Archives for April 2021


On the 24th February 1912, only a few weeks before the Titanic hit an iceberg and sank, a far more modest steamer was launched on the other side of the world. 109 years later, the TSS Earnslaw still plies the water on Otago’s Lake Wakatipu and has become a New Zealand icon and is one of the oldest coal fired steamers still in operation anywhere in the world.


In 1860, one of Queenstown’s early European inhabitants, sheep farmer William Rees, needed a way to ship his wool out of the area so he purchased a whaleboat and launched it on Lake Wakatipu. Called the Undine, it was the first vessel to regularly sail on the lake. The whaleboat was hauled by bullock sledge from Bluff to Kingston, a gruelling trip of 167km (103miles).  On arrival the bullocks were put on board and taken to his sheep farm at Queenstown Bay.  Once gold was discovered in the Shotover River in 1862, the Undine was used heavily to transport people and supplies.  This boat had the honour of carrying the first consignment of gold, some 25,000 ounces, out of the Wakatipu gold diggings. At today’s gold prices that one shipment was worth more than 55 million New Zealand dollars! read more