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On board the Wanganella at the National Library

On board the Wanganella at the National Library Gallery

One of the highlights of the current National Library Gallery exhibition Manapouri: Art, Power, Protest is a series of photographs that documents the workers who stayed on the hostel ship Wanganella during the construction of the hydropower station.

These portraits were produced by Hazledine’s Photographic Studio in Invercargill. They were published in The Dominion and other newspapers in the mid-1960s.

The photographs are displayed with their original captions, providing a unique glimpse into the society on board the Wanganella. The ship’s doctor, warehouse foreman, canteen manager, nurse and morse-operator are all photographed in their unusual workspaces.

One of the photographs profiles Sister Bernadette McCarthy, Chief Assistant to the Medical Officer. As the sole woman among 280 men, her medical skills were in high demand. Sister McCarthy describes herself as ‘rather ordinary and plain’, but adds that she has ‘more or less been put on a pedestal’ by the men.

The exhibition also includes full cans of beer packaged specifically for workers on the Manapouri power project by New Zealand Breweries. This beer was never released on the New Zealand market and the cans have subsequently become collectors’ items.

Following the completion of the project, the Wanganella was towed from Doubtful Sound. According to legend, the tug struggled to budge the hostel ship from a bed of empty beer cans tossed overboard by workers.

Manapouri: Art, Power, Protest is showing at the National Library Gallery in Molesworth Street until 15 March 2008. The online version of the exhibition can be visited at

Hazledine's Studio, Sister Bernadette McCarthy, c 1964, Silver gelatin print, Evening Post Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library, Reference: EP-Energy-Hydro Electricity-Manapouri Power project-Wanganella Hostel Ship at Deep Cove-02


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