Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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Wahine fifty years on

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.

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Batten down the hatches!

Just as I begin recovery from the recent onslaught of a severe migraine attack, I find we are about to face a new onslaught. What was supposed to be the tail end of Cyclone Cook is making landfall about now. Over the last day it has intensified and has now been categorised as the most severe weather event to hit Aotearoa New Zealand in almost fifty years.

On the 10th of April 1968, Cyclone Giselle, the worst extratropical cyclone in New Zealand’s recorded history caused widespread damage throughout the country and the sinking of the Inter-Island ferry TEV Wahine, resulting in the death of 53 passengers.

Everyone has all but forgotten the name of the cyclone. Those like myself who lived through it simply remember it as the Wahine Storm ot Wahine Disaster. It’s an experience few can forget. Lets hope Cyclone Cook proves to be an anticlimax.

The clip linked to below is taken from the evening news bulletin that day. For those of us there it seemd more dramatic as we had the “privilege” of watching the event unfolding through our television screens and knowing that the weather prevented any effective rescue.
https://www.nzonscreen.com/embed/7e15d764847b5b81


Postscript: All very much a let down in this part of the country. The cyclone tracked further east than had been predicted and my side of North Island received only a moderate amount of rain and winds that fell short of being gale force. Other parts of the country did experience gale force winds and torrential rain, flooding, fallen trees, power cuts, block roads etc, here it could barely be described as a storm at all. Cyclone Cook will not go down in history as the second most severe weather event to hist the country in recent history.


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Batten down the hatches.

Cyclone Pam is heading our way. When it passed over Vanuatu it was a category 5 cyclone with winds up to 340 Km/hr (211 mph) destroying almost everything in its path.

Fortunately there’s a lot of cool ocean between Vanuatu and NZ so it should reduce in significantly in intensity. Never the less, the MetService is warning of gale force winds and that the sea may rise by as much as 3.5 m (11.5 ft) and 5 m (16.5 ft) tomorrow.

Similar storms in the past have caused land slips and heavy flooding due to the very heavy rain of a large area, swelling rivers and streams which are unable to drain quickly due to the high seas.

While grateful that the storm is likely to track down the east coast avoiding damage in my locality, I will really miss not being able to enjoy the adrenaline rush I always get during such events. I’ve never taken mind altering drugs, but I doubt they could ever produce anything so exhilarating as a really good storm. If I’m destined to end my life violently, let it be due to a cyclone.

As much as I would have liked to include a weather animation here, WordPress won’t allow me to do so. The best I can do is this link: The weather tracked in real time