Events In History


Cook Strait rail ferries

  • Cook Strait rail ferries

    On a fine, calm day ‘Cruising on the Interislander’ can be like a luxury Mediterranean cruise. But on a bad day Cook Strait can be one of the world's roughest stretches of water: seasickness, dodgy food and wildcat strikes have all been part of the colourful Cook Strait ferry story.

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  • Page 2 – 'The floating bridge'

    Before 1962 rail struggled to compete with ships for inter-island business, but the road/rail ferries changed that.

  • Page 3 – 'An array of awful pies'

    In the 1960s, the ferries' food and services fell short of the glossy ads, but now they are more upmarket.

  • Page 4 – Rough crossings

    Crossing Cook Strait is often idyllic, but it can be one of the world’s roughest stretches of water as it's part of the westerly wind belt known as the Roaring Forties

  • Page 5 – Branding the Cook Strait ferries

    From 'puke' green to funnells sprouting ferns, the ferries' branding and appearance have had many changes.

  • Page 7 – Fast ferries on Cook Strait

    The old fable about the tortoise and the hare was replayed on Cook Strait as fast ferries offered travellers a quick dash across the ditch.

  • Page 8 – Sailing into the 21st century

    The new century brought mixed fortunes for Cook Strait’s ‘iron bridge’.

  • Page 9 – Further information

    This web feature was written by Gavin McLean and produced by the NZHistory.net.nz team. LinksInterislander ship specs and postcardsInterislanderNew Zealand Maritime RecordNew

Lyttelton-Wellington ferries

  • Lyttelton-Wellington ferries

    For more than 80 years the overnight Lyttelton ferry was a vital link in the country's transport network.

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  • Page 2 – Key dates

    See a list of the key events in the life of the Lyttelton–Wellington ferry service.

  • Page 3 – The early years

    Although many ships sailed between Lyttelton and Wellington during the course of their longer voyages, a regular passenger service between those ports took time to develop.

  • Page 4 – Politicians and ferries

    Politicians used the ferries to travel between their electorates and Wellington, so they scrutinised the Union Steam Ship Company's management of the ships.

  • Page 5 – Cabins de luxe and glory holes

    The purpose-built Maori of 1907 was a big leap forward, but description of the cabins was limited to ‘well endowed with spring mattresses and superior bed coverings'

  • Page 6 – Just like clockwork

    Every night, weather and sea conditions permitting, two ships crossed in the night at about 1.25 a.m. off the Kaikoura coast as perhaps 1500 New Zealanders passed quite

  • Page 7 – Officers and gentlemen?

    Some of the ferry masters – each known as ‘the Old Man' to the crew – were almost as well known as the ships themselves.

  • Page 8 – In strife and war

    The Lyttelton–Wellington ferries were such a vital link for travellers that they were given priority whenever strikes or lockouts paralysed the wharves, but wars

  • Page 9 – End of the line

    In the face of competition from other forms of transport the Union Steam Ship Company abandoned its glamour ferry service, sending the Maori to the scrappers in 1974.

  • Page 10 – Ferry tales

    Some people tell their stories of travelling on the Lyttelton–Wellington ferries.

Merchant marine

  • Merchant marine

    On 3 September New Zealand honours Merchant Navy Day. Here we explore the little-known but vital role played by the merchant marine during the First World War, when these civilian seafarers often found themselves in the front line of the war at sea.

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  • Page 5 - The Wahine's wanderingsMost requisitioned ships continued to carry people or cargo. One Union Company ship, however, entered the Royal Navy and bore the prefix HMS. The Wahine was no ordinary
  • Main image: The Straitsman ferry

    The 13,906-ton Straitsman (ex-Dueodde), seen here at Picton in 2013, is the newest Cook Strait ferry. Its tall forward accommodation block and clear stern top deck gives it a different appearance to the other ships.