Swinging below the crane, a wee cabin linked to Scott’s fatal Antarctic expedition looked more like a cubby than a 100-year-old piece of history.
“It looks like a child’s playhouse!” remarked its ‘owner’ Valerie Crichton.
But as Grant Campbell, DOC Community Relations Programme Manager eloquently said, “We’ve lost so much heritage in Christchurch, even the wee ones count.”
The hut, which for the past 40 years has been under the care of the Crichton family in Sumner, has been pulled from the brink of an earthquake-crumbled cliff top after being vested with DOC.
It’s the culmination of lots of long talks and negotiations by Grant and Community Relations Ranger Cody Frewin with the Crichtons, Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) and the Christchurch City Council.
Valerie Crichton said, “It’s taken more than two years to get traction on this. Then we met with DOC and it was ‘can do’. That ‘can do’ was music to our ears.”
Cody said, “I’m really proud of what we have achieved.”
Grant, Cody and the Crichtons were all onsite to watch the cabin be retrieved and trucked to Godley Head by contractors HGM Construction. David Crichton pacing back and forth was reminiscent of an expectant father.
“I have mixed feelings about this event,” said David. “It would have been nice to stay here but this is the next best thing.”
The cabin began life as a meteorological hut taken to the Antarctic by the Terra Nova for Captain Scott in 1911. But it was brought back to Lyttelton in 1912, still in its wrapping.
It was erected on Clifton Hill above Sumner in the garden of the expedition agent, Sir Joseph Kinsey and was home to the wife of Captain Scott’s right hand-man Dr Edward Wilson, Oriana Wilson, for a year until she received the news of his death in February 1913. The hut was also known as ‘Uncle Bill’s Cabin’ after Dr Wilson, whose nickname was Bill.
David Crichton used the cabin as his study, and later it was a place of refuge after the September quake, when the couple felt nervous about sleeping in their own house. This fear was proved founded when the February quakes bought their house down, while the cabin rolled with the quakes like “a wee boat,” said Valerie.
In a press release, Minister of Conservation Hon Dr Nick Smith said, “I’d like to acknowledge the Crichton’s vision and generosity in gifting the hut, as well as the assistance provided by CERA and the Christchurch City Council in making the removal possible.”
“For a building to have travelled so far and survived so much, it would have been a tragedy to have left it to be demolished.”
The hut has been taken to public conservation land at Godley Head where it will be restored and eventually opened to the public, in a spot with sea views as it was on Kinsey Terrace.