Tuesday, April 10, 2018

50 years after the Wahine Disaster

Today is the 50th Anniversary of New Zealand’s worst modern maritime disaster, the sinking of the ferry Wahine, which capsized in Wellington Harbour on April 10, 1968. The video above from RNZ describes the tragedy. There were 736 people on board, and according to History New Zealand, “Fifty-one people lost their lives that day, another died several weeks later and a 53rd victim died in 1990 from injuries sustained in the wreck.”

This video from Archives New Zealand is of photos from that fateful day:

According to the video’s YouTube description:
This video was created by Archives New Zealand in 2013 for the 45th anniversary of the disaster. It shows a number of images and documents on the 'Wahine' from our holdings, including onboard photographs, images of the rescue effort, and underwater shots.
The final video, which aired yesterday on TVNZ’s Seven Sharp programme, tells the story of two people who were brought together and linked together by the tragedy:

Shirley Hick’s son, Gordie, is the one who died in 1990 because of the brain damage he suffered that day.

When I arrived in New Zealand in 1995, the tragedy had happened only 27 years earlier, so a huge number of New Zealanders had personal memories of the tragedy. I heard about it many times in my early years in the country, and then, over time, I started to hear about it less often. It’s the way things go as historic events begin to fade from living memory and become the stuff of history books and dark, grainy archival film. That particular inevitability adds another layer of sadness, I think, but that, too, will fade as the event continues to disappear from living memory. Then, as it disappears from living memory altogether, only the tragedy will remain, and it will be remembered in a different way.

The important thing, though, is that it will be remembered.

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