Mighty Winter Storm Moves Offshore in Stunning Shot from New Zealand

ship wreck and storm against the sunset
A winter storm off the coast of the South Island of New Zealand on May 24, 2014. This photograph was taken between the towns of Bluff and Omaui. (Image credit: <a href="http://www.facebook.com/myprofocus">Chris Watson</a>)

An ominous winter storm appears in stark contrast to a soft sunset in a new photograph from the South Island of New Zealand.

This stunning shot was captured by photographer Chris Watson, of Invercargill, New Zealand on Saturday, May 24. It was the first major winter storm of the season, Watson wrote in an email to Live Science.

The day dawned bright and sunny, Watson said, but by early afternoon, a storm front pushed in from sea.

"When it hit the coast the winds were so strong I could hardly stand," he wrote.

The storm disrupted the Bluff Food and Oyster Festival in New Zealand's southernmost Southland district, upending tables and sending participants scurrying for their cars, according to Stuff.co.nz. More than 4,000 festival-goers were stuck in their cars for several hours, when the strong winds blew power lines onto the highway. [Photos: Extreme Weather Around the World]

Watson took advantage of a break in the weather that evening to stroll along the coast between the cities of Bluff and Omaui in Southland, not far from Invercargill. Conditions were blustery, to say the least, Watson said: The temperature was hovering around 35 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius), and the wind was gusting up to 78 mph (125 km/h).

At a spot where he frequently photographs, Watson was treated to the sight of the sun setting, with heavy clouds and pouring rain just offshore.

"It was stunning!" Watson wrote.

The spot in the photograph is known as Barracouta Point, and the wrecked ship in the foreground is a derelict fishing boat known as "Olivia."

That night, Watson said, another storm brought snow to most of the South Island, as well as thunder and lightning. Last year, New Zealand was hit with an extreme winter storm in late June, which brought hurricane-strength winds to the city of Wellington. That storm hit New Zealand's North Island very hard, causing damage to buildings and homes, and also brought snow and ice to the South Island.

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Stephanie Pappas
Live Science Contributor

Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science, covering topics ranging from geoscience to archaeology to the human brain and behavior. She was previously a senior writer for Live Science but is now a freelancer based in Denver, Colorado, and regularly contributes to Scientific American and The Monitor, the monthly magazine of the American Psychological Association. Stephanie received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.