Many years ago, when the Hidden Boeings was the fruit-loopery du jour, I was walking around the base of the head at low tide when I saw the partially collapsed entrance of a brick-lined tunnel exposed in the rocks below me.
I crawled into it with thoughts of emerging into some hidden area with rotting aircraft, but soon realized I was heading up the old sewer pipe that must have drained the barracks, etc., above.
From the Auckland Star, 4 December 1899
Considerable progress has been made with the Devonport drainage system introduced by Mr J. C. Macky, Mayor of Devonport. The Council called for competitive designs, and selected from numerous others that of H. H. Metcalfe, C.E., who in due course prepared his plans, and tenders were called for No. 1 contract, consisting of a tunnel through the North Head, a distance of 1260 linear feet. The contract was let about the middle of June last to Messrs Mays and Gordon, contractors, who have pushed it ahead with the utmost vigour, the result being that the work, which is nearing completion, will enable all other sections to be got in hand immediately, as the tunnel through the the North Head is the only outlet for the sewage of the town.
The section under immediate review consists of a tunnel 1260 feet long by 5ft high by 3ft wide, and made egg-shaped. This tunnel has already been driven through the hill. A tiled invert is to be laid in cement, mortar throughout the whole length, for the purpose of giving a clear run in the sewer. The sides will be made true by a lining of concrete 2ft 9in high, and rendered with cement rendering throughout.
At the sea-end is constructed an outfall chamber fitted with proper tide-flaps to prevent the sea backing into the sewer tunnel; while from the bottom of the outer chamber a cast iron pipe is laid to discharge the sewage below low water mark. The whole is so ingeniously arranged that when the tide rises above the level of the tide-flaps the run is stopped in the sewer until the tide again falls to quarter-ebb, when it empties itself well out in the tide-way and is carried to sea without leaving tine least chance of obnoxious matter being thrown upon the beach either inside or outside the North Head.
The general scheme of drainage has been carefully thought out, extending as it does to the remotest parts of the borough, from whence the whole drainage is conveyed to the main sewer, and from thence by the main outlet to the sea. It is believed that when complete the North Shore will be one of the best drained boroughs in the colony.
Post by Dave Homewood on May 15, 2023 0:30:39 GMT 12
Here is an article from The Press dated 2 May 1984:
Search for historic Boeing seaplanes is going underground
By KEN COATES
Two of the world’s most historic aircraft — the first Boeings built in Seattle and used in pioneering New Zealand’s first airmails in the 1920s — could lie entombed in forgotten gun tunnels beneath North Head, near Devonport. The Ministry of Defence, which mounted a special investigation into the possibility, officially described it as a fable and claims the aircraft were burnt as “junk and rubbish.” But an Auckland man, John Earnshaw, thinks the chance of finding them warrants a further search.
He plans to probe a honeycomb of underground shafts and tunnels, some formerly used for ammunition but now sealed, and others dating back more than 80 years, using seismic equipment. A TV documentary, “The Search for Boeing I,” is proposed by Mr Earnshaw, who says his research shows that the Boeings were not burned at Torpedo Bay, North Head, though some early aircraft were. Nor is there clear evidence they were burnt at Mission Bay, near the site of the old New Zealand Flying School.
He says that a naval rating who climbed down into a labyrinth of tunnels on North Head in 1960 claimed to have discovered a large wooden box containing an old aeroplane. A 1939 photograph of the cliff face at Torpedo Bay shows three tunnel entrances. All trace of them has since disappeared.
The persistent story of buried planes has its origins in the joyriding, do-it-yourself early days of the magnificent men in New Zealand flying machines. The plane-crazy young Walsh brothers, of Auckland, made their historic powered flight in New Zealand in 1911 in a biplane imported from England which they assembled themselves.
Spurred on by the success of a flying boat they designed and constructed, they formed the New Zealand Flying School at Kohimarama, near what is now Mission Bay. It was in the heady days of the British Empire, and with the First World War looming, that the Walshes saw an opportunity to train New Zealand pilots who wanted to join the Royal Flying Corps in Britain. They were backed by a wealthy American, Reuben Dexter, who had the Cadillac franchise in Auckland.
Private enterprise therefore trained pilots for active service at the front — at the pilots’ expense of £125 each, so only the wealthy applied. It was around this time that the founder of what is now the giant aerospace conglomerate, the Boeing Corporation, a well-heeled young Seattle lumberman and flyer, William Edward Boeing, resolved to “build better airplanes than anyone else.”
