Calliope Dock

The dry dock, along with the pump house, is two of the oldest and most significant maritime related structures in New Zealand. On 13 May 1881 after a two year vigorous debate over Devonport versus Kauri Point or Birkenhead the Auckland Harbour Board voted in favour of Devonport with the casting vote of Mr Oliver Mays who represented Devonport.

 

The dry dock, along with the pump house, is two of the oldest and most significant maritime related structures in New Zealand. On 13 May 1881 after a two year vigorous debate over Devonport versus Kauri Point or Birkenhead the Auckland Harbour Board voted in favour of Devonport with the casting vote of Mr Oliver Mays who represented Devonport. Five days later instructions were issued to the officers of the board to purchase Calliope Point and commence surveying.[1] Four acres were purchased for the sum of £800.[2] It was agreed by the Board that the dock would be constructed to take the largest vessels up to 10,000 tons and it would be for the use of the Royal Navy as a repair and maintenance facility for the Fleet that protected the Empire. Calliope dry-dock would replace the Auckland Harbour Board’s Sturdee St dry dock which was built in 1878 and was already insufficient to dock the larger vessels now operating in New Zealand. Sturdee Dock operated until 1915 when it was closed.[3]

In 1885 work commenced on construction of dock at Calliope Point under the architect William Errington. The work was carried out by the contractor Pierce Lanigan.[4] The land of the point was excavated and the cliff cut further away. The 118,000 cubic metres of spoil was used to reclaim land on both sides of dock.[5] The 1.5 bricks used were made locally. Rock was supplied from the Auckland Harbour Board quarry on Rangitoto Island.[6] The original dock blocks were pohutukawa.[7]

– Original Dimensions:

Length                      162m

Breadth                     23m

Width at dock level   20m[8]

On 16 February 1888, the official opening was conducted by the Governor[9] and a public holiday for Auckland declared. The Royal Navy’s Australia Squadron under Admiral Fairfax was present consisting of HM Ships Nelson (Flag), Calliope, Diamond, Opal and Swinger. As arranged Calliope and Diamond docked down, Calliope breaking a ribbon stretched across the dock. Unfortunately, the six casks of beer provided for refreshment of ships crews and guard led to a brawl ending proceedings.

When opened in 1888 it was the largest dock in the Southern Hemisphere[10] at the time.  The dock is named for its location, at the foot of Calliope Point, named after HMS Calliope which visited Auckland in 1846.  The Auckland Harbour Board constructed the dock with Admiralty subsidy, for all forms of large shipping up to 10,000tons.

The structure and steam powered pumps were designed by the prominent colonial civil engineers James Stewart and William Errington.  Its construction, which included the excavation of 61,000 cubic metres of soil, was one of the largest and most difficult engineering works undertaken in New Zealand during the 19th century.  With construction initiated in 1884, it took 300 men over three years to complete.  Much of the spoil from the dock work was used to reclaim the land by the dock, and this was later to become part of today’s naval base.  The dock has been extended three times in 1927, 1936 and 1944.  In 1996 two pits were added to the dock bottom to accommodate the modern ANZAC Class Frigates.

The Navy purchased the dock in 1986 and leased it the lessee’s of the Dockyard from 1994 onwards.

Timeline:

1899    1 May Agreement signed between Admiralty and Auckland Harbour Board on use of the dock[11]

– Dock in urgent need of repair and Harbour Board short of funds

– Admiralty to have priority use of the dock for 30 years

– Admiralty to pay the Harbour Board £2,950 per year

– Harbour Board to provide and upkeep workshops and machinery,                        which would be available for use by the Navy

1903    4 March New Agreement signed between Admiralty and Auckland Harbour Board[12]

– The cost of repairs was greater than anticipated

– Admiralty payment to be increased to £5,000 per year, retrospective                 to 1899

– Harbour Board to reconstruct and equip the dock, jetty, deep water                      berth and building

– Admiralty to have use of all facilities and priority of use

– Admiralty to have ¼ of earnings of the facilities, excepting dock dues,               after payment of expenses

Advantages of this Agreement were:

  • Harbour Board got efficient dock and workshop facilities at the expense of the Admiralty
  • Admiralty gained access to an efficient dock and workshop facilities without the capital costs and expenses of maintaining them

1903    Lower altar of dock cut back to allow docking of the largest ships serving New Zealand – Corinthic, Ionic and Athenic[13]

1906    27 November  SS Mamari fell over when docking down[14] – Two men drowned, a third died of injuries, 30 injured

