Nice day for an implosion

Last updated 12:02 07/08/2012

I'm as surprised as anyone that my alarm going off at 6.30am on Sunday wasn't a mistake. I actually willingly chose this as my time of rising, and as I shuffled into the bathroom and levered open my protesting lids in order to put in my contact lenses, I couldn't help reflecting on the fact that life really can take you in some unexpected directions.

I could never have anticipated, two years ago, the series of events that would lead me to saunter down Madras Street in the early morning light with a backpack containing a thermos flask of champagne, a pair of binoculars, two cameras and half a dozen dust masks while my boyfriend beside me carried two folding chairs. I mean, what on earth could these people be up to? Were we on the way to some kind of urban safari DIY christening? At 7.30 in the morning?

Well, kind of.

As soon as it was announced that there would be a building imploded in the central city, I was keen to see it. There's so much of the city that has been slowly chipped and wrenched and scraped away that implosion is comparatively glamorous and exciting. It's one thing to see a building slowly degraded by heavy machinery over weeks or months. To see one destroyed in a matter of seconds seems like a breath of fresh air.

But naturally, this called for some kind of social occasion, hence the thermos flask of champagne, and the multiple dust masks which were for my friends whom I was meeting at our designated "implosion vantage point". I'd gone around on my bike a week beforehand and had scoped out what I thought were the best spots. In the end I opted for a driveway at the back of the Centennial Pool complex on Armagh St as it offered a clear line of sight largely unobstructed by pesky trees.

So there we were, a motley crew with cameras and plastic tupperware cups filled with bubbly wine.

My friend took a handout from a lanky chap who was handing them out. It explained how the falling of the Twin Towers on 9/11 was too much like a controlled implosion not to be a controlled implosion. Whatever you think of conspiracy theorists, they obviously know an opportunity when they see one. I'd never really thought of "implosion associated selling" being a thing before.

I had a peer at the Newstalk ZB building through my binoculars, but the thing is, there isn't anything especially interesting about a building when it's just sitting there. As much as I hoped to catch a glimpse of a bound and gagged Murray Deaker through one of the upper windows, no such luck.

We've all had Sunday morning like this...
  Radio Network House after a hard night on the tiles...
I was busy fiddling with my camera, with which I intended to capture some video of the implosion, when three rapid booms did their best to give me a heart attack. I'd been expecting a siren or countdown* of some kind but instead the short series of percussive booms snapped me to attention and very nearly had me soiling my pants. I scrambled to get my camera into position and pressed the button.

And then nothing. For a second or so the building just stood there looking back at us as if to say "Is that the best you've got?" This was followed by another volley of bass drum booms (it was a bit like being at a concert, when you can feel the percussion in your chest, but in this case I was quite far down the back) and then the whole thing just tumbled towards us in that weirdly slow-motion way that large buildings seem to have. And then I started breathing again.

While it may seem strange that a group of people who have lost so many buildings and surely aren't overly pleased about losing another should laugh and cheer as one is turned into a pile of rubble and dust, it's just the natural reaction, I think, to something exciting and terrifying but essentially safe. I far prefer implosions to earthquakes, that's for sure.

We then all went back to my place for breakfast and more bubbles before the earliest party I've ever given wrapped around 9.30am. On our way back home the Silver Fox and I saw an abandoned trampoline sitting on the footpath on the Kilmore St bridge. I wish I'd taken a picture of it but happily someone else did. I guess someone had positioned it there as an implosion viewing platform? Though the Silver Fox and I theorised that it was obviously one of the species of trampolines that migrate north. This one was clearly injured and had been left behind during the annual journey north to spawn (this is how you get rebounders). Eventually the trampolines return in the spring*.

Would you get up at 6.30am on a Sunday to go and watch a building implode? Did you go on Sunday and how did you like it? What's the biggest thing you've ever seen destroyed in front of your very eyes?

* Turns out there was a siren and a countdown but we couldn't hear them from where we were.

** I offer you, ladies and gents, the worst pun EVER.

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Poppy   #1   12:11 pm Aug 07 2012

The helicopters woke me up at 7:58 am, I didn't hear the boom but caught some cheers :)

Alastair   #2   12:18 pm Aug 07 2012

Yes. Yes and a lot. Radio Network house.

Busymum   #3   12:23 pm Aug 07 2012

Hubby got up early and biked into town to watch from Latimer Square. I had to stay home with the kids and watch it on the internet. TV3 fail, TVNZ win. I had both up to get a multi-view effect, but only TVNZ's feed worked in real time. TV3 was too laggy and missed out the important falling over stage of the implosion.

Next time we'll all go down and watch!

Niri Tacen   #4   12:31 pm Aug 07 2012

"... a thermos flask of champagne ..."

To me, this is Christchurch all over. (Except for those in Fendalton, who would put a strawberry in it.) I'm surprised you didn't take a couple of choccy bikkies with you.

I guess the important thing about this building going down was that it's one of the last to be demolished (we hope) before the rebuild begins. A kind of cleaning of the slate, if you will.

Strange how all those buildings I'd largely ignored whilst living there are now all giving me guilty nostalgia kicks when I see they're gone, even though I'd never visited most of them.

Sysop   #5   12:42 pm Aug 07 2012

I wish I had gone. My son did and on his recording after the building comes down and everyone is cheering and laughing - you can hear some one shout out "DO IT AGAIN!". Yeah!

Jay   #6   12:56 pm Aug 07 2012

We were very close to you then, we also were surprised it started with no warning! We arrived just in time to see it. I had a giggle at your Murray Deaker comment.

viffer   #7   01:12 pm Aug 07 2012

LOL! I love your two anthropomorphised building pix! Very cute.

I'm glad the implosion wasn't like those ones you see where despite very careful plans, part(s) of the building decide to be recalcitrant and/or the carefully prepared explosives are sulky, resulting in a unplanned yet spectacular sidewaysing of the building, usually smashing summat that wasn't meant to be.

Snake   #8   02:02 pm Aug 07 2012

I used to work in it in 1997. I remember when they removed some ceiling tiles to do some work, I stared at the innards and thought "I wonder how this would cope in a quake?" Question now answered! Lots of good memories of people and happenings in that place - sad to see it go. So much of the Chch I knew and cherished is gone, and that was one more place consigned now to history and memory. :( Re Deaker, I'm sure someone at Radio Network would have made it a pay-per-view event!

Ataahua   #9   02:19 pm Aug 07 2012

I too watched TV3's laggy feed, and saw the building go from upright to dust in one second. Boo.

Just as the building imploded, I wondered if it would bring up unpleasant memories for the friends and families of those who died when the CTV building pancaked. It was a sobering thought for a Sunday morning.

El Jorge   #10   02:47 pm Aug 07 2012

Hi Momo

Just for my clarification did you actually have a 'Thermos' brand flask or was it 'other brands are available' flask? And did you really have Champagne from the Champagne region in France or were you actually just drinking 'Sham-pagne'? These things are important.

BTW, oh how I wish Murray Deaker was in there too!

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