SS Wairarapa




The SS Wairarapa was the third-worst shipwreck in New Zealand waters, 121 lives were lost when the Union Steam Ship Company steamer SS Wairarapa struck Miners Head, on the northern tip of Great Barrier Island, 90 km north-east of Auckland.

The SS Wairarapa was a well-known steamer plying the route between Auckland and Sydney.


The SS Wairarapa was a well-known steamer plying the route between Auckland and Sydney. Only weeks before this tragedy the ship had crossed the Tasman in record time. On the fateful trip the SS Wairarapa was carrying 170 passengers and 65 crew.

In thickening fog, Captain J.S. McIntosh maintained 13 knots (24 kph), nearly full speed. A number of crew and passengers were concerned that the ship was going too fast. Shortly after midnight the steamer slammed against the cliffs of Great Barrier Island. As water began to flood in through a hole in the hull, the Wairarapa listed to one side. Many of those on board slid off the deck into the sea; others were swept away by heavy seas. Horses, sheep and other cargo were also swept overboard, adding to the confusion and risk for those in the water. Two lifeboats rescued 50 people from the sea, but other boats were smashed or swamped when they hit the water.

The passengers and crew left on board clung to the rigging or climbed to the bridge. When daylight arrived a steward swam ashore with a line. Passengers were then hauled through the water. The survivors huddled on the rocks for more than 30 hours before being rescued by local Māori. As the island’s only contact with the outside world was via a weekly steamer, news of the shipwreck took three days to reach Auckland
In all, 101 of the 186 passengers and 20 of the 65 crew died. The resulting Court of Enquiry found that Captain McIntosh’s actions were the primary cause of the tragedy. As well as maintaining excessive speed, he was judged to have taken the wrong course from the Three Kings Islands and not made allowance for currents.


Our single day charters include two tank dives from our boat Midnight Diver. Dive gear is provided to all of our customers.

If you are excited about wreck diving then why not book our unique Wreck Weekend tour. Up to four wrecks are possible to dive. Food and accommodation are excluded in the price.

If you are interested in taking your Wreck Diver certification then please contact us and we will be glad to help you


Diving is an adventure activity that includes risk to your person. Under New Zealand law we are we required to notify you of the following statement.

You accept that this activity inherently involves risks and potential hazards. The risks and hazards include, but are not limited to breathing compressed gas, marine traffic, marine life, decompression sickness, drowning, barotrauma, air embolism, decompression illness, dehydration, gas narcosis, malfunctioning equipment, ear problems, sun damage, hyperthermia, hypothermia, sea sickness, and adverse weather events.

These activities are run in the outdoors on the ocean, so may be exposed to sudden natural disasters such as, but not limited to Tsunami, Earthquakes, Slips Landslides or Rock Falls, or Volcanic Eruption. I am aware that participating in the activities offered by New Zealand Diving Limited can be hazardous even if they are conducted with care, control, and responsibility. You acknowledge that these risks could result in my injury (physical or mental) or even death.



Please read our terms & conditions found on our website page, frequently asked questions before booking:

Sometimes our activities may have to be rescheduled due to situations outside of our control, such as poor weather. Please note we reschedule in such situations, as described in our terms and conditions.

Overseas participants are advised to carry travel insurance in case rescheduling is unsuitable.

All participants must be of good health and complete a medical declaration. This is available on our website:

All participants must be diving certified to dive on a charter or undergoing a diving course with New Zealand Diving Limited.

All participants must be able to swim a minimum of 200m, unassisted.


To enquire about this charter, contact us via email or call us on 09 422 3599, alternately why not join our Great Barrier liveaboard charter, the SS Wairarapa is a dive site destination for this trip.


Remember to bring an appropriate change of clothes, lunch or snacks, water and sunscreen. Dive gear is provided.

To learn more about diving shipwrecks take a wreck diving course and experience the excitement of the SS Wairarapa


Join New Zealand Diving and see one of New Zealand’s most iconic shipwrecks. See maritime history at Great Barrier Island

  • Warkworth, North Island, New Zealand
  • Dive SS Wairarapa Shipwreck
  • -
  • $375


Please contact us using the enquiry form below, if you would like to know more about any diving options featured on our website. Interested in a particular course? Need help with finding suitable diving equipment? Or, any other questions that you may have? Please use this contact form to get in touch with us.

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