Housed in a 19th Century submarine mining station looking over the Waitemata Harbour, the Torpedo Bay Navy Museum showcases the rich history of the Royal New Zealand Navy.
Torpedo Bay, on the shores of the Waitemata Harbour in Devonport, is the new home of the Navy Museum. The site itself is of exceptional significance, developed as a torpedo station in the 19th Century as part of Auckland’s coastal defense network.
Inside these heritage buildings are an outstanding café, conference facility, education space and completely new permanent exhibitions. Our Museum tells the story of the Navy’s contribution to the development of New Zealand identity through the lens of the Navy’s values: commitment, courage and comradeship. The Torpedo Bay Navy Museum is the official museum of the Royal New Zealand Navy. It opened in 2010, to replace an earlier naval museum. The museum is located in Devonport, Auckland.
The first Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) museum was established in 1974 and was housed in a single room within HMNZS Philomel, the navy’s main administrative facility at Devonport. It was only open to RNZN personnel for two hours per week, though groups visiting the base could also view the museum by appointment. In 1982 the Royal New Zealand Navy Museum was moved to a small building on Spring Street at the edge of HMNZS Philomel. This building proved too small, however.
On 9 October 2010 the RNZN Museum moved to larger premises at Torpedo Bay in Devonport. It is housed in buildings which were constructed in 1896 to control naval mines at the mouth of Waitemata Harbour. These buildings were refurbished at a cost of $NZ 1.5 million.
The exhibits on display at the Torpedo Bay Navy Museum trace New Zealand’s naval history since the Flagstaff War in 1845. One of the first displays covers the New Zealand-funded British battlecruiser HMS New Zealand, and includes the piupiu (Māori warrior’s skirt) which was presented to the ship’s commanding officer during the vessel’s visit to New Zealand in 1913. The piupiu was worn by the battlecruiser’s captains in battle during World War I as a good luck charm.
Displays on World War II cover topics such as the cruiser HMNZS Achilles and the battle fought between the small minesweepers HMNZS Kiwi and HMNZS Moa and the larger Japanese submarine I-1 on 29 January 1943 off the island of Guadalcanal. The museum also has displays on the RNZN’s role in the Korean War, Malayan Emergency, Vietnam War, Gulf War and the current War in Afghanistan, as well as the navy’s contribution to the New Zealand peacekeeping force which was deployed during the Yugoslav Wars. Other displays cover the RNZN’s peacetime roles of fisheries protection, search and rescue, disaster relief and conducting hydrographic surveys.
History of the Navy Museum
The need for a Naval Museum grew with the increasing number of donations to the Navy by families of ex-navalmen during the early 1970s. In 1974 the Commodore Auckland, J.F. McKenzie, directed the Commanding Officer of HMNZS PHILOMEL to make a surplus room available for use as a Museum and the institution was born. The Museum was opened to naval personnel for 1 hour on Tuesdays and Thursdays and by arrangement for groups visiting the Naval Base. The Museum’s policy was to display items of naval interest with the aim of creating and maintaining a permanent record of the history and development of the RNZN. Advice was sought from the Auckland War Memorial Museum with respect to basic conservation and display techniques.
The Navy Museum at Spring Street
By 1981 the Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral K.M. Saull, believed there should be a proper museum for the Navy. A modest building on the edge of the Naval Base was chosen. The Museum moved to Spring Street and was officially opened by Rear Admiral K.M. Saull on the 5th May 1982.
Almost immediately after the re-opening more room was needed. Public contributions, coupled with some fundraising enabled a modest extension to be built, which was opened in December 1989. In May 1988 the Trust Board of the Royal New Zealand Navy Museum was established and the role of the Museum was amended to: “To be an educational and recreational facility that presents to the RNZN and the public in general, the naval influence on the history of New Zealand.” In May 2010, 28 years after it opened, the Navy Museum at Spring Street closed the doors to the public for the final time. For the next five months, exhibition designers, installers and Navy Museum staff prepared for Open Day at Torpedo Bay, 9th October 2010.
