Disappearing gun set for a rare outing in Auckland

The 6 inch Mark VII on Devonport's North Head historic reserve will be fired for the third time on Monday.

The 6 inch Mark VII on Devonport's North Head historic reserve will be fired for the third time on Monday.

A massive 19th Century cannon mounted on top of an Auckland volcanic cone will be fired on Monday.

The firing of the so-called Disappearing Gun on Devonport's Maunganuika North Head reserve will be filmed for the documentary series Heritage Rescue on ChoiceTV.

​The British Armstrong 8 Inch gun battery predates World War I and was mounted on top of the volcanic cone in the late 1800s out of fear of a Russian navy attack.

Another of the same model rests nearby on Mt Victoria. It shattered windows when it was fired for ceremonial purposes in 1915, researcher Justine Treadwell said.

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North Head's gun was never used for its purpose and was basically a dud, series host and archaeologist Brigid Gallagher said.

The battery gun was designed to retract into the ground after firing in attempts to conceal its location, hence its nickname, the "Disappearing Gun".

It is suspected the first time it was fired was 130 years ago in 1887 to test it worked, Treadwell said.

It was fired a number of times during the 20th century before falling silent.

The last time it was fired was to celebrate the All Black's Rugby World Cup win in September 2011, she said.

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The rare treat for Aucklanders to witness such a blast is scheduled for 11am on Monday. 

It will be loaded by a pyrotechnic expert with 1kg of black gun power. 

Then using a remote detonator, Gallagher will fire it.

The explosion will be loud enough to startle but would be a tenth of the volume of the gun fired in 1915, Treadwell said.

Devonport residents can expect to see some smoke rise from the reserve but she assured there's nothing to worry about.

For Gallagher, former co-presenter of the popular British series Time Team, the Disappearing Gun has always been a personal favourite.

"These things don't happen very often," she said.

"Having worked on the conservation of one I'm really excited to get the opportunity to fire it."

The Armstrong 8 Inch is one of two gun battery relics on the North Head reserve, and one of only four of its model in the country.

One is nearby on Mt Victoria, another rests on Rippa Island near Christchurch and another is at Fort Taiaroa in Dunedin, Treadwell said.

With a safety area in place, people are encouraged to watch the blast and to show their support in force, Gallagher said.

"People need to come out and support these things for the purpose of education.

"New Zealand history is compared woefully with international history.

"We need to show that [the gun] is alive and well and should be appreciated," she said.

*Amendments have been made to this story after the researcher provided new information about the model of the gun, the number of them around the country and how many times it was fired. 

 - Stuff


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