Kong movie ship scuttled in strait

19:58, Feb 09 2010

After 54 years, the ship that nearly made it into King Kong has slipped beneath the waves, leaving behind only bubbles and flotsam.

The Manuia was sent to its grave 1.7 kilometres down in Cook Strait yesterday, after years as a familiar sight at Miramar Wharf.

Marco Zeeman, who campaigned for the ship to be sunk for divers to explore, documented the occasion.

He said it was a pity the ship was scuttled to such depths, instead of in shallow water where divers could enjoy it. "It's of no use to anyone. It's a crying shame that it's gone."

Built in 1956, the Manuia operated as a tuna fishing ship before being fitted out for Sir Peter Jackson's King Kong in 2005.

But it started taking on water during filming near Kapiti Island and the crew abandoned ship. The scenes never made it into the movie.

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Sir Peter then sold the ship to a Wellington property developer who planned to use it as the centrepiece for a waterfront aquarium, but the plan foundered.

For the past four years the rusting hulk was moored at Miramar Wharf. Plans to sink it in Mana Harbour failed to get resource consent.

Porirua Dive Reef Community Trust chairman Mark Copsey said it was a missed opportunity. "Conservatism and inertia from some sectors of the community have lead to Porirua missing out on having a permanent connection to the King Kong movie."

Wellington harbour master Mike Pryce said sinking the ship in shallow water could not be done without resource consent, and it was a relief to have the matter finished.

The ship was towed out to the Cook Strait dumping ground yesterday morning, reaching the location 24 kilometres south of Cape Palliser by 12pm. The boat was gone by 1pm.

No explosives were used. The holes in the hull were simply opened and the ship allowed to fill.

Mr Zeeman said it was a slow process for the first 50 minutes, but then the ship went down quickly.

The Dominion Post