Collection

NZ Disasters

Curated by NZ On Screen team

This collection looks at some of New Zealand's most significant national tragedies. Spanning 150+ years, it tells stories of drama, caution, hope and recovery — from the 1863 wreck of the Orpheus at Manukau Heads, to Tarawera, the Wahine, Erebus, Pike River and Christchurch. In the backgrounder, Jock Phillips writes about the collection, and the "common sequence" to disaster.

Mikhail Lermontov

Television, 1986 (Full Length)

On 16 February 1986 a Russian cruise line, the Mikhail Lermontov, struck rocks off Cape Jackson in the Marlborough Sounds. The ship carried 408 mostly elderly Australian passengers, and a crew of 330. The ship drifted and eventually sank in Port Gore; one Russian sailor died. This Lynton Diggle-directed documentary was shot in the months that followed, as the camera followed dive teams into the black depths of the vessel. Their task in hazardous conditions was to salvage oil from the wreck, and preserve Marlborough's coastline.

Wahine Day

Short Film, 1973 (Full Length)

The focus of this short film is a memorial service on Seatoun Beach, five years after the sinking of interisland ferry Wahine on 10 April 1968. More than 50 people died when the ship keeled over just inside Wellington Harbour, after hitting a reef during a ferocious cyclone. The ferry had been in service just 20 months. National Film Unit director Sam Pillsbury uses archive footage of the sinking, along with reconstructions and recreations of radio reports. The memorial service itself was recreated for the film. There are also images  the attempted salvage operation.

Lost and Found: The Story of Cook's Anchor

Television, 1979 (Full Length)

While in Tahiti to scout for locations for a film (ultimately unrealised) on the mutiny of the HMS Bounty, legendary British director David Lean (Lawrence of Arabia, Dr Zhivago) became fascinated by a lost anchor jettisoned by Captain Cook in 1773. Produced for New Zealand’s South Pacific Television, this film follows the anchor’s discovery — by River Kwai bridge exploder Eddie Fowlie — and salvage. A rare 'documentary' credit for Lean, the film was written by his regular scripting collaborator Robert Bolt; Kiwi Kelly Tarlton provides expert dive guidance.

Lynton Diggle

Director, Camera

Lynton Diggle spent almost 25 years working as a director and cameraman for the government's National Film Unit, before launching his own company. Along the way, he filmed in Antarctica and the waters of Lake Taupō, captured major salvage operations at sea, and worked alongside legendary director David Lean (Lawrence of Arabia). Diggle passed away on 23 November 2018.

Phil Keoghan

Presenter

After presenting children's television, sports and magazine shows (Spot On, That's Fairly Interesting, 3:45 LIVE!, Keoghan's Heroes), Phil Keoghan moved to the United States. In 2000 he was picked to host The Amazing Race, one of the most awarded shows in the history of reality television. Multiple Emmy-winner Keoghan has also written book No Opportunity Wasted, and created a bevy of accompanying TV series.

George Andrews

Producer

Producer George Andrews has been making documentaries about New Zealand for more than 40 years, including legendary documentary series  Landmarks. In 2002 he was made an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to television.

John Earnshaw

Cinematographer

English cameraman John Earnshaw moved downunder in 1975, just as the local screen industry was hotting up. A director of photography on hundreds of commercials, he shot two feature-length projects: cult movie Angel Mine, one of the earliest entries in the Kiwi movie renaissance, and TV movie A Woman of Good Character. He passed away on 3 March 2014, leaving behind him a passion project involving a mysterious Boeing aircraft.

Ron Pledger

Director, Producer

Since joining state television as a sound operator in the 60s, Ron Pledger has gone on to win a reputation for his assured coverage of a wide range of live events, from concerts to This is Your Life to the state funeral of Sir Edmund Hillary. A life long music lover, Pledger was awarded an MBE in 1992, helping recognise 40 years of service in a military band. 

Wayne Tourell

Director, Producer

Wayne Tourell is a prime contender for having the longest CV of any director in local television. Tourell began as an actor and presenter. The multiple Feltex award-winner has gone on to direct documentaries (Landmarks, Moriori), drink driving campaigns, teen movie Bonjour Timothy — not to mention episodes of Mortimer’s Patch, Shortland Street, Gloss and his beloved legal drama Hanlon