Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Wahine disaster with the loss of 53 lives. I was almost 19 at the time and can still recall listening to the minute by minute live radio commentary as the disaster unfolded. What is so memorable is the feeling of helplessness. The ferocity of the storm meant the would-be rescuers could only watch while remaining onshore.
At that time, television broadcasting was only eight years old in Aotearoa New Zealand and this was the first occasion where a significant disaster was able to be recorded as it happened.
Almost no one remembers the name of the ex tropical cyclone (I had to look it up: Cyclone Giselle) that collided with an Antarctic front over Cook Strait causing perhaps the most severe weather event in NZ in the last 100 years. Everyone remembers it as the “Wahine Storm“.
Unsettled weather is common for this time of the year. Today, much of the country is experiencing gale force winds, tornadoes and snow. Where I live we are experiencing high winds, reaching gale force at times, and it’s currently 8°C (46°F), whereas at the same time yesterday it was calm, sunny and a mild 19°C (66°F). However, today’s weather is nothing compared to this day 50 years ago.