Wahine Disaster survivor pens first official book recounting historic tragedy

Wahine Disaster survivor pens first official book recounting historic tragedy

Peter Jerram is a retired Marlborough veterinarian, an author and a survivor of the Wahine disaster in 1968. There's a new book out that he has penned and it's called 'The Team that Hit the Rocks The Inside Story of the Wahine Disaster'.

He shares his harrowing experiences and insights into the maritime tragedy that remains a significant part of New Zealand's history. 

One of the key talking points of the conversation is Jerram's unique position as the first survivor to write a book about the disaster. When asked about the reluctance of survivors to share their stories, Jerram reflects on the cultural norms of the time.

"It was sort of very Victorian. It wasn't the 'me me me' world that we have today, and you never talked about yourself or things that have happened to you, either good or bad." 

He describes how even among his cricket team, they never discussed the event after it happened, following their captain's advice to put it behind them. Jerram also delves into the inadequacies of the initial inquiry into the Wahine disaster, pointing out that the official narrative did not align with the truth he discovered during his research. 

"The inquiry is the thing that I found most interesting about this research because the results of the inquiry were not the real story." 

Jerram's book sheds light on the failures in decision-making by the ship's captain and the shortcomings in the communication with passengers and rescue services, which he believes contributed significantly to the loss of 53 lives. Furthermore, Jerram provides a gripping personal account of the day the Wahine hit Barrett Reef, describing the chaos and fear that ensued. 

"I seriously wondered if I was going to survive the day." 

Jerram eventually jumped from the ship and was rescued by a lifeboat, an act of fortune that saved him from the tragic fate many others suffered that day. The conversation concludes with a sense of accomplishment as Jerram reflects on the journey of writing the book after retirement.

"I'm pleased it's finished and out and I'm reasonably satisfied." 

His work is praised as an important contribution to the historical understanding of the Wahine disaster, offering a narrative that challenges the accepted story and serves as a testament to the power of inquiry and remembrance.

The conversation captures the essence of a survivor's quest to uncover the obscured truths of a national tragedy and the impact it had on his life and the collective memory of New Zealand.

Listen to the full chat between Peter Jerram and Dominic George above.

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