He took on Commander Conrad Westervelt, a United States Navy construction expert, and they designed two twin-float seaplanes, with wooden, fabric-covered fuselages. They were called, simply, B and Ws, after the men who made them.
The Boeings were large biplanes for those days, with an upper wing span of 15.8 metres. They were powered by a six-cylinder Hall-Scott engine which drove a 2.74metre diameter wooden propeller. Maximum speed was about 120 km/ h.
The seaplanes were named Bluebill and Mallard. Later, in 1918, after Boeing became interested in more advanced designs, they were sold to the New Zealand Flying School.
The Walshes had been joined by the gifted young Dunedin pioneer engineer and pilot, George Bolt. He flew the reassembled Bluebill from Kohimarama and said:
“She’s a fine bus and very steady to fly. She can carry a good weight, about 35 gallons (159 litres) of juice and the equivalent of about five men, though she has only two seats (later converted to three).
“These two buses are the biggest in Australasia, and I’m looking forward to doing a lot of flying with them.”
Bolt broke the existing altitude record by climbing to 1981 metres over Auckland in a Boeing, and reached 152 km/h in a race with two flying boats from the school over Waitemata Harbour.
The Boeing became the first sight of an aeroplane for excited people in country areas. Quick to see the advantage of flying to his flock in remote areas, Bishop H. W. Cleary, Catholic Bishop of Auckland, was dubbed “the flying bishop,” in spite of a nerve-shattering introduction to the air.
On a short flip to find out whether flying would agree with His Lordship, Bolt had been airborne for only a few minutes when the crankshaft of the single engine suddenly broke.
“There was a bang and smoke, and the big bus just about shook herself to pieces,” Bolt later recalled. “The whole front of the engine burst through the radiator. And, with the propeller still on it, flew into the sea.
“Things were only middling for a few seconds, but I managed to make a good landing and we were towed back to shore.”
The bishop calmly clambered out on to a float, and after taking a look at the oil-soaked, wrecked engine, said simply: “Well, well, that is a pity.” The accident did not put him off flying. Some structural alterations were made to the second Boeing, but it never handled as well as the first put into commission. A number of trial airmail flights were made, with “Royal Mail” painted on the side of a Boeing. Once, when flying low over the river at Dargaville, the engine cut out. The pilot, again George Bolt, was too low to make a turn into the wind. Landing on the water, the plane hit a log, which badly holed one float.
He had to climb onto a wing to stop the plane from rolling over in the water. A rope was passed to a railway engine on a line beside the river, and the crippled plane was hauled on to a mudbank where Bolt made temporary repairs. Bolt survived another mishap on a flight in a Boeing to Whangarei when the engine failed north of Whangaparoa. He landed on a choppy sea, repaired the damage, but because of the waves could not take off.
A big green roller broke off a large piece of the propeller and, after drifting helplessly, the seaplane was taken in tow by the coaster Apanui. This time the pilot had to sit on a wingtip for 10 hours all the way back to Auckland, to prevent the plane from capsizing and sinking. But George Bolt was sent a hot meal from the ship via the towrope. While the war had continued and government money subsidised the flying school, it flourished. Some aircraft were provided by the British government for tuition. But after the war, as the novelty of flight wore off, revenue from “joyriding” dropped away and times became tough.
Financial problems were partly offset by a small subsidy paid to foster civil aviation and provide refresher training for “reserve force” pilots. But it was merely token support. The backers of the school looked to the government to actively encourage aviation development but, in 1923, even the subsidy dried up.
The once-proud flying school which had trained 110 pilots, 65 of whom crossed enemy lines, closed. The government bought the school’s assets for £10,500. These included 12 aircraft, six owned by the company and six on loan from the government, as well as a number of engines and hulls of two Curtis flying boats: Army engineers, assisted by Railways stores staff, made a survey and reported that of the Walsh planes, only a Supermarine Channel flying boat, which had been bought new from England, and a former R.A.F. DH6, stored at Trentham, were worth buying.
The Walsh brothers, disillusioned and disappointed, sold what they could of their planes and spares. But there is no record of sale or removal of the two Boeings, or of two experimental flying boats built in the early days by the Walshes. A detailed official report on the Boeings still on file states: “Both of obsolete type, stripped of fabric; fuselages, wings, etc., in very bad condition and not worth repairing. Useless for service work.”
