Time capsule found after New Zealand quake

2011-03-01 10:21
Christchurch - Rescuers searching the ruins of Christchurch cathedral made a "miraculous" find beneath a statue of the city's founder: A time capsule believed to be more than 100 years old.

Two items - a glass bottle containing rolled-up parchment and a metal cylinder - were found in the plinth of a statue felled in last Tuesday's 6.3-magnitude earthquake which is believed to have killed up to 240 people.

Rescuers combing the site made the discovery on Tuesday morning and immediately called in local museum staff to examine and take custody of the artefacts.

"It's very poignant, very poignant indeed, and to be exactly one week from the earthquake," said Canterbury museum director Anthony Wright.

The items were in the base of a statue of John Robert Godley, the Irish founder of Christchurch, which was erected in 1867 and moved in 1933, and Wright said it would be fascinating to find out what was inside.


Two words were visible on the parchment "by" and "erected" but it would not be properly unfurled until the capsule had been examined by experts and opened in a humidity-controlled museum environment to protect it from damage.

Nothing was yet known about the contents of the metal tube.

Mayor Bob Parker said the find could not have come at a more fitting time for the devastated city, which paused on Tuesday to mark a week since the quake with two minutes silence.

"I think of all the days we're looking for some hope and some vision it actually delivers to us a miracle, it's a miracle that these guys found this thing this morning under the statue of the man who was the founder of the city," said Parker.

"I don't know what the words are because I don't want to try and unwrap them without proper conservation, but I'm imagining it will tell us of the hopes and aspirations of the people of this city when it was founded.

"Is there a better time to have that refreshed? I think it's miraculous."

Another time capsule was reportedly found in the cross atop the cathedral spire, which collapsed in Tuesday's disaster.

New capsule

Wright said the latest find was fitting for another reason - city officials had begun preparing a time capsule of modern artefacts after the September 4 earthquake, a 7.0-magnitude shake that wrought widespread damage but claimed no lives.

It was to be buried to mark the one year anniversary of that quake.

Parker has vowed to have Godley's statue repaired and restored to its rightful place in Cathedral Square, and Wright said the new capsule could be buried there.

"I think it's a great idea, a great symbolic marking, the founding point of the city and the restoration of that," he said.
Read more on:    new zealand  |  earthquakes  |  new zealand earthquake  |  archaeology

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