1909    Lower altars, i.e. all of No.2 and half of No.3, cut back to allow docking of modern broad beam vessels[15]

1911    Admiralty received £68.16.1 as profit share of facilities – First and only time such a payment made[16]

1913    Dock considered to be out of date and incapable of taking modern vessels[17]

1915    23 March RMS Niagara emergency docking[18] – Minor modifications required to head of dock to accommodate overhang of bow and rudder had to be hard over to allow cassion to close

1923    New Zealand Government takes over Admiralty payments[19]

1927    Navy considered that the dock and workshop equipment to be out of date and require modernising, disputed by the Harbour Board.  The dual control arrangements considered to be unsatisfactory[20]

1927- 1935

Ongoing acrimonious discussions between the Commodore Commanding the New Zealand Station and the Harbour Board on the state of the machinery.  Point exacerbated by the requirement for new machinery to maintain the Leander class cruisers from 1936

1927    Dock lengthened to take SS Northumberland – Recess at head of dock lengthened and widened[21]

1936    Dock lengthened to take Leander class cruisers[22]

1936    22 December new Agreement between Government and Auckland Harbour Board[23] which specified that

– Auckland Harbour Board to retain ownership of the dock

– New Zealand Naval Board to have ownership of land and all other                          facilities

– Annual payment in accordance with the 1899/1903 Agreements to                      continue until 1939

– figure paid was £16,936 plus buildings and machinery valued at £1,100                excluding drydock

– area was 8.5 acres land plus 8.5 acres of seabed

1937    Auckland Harbour Board machinery from workshops sold by the board for scrap[24]

1937    Training Jetty rebuilt[25]

1939    Naval estimates of 1939 included £12,842 for naval base civilian employees pay

1942    New cassion fitted

1943    Dock lengthened to accommodate USN Indianapolis class cruisers[26]

– Funded by US

– This class of cruiser smaller than RN heavy cruisers

– dimensions:

length                       608 feet 5 in (185m)

breadth                       80 feet[27] (24m)

1964    Discussions in respect of the Crown acquiring the dock[28]

1986    Dock sold to the Ministry of Defence[29]

– 13 Feb 87 handover ceremony[30]

1994    1 August dockyard, including dock, leased to Babcock-Skellerup

1996    Modifications to the dock to accommodate ANZAC class frigates[31]

– New pumping arrangements

– New cassion

– Modifications to the bottom, rudder pits, sonar pits

2004-Present Day -Leased to VT Fitzroy which runs the Dock and services both commercial and the fleet of the Royal New Zealand Navy

 

[1] North Shore Times, 6 December 1986.

[2] North Otago Times, 18 May 1881.

[3] New Zealand Herald, 22 July 1986

[4] ibid.

[5] R. Clough, D. Prince, Calliope Graving Dock: Archaeological Assessment and Monitoring of Modifications, unpublished Report, Auckland: Clough & Associates, 1997.

[6] J. Feeney, The Development of HMNZ Dockyard, Devonport, New Zealand 1888 – 1945, Unpublished War History Narrative, Wellington: Navy Office, 1947.

[7] ibid.

[8] ibid.

[9] ibid.

[10] ibid.

[11] ibid.

[12] ibid.

[13] ibid.

[14] ibid. See also New Zealand Herald 22 Jul 1986

[15] J. Feeney, The Development of HMNZ Dockyard, Devonport, New Zealand 1888 – 1945, Unpublished War History Narrative, Wellington: Navy Office, 1947.

[16] ibid.

[17] ibid.

[18] The Auckland Star 1 Aug 1936

[19] J. Feeney, The Development of HMNZ Dockyard, Devonport, New Zealand 1888 – 1945, Unpublished War History Narrative, Wellington: Navy Office, 1947.

[20] ibid.

[21] ibid.

[22] ibid.

[23] ibid.

[24] J.O’C. Ross, The White Ensign in Early New Zealand, Wellington: A.H. & A.W. Reed, 1967.

Ross

[25] J. Feeney, The Development of HMNZ Dockyard, Devonport, New Zealand 1888 – 1945, Unpublished War History Narrative, Wellington: Navy Office, 1947.

[26] ibid.

[27] ibid.

[28] NA 74/5/3 dated 21 Sep 64

[29] North Shore Times Advertiser 6 November 1986

[30] NB 7361/1/2 dated 12 February 87

[31] R. Clough, D. Prince, Calliope Graving Dock: Archaeological Assessment and Monitoring of Modifications, unpublished Report, Auckland: Clough & Associates, 1997.