Friday Family History Finds #3 – Wahine Disaster

Friday Family History Finds!!! Number 3!!! If you have done 3 in a series does this make it a regular post? TravelGenee’s Friday Family History Finds. Interesting bits and pieces I have found recently while researching my own family history.

Wahine Disaster 10 April 1968

The 10th April is the anniversary of the Wahine Disaster. In 1968 the Lyttelton to Wellington ferry Wahine ran aground and capsized at the entrance to Wellington Harbour, New Zealand. The ship was carrying 610 passengers, 123 crew and one stowaway. Of these 53 people died as a result of the accident.

I remember the storm vividly. I was in my last year at Primary School, aged 12. We had to keep away from the windows. The teacher said there were sheets of corrugated iron blowing around the school playground like pieces of paper. They had come of the school roof or perhaps surrounding houses.

As older students we went over to the “primmer” classes and helped the little ones stay calm. Parents came to pick up children early from school. When one mother arrived her small boy was missing. For a short time the teachers searched for him. He was found in a teacher’s room. He had been told to wait down the end of the corridor so he went to the very end which included this small room.

Some original footage of the Wahine disaster can be see the the NZ on Screen website. Filmed in black and white, this is classic footage from the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation.

Wahine Disaster NZBC Classic News Footage

Click to see Wahine Disaster NZBC Classic News Footage

My father sailed yachts in Wellington harbour so knew the Barrett’s Reef area well. He said it was not a good area to run aground. This area was subject to strong tides and currents. He commented that although the ship was close to Seatoun Beach shore some people or lifeboats may end up on the other side of the harbour. This turned out to be true and both swimmers and lifeboats were carried into the harbour and across to the Pencarrow shore. Of the 51 fatalities that day, 47 occurred here.

Open the the larger view of this map to see

  • Barrett Reef, towards the middle of the map where the disaster happened.
  • Pencarrow Beach, to the right where many of the fatalities drifted towards.
  • Worser Bay, at the middle/top of the map where my Grandparents had a beach home and my father went sailing.


View Larger Topographic Map

Further Sources and Want to find out more: TEV Wahine on Wikipedia, The Wahine & NZ History

My family History for 10 April 1968.

Did you have any interesting finds with your own family history this week? Feel free to share.

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