New Zealand Maritime Museum

New Zealand Maritime Index

Searching the New Zealand Maritime Index.

These notes will help you search the New Zealand Maritime Index.


General Information.
   Structure of the Index.
Displaying Publications
Searching for Vessels
   Vessel ID.
   Searching by Official Number or LR/IMO Number.
Searching for Persons
Searching for Organisations
Searching by Descriptor
Searching References

General Information

You can search the Index for Vessels, Organisations, Persons, or References. A Reference points to and summarizes an article or chapter in a publication. Linked to a Reference will be the Vessels, Organisations and Persons mentioned in that article or chapter.

For each search, there are a number of entry fields where you can make selections to get the results you want. If you type text into an entry field, the text will be used to search the database. If there are less than 5 results returned, then another search will be automatically performed using a 'fuzzy' interpretation of the text you have entered.

You can add special characters to extend your searching:

% is the 'wildcard' character. It can be used to replace one or more characters in a text string. For example: A text string of Union% will find Organisations named Union Steam Ship Company, Union Company etc.

  • A text string of %Weir% will find Organisations named Andrew Weir and Company, Weir Engineering etc.
  • A text string of %bank will find Vessels named Teignbank, Lossiebank, Marabank etc.

    Note that, as mentioned above, if the Search results in 5 or less results, then the software will automatically try some of these tricks.

    You will often get best results by keeping the search arguments short. If you are searching for Northern Steam Ship Company as an Organisation, then just entering Northern will find all index records for the company and avoid the problems that the Company was sometimes referred to as Northern Company, Northern Steam Ship Company, Northern Steamship Company, Northern SS Company etc.

    For a background to the New Zealand Maritime Index, see Overview.

    Structure of the New Zealand Maritime Index

    The New Zealand Maritime Index is held in a database on the Internet. The Index is built from a number of joined tables:

    • Source Publications
      Within a Publication, there will be one or more References.
      • References (i.e. Articles)
        Within a Reference, there may be Descriptor records describing the indexed article, and there may be one or more Vessels, Persons or Organisation records.
        • Descriptors describing the Reference.
        • Vessels
        • Persons
        • Organisations
    You can search any of the above tables, as described below...

    Displaying the list of Publications

    See also General Information.

    You can list the Publications that are indexed in the New Zealand Maritime Index. The list is divided into:

    • Magazines, Periodicals and Newspapers.
      A major indexing project is to cover New Zealand Marine News from 1963 to date. So far, the early years and later years are covered in depth, with the intermediate years indexed only for illustrations and articles of particular interest.
      Other magazines, periodicals and newspapers are indexed for articles of particular maritime interest. Note that the Museum does not hold full sets of all these publications. Many of them will also be available from other libraries etc.
    • Books
      The NZMI concentrates on books relating to New Zealand maritime history. Some books are fully indexed and some are only indexed for illustrated vessels.
    • Museum Resources
      New Zealand Maritime Museum contains many papers, documents and articles which have not been formally published. Some of these are indexed in NZMI.
    • Special Features
      The New Zealand National Maritime Index contains a number of special features, often related to exhibitions that have taken place at the Museum.
    Understanding the Publication List
    The initial List Publications display does not show all the details. You need to click on Display the List to display the contents.

    When the list is displayed, you can click on any item to display more details of the publication.

    Searching for Vessels

    See also General Information.

    You can search for a vessel by name, type of vessel and owner. You can select all vessels which meet these criteria, vessels illustrated in the indexed publication, or vessels illustrated on the Web.

    Searching by vessel name

    To help you search, vessel names in the index follow certain conventions.

    • Prefixes such as SS, MV, HMNZS, HMS, etc are not included. When searching, omit SS, MV etc.
    • Naval vessels will normally be in the form CANTERBURY (HMNZS). To ensure you find all occurrances of a vessel, it may be better to use the 'wildcard' character, for example enter CANTERBURY%.
    • If you are unsure of the spelling of part of the name, use % for either the beginning or the end of the name. e.g. %bank will find vessels TEIGNBANK, LOSSIEBANK, MARABANK etc. A search for Kah% will find KAHANUI, KAHAROA, KAHAWAI etc.
    • Vessels with a name which includes a number can give a problem. We attempt to follow the actual name on the vessel, for example QUEEN ELIZABETH 2, TAINUI II, PRINCE NO.1. This is a complex subject - the name in Lloyds Register sometimes does not agree with that painted on the vessel. If in doubt, leave out the number and use QUEEN ELIZABETH%, TAINUI% and so on.
    • Because strings like HMS, HMNZS and USS are removed when doing a fuzzy search, if you want to find all the HMNZS vessels you should use Exact Search and a search argument of %HMNZS%.
    Vessel types

    Where possible, the index entry contains the vessel type, and you can search by type. Searching for some types will return vessels with a number of sub-types, e.g. Warship will return Aircraft Carriers, Battleships, Cruisers, Destroyers and several others. Some types are synonyms, e.g. Reefer and Refrigerated ship will return the same results.