Torpedo Bay Navy Museum
Torpedo Bay, on the shores of the Waitemata Harbour in Devonport, is now the home of the Navy Museum. Torpedo Bay itself is a site of exceptional significance, having been a key part of Auckland’s early defence system as well as having been continuously occupied by New Zealand military forces since 1880. Torpedo Bay is the most substantial and intact 19th century mining base to survive in New Zealand. Having relocated to Torpedo Bay in 2009, the Navy Museum is the newest chapter to the site’s extraordinary heritage, with the original 1896 buildings redeveloped to accommodate the Museum’s exhibitions and visitors.
As New Zealand’s only Navy Museum, the Torpedo Bay facility strongly complements other icons of New Zealand’s military, maritime and social heritage, such as the War Memorial Museum, Voyager Maritime Museum, North Head, Bastion Point and Auckland Art Gallery. Alongside Auckland’s other museums and heritage sites, this creates an unmatched cluster of valuable national historic facilities spanning both sides of the Waitemata Harbour.
The Navy Museum at Torpedo Bay is an important part of our local Devonport community, our regional community as part of the new Auckland City and our national community.
- Items have been moving around.
- Lights have been turned on and off without explanation.
- Odd things have been seen on security cameras.
- A bright light was seen coming from one area inside the museum one night but when they checked the area it was coming from there was no light to be seen at all.
The Haunted Auckland Team arrived at the Devonport Naval Museum on time, as it was closing. We were shown around all areas including the courtyard, storage sheds, board room, museum, chippie shop and boatshed by the very helpful and informative guide host, Kate.
We began our investigation outside in the courtyard where activity had been noted by museum staff, then went around to the chippie shop, boatshed and beach area (including “the pool”). We then returned to the museum where we investigated the storage sheds and the actual museum. Towards the end of the night we were shown around the administration office.
This comprehensive investigation took over five hours and over the course of the evening we took hundreds of photos, many hours of audio recordings, hours of video and infra-red footage and took numerous data readings from various atmospheric field meters throughout the night.
Barbara: “The actual museum was smaller than I thought it would be but the area we were investigating was huge. The courtyard, storage sheds, boat shed, chippie shop and offices all looked very interesting. The actual Museum was relatively new although the land it is built on is old Maori land. The Three roomed storage shed, chippie shop, boat shed and office building were all much older.”
“I was looking forward to commencing our investigation. I thought the boathouse had a feeling of people working hard. The Chippie shop also seemed to have a residual energy of men working about it. The boatshed had a real feeling of history and I think that there was possibly some activity in there but I was unable to actually capture anything besides a few odd noises. The storage sheds were definitely very eerie and the courtyard was very interesting!”
“While sitting in the room in the museum with the artwork in it, I suddenly had a pain in my collarbone. It felt like I had dislocated it although I hadn’t done anything to do that. It stayed like that for about 5 Minutes and then faded. Also a short while later in the mock bunk room I had a sudden sharp pain in my thigh. That one lasted for a second but was painful! I have not had either pain since (nor before!!).”
“While in the courtyard I got the impression of Maori children playing and laughing. I think they were on top of the hill (maybe the hill above us used to jut out further than it does now!). Also “Te Whero”. While in the boat shed I got the name Ross Osborne. Twice in the museum I got sudden pains (one in my collar bone and the other in my thigh).”
Heather: “As the actual museum was the newest part of the area, it still had a newness to it, totally surrounded by history. Even though it displayed items of the past, it fitted in with the rest of the ambiance of the historical place that was outside and around it. There were various rooms within the museum, there was a place for kids to explore, a war room which you could hire for conferences. The museum itself was the youngest part of the area, the same as the other buildings which had been built on top of the old navy base and before that, it was a maori pa, where archeologists have discovered old Moa bones and fishhooks.”