Seven planes considered worth saving — three Avro 504 Ks, three DH9s, and the Supermarine — along with spare engines, were loaded on to a barge and towed across to North Head at Easter, 1925.
According to Lt Commander Peter Dennerly, of Wellington, who has investigated the fate of the early aircraft, the two Boeings were probably burnt as “junk and rubbish” at Kohimarama.
(A few years ago the Smithsonian Institute valued them at $US1 million.)
“The general decision seems to have been that as it was not on charge, and not wanted by the Defence Department or the Walshes, the material could be burnt without record.
“Accordingly, it would appear that this was the most likely fate of the Walsh-built aeroplanes and the two Boeings.” At Torpedo Bay, North Head, engines and the Supermarine were stored in an old mine store building, and waterproofed crates containing the planes were left outside. But the officer commanding the artillery detachment complained that the crates were cluttering up his parade ground. So another survey of the planes was made. This time the DH9s and Avros were found worthless, as were the wings and floats of the Supermarine. These aircraft were heaped on the foreshore and burned. Several of the engines were given to technical training schools.
Lt Commander Dennerly concedes the Boeings could have been taken to North Head, but considers such a transfer unlikely because of the rotten state of the planes and the absence of record of a transfer.
The hull of the Supermarine remained in the old mine store until 1932, when it was sold to a Devonport man, Mr V. F. Findlay, for one pound, though the book value was then still £1150.
Subsequently, a float thought to be from the flying boat was found being used as a trough in a pigsty, and the hull being used as a boat.
A Devonport man intrigued by the story that early aircraft could lie buried in the North Head tunnels is Paul Titchener. He says he found a wing strut, authenticated by the Boeing Corporation as being from one of its first seaplanes, in one of the tunnels. He accepts the Ministry of Defence’s view that the planes were burnt, and says the strut is one of the various items “souvenired” by soldiers stationed at North Head between 1925 and 1932. (This still does not fully explain how the wing strut came to be at North Head initially.)
Lt Commander Dennerly investigated a report that a Mr Irvine Bromley claimed to have “discovered” old aeroplanes in North Head tunnels under the old eight-inch gun site in 1968. But, he says, as the old North Battery tunnels were bricked up when the water reservoir was constructed by the Ministry of Works for fire brigade exercises in 1958-59, these tunnels could not have been entered when claimed. Mr Bromley now denies ever having discovered anything in the tunnels.
Mr Titchener talks of digging out access to one of the old tunnels to see what is there, and Mr Earnshaw says he simply does not know whether any early aircraft are still stored in long-forgotten tunnels. He considers that in the absence of a map showing all tunnel systems the only way to lay the story to rest for ever is by means of a seismic survey and a thorough search.
Presumably, whether the old Boeings are found or not, it will make a fascinating documentary. As for Lt Commander Dennerly, he concedes: “There’s always a possibility the Boeings were taken from the flying school and stored somewhere, but it is highly unlikely they went to North Head.”
It is also possible that unknown inter-connecting tunnels and shafts from the early Fort Cautley days have not been searched. “Anyway,” says Lt Commander Dennerly, “even if the seaplanes were crated, how would the boxes containing wings 30ft long be taken around right-angled corners in a 4ft to 6ft-wide tunnel?”
Post by Dave Homewood on May 16, 2023 11:28:12 GMT 12
A little side snippet re the North Head guns. From the New Zealand Herald dated 2nd of January 1942.
GUNS WITH A HISTORY
ALBERT PARK RELICS
Memories of the Russian war scare in the early 'eighties of last century have been stirred by the news of the dismantling recently of the old muzzle-loading guns in Albert Park and also two old pieces in Timaru. At the time of the Russian war scare guns were hurriedly sent from England and mounted to defend strategic points in the Dominion. Guns were also mounted in Sydney and Melbourne because of the possibility of attack.
One early Auckland resident states that he was employed in the mounting of seven guns on North Head. They were subsequently replaced by the more modern breech-loading guns. For six years the old guns lay in a shed at the foot of North Head, and when they were of no further military use some of them, this resident states, were moved to Albert Park. A former resident of Timaru and at one time a member of the old C Battery, New Zealand Artillery, states that the two guns recently scrapped at Caroline Bay were 24-pounders and were used in the Crimean campaign. They were sent by the Admiralty to the New Zealand Defence Department and were set up at Timaru in 1882.