Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Wahine Disaster

The TEV Wahine sank in April 1968 when it was driven onto Barrett’s reef at the entrance to Wellington harbour, New Zealand, during cyclone Giselle. Further details on the disaster are available on Wikipedia. Captain Robertson’s godson also has a website with information about Wahine’s captain and the disaster.

The Wahine aground on Barrett's reef.

A large oil slick seeps out of the wreck to be carried away by the outgoing tide.

Two days after the sinking the remnants of the cyclone still fill the sky. The VHS radio-telephone antenna on the roof of the bridge is now silent.

Lifeboat P4 still secure in its davits. Fuel oil covers the deck and superstructure.

Lifeboats P1 (right) and P2 (left) secure in their davits.

Vehicle Deck facing aft. All vehicles are submerged having broken away from their chains and fallen to the bottom (other side) of this deck. There is a thick layer of fuel oil floating on the surface. The oil slick marks the high tide point on the deck above.

D Deck smokeroom with floating objects and furniture. A soaked curtain now lies horizontally, supported by its tieback.

D Deck: Cabin contents in situ piled up on the cabin wall, now a horizontal surface. University lecture notes and textbooks suggest the passenger was a Canterbury University student. The washbasin cover is open with the drinking glass still in its holder above it. The fluorescent tube above the mirror was shaken out of its fitting by the violent action of the vessel during the storm, as have the two emergency information notices that were glued on either side of the mirror.

D Deck cabin: Interior of one of the three-berth cabins for stewards. Each steward had one of the three narrow clothes wardrobes on the right. The wardrobe doors hang open revealing soaked clothes, still on their hangers. The cabin's sofa seat floats in a layer of feathers from shredded pillows and other objects.

A Deck facing forward. In the foreground a liferaft davit quick release hook hangs open with its painter still attached. Two square platforms used for storing the liferafts in their containers on the deck are visible. In the background, a chest labelled "Life Jackets" is open, but empty. The force of the waves appears to have broken the metal electrical conduit joining the light fixtures above the windows. A section of this conduit is seen bent and broken on the far bulkhead above the life jacket chest. The handrails above the light fixtures have also been distorted by the force of the sea.

B Deck facing aft. When the order was given to abandon ship, the vessel had such a severe list to starboard that none of the port side lifeboats could be launched. They sit firmly secured on their davits.

A Deck facing aft. The image shows an electric motor, just in front of the lifeboat. This motor operated the winch visible at centre right for hoisting and lowering the lifeboat. This particular lifeboat was different to the others which had to be rowed or driven by hand cranking the propeller. It had a diesel motor so was used as a work boat by salvagers during the subsequent breaking up of the wreck.

B Deck promenade facing forward. The heavy weather-proof solid teak doors open to the main foyer with access to the ship's shop on the left and B Deck smoke room on right.

B Deck promenade facing aft. The fire hose was removed from its container on the stair railing (bottom left of photo) to help passengers slide off the vessel and into life rafts. It was washed back on the deck by the force of the waves pounding the ship, as were the rope ladders designed for that purpose.

B Deck smokeroom with a shredded life jacket and a baby's bottle, still with milk inside, floating among tables and other objects.

A Deck: One of several single-berth cabins for the Wahine's engineers. A glass tumbler, books, upturned drawers and a can of shoe polish float gently from side to side and nudge each other in the swell of the oily water.

D Deck facing forward. Section of the upper garage showing part of the circular outer edge of the turntable used by the Wahine's seamen for turning passengers' cars inside this confined space. The vehicles now lie out of sight on the other side of the flooded garage, deep below a thick layer of fuel oil.

C Deck promenade facing aft. The electric clock stopped at 10:08 when electrical power to the vessel was lost due to engine failure.

C Deck promenade facing forward. The manila rope ladders were washed back on the vessel by the force of the waves.

D Deck smokeroom: The movement of the ship as it heeled over was violent enough to tear timber room fittings off the walls and to break furniture apart. Note the piece of timber with the protruding screws, and the floating bench in the foreground. Yet remarkably, the fluorescent tube is still intact among the floating debris despite being torn out of its ceiling holder.

The Wahine at rest.

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