By Ian Hill, our Historic Technical Support Officer in Canterbury Conservancy.
We are still rocking here in Canterbury. Since the big 7.1 shake-up on 4 September we’ve had 577 shocks (to Midday 15 September), including the 5.1 quake which provided another really good shake up on Wednesday morning (8 September). This shake was centred 10km from the city (5km from my house), somewhere near Lyttelton, which had already been badly hit.
Lots of Lyttelton’s heritage buildings have been damaged e.g. Timeball Station (which has just had earthquake strengthening), the former Harbour Light Cinema and the Empire Hotel. On the home front, my place is well-off compared to lots of others in Canterbury, as you will have no doubt seen from TV news.
My chimney was dodgy after the 7.1 Saturday morning shake-up and I strapped it up and photographed it. After several big shakes around midnight on Monday (6 September), I could see it was not going to last, so I got some help to take it down. Doing that sure lowered the stress levels, but it is still very tiring with so many aftershocks.
When you return to Christchurch City you are going to see an entirely different city. Many heritage buildings have been damaged and demolition is going on as I write this. It is really sad.
Some light relief helps – one Christchurch small business’s website shows some earthquake humour: Alvarados Mexican Restaurant
Assessing the damage
Staveley Lime Kiln, c1890
As you can see, one of the worst affected DOC historic sites is the Staveley Lime Kiln. This kiln did have a crack in it but has now been significantly damaged by the earthquake with a blow out on one of its sides. The area remains closed to the public due to safety risks.
Here, some of the coastal walking tracks have been blocked by rock falls and slips, including a major cliff face landslide at Godley Head at the end of the tunnel to the searchlights. The tunnel has remained intact but the path on the other side is impassable. The two searchlight emplacements are okay, which is surprising as one has been seriously undermined by sea erosion.
Some of the WWII concrete and brick military sites, such as gun emplacements and underground magazines, have extensive cracking and have been closed to the public. The buildings that housed staff from the NZ Army during the war have developed a few small cracks and dislodging of plaster ceilings, but are remarkably intact after such a jolt and several large aftershocks.
The wharf at Ōtamahua/Quail Island, situated in Lyttelton Harbour, has ‘parted company’ with the island itself.
At this stage the historic buildings on the island, such as those used by Scott and Shackleton, appear to be intact.
The historic military fortifications on nearby Ripapa Island have suffered structural damage to chimneys and buildings.
Sign of the Packhorse hut
The historic nine-bunk Sign of the Packhorse stone hut has lost some of its chimney and developed significant cracks around windows and doors. Luckily, the track heading to the hut had been closed for the lambing season, so there were no trampers staying overnight when the earthquake struck.
Hakatere Stone Cottage, 1862
The earthquake has further reduced the structural integrity of the Hakatere Stone Cottage by expanding some existing cracking. This has increased the urgency for some restoration work to begin on the building.
Monavale School, a historic limestone block building, survived the earthquake intact.
Inner city damage
It appears that Torrens House, which houses the Canterbury Conservancy Office, has withstood the earthquake well with only a few minor cracks found at this stage. However, it is surrounded by several heritage buildings that have not fared so well.
This building was new in 1987 and was built for the Ministry of Works. It was designed to be the Emergency Operations Centre in an event such as this and it even has a helicopter pad on the level 5 roof.
An inner city building – the old Normal School (now apartments) – has a Reserves Act covenant over the Montreal and Kilmore Street facades, and has not fared very well. Chimneys have toppled and lots of slate on the roof has gone. They are attempting to save this building but it will never look the same.
The other inner city complex which DOC is involved in, the Christchurch City Council-administered Canterbury Provincial Buildings, has come through with little damage thanks to the ongoing extensive earthquake strengthening work.