Home » April 2020 » Currently Reading:

Ruined, authentic” Carkeek Observatory for heritage listing

March 31, 2020 April 2020 No Comments

New Zealand’s first – and still surviving – amateur observatory, built by Featherston sheep farmer Stephen Carkeek in 1867, may be granted Category 1 Heritage status within the region’s proposed Dark Sky Reserve,  according to Heritage NZ.

A 45-page report recommending the South Wairarapa’s Carkeek Observatory’s entry onto the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero, has just been circulated for comment by Heritage NZ.

“Amateur practitioners are critical not only in astronomy, but to the history of New Zealand science in general and there are few surviving places from the nineteenth century which tell that story,” the report notes. 

“This local and international exceptionalism affords the Carkeek Observatory outstanding importance as a rare historic place,” it adds in a note calling for public comment on the listing proposal.  

Stephen Carkeek’s descendants have strongly supported efforts by the Martinborough Dark Sky Society (now Wairarapa Dark Sky Association) to ensure protection and preservation of the 1867 timber and iron observatory structure – the oldest remaining observatory in the country.

It also links the region back to Wales, birthplace of Carkeek who became a leading civil servant in colonial New Zealand and the amateur scientist who built the country’s first timeball in Wellington, to provide time accuracy for clocks and ship navigation.

Heritage New Zealand and South Wairarapa District Council have been working with the dark sky preservation group to try and preserve the observatory. It also sees the potential in building a replica for both local enthusiasts and tourists to interact with at its site near Featherston – owned by SWDC. 

Heritage NZ recommends the Carkeek Observatory should be scheduled on the Wairarapa Combined District Plan, and a conservation plan drawn up to “conserve and stabilise … the Carkeek Observatory as a ruin and archeological site.” It notes it has no plan to reconstruct the present “oustanding historical” building.

New Zealand Archeological Association already records the “Obervatory with dome and transit annex, built circa 1867” in its lists.

The Heritage NZ report also notes in passing the use of celestial navigation by Maori settlers who arrived in the south Wairarapa’s Palliser Bay guided by Sun and stars as early as the “the late 1300s.” 

  It says ‘New Zealand astronomical observatories by its date of construction, design and … materials,” – totara timber beams and planks with steel rails and wheels for moving the telescope dome. None of the canvas cover remains.

It adds that research suggests “Carkeek’s Observatory is an internationally-rare surviving Romsey (British designer)-style amateur observatory, with no other “direct equivalent examples” in the U.K., Australia or Canada.  

The report says the observatory has archeological, historical, social and technological significance, qualifies “as part of New Zealand’s historic and cultural heritage,” and should be classified as a Category 1 historic place.

Finally it notes: “The Carkeek Observatory occupies an outstanding position in the history of Aotearoa/New Zealand as the earliest surviving astronomical observatory in the country and a building directly associated with amateurism, a major theme in the history of  New Zealand astronomy and science in general.”

“Ruined yet highly authentic, the Carkeek Observatory evokes the lone amateur astronomer at work, tracking the eternal passage of the stars and planets across the night sky.”

Comment on this Article:

Sports

Martinborough Junior Hockey – 2019 Results and Prizegiving

Our 1st XI team came so close to victory in their final of the A-grade competition against rivals, MIS Falcons.  Martinborough scored an early goal in the first half of the game and held their defence until MIS scored a late goal in the final 3 minutes to draw 1-1 …

Kahutara School Hockey Wrap-up

Kahutara School managed to enter a total of three teams in various Wairarapa Hockey Association junior grades played at Clareville Hockey Stadium this season, a mean feat for a school of our size.  The Kahutara Blue team played Tuesday nights in the 6 Aside quarter field grade. The team did …

Junior Rugby

Our 2019 JAB season has come to an end, we have had an another amazing season with some awesome results. 2019 saw MRFC have around 75 registered players each year our numbers continue to grow and we have some huge things in the pipeline for 2020. Congratulations to all players …

Regular Features

Letters

Plenty of issues Our current mayor seems to think the council had a hand in …

Did you know

‘YOU WILL NEVER reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog …

Cooking corner – Potato rendang

INGREDIENTS 8 small potatoes, coarsely chopped 1/4 cup vegetable oil 1 onion, finely chopped 185 …

Know your town – Soldiers’ Memorial Park

Originally the Square was called Martin Square and the North – South and East – …

 Community Garden News

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” Margaret …

News from Wharekaka

The AGM was held on 19 September.  Attendees heard that Wharekaka is in good heart …

Under The Martinborough Stars

Take a look up tonight and you’ll see a sparkling silver band of stars dominating …

Recent Comments