‘Disappearing gun’ goes off with a bang
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.