Wednesday, 18 September 2019

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Vintage telescope to feature in museum’s new exhibition

Mercury Bay Museum has recently acquired two very special items for their new display focusing on the 12 days the explorer James Cook spent in Mercury Bay in 1769.

A vintage telescope, along with a sextant, has recently been loaned to the museum by local resident, Amanda Roche, whose father brought the telescope from England to New Zealand several years ago. Amanda has been living in Whitianga with her husband, Greg, and children, Isobel (11) and Barnaby (9), since 2006. Her parents, Ken and Anne Shelvey, gifted her the telescope and sextant, but together they made the decision to loan it to the museum.

“I bought the telescope in the early nineties at Sotheby’s in London. It cost me £400 at the time. I saw it in the brochure and I just decided to buy it,” says Ken, who now lives in Pauanui with Anne. Ken has had a passion for all things nautical for most of his life and in particular the ingenuity of the early navigators. He was a member of the 1805 Club, a registered charity of England and Wales, which was founded in 1990 to preserve and care for the memorials and graves of those associated with the seafarers of the Georgian era (1714 - 1837).

“Those seafarers were essentially able to draw the first maps of New Zealand with an incredible level of accuracy and all by just using the position of the sun. It’s extraordinary really,” says Ken.

Anne says they were both delighted that the museum will be using the telescope and sextant for their Twelve Days - 1769 display in conjunction with the local Tuia 250 - Encounters commemoration activities. “The fact that the Tuia 250 - Encounters commemoration have put such a focus on the achievements of the early navigators is wonderful. Ken really wants kids to be able to learn about this, he thinks that is so important, so it was such a pleasure to be able to contribute,” she says.

Mercury Bay Museum manager, Rebecca Cox, says they were extremely grateful to have two such impressive items to include in the display. Twelve Days - 1769 looks at events as noted by Cook and botanist Joseph Banks in their journals and the traditional oral history of Ngāti Hei. The events will be reflected through 12 objects - one for each of the twelve days Cook spent in Mercury Bay.

“The telescope, supported by the sextant, will be one of those objects. We still don’t know a huge amount about it, but we will certainly be doing some research, it’s a fascinating piece and in amazing condition. We will be getting some special plinths made for the two items and they will be an awesome addition to the display,” says Rebecca.

The telescope bears the name of the manufacturer, “Dollond London.” Dollond and Company was established in Hatton Garden, London in 1750, when Peter Dolland opened a small optical business. The business was sufficiently successful that, two years later, John Dollond, Peter's father, gave up silk weaving and went into partnership with his son. In 1761 John Dollond was appointed optician to King George III and the Duke of York. The business eventually evolved into one of the UK’s oldest chains of retail opticians, but the name disappeared after the company was absorbed into the Boots chain in 2009.

Pictured: Ken and Anne Shelvey with Mercury Bay Museum manager, Rebecca Cox (centre), and the telescope and sextant Ken and Anne, and their daughter Amanda Roche, have loaned to the museum.

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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.