Our Wellington weather has been glorious – so nice that after leaving Weta Cave with all the various monsters behind we decided to find a nice sunny spot at the beach to enjoy our picnic lunch. We checked the conditions at Shelly Bay, but the cool wind was blowing straight in, so we continued on around the coast and stopped at Scorching Bay. This was much better, we had left the wind behind, so out came the picnic rugs and we settled ourselves down on the low wall, to enjoy the sunshine and the fresh sea air. But what is this trotting across the sand – is that a group of frogmen? They were well kitted out in wet suits with air tanks on their backs. We decided that it was probably a group going out for some underwater training. The group quickly entered the water, and disappeared before our eyes, with only the marker flag on the surface showing where they went down.
The Inter Island Ferries passed by as we ate our lunch. This one was heavily laden with motor homes travelling down to the South Island. The passengers will be pleased that they had a nice calm day for their journey as the Cook Strait can be very rough and wild on occasions.
People were paddling in the shallows, and there was a spirited game of rugby taking place further up the beach. A few curious gulls were looking for a free lunch, but we had eaten ours, so they missed out.
After our leisurely lunch we continued on our drive around the bays, stopping at Seatoun to show Dot and Derek the Wahine Memorial, as they had not viewed it before. The sinking of the Lyttelton–Wellington ferry Wahine on 10 April 1968 was New Zealand’s worst modern maritime disaster, with a loss of over 50 lives. It occurred during one of the worst storms recorded in NZ history. This was a “coming of age” for television news broadcasting in New Zealand as images of the disaster were beamed into the nation’s living rooms. The footage was later screened around the world as the international media spotlight focused on Wellington. Would-be rescuers stood helplessly on the beach at Seatoun, and it seemed impossible that so many lives could be lost so close to shore. Many survivors and bodies were washed up on the opposite coast at Eastbourne. Volunteers with four wheel drive vehicles were pressed into service to aid the rescuers get around the rocky coastline.
The Wahine on Barretts Reef
The sound of sirens shattered the peace and a posse of motorbikes and police cars with flashing lights surrounding a couple of government cars drove up to us, and around the corner. One motor bike parked right in front of our cars, blocking off the road to traffic. What on earth was going on?
As we saw little flags fluttering from the cars, we presumed that it was a group of VIPs going to the airport to board a private plane. That was certainly a bit of excitement to finish our day.