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Friday, 25 April 2014 08:17 am

Wellington maritime relic Inconstant in peril

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AN ICONIC piece of Wellington history is at risk of being banished to spend its final years hidden away in a warehouse.

Wellington City Council will relocate the remains of the sailing ship Inconstant, or Plimmer’s Ark as it became known, from her current position between Shed 6 and the TSB arena, to dry storage in a warehouse at the end of January next year.

The council’s plans for the TSB Arena do not have room for the old ship.

After it relocates there while the council building and the Town Hall are undergoing earthquake strengthening, the TSB Arena is to be fitted out for use as a conference centre.

Wellington Museums Trust has been charged with moving the wreck.

“We don’t have a choice in the matter,” says Brett Mason, the trust’s director of museums.

“It’s a domino effect with the Town Hall move. Unfortunately, we’re at the end of it.”

The Inconstant has been undergoing preservation work for some years.

The council has spent more than $2 million on restoration work for the remains of the Inconstant since she was excavated from her old berth, beneath the Old Bank Building, in 1997.

“She’s halfway through restoration currently; we’ve finished two of the three main preservation stages.” says maritime archaeologist Jack Fry, also a conservator on the relocation project.

At present, the Inconstant lies in a liquid polyethylene glycol solution, but if she is taken out at this stage, she could potentially be lost forever, Mr Fry says.

“We don’t know what will happen to the unpreserved timbers yet,” says Mr Mason.

“The parts of the hull that are being conserved are still continuing to be conserved.”

The move will be in two parts. It is hoped that the already preserved parts of the vessel can be moved before Christmas.

Mr Fry regrets the uncertainty surrounding the fate of such a significant piece of the city’s heritage.

“Historical importance is becoming an extinct species,” he says.

Maritime Archaeological Society of NZ members are hurriedly campaigning to keep the remains in the best condition possible.

“We’re campaigning to raise money to control the humidity in the warehouse,” says society president Ken Scadden. “It has to be less than 50%.”

Preservation treatment that has been carried out on the Inconstant is similar to that on significant wrecks such as the England’s Mary Rose and Australia’s Batavia.

 

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  1. HiAnthony, I am an emeritus professor working at the University of British Columbia. I have developed an interest in the Nova Scotia built ship The Inconstant and would like to learn as much about her as I can preparatory to writing a book on her. I was shocked to read that her remains are “in peril’. As you can imagine this has ramifications for Canada as well as New Zealand. Would you help me by putting me in touch with the archaeology/museum people down there who might assist me in my search for material on the Inconstant. Did you know her builders were among the most important shipbuilders in Nova Scotia in the 1800s, With thanks, Martin Hollenberg My postal address is 1744 W 14th ave Vancouver BC Canada, V6J2J7

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