US 'Great White Fleet' arrives in Auckland

9 August 1908

Queen Street during celebrations for Fleet Week, 1908
Queen Street during celebrations for Fleet Week, 1908 (Alexander Turnbull Library, 1/2-001234-G)

Sixteen American battleships arrived in New Zealand with much pomp and ceremony.

A feature of the six-day ‘fleet week’ stopover was a civic reception attended by most of the members of the New Zealand Parliament, who had travelled north from Wellington aboard the ‘Parliament Special’ – the first train to traverse the whole length of the still-unfinished main trunk railway line (see 6 November).

The ‘Great White Fleet’ was a popular nickname for the US Navy battle fleet dispatched on a global tour by President Theodore Roosevelt to show off the United States’ growing naval capability.

Between December 1907 and February 1909 the fleet covered nearly 70,000 km and visited 20 ports on six continents. It travelled down the east coast of South America and through the Straits of Magellan before arriving in San Francisco in May 1908. Leaving California on 7 July, it crossed the Pacific to Auckland.

After stopovers in Australia, the Great White Fleet visited the Philippines, Japan and China before returning to America’s Atlantic coast via Ceylon (Sri Lanka), the Suez Canal and the Straits of Gibraltar.