Collection

The Wahine Disaster

Curated by NZ On Screen team

On a Tuesday evening in April 1968, the ferry Wahine set out from Lyttelton for Wellington. Around 6am the next morning, cyclone-fuelled winds surged in strength as it began to enter Wellington Harbour. At 1.30pm, with the ferry listing heavily to starboard, the call was finally made for 734 passengers and crew to abandon ship. The news coverage and documentaries in this collection explore the Wahine disaster from many angles. Meanwhile Keith Aberdein — one of the TV reporters who was there — explores his memories and regrets over that fateful day on 10 April 1968.

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.

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.

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.

Here Is The News - Wahine excerpt

Television, 1992 (Excerpts)

Here is the News surveyed Kiwi television journalism up until 1992. Presented by Richard Long, this 10 minute excerpt looks at radio and TV coverage of the Wahine disaster, where over 50 people died after the interisland ferry struck Barrett Reef, on 10 April 1968. NZ Broadcasting Corporation reporters Keith Aberdein, Fred Cockram, Nadoo Balantine-Scott and cameraman Andy Roelents are among those recalling their experience of the storm, and the challenges of covering the tragedy — and broadcasting it across New Zealand, in the days before nationwide transmission.

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. 

Wahine - The Untold Story

Television, 1993 (Full Length)

Brian Edwards was working as a television reporter when the Wahine sank on 10 April 1968 in Wellington Harbour. Twenty-five years later Edwards presented this TV3 documentary about the tragedy, which remains New Zealand's worst modern maritime disaster. Wahine - The Untold Story interviews passengers and crew, and features harrowing rescue footage and stills. Interviewees criticise the way the evacuation was handled — "we'd been lied to continually" — while helmsman Ken MacLeod remembers the challenges of trying to keep the Wahine on course.  

Sex, Drugs and Soft Toys - The Making of Meet the Feebles

Television, 1989 (Full Length)

Screened on a TVNZ arts show, this documentary looks at how the strings were pulled on Peter Jackson's low-budget puppet movie Meet the Feebles. An old Wellington railway shed fizzes with energy and imagination as a team peppered with future Oscar-winners crafts the gleefully subversive Muppets parody. Jackson muses on his influences, processes and propensity for "savage humour" in a fascinating interview. Included is footage of his childhood films — war movies and stop motion animation made with his first 8mm camera. Richard King writes about Meet the Feebles here. 

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.

The Real New Zealand

Television, 2000 (Excerpts)

There are around 3000 homes in New Zealand that open their doors to strangers as 'homestay' accommodation. This documentary meets some of the people running homestays, as they show 'the real New Zealand' to their visitors, who are often from other countries. This excerpt features Stella and Colin Lovering, who are operating a homestay in Seatoun, Wellington. Jim Mora narrates.