    Many entries will contain the name of the vessel owner, and you can search on this. It will often be worth abbreviating the name, e.g. use Northern instead of Northern Steam Ship Company. Ownership of vessels can be complex, and the contents of the Owner field may on occasions contain the actual owner, vessel manager, or vessel charterer.
    Illustrated vessels only
    Your results can either contain all the vessels that meet the above criteria, or can be restricted to vessels illustrated in the indexed article or vessels where the illustration is available on the Web. To include all vessels found, leave the default Show All Vessels on the Search Vessels screen.
    Understanding the results
    Search results showing apparent duplicate vessel entries?
    Each change of ownership of a given vessel has its own entry in the index, although they may all refer to the same book or journal source.
    Many vessel names were duplicated over the years and care must be taken to verify which particular vessel is being discussed. The Vessel ID may help with this...

    Vessel ID
    All vessels in the index have a Vessel ID, which is unique to the vessel, irrespective of changes of name etc. The Vessel ID may be

    The Vessel ID can be used to track a vessel through changes of name and ownership.

    If a vessel entry in the index has a Vessel ID, it is shown on the List of Vessels screen. If there are multiple entries in the index for this Vessel ID, then the vessel ID displayed on the screen is a link which enables you to search for all records for this Vessel ID. A similar link is shown at the bottom of the Vessel Details screen if multiple entries exist.

    The Official Number, the LR/IMO number and the GSN enable us to link to other databases with further vessel details.

    The world's merchant fleet now (in 2007) has the IMO number painted on the vessel, usually on the stern.

    There is a good list of Official Numbers in the British series at

    The Global Ship Number System is a project that will eventually allocate every vessel its own unique identifying number. The VesselID in the New Zealand Maritime Index is aiming to follow developments in the GSN and eventually to use the GSN instead of the VesselID. You can find out more about the GSN System on

    Searching by Official Number or Lloyd's Register/IMO Number

    It is possible to search the Maritime Index for vessels by Official Number or by the Lloyd's Register/IMO Number. In the search box, Click Official Number or LR/IMO. If you enter a number, it will be used as the starting number for the search. Otherwise, all numbers will be available and you can scroll through them.

    There is more information on Official Numbers and LR/IMO Numbers above.

    Fuzzy Searching and Exact Searching

    A Fuzzy search will take several steps to try and find the vessel your are looking for. Blanks and punctuation are removed from the search argument. The Index attempts to deal with variations on the spelling of Saint, such as ST. and similarly tries to deal with NO. NO etc.. As a result, the chances of getting the results you want are higher, but you will sometimes get some results where the link to what you want is obscure.

    An Exact search will match the search argument fairly accurately, but will still ignore differences of case. You can still use truncation and wildcard characters.

    The default is to perform a Fuzzy seach - click the Radio Button to use an Exact search.

    Searching for Persons

    See also General Information.

    You can search for a person by name and role.

    • Many person entries in the index only have the last name and initial. To avoid missing possibly relevant entries, it is best to do a ‘wildcard’ search using the first initial of the personal name combined with %. e.g. to search for Thomas S Brown, who may be entered under that or T S Brown, or just Thomas Brown, then search under Brown, T%, and all these combinations will appear.
    • If the role or occupation of the person being researched is known, it is often useful to search under a combination of family name and role e.g. if searching for ship’s master named Smith, the role will help to isolate possible entries. Note that not all entries have a role, so this is a guide only.
    • Some of the roles are synonyms. For example, Master, Captain and Skipper will all produce the same result.

    Searching for Organisations

    See also General Information.

    You can search the Index for Organisations, and select on the type of organisation.

