History & heritage  |  6 Oct 2020

Relics of Akaroa’s whaling days will be restored following decades of damage often caused by children clambering in and out of the large cast-iron try pots on the foreshore.

A $12,000 conservation project is soon to start, with the three pots to be carefully prised from their broken brickwork setting and then removed for intensive restoration.

The triple try pots – dating back to the early 1800s – have gradually deteriorated in the face of the corrosive sea environment and their popularity with hands-on young visitors to Beach Road.

Whalers used the pots – sitting on ship decks or in whaling stations dotted on the foreshore around New Zealand from the 1830s – to boil down whale blubber for use in lamps and soap.

Three whaling pots were initially filled with plants by a playground. Photo: Akaroa Museum.

The pots were usually organised in a “nest”, with a fire lit underneath.

Te Pātaka o Rākaihautū/Banks Peninsula Community Board Chairperson Tori Peden says the try pots are integral to Akaroa, “despite being a harsh reminder of a brutal industry”.

“The try pots provide a very vivid image of days long gone and we need to ensure they remain in Akaroa so that future generations can learn from our whaling past,” Ms Peden says.

“It’s important that they are preserved as items of historical interest.

“We hope to eventually add panels detailing the history of the pots when they return to their base by the early French landing site.”

The shore-whaling era on Banks Peninsula ended about 1850. All three pots came from local whaling stations, with the centre pot – created by the Coalbrookdale foundry in Shropshire, England – moved to the township from nearby Peraki Bay. The other two pots probably came from Whakamoa Bay.

The pots have rusted and pitted, requiring delicate conservation work that does not lessen the heritage value of the original structures. They will be carefully cleaned and the corrosion treated at a conservator’s workshop, with a blend of natural oils, Penetrol, applied. New permanent supports will hold the restored pots in place in Akaroa.

Along with the pots, preparations are under way to remove and restore the nearby Britomart Cannon. The timber sections of the carriage require extensive repairs.

“The canon is both historically and socially significant to Akaroa because of the strong links to the first settlement,” Ms Peden points out.

The Lieutenant Governor of New Zealand, Captain William Hobson, sent a ship, the Britomart, to Akaroa in 1840 to establish British authority before the arrival of the French.

While the 1808 Kinman cannon on the Akaroa foreshore is not from the ship, it is very similar.

London foundry owner Francis Kinman cast the cannon, a bronze 6-pounder, muzzle-loading weapon.

It came to New Zealand for display at the 1906-1907 International Exhibition in Christchurch following a request from Akaroa mayor Etienne Le Lievre.

The cannon has been at its present site since 1908.

An early photo of the Britomart cannon in Akaroa. Photo: Akaroa Museum