The Wahine Disaster documentary

The 1968 sinking of the inter island ferry Wahine was considered to be one of the worst maritime disasters in New Zealand’s history. Radio and television captured the drama as it happened within a short distance from the shore of the eastern suburbs of Wellington. Had the ship broken up immediately – all 734 lives would have been lost. The fact that only 52 died is a miracle.

Maori Television premieres THE WAHINE DISASTER, an extraordinary documentary on Wednesday April 9 at 8.30 PM, forty years to the day the Wahine set sail.

Many of the survivors and rescuers speak for the first time

On that day in April, 1968 – the country’s newest inter-island ferry Wahine set sail on her overnight journey from Lyttleton. She was also setting sail into the heart of the most violent storm in New Zealand’s history. Over 730 people were on board.

The hour long documentary, made by Storm UK Productions, follows passengers as they boarded the ferry on that “beautiful calm night” – right through to the end of the journey. One that would change all their lives.

In this extraordinary tale, the survivors and rescuers share their harrowing stories.
David – a six-year-old boy had no idea the ship was sinking until it lurched and he was thrown into the rails – broke his ankle and fell overboard. The heavy seas stripped him of both his life jacket and clothes. Naked, he recalls clinging to a piece of wood for hours. “ Older people tried to hang on to the side – but I was too young to help them, they let go and went under”. David was found hours later unconscious – washed up among the rocks.

Diane and her husband Ken tell of their horror as someone from the deck threw them a baby – as their lifeboat drifted from Wahine. The baby went straight into the water – its shawl unravelling and they never saw it resurface.

Eyewitnesses to the “the blackest day in Wellington’s history” tell their story too. Stuart opened his curtains “to see this huge passenger liner coming straight towards my house”. He was the first to call the police.

Every New Zealander should watch THE WAHINE DISASTER – to learn what it is to have the courage to survive, the courage to risk your own lives to save others. They will also learn of the extent of the personal tragedy suffered by so many that day.

Producer/director Sharon Barbour says the story of the Wahine has fascinated her since childhood and she has been working on this for many years.

“Quite a few of those survivors haven’t talked about their experience up until now – and their recounting of their own stories has incredible power.”

It is a story which has taken years to research and which has remained largely untold – until now. THE WAHINE DISASTER, only on Maori Television April 9 at 8.30 PM.

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  • David Knight

    my name is david knight i am the little boy who they found on the rocks at pencarrowe i lost my sister and brother on the wahine gordon and alma i will never understant why them and not me i guess i will never know until it is my time to pass on and to be with them , i do not know who found me on the rocks but if you are out there please let me know from david knight.

  • Kevin

    Hi there

    I am an ex pat Kiwi based in Australia. I am trying to purchase any dvd’s on the Wahini Disaster. I would appreciate any advice as to where I can locate any

    My e mail id

    Many thanks for any assistance


  • James Barbour

    The Museum of Wellington also showed “The Wahine Disaster” to survivors and others on the anniversary. It was fantastic. You might be able to buy the DVD there.

  • Jenny and Zoe

    HI. We are students of Somerville Intermediate in Auckland and for our assignement we are studying the Wahine Disaster. We are trying to find survivors of the Wahine Disaster to interview. If it is possible could you please reply with your email address.

  • Maria

    The WAHINE Disaster – directed by Sharon Barbour
    Available from the Museum of Wellington – $29.95
    The hour long documentary premiered on Maori TV this year and shown to survivors of the tragedy on the anniversary is now available on DVD.
    The film’s already won international acclaim. It’s been nominated as Best Documentary or is the “Official Selection” of at least 5 major international film festivals this year.
    It’s the pipeline for broadcast on the BBC and the UK’s Royal Television Society is planning a special screening on a major IMAX cinema.
    “Wahine is an intensely moving story” REEL EARTH 2008 FESTIVAL SEASON – Official Selection
    “Gripping” **** Tom Goulter for FLICKS.CO.NZ

  • Emily

    I am studying the Wahine for my history project NCEA and I was wondering of there is anyone that I can interview or any good dvd’s that I can borrow from somewhere as I need different sources. If there is could you please reply with your email?

  • Roimata

    Hey, i am studying the Wahine Disaster for my Achievement Standard NCEA Level 1 in history. i am really keen for peoples perspectives and responses towards the Wahine Disaster. If there is anyone who could help with this it would really be appreciated as i said i am really keen to hear what you think. Um if so could you please reply or e-mail your replies to me.
    Thank you

  • Just me

    The interesting thing is maybe if everyone had of stayed on the ship, then maybe there might not of been any deaths.