    Searching tips
    • Brief mentions. Many organisation names appear in the index because they are mentioned briefly somewhere in the body of an item, but the item may be largely about some other topic. Reading the abstract of each ‘hit’ should indicate the contents. If there is no mention of the organisation in the abstract, then the coverage in the item will not be extensive. If there are a large number of hits for a particular name, it is possible to further refine the search by doing a Search for a Reference using a Descriptor such as Company history or Corporate profile, in conjunction with name being sort. For this type of search see Search for a Reference search instructions.
    • Variations of names. The name of an organisation may be entered differently in the index either through official changes during its history, or differences in the sources that mention it. Thus the ‘Union Steam Ship Company’ may be so mentioned in one source and called the ‘Union Company’ in another. To avoid missing possibly relevant entries, it is best to do a ‘wildcard’ search using the symbol %. For example: A search using Union% will find Organisations named Union Steam Ship Company, Union Company etc. A search using %Weir% will find Organisations named Andrew Weir and Company, Weir Engineering etc.
    • Type of organisation. Another way of checking the contents of the index is to leave the organisation name blank and select a TYPE of organisation eg: a search under Vessel preservation society produces multiple hits. The abstracts indicate which are the more comprehensive in their coverage of the organisations listed.

    Searching by Descriptor

    You can search References using the Descriptors which help describe the contents of the referenced article, news item etc..

    Search tips
    • It is not possible to search using words other than those which appear in the list of descriptor terms. If what seems the most logical word for something does not appear in the list, it is advisable to scroll through it, as some equivalent term may have been used instead.
    • Searching for some terms which are closely related or overlap in meaning, will automatically create a search on all those terms, not just on the one chosen eg: a search using the term Jargon also produces any entries found with the descriptors Nautical terminology, Terminology and Technical terms.
    • To combine a Descriptor search with one or more other search types, see Searching for References.

    Searching References

    See also General Information.

    References are a major building block of the NZ Maritime Index. Searching References is the most powerful way of searching the NZ Maritime Index, useful if other searches do not find what you want.

    A Reference may describe:

    • An article in a publication
    • An issue of a magazine or newspaper, where only limited indexing has been done.
    • A chapter in a book
    • A locally-generated item, such as a list of illustrations in a magazine or book.
    A Reference will have a Title and an Abstract which describe its contents. For each Reference, there may be Descriptors indicating the content of the Referenced article. There will normally be one or more associated records for the Vessels, Persons or Organisations mentioned in the article.

    You can search References by:

    • Vessel Name
    • Person
    • Organisation
    • Descriptor

    The fields above are "ANDed" together, and normally most of them should be left blank. If you fill in the Vessel Name AND the Person AND the Organisation field, then the results will only contain articles which contain the Vessel AND the Person AND the Organisation.

    Search tips
    • Searching for a vessel or person using this type of search does not first produce a descriptive abstract with details of that vessel or person, as it does in Vessel search or Person search. The Reference search produces the general Reference abstract first, which describes the information available from the source as a whole. (It is possible to click on to the Vessel or Person abstracts as a later step.)
    • Combining two or more search types helps to narrow the focus of the search eg: searching under "Smith" in the Person field, and Second World War in the Descriptor field, produces a list of persons of that surname who are mentioned in items that contain information about World War 2.
    • As mentioned in the search tips for Organisations, combining certain Descriptor and Organisation searches, helps to differentiate between brief mentions and more detailed material. Note, however, that 'false hits' are still possible ie, that an organisation may appear in conjunction with a descriptor such as Company history but it does not guarantee that the wanted organisation isn’t just a ‘mention’ in the history of a different body. The Reference abstract should describe the major topics covered in the article or extract in each case.

    Full text search

    You can search for words in the main text fields that for a vessel entry to help locate the vessel you want.

    Special characters such as punctuation are treated as blanks. For example, they would split Cruise/Passenger into Cruise and Passenger. Words of 3 characters or less are ignored.

    If you just enter words, Search will return hits that contain ANY of the words.

    You can restrict the search results as follows:
    + A leading plus sign indicates that this word must be present in every row returned.
    - A leading minus sign indicates that this word must not be present in any row returned.
    * or % An asterisk or a per cent sign is the truncation operator. Unlike the other operators, it should be appended to the word, not prepended.

    If words are enclosed in double quotes, then the contents will be used exactly as entered. You may need to use double quotes for ships names with more than one word.

    Some examples

    Kiwi Daldy will return records that contain either Kiwi or Daldy.

    +Kiwi +Daldy will return records that contain Kiwi and Daldy.

    Kiwi -Daldy will return records that contain Kiwi and not Daldy.

    "William C Daldy" will return records containing William C Daldy and will not return records for the tug Daldy.

    See also General Information.


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