 is the anniversary of the sinking of the Wahine in Wellington Harbour with the loss of 51 lives.

Policeman Ray Ruane holding a young survivor of the Wahine shipwreck. Further negatives of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: EP/1968/1574/26a-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22508739
Policeman Ray Ruane holding a young survivor of the Wahine shipwreck. Further negatives of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: EP/1968/1574/26a-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22508739

Find out more:

NZBC Classics - Wahine Disaster

The Sinking of the Wahine

It is a sad anniversary today – 45 years ago the Wahine sunk off Wellington with the loss of 51 lives.

The Wahine disaster

Find out more:

NZBC Classics - Wahine Disaster

Mana wahine: Dr Patricia Te Arapo Wallace

Cover of Pūawaitanga o te Ringa - Fruits of our busy hands Dr Patricia Te Arapo Wallace was involved in one of Christchurch City Libraries’ most significant cultural taonga Pūawaitanga o te Ringa – Fruits of our busy hands, a series of tukutuku panels that were specially woven as a community project for the Ngā Pounamu Māori Centre.

She is widely respected for her knowledge of Māori material culture:

When Dr Patricia Wallace wanted to piece together the mysteries of traditional Maori dress,  she found inspiration in an unconventional form – modern-day plastic Ken dolls. With the help of ‘Barbie boyfriends’ she was able to reconstruct how early Maori traditionally wore large kaitaka (cloaks) wrapped around their bodies.

Cover of Looking flashLast month Dr Wallace became the first Ngata Centenary Doctoral Scholar to graduate from Canterbury with a PhD in Maori. While the department has previously awarded four doctorates, Dr Wallace is the first Maori person to do her doctoral study solely in the Maori department. Her achievements are even more remarkable for the fact that she only embarked on a university education in her fifties. Research throws new light on traditional Maori dress.

from the article Research throws new light on traditional Maori dress (2003)

She wrote an impressive  Introduction to Māori Dress feature in the  Berg Fashion Library,  in 2010.

Dr Wallace also wrote the chapter ‘He whatu ariki- he kura, he waero: chiefly threads – red and white’ in the book Looking Flash: Clothing in Aotearoa New Zealand by Labrum, McKergow and Gibson (2007).

She is one of six contributors to Whatu Kākahu-Māori Cloaks (2011) which will be launched at the 2011 National Weavers’ Hui.

Read Patricia’s Researcher profile from the University of Canterbury.

Mana wahine – Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan

Cover of Whetu Tirikatene-SullivanWhetu Marama Tirikātene-Sullivan passed away in July. She is renowned as the first Māori woman cabinet minister. But she also had a major influence in the world of fashion and design, as this article Snapshot: A Māori Fashion Designer in the Berg Fashion Library reveals:

She commissioned a large number of garments incorporating Māori motifs by contemporary Māori artists, such as Sandy Adsett, Para Matchitt, Cliff Whiting, and Frank Davis. She wore these at her many public engagements, and they were generally regarded as her signature style. For many New Zealanders this was the first time they had seen such traditional elements in a new context.

Photo
Mrs Tirikatene-Sullivan (M.P.) at art exhibition (image on Kete Horowhenua from Horowhenua Historical Society Inc.)