Sir William Hamilton – Innovator, not imitator

Friday, February 14, 2014
William Hamilton.  Source:

Many New Zealand rivers are braided and shallow, and exploring them in a conventional boat is impossible.  The young William Hamilton dreamed of a boat that could carry him up these rivers.  In 1954 his dream became reality. Conventional boats use a propeller below the water that needs plenty of water around it.  Jet Boats draw in water through the flat bottom of the boat and drive it out the back at speed creating forward thrust.  As long as there is enough water to float the boat, there is enough to drive the water jet.

This principle, and the first boats Hamilton built, opened up previously inaccessible waterways for exploration.  Sir William’s son Jon kept up the family desire to explore as one of the key members of the first team to travel up the Colorado River, through the Grand Canyon in a jet boat.  Since then other ground-breaking trips have been made by jet boats across the world, from Ganges to the Amazon.

The first version of the Hamilton jet unit Quinnat Serial No.4, and the Hamilton Jet Boat with the oldest surviving prototype “Chinook” jet unit are both on display at the Voyager NZ Maritime Museum.

The Hamilton Jet on display at Voyager