Christchurch earthquake capsules like 'winning the lottery'

02:31, Mar 01 2011
Time capsule
This screen grab from TVNZ shows one of the time capsules discovered beneath a toppled statue.
statue of John Robert Godley
The statue of John Robert Godley, Cathedral Square, pictured in the Cathedral grounds circa 1930.
The statue of John Robert Godley
The statue of John Robert Godley, the founder of Canterbury lies toppled after the earthquake.
The statue of John Robert Godley
The statue of John Robert Godley, the founder of Canterbury lies toppled after the earthquake.
Time capsule
Sean Haggarty, Steve Proud and Anthony Wright with the discovery.
Time capsule
The first task will be to stabilise the paper found in the half-smashed glass bottle.
Time capsule
Two time capsules have been discovered underneath a statue damaged in the quake.
Time capsule
Two time capsules have been discovered underneath a statue damaged in the quake.

At least two time capsules have been discovered underneath earthquake damaged Christchurch with the man who found them saying the mayor was so excited when it was handed to him it was "like he'd won the lottery".

Two time capsules were discovered in Cathedral Square under the plinth of a statute of John Robert Godley, damaged in the quake. One was a small glass capsule while the other was a large metal-like object. 

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said the discovery was "remarkable".

There were also reports of a thrid capsule in the square.

Museum director Anthony Wright said he had been told rescue teams had also found a time capsule that was in the base of the cross that came off ChristChurch Cathedral in the Square.

"We have no idea what's in the cathedral one."

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The first task would be to stabilise the paper found in the half-smashed glass bottle.

Wright said the time capsule smells a bit like blue cheese and two words could be made out: "by" and "erected".

"People would love to know what's in it," said Wright.

The age of the time capsules is not known. There were several opportunities to put the capsules under the plinth of the John Robert Godley statue - one when it was first erected in 1867, or when it was returned to its original site in 1933, after being removed in 1918 to make way for a tram shelter and toilets, which were later demolished.

Irishman John Robert Godley is known as the "Founder of Canterbury" even though he lived there for only two-and-a-half years. He travelled in Ireland and North America and developed ideas about how colonies should be established and governed.

Sean Haggarty, a Scottish contractor, said a crane driver found the two buried items, sitting in the plinth.

When Haggarty was handed the time capsules, he wondered what to do with him and said "I'd take it to Bob [Mayor Bob Parker]."

He saw Parker wandering near the Art Gallery and said "You might want to have these."

Parker asked what they were and when told they were time capsules: "His face lit up, it was like he'd won the lottery."

The capsules will be opened in the future, but would be looked after at the city museum in the meantime.

Parker said he hoped to "discover and understand the words and visions of our forebears" in the capsules.

The statue will be rebuilt, Parker said.

The bronze statue, which was on display beside ChristChurch Cathedral, was unveiled on August 8 1867 by Godley's former secretary Charles Bowen.

It was made in England and displayed in London before being sent to Christchurch.

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