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Wellington Harbour

Wellington Harbour
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Date:
Location:
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Latitude:
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05 March 2016
Wellington
New Zealand
41°17'S
174°47E
Sea level
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A CHILL hung in the air at the dawn of what would be a surprisingly calm summer’s day. Wellington’s reputation of being one of the windiest capital cities in the world is due to its precarious position wedged at the bottom of the North Island where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean through Cook Strait.

Sunrise behind Mount Victoria

Sunrise behind Mount Victoria

The long morning twilight brightened as ships lay alongside the western side of the harbour, adjacent to a major fault line leading through behind the city and along the path of the motorway heading up into the Hutt Valley. Clouds were streaming overhead crossing the sky from the north-west bringing a faint salt haze across the city.

The clouds glowed pink over the purple mountains towering out of the harbour in huge blocks uplifted from countless earthquakes over the past million years. Then the clouds lit up a brilliant crimson red against their purple shadows. The dark frames of the harbour cranes pointed silently towards the brilliant streaks of cloud.

Early morning over the harbour

Early morning over the harbour

The dazzling colours reflected in the windows of the city buildings behind me. Nestled tightly between the harbour and the steep hill at the fault line, the city stood gleaming like a crown. Although tightly packed, the buildings stood little more than twenty storeys high, and are never likely to be any taller due to the severe earthquake risk.

Relections of brilliant clouds

Relections of brilliant clouds

The fault line behind the city is capable of an 8 magnitude quake, whilst the fault line running along the other side of the mountains across the harbour is the main boundary plate between the Indo-Australian and the Pacific plates, and is capable of a much larger quake. A quake in 1855 raised the headlands on the other side of the harbour a full six metres out of the water. The city itself was lifted two metres. Several plaques on the footpath through the city show where the shore line used to be before the quake. The one I saw was nearly two hundred metres inland.

Old shoreline

Old shoreline

With the sun about to rise, the city was just beginning to wake up with an increasing number of people walking along the foreshore getting their morning exercise.

Clouds passing over the harbour

Clouds passing over the harbour

The waterfront has been done up very well in recent years. The wharf between the Te Papa museum and the ferry terminal had excellent public access. Hundreds of people were walking along the path making the most of the sunshine of the short summer.

The walkway extended above the crystal clear cold harbour water possibly as a shelter from the worst of the swells that could come in and batter the small shops. Once over the small causeway the sealed track followed the top of a rocky bank over which small waves broke.

Piano on the walkway

Piano on the walkway

Looking out towards the open ocean Mount Victoria stood as a barrier of shelter to the turbulent Antarctic seas that lay beyond.

As I continued heading along the pathway the buildings became more maritime, with police boats and tug boats moored to their wharves beside huge corrugated iron boat sheds. Further beyond a large ferry was slowly docking from having completed one of its countless crossings across the notorious Cook Strait on its journey from the South Island. The two islands are divided by a massive underwater chasm tearing its way across from the alpine fault that has raised both islands in very different formations. The islands are the fragmented remnants of the much larger Zealandia continent stretched and sunken beneath the waves.

Tugboat

Tugboat

Upon reaching the large cranes the walkway followed a wharf passing a clutter of cafes now very busy from large numbers of people dining making the most of the weekend sunshine. They were very noisy but mostly well behaved. A smiling cop had arrested one drunken rascal and was leading him away to the cheers of the crowds.

Looking back the other way down a wide avenue, I could see the Beehive, a distinctive round building marking the engine room of the New Zealand government. The New Zealand flag flew proudly in the strong wind on top of the building.

The Beehive

The Beehive

Another block away, going through a rather derelict warehouse, I reached Wellington’s central station, where commuters file in from the narrow veins of suburbia between the mountains tightly constricting the city.

Crane and helicopters

Crane and helicopters

Walking back along the wharf two helicopters landed on an offshore wharf having completed a scan of the harbour.

Coming back along the harbour there were a lot more people out on their daily walk. A young fellow with pastel green hair played the cello at the edge of the wharf.  The wind was picking up off the harbour now, carrying the sound into the anonymous droning hum of the city.

Cellist

Cellist

Walking over a bridge into a small mall there was still a proliferation of people. One young lady was dancing in the middle of the mall twirling hoops lit with fire.

Dancing with fire

Dancing with fire

I returned to the harbour near Te Papa museum to the wharf now famous for where the soldiers set sail for World War I far away on the other side of the planet.

At the entrance of the wharf stood a tiny solitary silver caravan selling coffee for all the addicts.

Silver caravan

Silver caravan

Across from the caravan at the corner of the wharf stood the Hikitia. It is a steam ship with a long history having been constructed in Glasgow in 1926 and took 83 days to sail to Wellington.

Upon her arrival, she worked unloading cargo from ships for the Wellington Harbour Board until 1990 when it was sold to private owners and continued working in the harbour. It was restored in 2006 and continues to operate, the last significant lift was of a tower crane in April 2013 for a coastal development. Currently it is Australasia’s only working floating crane. The ship is 60m long, the crane 30m high, and it is capable of lifting 80 tonnes at 6 metres out from the side rail.

The Hikitia

The Hikitia

Walking further around the harbour approaching a marina I had a great view back over the city. The clouds of the north westerly were still travelling fast across the sky, hardly hesitating on their rapid journey from the Tasman Sea to the endless Pacific Ocean.

Near the marina stood a solitary brass life sized statue of a man poised to dive into the cold harbour. Teetering off balance he was poised in suspended animation starting to make the plunge.

Statue overlooking the harbour

Statue overlooking the harbour

Wellington Harbour was once named Port Nicholson, after the harbourmaster of Sydney’s Port Jackson. Before that the Maoris called the place Whanga-nui-atara.

Back on the main harbour, the little shipping containers that normally act as shopfronts had closed. A lone busker long overdue for a haircut sat crosslegged against one of the containers exposed to the increasing late afternoon chill playing guitar.

Guitarist

Guitarist

I headed back along the walkway as the sun slipped over the edge of the fault escarpment behind the city. A bridge over a small causeway had several hundred rusting padlocks locked to it, each inscribed with the initials of the lovers who had somehow ceremoniously made a commitment to each other here.

On the other side of the causeway about fifty metres back towards the city stood a large fountain. It had been intermittently on and off during the day, but usually off. This time it was on so I was able to capture a couple of images in the challenging dim light of the afternoon.

Mount Victoria at sunset

Mount Victoria at sunset

The evening air now had quite a chill to it as the remnants of the sun captured the fast moving low clouds and the locals scurried away seeking shelter for the night.

 
 
 

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