Descent from Disaster - Strongman Mine Disaster

Television, 2013 (Excerpts)

On 19 January 1967, an explosion rocked the Strongman coal mine on the West Coast, causing the deaths of 19 miners. This documentary, part of a series investigating NZ disasters, sees TV personality Leigh Hart examining what happened that day in Rūnanga, and how it affected the community. Interviewees include Hart’s own family: his Dad, who was in the mine at the time, his mother, and his Uncle Terry, who was part of the rescue team. This two-minute excerpt includes a reenactment of the disaster, and Leigh examining the outside of the old mine.

Destination Disaster: The Sinking of the Mikhail Lermontov

Television, 2000 (Full Length)

This award-winning documentary is an account of the last days and sinking of Russian cruise liner Mikhail Lermontov. On 16 February, 1986, she ran aground on rocks in the Marlborough Sounds. Passengers were successfully evacuated, but a Russian crew member lost his life, and several were injured. Evidence is given by those who were there, with a particular emphasis on presenting the stories of the Russian crew, who were largely unavailable to the media at the time. A minute into clip nine, one young Russian agent bears a striking similarity to Russian president Vladimir Putin.

The Wahine Disaster

Television, 2008 (Full Length)

This award-winning documentary chronicles how events unfolded for passengers on the morning the ferry Wahine hit rocks in Wellington Harbour on 10 April 1968. Aside from interviews with survivors and crew, there are memories from two key rescuers — tugboat Captain John Brown and policeman Jim Mason — who both saved many people from rough seas. Writer Emmanuel Makarios argues that a distance of 20 feet would have made all the difference in avoiding disaster. This 2008 programme was made and narrated by Sharon Barbour, later to become a BBC reporter in England. 

Frontline - The Wahine Disaster 25 Years on

Television, 1993 (Excerpts)

This special report from late 80s/early 90s current affairs show Frontline looks at the Wahine disaster, on its 25th anniversary. Fifty-one people died on 10 April 1968 after the interisland ferry struck Barrett Reef near Wellington, in a huge storm. The first part ('From Reef to Ruin') features archive footage and interviews with survivors and rescuers. In the second part ('Fatal Shores'), reporter Rob Harley examines whether the ferry could have been better equipped, and more lives saved. A third part ('Strait Answers') is not shown here due to copyright issues with some of the footage. 

Flight 901 - The Erebus Disaster

Television, 1981 (Excerpts)

On 28 November 1979, an Air New Zealand DC-10 crashed into Mt Erebus, Antarctica, killing all 257 people on board. It was the worst civil aviation disaster in NZ history and at the time, the fourth worst in the world. Made independently of state TV, Flight 901 was the first in-depth documentary on the accident. It surveys the novelty of Antarctic tourist flights, the search and rescue operation, and controversy over causes stirred by the Peter Mahon-led Royal Commission of Inquiry. This 15 minute excerpt was edited for NZ On Screen by director John Keir.

I Was There - Wahine Disaster

Television, 2013 (Full Length Episode)

This 2013 TVNZ Heartland series saw veteran newsreaders present major moments in New Zealand history. In this episode Dougal Stevenson looks back at the Wahine disaster of 10 April 1968, when 51 people perished after the interisland ferry struck Barrett Reef near Wellington, in a southerly storm. Stevenson was a junior newsreader at the time. Along with archive footage, two eyewitnesses are interviewed: passenger William Spring, who recalls leaping from the capsized ship; and Roger Johnstone, who describes filming the disaster as a young NZBC cameraman.

NZBC Classics - Wahine Disaster

Television, 1968 (Full Length)

On 10 April 1968 the Lyttelton–Wellington ferry Wahine ran aground and sank at the entrance to Wellington Harbour. Fifty-three people died as a result of the accident, 51 on the day. These news features include aerial footage of the ship after the storm, and NZBC reporters conducting dramatic interviews with survivors, police and the head of the Union Steam Ship Company. Coverage was only seen by mainlanders after a cameraman rushed to Kaikoura and filmed a TV set that could receive a signal from Wellington, then returned to Christchurch so the footage could be broadcast.

Inside Story: The Wahine Disaster

Television, 2008 (Excerpts)

Made in 2008, this documentary chronicles the Wahine disaster, from the ship leaving Lyttelton to the last survivor being pulled out of the water. Interviewees share their experiences — some make it ashore in life rafts at Seatoun, others are washed up on the “battlefield” of the Pencarrow coast. The Wahine’s crew offer insight into the conditions the ship was sailing in, and of their gradual realisation that it couldn’t be saved. The TV One programme also features animated scenes of the ill-fated journey, which mimic the black and white news footage of the disaster unfolding.

Shipwreck - The Wreck of the Orpheus

Television, 2000 (Full Length Episode)

On 7 February 1863, the worst maritime disaster in New Zealand history occurred. British warship HMS Orpheus ran aground on a notorious sandbar at Manukau Heads, with the loss of 189 of the 259 onboard. Directed by John Milligan (Trio at the Top), this documentary was part of a series examining the country’s worst wrecks. Presented by Paul Gittins, it discusses the disaster, its cause, and the consequent investigations. While the British admiralty laid blame on the harbourmaster, local Māori interpreted the wreck as utu, for a breach of tapu by a Pākehā settler the previous day.

Dreams Lie Deeper

Television, 2014 (Excerpts)

In November 2010, 29 miners died in the Pike River disaster. In 2014 Wellington’s Orpheus Choir invited singer Dave Dobbyn to compose a musical tribute to the victims. Dreams Lie Deeper followed Dobbyn to Greymouth to meet with mourning families, and visit the mine. This excerpt shows the premiere of Dobbyn's song ‘This Love’ in Wellington on 10 May 2014, to a standing ovation. The film screened on TV One on the fourth anniversary of the disaster. Sunday Star Times critic Grant Smithies called it “one hell of a documentary. Raw, touching and blessedly unsentimental.”