Photo acknowledged to the Dominion and Sunday Times newspapers.
Published on The Wahine website
Sunk by a storm, April 1968
walking alone you hear all of it
every power pole a-crackle with cicadas,
the sea rattling stones in raw hands,
weatherboard houses crying rust, a dog
hoarse at the end of its chain, the groaning
of a half-built boat,
where the gate is
where the sealed road
ends, where the coarse hills fall to their
knees, where the sky pours into a bay as
deep as houses, where we stopped
once to see the savaged sheep, marvelled
at the blood on the white wool, the twist
of its neck, where there’s the pull and push
of the Strait and the rocks bend dumbly to
take it, in the small suck between pull and
the sound of the truck that day
labouring on the shingle
the loose shoe falling
Photo caption: 'Steward Frank Hitchens lies shoe-less and unconscious on the back of a Landrover making its way north along the Pencarrow road, his legs hanging over the rear of the vehicle... Burdan's Gate, where ambulances were parked and waiting, is about a kilometre ahead. Note the condition of the road. Survivors on foot, most without shoes, had to walk for miles through rock debris washed down from the hills by the rain and thrown up by the seas.' [Thanks to the Wahine website for this.]
Frank Hitchens was one of the lucky ones. In his story on The Wahine website, (scroll down), he notes that 47 of the 223 people thrown up on the rocks and beaches along this coastline were killed.
I walk this road regularly as I live nearby. My brother turned one the day before the storm that claimed the Wahine. I was at school, we were sent home. My father was a radio and TV reporter so he spent the day reporting on events. A friend, Steve, broke through the police cordon and ran to help the people coming ashore. He saved lives.
The day the Wahine went down, is one of those days in Wellington where you know exactly what you were doing.
Do visit the Tuesday Poem hub for a fabulous poem about dance written by Jo Thorpe, and links, via the live blog roll, to a stack more Tuesday Poems.