Matthew: “The publicly accessible buildings feel rather new, until you notice the details of the design and structure. For instance the bomb-proof thick walls of the “War Room” and the structural beams and supports of the museum. The other buildings; the mine storage areas, Chippy Shed / Jail and Boathouse all look and feel their age. The mine rooms, in particular the right-most one, had a definite cave-like feel. In the center mine room, the back wall was un-even and lumpy in places, and appeared thicker towards the floor. It appeared to have been either repaired or concreted over.”
“Our guide for the evening , Kate, mentioned the light anomaly which had been seen on the security cameras. A beam of light which emanated from the “Mess” (an area made up to look like a bunk room), which showed up on one camera, but a camera with an different view of the same area showed no change in lighting. She also mentioned reports of movement in the courtyard which triggers the motion sensing cameras. Also uneasy feelings in the “Gun Room”. No anomalous EMF readings at all that I could find.”
“There was some minor fluctuations in EMF (between 0.3 and 0.5 milligause) within the museum when the EMF meter was sitting stationary, however no significant spikes. Some of the display lighting gave off high EMF, particular in the south-eastern corner of the museum area. Thoroughly checked the “Gun Room” where people felt uneasy but EMF appeared low/normal in that area.
“I conducted a solo EVP session in the left-most mine room, however nothing of note turned up on the recording. The reverberations of the cave-like structure did cause some audio issues. Recordings outside where generally
contaminated by sounds from the nearby houses and park.”
Jessie: “It was a smallish building. There was the main area which was a storehouse or warehouse that was turned into / expanded onto, to make the Museum and Cafe area. Behind that building there were the three side by side mine stores which were pretty much empty other than a few bits in the first mine store (closest to the road) and some shelving in the middle room and nothing at all in the last mine store (closest to the courtyard). Then there was the ye old Chippie Shoppe which was full of bits and bobs. Last of all there was the boat shed which had some boats in it.”
“I felt very comfortable in all the rooms. I was very drawn to the courtyard area though and I really liked sitting out there on my own. I heard a shuffling sound and similar noises behind me while I was sitting in the courtyard. I could hear people in the car park whilst of in the middle of hearing the shuffling and it sounded very different from the shuffling noises.”
“It appeared to be closer, possibly around the two mine stores, closest to the courtyard. When Barbara, Mark and I went down to look, it was very quiet and I didn’t feel there was anything there other than my ears popping on a few occasions, usually accompanied by back of the neck goose bumps. My battery also went from full (had charged it just before going to Devonport) when going into the Museum and sitting down just behind the big gun and the car. Went to take a pic and camera went dead.”
Mark also reported numerous battery drainings whilst in the mine rooms and out in the courtyard.
Mark: “Luckily I brought a new box of batteries along with me. Not sure why, but I ended up going through quite a few AA batteries whilst spending time in the Mine rooms and sitting out in the courtyard. I took EMF meter and thermometer reading as these occurrences of battery drain were happening. Nothing seemed to change atmospherically at the time. No unusual readings were recorded.”
Heather: “The photos of the heroes that had passed away during the many wars NZ had been involved in, were watching us as we wandered around. If only they could talk, imagine the stories that could be told. The more interesting areas were the mine rooms, now empty but full of history. The boat house was on the edge of the shore with a wharf down one side of it where you could go fishing.”
“The most interesting part of the whole area was the courtyard between the museum and the mine rooms and towards the chippie room which had been fenced off and the staff’s bathrooms. The courtyard was amazing probably because you could feel the history coming out of the hillside, was part of this used as reclaimed land that the museum now sits on. One part close to the hillside was a shed used for chemical testing of the mines, all is left now is a concrete slab stuck on the wall and a concrete slab that the mines use to rest on. The mine rooms next to the courtyard, still had some of the rail tracks that the mines were moved on, and the rotating base has gone and now in its place is a concrete circle.”
“The staff bathrooms were built on top of a concrete base that was deeper in the ground than it looked on the outside, you could see in the shower when the concrete walls finished and the extensions and roof were added on, this was rumoured to be where the infamous secret room was? Is it still underneath? We tried a couple of EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) sessions in the mine rooms to try and record any incoming audio. However, we were unable to pick up on anything. Or any thing on the audio recorders.”
