By Courtney Johnston
I find it extraordinary that these photographs of the survivors of the Wahine sinking exist. At 6am on 10 April 1968, as passengers were beginning to wake and crew members were performing early morning duties, the inter-island ferry Wahine struck Barretts Reef at the entrance of Wellington Harbour. The ship had been caught by Cyclone Giselle, which was moving down the country, wreaking havoc. In Wellington the cyclone met with a southerly front, producing freak winds in Cook Strait of up to 125 knots. Dragging its anchors and taking on water, the Wahine drifted across Wellington Harbour. The ship began to lean heavily to the right. Just before 1.30pm the order was given to abandon ship. Because of the heavy lean, only half the lifeboats onboard could be launched, and most of the inflatable life rafts flipped in the heavy seas. The Wahine finally capsized at 2.30pm, at Steeple Rock, on the Wellington side of the harbour. Wellington police mounted a concerted rescue effort on both sides of the harbour. Despite the efforts of rescue workers and the public, 51 of the 734 people on board died by drowning, exposure, or by being thrown against sharp rocks on the Eastbourne side of the harbour. (Text from the National Library website, but I'm pretty sure I wrote it in the first place. http://www.natlib.govt.nz/collections/highlighted-items/the-day-the-wahine-sunk)
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