Earnslaw rules the wave

You've got to hand it to RealNZ, operator of Queenstown’s historic steamship, TSS Earnslaw.

Even the old girl’s now waving back as she departs Walter Peak to head back to Queenstown Bay these days.

RealNZ ops manager Andrew Husheer says the gesture stems from the tradition of Walter Peak staff lining up to wave passengers goodbye every time the Earnslaw starts her return journey.

"I think one day someone in jest said to one of the engineers, ‘how come you’re not waving to us?’, and he said, ‘just wait for a couple of days and we’ll do a big farewell’."

Husheer says the steamer’s longest-serving engineer, Brian Henderson, invented the wave — a plywood-attached metal arm with a giant mitt that’s controlled from the engine room.

It was originally introduced about two years ago, and has been brought back to delight waves of visitors here for Chinese New Year.