New Zealand lighthouse airlifted to saftey

2013-07-11 12:02

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Wellington - A historic lighthouse in southern New Zealand was airlifted to safety on Thursday after it was left teetering on a cliff edge by the 2011 earthquakes in Christchurch.

The operation to salvage the lighthouse, which was first lit in 1865, had been complicated and had required some fairly creative thinking, project manager Grant Campbell said.

"This beautiful old structure had an extremely lucky escape and was left clinging to the cliff by its toenails after the February and June earthquakes in 2011," he said.

The February earthquake killed 185 people and severely damaged buildings in the city and surrounding area, including local landmarks.

In Thursday's salvage operation by the Department of Conservation, professional abseilers first removed the copper dome and glass housing from the lighthouse base 50m below the top of the cliff face, below Godley Head near Christchurch.

The dome was then separated into two pieces, and taken off the cliff by helicopter, along with the prism glass, prism housing and light mechanism.

Earlier attempt aborted

"It is a nerve-wracking process," Campbell said. "You don't want to make a muck up."

"But it all went well and no one was hurt so it was actually very successful."

An earlier attempt on 5 July was aborted as the outer dome in one piece was found to be too heavy for the helicopter.

"The total load we were trying to lift the other day was 2 000kg approximately," Campbell said. "So today we split it into two pieces."

The lighthouse, built from locally quarried stone and with a lantern designed and built in England, was of significant historical importance, Campbell said.

It was moved to its precarious location during World War II when defensive fortifications were built at the top of the headland, leaving the lighthouse in the line of fire of a battery of six-inch guns.

"Our aim will be to restore the lantern house on a new concrete base, but for the time being it will be kept in safe storage," Campbell said.

Read more on:    new zealand  |  new zealand earthquake

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