An Interislander ferry sounded its horn to mark the time the Wahine struck Barrett Reef this morning and, weather permitting, another will form the backdrop to a flotilla on Wellington Harbour this afternoon, as KiwiRail helps commemorate the 50-year anniversary of the Wahine tragedy.
KiwiRail is a key sponsor of this year’s Wahine 50th commemorations, taking place today.
“The rail ferry Aramoana, which was part of what is now the Interislander fleet, played a role in rescuing passengers from the Union Steam Ship Company’s Wahine. Crew from Aramoana bravely volunteered to man lifeboats in the rough seas and rescue passengers and crew from the sinking ferry,” says KiwiRail Chief Executive Peter Reidy.
“KiwiRail and Interislander wanted to help commemorate this event as it’s important to recognise the lives that were lost and saved, the brave rescuers involved and the impact it has had on the maritime industry.
“The Wahine disaster helped shape maritime safety systems in New Zealand, and changed the way ferries operate on the Cook Strait.
“Today, we have better designed ships, improved bridge management systems, state of the art weather forecasting, comprehensive seafarer training and stricter regulations, all of which mean sailing on the Cook Strait is a much safer experience for customers and crew than it was 50 years ago.
“The Wahine disaster also changed the way New Zealand responds to disasters and gave rise to organisations such as the Life Flight rescue helicopter service, which Interislander supports.
“We are honoured to help commemorate this important event in New Zealand’s history.”
As part of the 50th anniversary commemorations in Wellington on 10 April, the Interislander ferry Aratere sailed past during the Dawn Service at Eastbourne. It sounded its horn at 6.41am, the time the Wahine struck Barrett Reef, and a wreath was thrown from the deck of the ferry to mark the occasion.
This afternoon, the Interislander ferry Kaiarahi will sit as the backdrop to a flotilla steam-past of around 40 boats in Wellington harbour (including some which took part in the Wahine rescue 50 years ago).