Monday, 13 June 2011

Damage to Timeball Station in Lyttelton

FINAL BLOW: The Timeball Station at Lyttelton was still standing despite incurring more damage from the 1pm aftershock yesterday, 13 June 2011. The earthquake at 2.20pm almost destroyed the historic building. The photo above was taken after the 2.20 pm quake.

Lyttelton's historic Timeball Station tower collapsed during yesterday's (13 June 11) 2.20pm earthquake while contractors were working on the site.
The Timeball station has strong links with Antactica as Shackleton, Scott and Mawson set their chronometres by the Timeball machine at before departing for Antartica. The world-famous Timeball Station, one of only five left in the world.

Work to dismantle the 1876 building, which was badly damaged in the September 4 quake and suffered more damage in February, began two weeks ago.

Workmen from Smiths Cranes were elevated in a cage when the magnitude-5.5 quake hit yesterday, but were uninjured.

New Zealand Historic Places Trust chief executive Bruce Chapman said while some of the building was still standing, the site was too dangerous to assess. It was too early to speculate on the building's future, he said.

"The absolute priority is ensuring public safety. Considerable care and attention had gone into the dismantling process to safeguard people as best as possible," he said.

Trust project manager Paul McGahan said the new damage was "`substantial".

"The mast and timeball is down the slope, near the gate at the front. There were two containers that did prevent material going forward and onto the road," he said. Contractors and staff were safe, McGahan said.
"It was pretty nerve-racking. Contractors had just gone up in a cage to try and put a containment net around the front of the timeball," he said.

"The crane operator got them down pretty quickly and, fortunately, there was no-one up there on the second occasion."

The iconic Timeball Station in Lyttleton was partially destroyed by 22 February 2011 earthquake
Sledging in Winchester St, Lyttelton, prior to the departure of the Terra Nova on its second voyage, 1910.

Port of Lyttelton
Famous Antarctic explorers and  sailors Scott, Shackleton and Mawson  chose the Port of Lyttelton as the New Zealand base for their Discovery, Nimrod and Terra Nova expeditions. Scott was reportedly given two choices of base for his first expedition: Melbourne and Christchurch - each of which had a magnetic observatory. He may have chosen Christchurch simply because it was closer to the Antarctic, but the presence of his cousin, R.J. Scott, a Professor of Engineering at the University of Canterbury, may also have had an influence. As in Port Chalmers, there were generous offers of goods and services from the Harbour Board and local businesses. Scott and Shackleton were rewarded with similar generosity on their subsequent expeditions, as was the Australasian Antarctic Expedition when its ship the Aurora called at Lyttelton in 1912.
It was a town where my granfather was a publican and fisherman and served Antarctic sailors such as Tom Crean, Lashley, Frank Wild  and Edgar Evans at his bar, said my Father, who was born there in 1910.
Petty Officer Edgar Evans had once more been enjoying a drink ashore in Lyttelton  and when he returned to the ship, he fell off the gangplank just as the Bishop of Christchurch was about to go aboard to bless the ship and her crew.
Morning, Discovery and Terra Nova at the Port of Lyttelton during the British Antarctic Expedition, 1901-1904.

The statue of Robert Falcon Scott taken in early 2010 before the series of continuing earthquakes started in September 2010 in Christchurch

The historic statue of Robert Falcon Scott was toppled by the earthquake on 22 Febraury 2011 earthquake in Christchurch.


For those of you interested in Antarctic history, here is an update written following the earthquake that hit Christchurch and environs on 22 February 2011. That quake did some signicant damage to places and sites with Antarctic connections. Below are bits and pieces from various sources that note the damage. The most recent reports appear first. Among the correspondents: Jonothan Davis, Rick Dehmel, David Harrowfield, Stephen Hicks, Michael Rosove, John Splettstoeser, Liz Truswell.
The latest issue of Antarctic—The Publication of the New Zealand Antarctic Society gives some further details on how Antarctic sites fared in the earthquake (the cover photograph shows a portion of the devastated Scott statue). Natalie Cadenhead comments: "Some parts will be restored to their former glory, including the marble statue of Robert Falcon Scott which was cast down in the quake. The Christchurch City Council, with help from heritage experts, has carefully collected and stored all the pieces until it can be conserved and restored."

