The Wahine Disaster | TV ONE SHOWS A-Z | TV ONE | [an error occurred while processing this directive]
The Wahine Disaster
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Congratulations to Bryan Shaw, who won Achievement in Editing (Documentary/Factual Programme) at the Qantas Film and Television Awards                   

Stunning new animation is about to bring to life the last moments of the inter island ferry Wahine.

The animations are in a 40th anniversary documentary looking at the sinking of the passenger ferry in Wellington Harbour on April 10, 1968. Fifty one of the ship's 735 passengers and crew died after they were forced to jump for their lives as the Wahine rolled over just hundreds of metres from houses in suburban Seatoun.

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Wahine Disaster - The Facts

The animations show for the first time the incredible sea conditions faced by the Wahine as she entered the harbour as the worst recorded storm in New Zealand history hit the capital.

Wind gusts that day reached an amazing 276 kilometres an hour, with gust in excess of 160 kilometres an hour blowing over a four-hour period.

The computer-generated graphics show the Wahine entering the harbour and being overtaken by the storm.

Based on data from NIWA, eyewitnesses and expertise from former Cook Strait ferry master Captain John Brown, the animators have recreated the sea conditions.

The animations show the massive following sea, which was racing at an incredible 30 plus kilometres an hour. They then show the giant wave, which picked up the 9000 tonne Wahine and flung her sideways on to the sea.

Captain Brown, who was on the scene on Wahine Day and who later spent 30 years commanding Cook Strait ferries, says the animations are stunningly realistic.

"They capture the sea conditions that day very well," he says.

The animation has been made by Auckland company Forensic Animations, an off shoot of Virtual Spectator, the company which has done the visualisation for such events as the Volvo round the world ocean race and for the international rally circuit.

Documentary producer David Lomas says it was decided to use animation because "there is no film footage showing how wild the sea was and how incredible strong the wind was when the Wahine was driven on to the reef."

"All the old television new footage was taken hours later and shot from a long way away. It gives no impression at all of the reality."

Lomas remembers the storm clearly.

With his two brothers he was on the scene within 20 minutes of the ship hitting the reef.

"The weather was just unbelievable," he recalls.

"We were in my father's old Hillman Super Minx and as we drove through the Pass of Branda, which overlooks Barrett Reef, it just started shuddering as the wind hit it. And there was an incredible noise as stones were hitting the car. It was like someone was standing there just throwing handfuls and handfuls of stones at us while others were jumping on the car bouncing it up and down.

"We saw a murky outline which we think was the Wahine. But we never got out of that car - it was too frightening."

Watch news footage from NZBC on the disaster on TVNZ ondemand

Lomas says the documentary, which has been directed by Jill Graham, is a new look at the disaster.

The animation shows for the first time how the Wahine came to hit Barrett Reef.

"Then we have tried concentrated on a few people and followed their day of horror," he says.

Among those interviewed for the documentary are a Canterbury farmer and his wife who were dumped against rocks on the Pencarrow coastline, a Wellington businesswoman who as the last person rescued from the water and a Wahine crew member who had to quell a mutiny on one of the life boats.

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