April this year marked the fifty year anniversary of New Zealand’s greatest maritime disaster. On April 10th, 1968 the Lyttelton to Wellington ferry, the Wahine sunk in Wellington Harbour with a loss of fifty-three lives. This disaster stunned the nation.
In the following days, amongst stories of heroism and loss, I recall one particular story about a wedding dress being consigned forever to the ocean floor. That memory is the trigger for the following two, very short stories.
Lazy waves, languidly licked the shoreline at Seatoun Beach as Henry stood alone surveying the calm seas. His tears flowed freely.
A week since Cyclone Giselle colluded with Southerly Front, wrecking havoc and heartache. Together, they unleashed an orchestrated assault against the defenceless vessel, relentlessly pummelling her with tumultuous, towering waves. Passengers and crew tossed into the churning seas, scrambled to board life rafts.
Heralded the worst maritime disaster in modern New Zealand history, many survived the ordeal. Henry’s beloved Rochelle did not.
On what should have been his wedding day, grieving and tormented, Henry stood alone at Seatoun Beach.
The Wedding Gown.
Rosie and Tom loved to forage in the rock pools at the end of Seatoun Beach. A week after the big storm, they scurried around the rocks poking sticks in crevices and delving their hands into silky sand searching for flotsam.
‘Over there,’ Tom shouted, as he nimbly skip-hopped to the edge of the rock shelf. He tugged at the small battered suitcase wedged under the rock. Rosie joined him and with a final yank, they freed the case.
Tom bashed the clasp with a rock. The lid sprung open, revealing a satin wedding gown adorned with shimmering pearl buttons.