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Written by Max Lambert and Jim Hartley, published by A. H. & A. W. Reed, Wellington in 1969. Hardback with dust jacket and 221 pages illustrated with 40 monochrome photographs. Although the dust jacket is worn it has kept the book in very good condition.

COOK STRAIT, separating the North and South Islands of New Zealand, is an area of high winds and strong tidal currents. In the ?ercer gales the seas run high and ?ying spray may reduce visibility to zero. The passage from the strait into Wellington Harbour is narrow. In the very entrance lies Battrett Reef - a chain of jagged rocks that reduce the main channel to a width of three quarters of a mile. In severe storm conditions ships leaving or entering the harbour exercise extreme caution.

In the early hours of 10 April 1968 the 8,948 ton steamer express Wahine, pride of the Union Steam Ship Company’s ?eet, was battling her way northwards to Wellington through weather that was bad, though not abnormally so. But when approaching the position of maximum danger from the reef she was struck by a storm of unprecedented ferocity.

Visibility dropped to zero, the ship’s radar was disabled, and in wildly-plunging seas she struck Barrett Reef. Badly holed, her engines out of action, she drifted helplessly up-harbour to founder off the western shore. Though men in ships big and small risked their craft and their lives to go to the rescue in that storm, 51 of the Wahine’s complement of 735 passengers and crew lost their lives. The miracle is that, in such conditions, the toll was so light.

From interviews with members of the Wahine’s passengers and crew, and with their rescuers, and from the official enquiry report, Max Lambert and Jim Hartley have re-created in dramatic form, but without pandering to sensationalism, the narrative of this great sea-tragedy.
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