Bill Hamilton (engineer)

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Sir Charles William Feilden Hamilton
OBE
Born 26 July 1899 (1899-07-26)
Ashwick Station, Fairlie, Canterbury, New Zealand
Died 30 March 1978 (1978-03-31) (aged 78)
Nationality New Zealander
Education Waihi Preparatory School, Canterbury
Christ's College, Canterbury
Parents William Feilden Hamilton
Cora Blakeney (née Cannon)

Sir Charles William "Bill" Feilden Hamilton OBE (26 July 1899 – 30 March 1978) was a New Zealander who developed the modern jetboat, and founder of what is now the world's leading water jet manufacturing company - CWF Hamilton Ltd.

Hamilton never claimed to have invented the jet boat. He once said "I do not claim to have invented marine jet propulsion. The honour belongs to a gentleman named Archimedes, who lived some years ago." What he did was refine the design enough to produce the first useful modern jet boat.

Early life[edit]

Hamilton was born at Ashwick Station near Fairlie, New Zealand.[1]

He survived an aeroplane accident returning to Rongotai Airport (Wellington) in poor conditions on 19 February 1936. The collision with the anemometer took the starboard wing off the Miles Falcon Six he was travelling in, and killed pilot Malcolm "Mac" McGregor.[2]

At the age of 21 he bought the 'Irishman Creek' sheep station in South Canterbury. After a trip to England became fascinated with motor cars and raced a Bentley. He decided to develop his own heavy machinery. He built a workshop, developed an excavator with an earth scoop and built a dam to supply water for a hydro electric plant to supply power for domestic use and for his engineering projects, and started a manufacturing business.[3]

Ski tows[edit]

In 1947 tourism pioneer Harry Wigley of Mt Cook airline fame commissioned him to design and build the first tow for the Coronet Peak Ski Field near Queenstown - New Zealand's first commercial skifield.[4] In 1949 he completed a similar tow at Mount Ruapehu.[5]

Christchurch[edit]

The main manufacturing business, which had started in the workshop at Irishman Creek in 1939, moved to Christchurch in 1948. From there the company supplied heavy machinery, in particular to the Waitaki River hydroelectric projects.[6]

Jet boats[edit]

In the 1950s Hamilton set out to try to build a boat that could navigate the shallow fast flowing rivers where he lived. The rivers were too shallow for propeller driven boats to navigate as the propeller would hit the river bottom.

He investigated the American Hanley Hydro-Jet, a model which drew in water and fired it out through a steerable nozzle underneath the boat. Even when further adapted it did not work well. An employee suggested to have the nozzle just above the waterline.

When he took one of his early demonstration jet boats to the United States, the media scoffed when he said he planned to take it up the Colorado River, but in 1960 a Hamilton jet became the first boat to travel up through the Grand Canyon.[7] The critics were silenced further when the boat also went down river through the canyon.

Honours[edit]

In the 1961 New Year Honours Hamilton was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to engineering.[8] In the 1974 Queen's Birthday Honours he was appointed a Knight Bachelor for services to manufacturing.[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bloxham, Les. "Hamilton, Charles William Feilden". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 4 June 2013. 
  2. ^ King, John (1995). Aviation Accidents and Disasters. New Zealand Tragedies. Wellington: Grantham House. pp. 145–147. ISBN 1-86934-042-6. 
  3. ^ "The Shed at Irishman's Creek", Brad Mills
  4. ^ "Ski Industry Based on Pioneer Spirit", NZ Historic Places Trust
  5. ^ "Ski runners on Mt Ruapehu", www.mtruapehu.com
  6. ^ "Business Of The Month", nzine.com
  7. ^ Film of the Colorado River trip on YouTube
  8. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 42233. p. 8928. 31 December 1960. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  9. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 46312. p. 6829. 7 June 1974. Retrieved 4 June 2013.

External links[edit]