The team spent the majority of time exploring and documenting the three mine storage rooms. These were old, mouldy solid brick and concrete rooms that were used to house the mines. Now unused except for random items for storage.
Barbara: “I left my round metal torch in the storage shed and asked if anything could move it while I was gone. It was not moved when I returned. I placed my little infra red camera outside on motion detect but it didn’t pick up any movement besides us. We held numerous EVP sessions over the five hour period. They were all recorded but the only possible capture I had has been debunked by the team.”
Barbara: “The investigation went really well. Its just a shame that it appears that we were not able to actually capture any activity. I found that because we started relatively early when it was still light and people were still out and about my first three or so hours of audio have people yelling, children screaming, dogs barking etc right through it. As a result it really would not have been useable if I had thought I had captured any EVPs.”
“Apart from that I think we covered the whole area really well. Unfortunately due to the fact that I neither saw nor heard anything paranormal during my visit there and I found nothing which could not be explained in my 5 hours of audio recordings, hundreds of photos and several hours of video I cannot claim that the Museum is haunted. This does not mean that it is not haunted, just that I was unable to capture any activity at the time we were there.”
Jessie: “I think it was very uneventful and i really didn’t feel there was much at all. I just don’t think there is much there and if they are I’m pretty sure they are not ‘intelligent’. I think it was a great place with lots of history but as a “Haunted” site I think it leaves a lot to be desired. I think we had a good investigation there but personally we didn’t come back with much at all.”
Heather: “The nostalgic atmosphere of past and present sharing the same space it made you appreciate just how much history NZ has being involved in the wars because NZ was part of the old British Empire, and then the maori wars for the territory previous to that and how we became our own self reliable navy. I got caught up in the history of the place, there is only so much information that we have read, but there’s still a lot more to be discovered. I got lost in time.”
“It was interesting, all that history, and a lot of it still needs to be recorded. Spending time in the courtyard, seemed to the centre point of what was happening in the past, especially when Barb picked up on the maori kids playing on the beach. I could spend hours in each room, building, the court yard just soaking up the atmosphere and just write whatever comes to me.”
“As for whether or not I feel its haunted, it’s hard to say, I don’t think the place is haunted, but I could be wrong, as the history of the part of Torpedo Bay is overwhelming. That’s what I was connecting to all the time we were there, I felt like if I spent longer there I could have gone back in time.”
Matthew: “Nothing paranormal seen or heard by myself during the investigation. The building will have soaked up a lot of history over the last 150 years, plus the museum artifacts could lend themselves to “object attachment or residual type hauntings, along with the possibility of Maori settlement in the area. However, during the time we spent there I did not encounter anything which would lead me to believe the Naval Museum to be any more haunted than any other location.”
Mark: “It was a fascinating night for the night, for sure. Being offered a rare opportunity to roam and explore the behind – the – scenes areas of this place was a great thrill and privilege. The mine rooms were incredible and I could have happy spent an entire night sitting in their total darkness, soaking up the atmosphere.”
“I didn’t record any unusual EMF readings and the temperatures stayed quite steady throughout the session. I found the entire museum to be a very peaceful place. From the inside of the museum, to outside in the back courtyard, to the deep dark cavernous mine rooms, even out on the public car parks, there was a sense of peace. Having said that, Devonport is known for its tranquil and peaceful setting, so it’s the perfect position for a building like this. Probably one of the more pleasant and relaxed investigations I’ve been on.”
“Whilst we didn’t capture anything conclusive on the investigation, upon reviewing our many hours of audio and video, plus the many 100s of photos and data recordings, that doesn’t mean that the navy museum isn’t haunted. The buildings have a varied and rich historical back story. Plus there are the stories given to us by those that work there and the stories they themselves have been told by past staff and customers to the museum. These stories cannot be dismissed.”
“As we’ve found in our many years of research and investigation, more often than not, paranormal activity can be very elusive and it comes down to being in the right place at the right time to witness it. Those that are lucky enough to witness it first hand are privileged indeed.”