Monday, April 14, 2008

Sinking of the Wahine

It's the 40th anniversary of New Zealand's worst maritime disaster, the sinking of the inter-island ferry the Wahine, on April 10, 1968. I was only six at the time, but I still remember the news. And the photos taken then have been firmly engrained in most Kiwis' consciousness.

Since most Kiwis are only separated by two or three degrees of separation, we probably also knew someone who had been on the ferry that fateful day - the mother of an old friend of mine when I lived in Christchurch was one.

The weather was pretty much to blame - one of those perfect storms. And of the 734 men, women and children aboard, 53 lost their lives. Many of those who died were in the first lifeboat away, which swamped soon after launching.

What is interesting, is that only recently have Kiwis started talking about the disaster. As the New Zealand Herald's editorial stated, "They were undoubtedly encouraged in this by attitudes pervading New Zealand society 40 years ago. This was not a time for what might be thought unnecessary fuss. Survivors were given a cup of tea and sent home. In most cases, there was no talk of compensation. No Government medals for heroism were awarded. The message was to get on with life....

"The answer may lie in a further change emanating, in part, from the 2001 attack on the World Trade Centre. The survivors were encouraged to express their feelings. The firefighters who perished were lionised. In the midst of disaster, America looked for and found heroes.

"New Zealand is also paying ever more heed to its own heroes. The thousands who queued for hours to pay their last respects to Sir Edmund Hillary attest to that. So do the increasing attendances at Anzac Day commemorations. We have, as a society, become more sentimental."

5 comments:

Notebook said...

Hello. This post is likeable, and your blog is very interesting, congratulations :-). I will add in my blogroll =). If possible gives a last there on my blog, it is about the Notebook, I hope you enjoy. The address is http://notebooks-brasil.blogspot.com. A hug.

Michael said...

Kalar and its ilk have a liking for my blog as well these days. May fate strike them a falling anvil or some similar surprise...

And is it "sentiment"? Somehow it seems something more profound is being felt, more like a realization of soul, of life-spirit and self-awareness.

Capt'n "O" Dark 30 & Super Boo said...

kiwi... you can go in and delete Kalar... i deleted 3 of the posts on my blog...

Silbs said...

It seems many countries have their Titanics. These events enter the fabric of our legends and mythology.There is something about disaster at sea that touches us all.

Kristen said...

Thanks, Brian - forgot about that ;)