On 3 January 1883, the Lyttelton Graving Dock (also known as a dry dock) was opened with great ceremony.
Considered a great status symbol for any new colony, the subject of a graving dock for Lyttelton was first brought up during the Provincial Government era.
Made of masonry and concrete, it was designed by engineer, Charles Napier Bell. Twenty tons of powder and three tons of dynamite were used to blast down the nearby cliff face and 1600 feet of the harbour was reclaimed by the project.
The ‘Hurunui’ was the first vessel to use the dock. With flags flying, she sailed forth into the sea during the opening celebration, snapping the blue ceremony ribbon in half in the process. Thirty speeches were made, where I am sure it was boasted that the dock could house most ships except the largest of the Orient Company Line.
Up to the earthquakes of 2010/2011 and 2012, the Lyttelton Graving Dock was still in use for those ships needing repairs.
* Image courtesy of Willem de Lange and Eileen McSaveney. ‘Tsunamis – 20th-century tsunamis’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 9-Jul-13