Category Archives: Ruahine

An iceberg in the South Pacific

An original and a David Aldersley copy

As shown in my 2018 book X8 – Early New Zealand Shipping Company Postcards and their Photographers, available to purchase here – often real photo postcards were re-published with changed text on the front. Sometimes the change happened when the cards were reproduced by David Aldersley, a prolific New Zealand-based photographer. However, David Aldersley was not the photographer in this case, the photograph was probably either by Henry George Keyse or Peter Zerface, barbers and photographers working for the New Zealand Shipping Company. My book illustrates a few postcards which have had reprints with changes made. These include photographs of stormy sea views from the deck of ships, as well as icebergs in the South Pacific.

I recently purchased another South Pacific iceberg postcard. This shows the original photograph before it was re-photographed and re-published by David Aldersley. The Aldersley version of the card is included in my book X8. This original has the advantage of a very interesting, although quite difficult to read, message on the back. It was written on board the S.S. Remuera on 18th December 1914, just over four months after the start of the first World War.

This voyage would be the first part of the ninth return voyage of the Remuera which left London on 27th November, 1914 bound for New Zealand, and returned to the UK on 25th March 1915.

Dramatic view of an iceberg in the South Pacific, photographed c.1914
The back of the “original” real photo postcard was written on board the S.S. Remuera on 18th December 1914, just over four months after the start of the first World War.

The following is a very rough transcription of the message on the back of the postcard.

We saw this iceberg coming home – SS Reumera
December 18th 1914
Cape Town tomorrow. Very good trip so far. No excitements. We have kept well to the west of trade route and have passed very few ships. British cruisers have been in our only neighbourhood for several days. We have heard ••• talking, but have not spoken to them. No wireless news since two days out from Tenerife and are longing for news. I wonder what we shall hear tomorrow. Quite pleasant fellow passengers – not wildly interesting. Less heat in tropics than usual. Cricket match this afternoon. Second class ladies beat us by 3 runs! Ships-board life wonderfully ••• affected by the war – no lights on deck at night is the only difference. Now the days are lengthening out, and the trade winds are less strong yesterday and today tho still dead ahead of our route. ••• have been poor. Busy preparing a Christmas for 90 children on board! Much love yours S.S. •••

The re-print postcard (below) is illustrated in my book (page 28) with my following text:
If you look closely at the top and right edges of the actual image there appears to be a slight shadow. This suggests to me that the original photograph has been re-photographed to make this postcard.

Note that the text on the front has been changed with the addition of “Passed by R.M.S. Ruahine”. This is interesting because it seems that the original postcard, above, may have been purchased on the Remuera.

David Aldersley’s re-photographed copy of the South Pacific iceberg postcard
The back of the David Aldersley postcard. This is reference “O(1)” in my catalogue of postcard backs, available to download free of charge here.

Ruahine (1891-1900)

This old ‘cabinet card‘ photograph shows the New Zealand Shipping Company’s Ruahine (the first of three NZSC ships of the same name). Published by F. C. Gould & Son of Gravesend. The Ruahine was built by Denny & Co, Dumbarton. She could carry 74 first class, 36 second class, and 300 steerage passengers, as well as 71,000 carcasses in the refrigerated space!



Ruahine in a heavy sea. Who was the photographer?

PZ-&-A3792-PhotosFollowing on from my last Blog, here is another photograph of a heavy sea as seen from the Ruahine. There are two slightly different prints of the same photograph shown here. In the top one, someone has changed the wording by painting it out, adding a new code, and then copying the altered photograph. In the process, they have removed the initials of the person I presume to be the original photographer, and also the name of the ship.

The new code, “A3792” represents the New Zealand-based photographer, David Aldersley. Some Aldersley researchers believe that David Aldersley was the photographer, but I have only been able to find him on one New Zealand Shipping Company voyage, and that was the one on which he emigrated from the UK to New Zealand.


Detail of the two prints to show how the text has been altered. If you click on the scan to view it full size, you will see that there are still traces of the original text

The lower photograph, which is the original, has the name of the ship, Ruahine, and also a copyright for “P.Z. Photo”. P.Z., I believe, was Peter Zerface, a barber who worked on board the Ruahine for many years, at least from 1916 or maybe earlier. Find out more about Peter Zerface here.

PZ-&-A3792-Photos---backsThe reverse of both the postcards is shown on the right. To add to the puzzle, the top card, on which the text has been changed, has a blank back. The bottom card which has the “P.Z.” copyright on the front, is printed onto a David Aldersley photograph paper printed back.

So why is this important? Well, it is important to me because a collector that I knew well, who died a few years ago, told me that I was obsessed with barbers because I also research Henry George Keyse (another New Zealand Shipping Company barber who signed his photographic postcards as “HGK”), and he said that the barbers would not know one end of a camera from another. He insisted that David Aldersley took all the photographs himself, including all the HGK photographs of Pitcairn Island, and yet never provided me with a scrap of evidence to prove that David Aldersley travelled more than once on a New Zealand Shipping Company vessel. That made me angry, and so I have set out to prove that I am correct, and I will be returning to this subject again on this blog.

A Christmas message from the Ruahine

I would love to know what year this postcard was written. It is a very interesting report of events on a journey from the UK to New Zealand aboard the Ruahine. The writer states that the weather is so warm that they have even discarded their socks! Whatever next?


S/S Ruahine. Xmas day.

Dear Mrs Moore.

HeavySea-Ruahine-BigMessage-backWe have had such a rough voyage so far that writing has been out of the question. Ever since we left the English Channel the ship has been rocked from side to side and from stem to stern by huge waves and only one afternoon have we had a level deck.

The boat is full up, every berth being occupied. We are now enjoying blue skies and sunshine but the strong wind persists. Happily neither Isabelle nor I have been seasick so far, though we’ve felt anything but sure of ourselves at times.

We’ve a most interesting lot of passengers, many of them New Zealanders and others English going out to settle as farmers and what not. An excellent lot of stewards are looking after us and I must say the service is first rate. The food also is on the whole very good.

Despite the rough seas we manage to dance each evening now we’ve got our sea-legs. Isabelle is taking active interest in the sports, especially skipping and deck tennis. All our luggage for use on the voyage has turned up alright.

Xmas is being celebrated as merrily as the heavy rolling of the boat will allow. Women outnumber men in the 2nd class but as the first class passengers join in the dancing and the ships officers join in also, partners are available for most.

We are getting into much warmer weather now. Expect to reach Curaçao in five or six days. We recd your newsful letter and were glad to hear the Bungalow was let. What a turmoil it must have been for you!

Will write at greater length shortly. Love to Joyce and Basil. We are thinking of you all today.

Isabelle sends her affectionate wishes. V sincerely yrs H.P.R.

Dec. 29. Now enjoying hot weather. All passengers in summer clothes. I have discarded socks!!

Dec. 29. Are passing some of the West Indies Islands. Iced drinks in great demand.

So what did they eat?

Eating(Facebook)It amazes me that so many people, on such a long voyage, can be given such a wide choice of food. The new “Menus” page on this blog has a selection of Breakfast, Lunch, Tea, and Dinner menus dating as far back as the 1930s. Some of the old menus are quite fascinating, and there are also a few unusual ones celebrating special occasions, or with a much needed sense of humour during war-time.

Two of my particular favourites are the Rangitata‘s High-Tea menu from 1942, and the Ruahine‘s Farewell Dinner menu from 1960 which has been signed by some of the passengers. Please let me know if you find your relative in the list of names by commenting below.

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