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Report - Palmer Head Plotting and Wireless Rooms, Wellington (NZ) - April 2017

WildBoyz

Is this the future?
Regular User
#1
History

The Miramar Peninsula, which is located on the south-eastern side of Wellington, has a rich and especially fascinating underground history. The area is perforated with many coves and caves, and even more interestingly old military bunkers that date back to the late 1800s. However, information about these subterranean worlds is quite often fragmented or simply non-existent. What is known, though, is that for many years the peninsula was occupied almost entirely by the military, until 1907 at least when the northern section of the peninsula was linked to the rest of the city by tram.

The peninsula has always been an important component in the defence of Wellington; its very name, Miramar, means ‘sea view’ in Spanish. The strategic position of the land was thought to be ideal for the construction of observation posts, coastal guns and emplacements. These were installed to prevent the approach of Russian enemy warships and subsequent attacks. Further additions to Wellington’s defence were made between 1933 and 1960, when Palmer Head was selected as the site for a new battery. Guns were installed in 1936 and by the outbreak of World War II it was operational, although not at full efficiency because some facilities had not yet been constructed. One of the fundamental problems was accommodation; however, this was eventually resolved with the erection of temporary huts. These were later replaced with more substantial buildings. A radar station was the next facility to be added to the installation in 1941 and remnants of this can still be found today.

Later in that same year, following the completion of the radar station, it was decided that the site would be expanded once again. This time secret underground military plotting and wireless rooms were to be constructed. The development included the construction of an access road, an access tunnel, two plotting rooms, an engine room and two wireless rooms. Only two entrances for the secret facility were built, one to the north and the other to the west.

Palmer Head was decommissioned in 1957, along with every other battery in New Zealand. The advent of air warfare and the threat of a nuclear apocalypse rendered these outdated forts redundant. Nevertheless, the guns were not removed and scrapped until 1961. Thereafter a widespread demolition exercise was put into effect. The original idea for Palmer Head was that it would become a new housing estate, and preliminary plans were drafted. In the end, though, the land was never actually set aside for this development. It was decided that the project could not go ahead due to the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) facilities in the area. Despite the rejection of the development project, the demolition plans for Palmer Head still went ahead and it was dealt with in two phases.

By the end of 1970 most of the Palmer Head site had been reduced to rubble. As for the old plotting rooms and wireless rooms, though, they were never destroyed because they lay inside a fenced-off compound owned by the CAA. It is reported that for many years the old ventilation ducts to the rooms were left exposed and they were not buried until the 1990s, when several alterations were made to the compound. The Moa Point Radar station at the top of the hill also survived as it was being used by the CAA in the 1970s. Today, the forgotten secret rooms are once again accessible; although, finding the hole in the hillside is no easy task.

Our Version of Events

It was almost time to leave Wellington and head off in search of more abandoned places elsewhere in New Zealand, but as we had a little bit of time left on the last evening we set out to get one final explore done. Thanks to a young wizard who goes by the name Zort, we’d received word of some old plotting rooms deep inside a hillside somewhere on the Miramar Peninsula and they sounded particularly interesting. A good old historic underground explore would be a perfect way to end the trip.

We drove as close to the site as was possible, but had to ditch the car and walk the rest of the way. So, armed with our cameras and torches, we entered the bush. For the most part, we were walking blindly, not quite sure exactly where the tunnel entrance would be. But it was good fun and we spotted a fair few wētā along the way. In the end, we actually came across the way into the underground rooms a lot quicker than we’d expected. For once there was a minimal amount of fannying around, so everything went smoothly much like a well-oiled machine.

Getting into the rooms was, as we’d expected, a tight affair. Basically, if you have any Christmas padding around the midriff, or aspire to be a Hercules lookalike, you’re not getting into this site. With that in mind, we crawled flat on our fronts for a fair few metres until the tunnel gradually widened enough to kneel. From there we had to scramble down a pile of rubble and drop into a long concrete corridor. At this point we could stand up straight and see, quite clearly, that the only way we could go was forwards. So, we followed the tunnel and passed a few empty rooms to the left and right of us. One of these looked like it might have housed the engine at one time. As for the others, it was impossible to tell what their original purpose was.

At the end of the corridor we found two larger rooms that were connected by a small window and a left-hand turn. We explored each of the rooms which have a few bits and pieces metal lying in them, and then made our way back to the corridor which turned out to be flooded in the next section. It wasn’t too deep to begin with, but the further we went the higher it got. It wasn’t exactly a pleasant pool of water either; it was slightly green and stale looking. Eventually, we reached the limit of our gumboots (wellies) and couldn’t quite reach the end of the tunnel where there was a large metal gate and more rubble. This forced us to turn back the way we came. After that we faffed around for a while trying to do a bit of light painting, before we finally decided it was beer O’clock and time for some food. To get back out we returned to the pile of rubble and, once again, suffered the tight squeeze back through sand, rubble and concrete.

Explored with Bane.

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