She also says the "Canterbury Museum (where I work as a curator) had no power, water or sewerage, no access for the first few weeks after the quake, and limited access since…

"He [Anthony Wright, Director of the Canterbury Museum] believes that the vast majority of collections, including the significant Antarctic collections are safe. 'The Heart of the Great Alone' exhibition from the Royal Collection is intact and is on its way back to Britain."

"The Lyttelton Museum building has been severely damaged…Wigram Air Force Museum, which was not damaged, oeffered assistance and with the help of Canterbury Museum staff, structural engineers, civil defence and the volunteer fire brigade removed all objects from the Antarctic Gallery…The collections will be safely stored at the Air Force Museum until Canterbury Museum is able to assess them for conservation requirements and an assessment on the future of the Lyttelton Museum building can be carried out."

6 May 201l)
"I have just returned from a meeting of our New Zealand Antarctic Society and got the first report on Scott's statue. He has indeed been toppled, frontwards apparently. His arm has been broken (not the first time) and his face got beat up as well. This area is still off limits to the public and I cannot personally vouch for this report other than to say it has credibility. When I am able to get photos I will send you some.

The Canterbury Museum's Antarctic collection on display is OK. The condition of items in the vault is not yet known.

The Lyttelton Museum was badly damaged and will probably have to be demolished. It's collection is intact and has been shifted to the Air Force Museum at Wigram.

(14 March 2011)
"Devastation is total in so many places and the human cost is only starting to be realised both in lives lost and livelihoods destroyed. There is an emotional drain just being in the city area, seeing the devastation, the challenges of getting to where you are needed and then getting anything done.

We were all…either in or very close to the central business district and simply finding out if we were all ok…took a while. Certainly all shook up and bounced around…

How the city will recover—wow, who knows. it will certainly be different. The [Canterbury] museum is closed indefinitely…the 'Heart of the Great Alone' exhibition was still in the McDougall Gallery and who knows what has happened inside but the buildings have not been red stickered which is a great relief. Anything red stickered is a no go zone and basically for demolition, in some cases the demolition is done straight away for safety without people going in to get belongings or commercial stock, a yellow sticker is damage but can enter, green is operational. We've heard various accounts of the Scott Statue, and as so many others are over thought it would be too but most of the coverage does not show that area of town which I think will be pretty trashed too. And many many people have simply packed up and left, will they come back—I wonder. In some cases I doubt it very much."

(1 March 2011)

Canterbury Museum I spoke with ____ and he says that the museum is badly damaged. His big bookshelf fell over him but, because he was on the phone to me, he was in a part of his office where a pillar stopped it from crushing him. He had to crawl out of his office. The exhibitions are in total disarray with many shaking apart and the glass in the big display cases having 'exploded'. I don't know about the structural integrity of the building but part of the facade around the front door has fallen off and Rolleston (at least his statue) has fallen on his head. To make matters worse, the sprinklers came on which means that the collections are wet. Of course no-one has been able to check any collections and won't be able to for ages which means collections may start going mouldy. It seems certain that the museum will be shut to the public for months. Staff like Paul are simply leaving the city with their family until the water systems in the city are back up and running. Additionally the museum server is completely out of action so no staff will be able to access their work e-mails, even from outside the museum. But the good and remarkable news is that no staff or visitors were hurt apparently.

(25 February 2011)

Scott Statue No doubt you have heard many stories of the tragedy of the devastating Christchurch earthquake. Amongst all the devastation the 1917 Robert Scott statue in Worcester Boulevard has fallen off it plinth. I have been able to get very little information as to how many pieces it is in, however if all bits are saved and stored it could be repaired. Maybe the international Antarctic community could help via your web site to save it.

(24 February 2011)

Much is still to come out but with the entire area within the four avenues cordoned off and anyone entering immediately arrested. It will be some time before the situation is fully known.

Our wonderful Cathedral (spire gone and other parts severely damaged); provincial and other historic buildings in extremely bad shape; Captain Scott was toppled off his base; Canterbury Museum I gather has damage (uncertain about The Queen's exhibit in the Robert McDougall Art Gallery behind the museum, as no public announcement yet on either) and I fear for Lyttelton Museum, the town having been at the epi-centre. The Timeball Station from 1860's there trashed.

