Happy 100th to the Lady of the Lake
Lake Wakatipu tourist attraction the TSS Earnslaw celebrated its 100th birthday in style yesterday, with a centennial cruise marked by cannon-fire, a flotilla escort and singing crowds.
Many faces from the past, including former captains and engineers, joined descendants of the original shipwrights and designers of the twin screw steamer.
The majority of those on board for the cruise to Kingston were dressed in period costume. On arrival at Kingston the steamer was met by the Kingston Flyer, the steam train that transported the ship piece by piece to the Kingston wharf, where it was then reconstructed for its maiden launch in 1912.
One of the captains of the ship, Graham Moore-Carter, who has served as a skipper since 1980, said it was a pleasure to see the boat make its 100th milestone.
"During my 32 years on the Earnslaw it has been great to see it peak as a popular tourist attraction, and become a linchpin of the many attractions Queenstown is lucky enough to be able to support," he said.
"Today has really been the icing on the cake of her long history and many many people can take credit for the fact that she's even here today, still working as a vessel that is maintained to an almost perfect degree."
Those parties included owners Real Journeys, who bought the steamer in the 1960s, saving it from possibly being scuttled when the steam age ended and New Zealand Railways Corporation had decommissioned it.
A long line of chief engineers had poured their "hearts and souls" into maintaining the boat, Mr Moore-Carter said.
"The engineers have really taken their technical expertise and foresight and vision and poured it into the beautiful steam technology to keep the Earnslaw running, and ensuring she will keep running for a long time to come."
Captaining the steamer for the past 32 years had been an "absolute pleasure", Mr Moore-Carter said.
"There's never been a single day I haven't wanted to turn up to work, and the view from the office window - in my case the wheelhouse - is not too bad at all."
As the Earnslaw returned to the steamer wharf in Queenstown it was followed by a flotilla of 20 large and small boats and greeted by cannon-fire. A large crowd, many of whom also dressed in period costume, sang Happy Birthday as it berthed.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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