‘Dis­ap­pear­ing gun’ goes off with a bang

Central Leader - - RADIOLOGY - LAINE MOGER

More than 100 peo­ple crowded on to one of Auck­land’s vol­canic cones to wit­ness a rare and thun­der­ous event, the fir­ing of a mas­sive 19th-cen­tury can­non.

It was the third time ever the ‘‘dis­ap­pear­ing gun’’, a Bri­tish Arm­strong 8-inch Mark VII can­non, perched atop Devon­port’s North Head Maun­ganuika, was fired, at just af­ter 11am on Mon­day.

The can­non pre­dates World War I and was mounted on top of the vol­canic cone in the late 1800s out of fear of a Rus­sian navy at­tack.

Packed with gun-pow­der and hooked to a re­mote det­o­na­tor, af­ter a 10-sec­ond count down, a sin­gle shot was blasted in a south­east­erly di­rec­tion over the Waitem­ata Har­bour, which was crested with a rain­bow cour­tesy of the morn­ing’s thun­der­storm.

Its af­ter­shock rum­bled in the ch­ests of nearby spec­ta­tors, and its ex­plo­sion was heard eas­ily from St He­liers on the other side of the har­bour.

The event was for an up­com­ing NZ on Air-funded doc­u­men­tary Her­itage Res­cue, which pre­sen­ter and re­searcher Brigid Gal­lagher de­scribes as ‘‘peel­ing back the lay­ers’’ of Devon­port’s past.

Gal­lagher did the hon­ours of push­ing the det­o­na­tor.

De­spite be­ing ner­vous she might ‘‘squeal’’ be­fore­hand, Gal­lagher ex­cit­edly de­scribed the event af­ter­wards as ‘‘pic­turesque’’.

‘‘I just thought it was beau­ti­ful the way that smoke came out, and it was it was twirling in the air,’’ she said.

The can­non’s his­toric det­o­na­tor was orig­i­nally built in the 1890s. Af­ter hav­ing been used in the Suez Canal project it ar­rived in New Zealand in the 1950s.

Whilst all went off no prob­lems, a more mod­ern det­o­na­tor lay wait­ing in the back­ground, just in case the aged equip­ment wasn’t quite up to the task.

The ‘‘dis­ap­pear­ing gun’’ ap­peared and was loaded ear­lier in the morn­ing, be­fore the guests had ar­rived on the muddy hill­side.

The bat­tery gun was de­signed to re­tract into the ground af­ter fir­ing in at­tempts to con­ceal its location, hence its nick­name, the ‘‘dis­ap­pear­ing gun’’.

It is sus­pected the first time it was fired was 130 years ago and the last time it was fired was to cel­e­brate the All Black’s Rugby World Cup win in 2011


The re­tractable can­non or salut­ing gun was fired at the South bat­tery on North Head as part of the Her­itage tele­vi­sion show.

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