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Wakatipu is New Zealand's third largest and, at 80km, longest lake. The discovery of gold in the region helped to fuel a flourishing shipping service on its waters from the middle of the 19th century. By Andrew Linington
In 1902 the country's government bought the Lake Wakatipu Shipping Company and its three ageing paddle steamers, Five years later, ministers approved funding for a purpose-built new vessel – TSS Earnslaw – which is still in service today.
The ship was designed to improve the quality of services on the lake and, at 51.2m long, was not only the biggest vessel on the lake but also the largest steamship built in New Zealand.
The twin-screw steamer was fitted with two sets of triple expansion 500hp jet-condensing steam engines giving a service speed of 13 knots.
Work on Earnslaw began at the McGregor yard in Dunedin in July 1911, and when the hull was completed in November that year, the vessel was dismantled and the carefully labelled and numbered parts were transported to the lakeside town of Kingston, 100 miles away, to be reassembled.
Launched in April 1912, Earnslaw made a maiden voyage from Kingston to Queenstown in October of that year – an event of such local significance that the day was declared a public holiday.
TSS Earnslaw's 1912 maiden voyage on Lake Wakatipu was an event of such local significance that the day was declared a public holiday