(23 February 2011)

Canterbury Museum Following the February 22 earthquake, Canterbury Museum will remain closed until further notice. Staff are asked to wait for news from their managers regarding the Museum's situation. Updated information will also be provided in this section of the website as it becomes available.

(22 February 2011). From the Museum's website:

Two Antarctic "sites" in Christchurch damaged: The tower of Christ Church Cathedral (lots of Antarctic connections)

was destroyed and Kathleen Scott's marble statue of her husband was toppled.

(22 February 2011)

Canterbury Museum

Staff are all OK. Apparently the sprinklers were activated and lots of loose things moved around in the staff areas. The situation in the public and storage areas is unknown but presumed to be 'a mess' and some bits have fallen off the building. With the whole central city cordoned off, they do not expect to get back in until after the weekend. The museum server is completely out of action so no staff will be able to access their work e-mails, even from outside the museum.

Lyttelton Museum

Has been closed since the September earthquake, and apparently suffered additional damage on Boxing Day. We have no information as yet, but fear it is now even worse.

Lyttelton's Timeball Station, photographed in December 2008.


Bob McKerrow - Wayfarer said...


Thanks Bob.
I have a bad feeling about Christchurch.
My friend, Bruce Comfort of Oamaru, a retired engineer and industrial historian said to me back in September, that things in Chch gould "get ugly"
I have since modified that to "very ugly" and I have an analogy by way of a true story that involves you;-

In the early winter of 1970 with the midnight sun gone, but still some noon daylight, Bob McKerrow and I were driving a 1955 Ferguson 35 tractor across the ice of Lake Vanda in the Antarctic dry valleys.
For some reason I don't remember, I got off and walked behind the tractor while Bob roared off across the lake ice, when about 300 metres in front of me, I saw a huge "diaphram" of ice about 100 metres diameter, bouncing up and down with the tractor at it's centre - an unbelievable sight.
Realising he had driven onto thin ice, I started running, trying to attract his attention to no avail.
A sudden geiser of water erupted into the air and the tractor shot vertically downwards like a giant piston.
After the water settled, I could see only Bob's head and shoulders. He was waving his arms and shouting something. I feared the worst - that his legs were stuck and I realised as I ran towards him that we had no ice screws or ropes to pull him out with, and he would not survive the time it would take to get them.
We were in deep shit, or so it seemed at the time.

50 metres off, I was able to understand his shouting and waving - "Take a bloody photo, I'm getting cold"
I took the photo and he climbed out of the tractor, stepped onto the ice, which I could see was only about 1 inch thick, and said "thank you" as if nothing much was wrong.
By sheer luck, the lake was only about 5 feet deep at that spot, and we were only a couple of hundred metres from Vanda Station and warmth. The rest is another story.
Suffice to say it was Bob who later jumped back into the water to attach a wire rope to the towing hook which was away down under the radiator.

The point of the story is the analogy of water trapped under a pan, that when fractured, lets water escape, as heavy objects sink.
If Christchurch was once a swamp with flax or coastal scrub on it, with a load of maybe 100kg per square metre, and it now has tall buildings at maybe more than a thousand tonnes per square metre, Aren't we in trouble if the diaphragm is a thin clay pan or similar when the whole thing is shaking?
Is there any chance that a tall building can fall through like the tractor on the ice diaphragm?

I fear it is time to leave, but how do you tell people that when their life investment, life memories and dreams are all locked up in there?

The warning is in the liquifaction. If I see silted water squirting up like that, I wonder what else is lowering to balance the hydraulic equation.
Is it a mean lowering of the entire city, or localised settling?
The surveyors will already know the answer to that.
Market gardening seems to be the attractive option now.
This event is hugely damaging to our whole country, not just Christchurch.
How much worse in Japan?

Best regards to you Bob - many fond memories. You wouldn't like Scott Base these days - I hear they have ice cream dispensers and floor polishing machines, and they even have indoor toilets, bah humbug.

Gary Lewis.

Anonymous said...

Re the photo of R.F. Scott -

notice on the right hand side
of the photo - the text includes
the start of the earthquakes in
the year 2919 (!)

Just a minor point of interest..

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