The day the earth shook, New Zealand’s largest earthquake, Wellington, January 1855
By K.A. Servian
Lambton Quay, Wellington 1850s. Donated by Denton, Frank J, 1869-1963 : Collection of negatives, prints and albums. Ref: 1/2-003926-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
The small settlement of Wellington celebrated its fifteenth anniversary on Monday the 22nd of January 1855. With the harbour filled with visiting ships, the town’s inhabitants enjoyed organised celebrations including a whale-boat race with a prize of £15. Horse-racing was to take place at Burnham water in the centre of Miramar Peninsula where a track had been formed amongst the dunes and punters from all over the country were gathering. Unfortunately, rain and a strong North-westerly wind cut the day’s events short and many locals returned to town while the visitors set up tents beside the track.
Lambton Quay 2017. ©Nick Servian Photography
The Moral Compass is set predominantly in Wellington in 1853/4. In an early version of the manuscript, the main character, Florence, experiences the 1855 earthquake and its aftermath. However, this scene was dropped from later revisions and it is her brother, Bertram, who lives through the disaster and tells her about the experience in letters.