Wahine disaster 1968

Where can I find information about the Wahine disaster in 1968?

Junior Secondary

(Years 7-10)

1968 black and white photo of the Wahine Ferry tilting on its side in the Wellington harbour.

Image: Wahine sinking in Wellington Harbour by Dominion post. Collection: Alexander Turnbull Library (modified from original).

Entry last updated: 18/04/23


The Wahine was a ferry that ran between Lyttelton and Wellington. In 1968, the ferry sank in a severe storm just off the coast of Wellington. Over fifty people died, making it one of the worst maritime disasters in New Zealand's history.

General websites

The following websites give you a great overview of the Wahine disaster.


This is a great website for information about New Zealand Aotearoa. There are two ways of searching for information on this site. You can enter your keywords into the search bar at the top of the page or do an event search, following these steps:

  • go to the Events tab

  • then choose Events A-Z, and

  • select W, then Wahine Disaster.

Tips: If we go all the way down the page we can see that this website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so we should be able to trust the information.

Christchurch City Libraries

This public library website has a section especially for Kids which includes lots of information about New Zealand disasters, as well as websites for you to explore further.

  • From the Explore tab, go to Tamariki - Kids.

  • Then choose Homework from the menu on the right.

  • Look down to the end of the Subject guides section and look for the heading New Zealand disasters.

  • Choose the Wahine shipwreck.

Tips: The information on this website is written by librarians from Christchurch City Libraries so the information should be well researched and reliable.

Heritage at Hutt City Libraries

This is a blog for Hutt City Libraries. Entries are put together by Librarians and include lots of photos.

  • Search for 'Wahine'.

  • Read Wahine Disaster.

  • It includes information about how the disaster has been commemorated recently like a memorial in Eastbourne.

New Zealand Maritime Record

This website is supported by the New Zealand National Maritime Museum, so we know we can trust the information. Here you will find lots of information about the ferry itself, including diagrams of the layout of the ship, pictures from inside before the sinking, as well as information about the sinking.

  • Look down to the section called New Zealand Maritime Disasters.

  • Select Wahine.

Tips: Websites that have .com or .co in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About us link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the company’s mission and values are.

Primary sources

Primary sources are things like letters, images, diaries, and other information created during that time in history or by people who were there.


DigitalNZ is a search site that focuses on New Zealand history and brings together results from lots of different websites such as libraries, museums, universities and government sites all at once. It has lots of primary sources and the results are grouped by the type of information.

  • Search for 'Wahine disaster' and look through the different tabs of results.

  • Go to Audio results to find interviews with survivors of the shipwreck.

  • Try Video results to find original clips and more recent documentaries about the disaster.

Tips: Websites that have .org or .net in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About us link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the organisation’s mission and values are.

New Zealand Electronic Text Centre

This is a digitised collection of New Zealand and Pacific texts and includes lots of historical books. Here you will be able to find a book published in 1970, two years after the disaster.

  • Search using keywords like 'Wahine disaster'.

  • Select The Wahine Disaster listed under Works.

  • Choose the link to Chapter One to start reading.

Tips: We like sites like this because they’re reliable. You can tell because of the web address – they have .ac, meaning they are from an educational organisation. They’re also a New Zealand site, so relevant for us.

EPIC resources

EPIC is a collection of reliable resources covering lots of different topics. It’s put together especially for New Zealand school students and helps to answer questions like this.

Australia New Zealand Reference Centre Plus

This database has lots of newspaper and magazine articles from New Zealand and Australia.

  • Enter 'Wahine disaster' into the search bar to find lots of results.

  • Make sure to tick the Full Text box to limit your results to articles that can be read online.

New Zealand Geographic Online

This is the entire archive of the New Zealand Geographic magazine, with articles and pictures of New Zealand people, culture and history.

Tips: To get to the EPIC resources you will need a password from your school librarian first. Or you can chat with one of our AnyQuestions librarians between 1 and 6pm Monday to Friday and they will help you online. Some EPIC databases may also be available through your public library.


There are a number of books that have been written about the Wahine disaster. Check out your local public or school library to see what they have there.

Here are a few recommended titles:

SCIS no: 1839722

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