WW100 – New Zealand's First World War Centenary Programme ran from 2014 to 2019

Please note this site has been archived

NZ'S FIRST WORLD WAR CENTENARY 2014–2019

Restoring the Nautilus

Restoration of the Nautilus, the launch that transported wounded troops from the shore to hospital ships off the coast at Gallipoli, was completed in 2016.

Nautilus on its return to New Zealand in 1919. Image courtesy of Christchurch City Libraries: CCL-Collection22-IMG02335.

The Nautilus launch transported wounded troops from the shore to hospital ships during the Gallipoli campaign in 1915 and until the end of the First World War.

It's refurbishment by the Voyager National Maritime Museum in Auckland was completed in 2016.

History of the Nautilus

In 1915, the New Zealand Government chartered two transport liners, converted them into hospital ships and sent them to the Mediterranean to attend to our wounded troops who were involved in the Gallipoli campaign.

The liner the Maheno left New Zealand shores first while the Marama, which was the larger of the two hospital ships, departed with two launches loaded onto its main deck. 

One of the launches was the 12.5 metre long Nautilus which had been loaned to Government by the then owner who had enrolled with the New Zealand Army. The two launches would be required to transport wounded troops from the shore to the hospital ships that would be anchored off the coast and beyond the range on enemy artillery fire.

Around the World & Home again

For the next four years, the two hospital ships travelled the globe staffed by kiwi sailors, doctors and nurses. In 1919 they finally returned home together with the Nautilus that was returned to its owner in Christchurch, apparently with the stretcher brackets still in place and bullet holes in its superstructure.

The Nautilus, which was upgraded with a new motor installed, was then used to ferry passengers from New Brighton and up the Avon River during the 1920s and 1930s. Following alterations to its deck structure, the launch was used for excursions on the Lyttelton Harbour. In more recent times, the Nautilus was used as a pleasure craft.

Refurbishing the Nautilus

In 2011 the then owner decided to gift the Nautilus to the New Zealand National Maritime Museum. Comment was made at the official handing over ceremony (attended by the Minister of Defence, the Hon Wayne Mapp) that the Nautilus was the only surviving craft from the First World War campaign in the Mediterranean and should be part of New Zealand’s Anzac Day commemorations at Gallipoli in 2015.

Unfortunately the condition of the Nautilus at the time would not permit the launch to be used for the above purpose unless major renovation work was undertaken and the vessel was surveyed for passenger use.

Thanks to the assistance of the Lion Foundation, the Sky City Auckland Charitable Trust and the Trillian Trust, the Nautilus is now a regular feature on the Waitemata Harbour.

Click on the image to view full size
Refurbishment of Nautilus underway at the Museum's premises
The Nautilus on the Avon-Heathcote Estuary in the 1920s. Image courtesy of Christchurch City Libraries: CCL Photo Collection 22, Img00080.
This activity is being worked on from
August 2012
 to 
November 2016
Date added: 24 October 2012 | Last updated: 28 March 2017