Kaikoura History - Field Facilities Centre - University of Canterbury - New Zealand

Kaikoura field station early history: 1962 - 1975

The Edward Percival field station (teaching building) was established in 1962 and its prime purpose was undergraduate teaching. Until then then field work for zoology undergraduates had been undertaken at Menzies Bay, on Banks Peninsula, but as class sizes increased alternatives were sought. On one vacation zoology undergraduates stayed in the Kaikoura High School with Mr George Knox, as he then was, and the class rated Kaikoura as an ideal place for a field station.

There is a delightful letter from Miss Cora Wilding to the University dated August, 1959 offering a site for the laboratory including details on sea water supply, Māori history and a map! In later years Miss Wilding donated books, maps, pictures and planted many trees around the field station that are still thriving today.

George Knox looked around for a site and discovered the County Council's old powder (explosives) magazine tucked under the cliffs along the Esplanade.

Early Esplanade
Early picture of the field station site along the Esplanade

It was hilly and rough, but he saw it was one of the best sites anywhere in the world for a marine laboratory and for investigating the great diversity of habitats, fauna and flora about the Kaikoura Peninsula.

The land was Crown land and it was ceded to the University for the purpose of "Higher Education". The Golden Kiwi lottery provided some of the first funds for building a station on the site, but as usual there was insufficient money.


The Edward Percival Marine Laboratory 1962

In his foreword to the special edition of Mauri Ora (Vol12, 1985) George Knox described the setting for the teaching building as follows:

"Few laboratories in the world have such a unique setting. The Peninsula marks a transition zone between elements of northern and southern flora and fauna, e.g. it is the one place in New Zealand where all five species of intertidal limpets coexist. It is famed for the richness of its seaweed flora. There is an extensive range of intertidal platforms and reefs with varied exposure to wave action. The waters offshore are a complex mixture of sub-antarctic, subtropical and coastal water masses. Off the Peninsula there is a complex submarine canyon system with deep water (1000m) occurring within a few kilometers of the coast. The Kowhai Bush provides an accessible and unique environment for research of New Zealand native bird species, while the near-by mountain range give opportunities for work on a transact from the snowline to sea-level over a distance of a few kilometers. A number of streams and small lakes extends the research opportunities into freshwater habitats."

A shell was therefore built and added to later as circumstances permitted. When it was first occupied, the bunkrooms had neither doors nor ceilings and students had to be diplomatic in their remarks about the staff when they went to bed. Their words traveled far.


Early field course probably 1961-62. Malcolm Mannering
Zoology technician standing on the stool, Ian Mannering
far left, Mrs Bertha Allison lecturer seated at center and
Jim Mills to the right of Malcolm's elbow looking up.
Note the incomplete ceiling.


Dr J.F.C. Morgans lecturing in the laboratory 1961-62

Working parties were organised and materials (mostly furnishings from the old university site in town) were taken up to Kaikoura. Notice the assortment chairs in the picture above.


1962 Working party led by Professor Knox (back middle).

Working party installing the gate.

Eventually there was living accommodation for 24 students and four staff together with a large laboratory, workshop and storerooms.

The field station was officially opened in 1963 and named after Edward Percival, who taught at Canterbury for 30 years much of the time as professor of biology but in his last five years as Head of the Zoology Department.


Mrs Percival and George Knox at the opening of the Laboratory

Miss Cora Wilding (center) accompanied Mrs Knox at the opening
of the Laboratory 1963

Officials at the opening of the laboratory 1963.
Viv Corbet Chairman of the Kaikoura County Council
at far left.

University of Canterbury and local residents at the opening
of the laboratory 1963. Mrs Bertha Allison center-back.
Mr Rangi Wawahia Solomon at back far right.
UC Chronicle article March 16, 1964

Staff and graduate students as well as visitors from overseas, were not slow to perceive the value of the Kaikoura Field Station as a centre of research, but as their numbers increased it became painfully obvious that long term scientific studies and short-term organized field courses were not ideal bedfellows. Indeed they were frequently incompatible.


1960's Kitchen interior

The Christchurch Star, Wed., Oct. 23, 1963. Examining the collections.
Lance Bowring, zoology technician (far left) Ian Mannering (3rd left)
Peter Johns (5th left) KP Jansen (6th left background)

Early field course. Dr. JFC Morgans far right,
Peter Johns (front right) KP Jansen (far left)

Another early course. Dr Vida Stout (standing
at left) Dr JFC Morgans (with pipe)
Ian Mannering (at the back left) Peter Johns (far right)

1965-6 Jack Kay (on bank) and Roy Thompson,
Zoology technicians at Kaikoura

Proposals for a research annex were put forward as early as 1966.


An unlikely site for a proposed Research Laboratory.

For some time during 1962-63 Malcolm Mannering, zoology technician, resided at the field station and was responsible for numerous improvements to the furnishings and equipment at the field station.


Field courses 1963. Mrs Bertha Allison far left.

Workbenches installed in those days (and shown in the picture above) are still in use today.

As early as 1963 Lance Bowring, who lived locally, was involved at the laboratory and eventually joined the Zoology staff as a technician. Lance was responsible for the building of the retaining wall along the front of the teaching laboratory and the building of the workshop and stores as shown in the following picture.


The workshop under construction. The pump shed and retaining walls shown
in the bottom picture.

For the period 1970 through 1975 Ian Mannering was the lecturer in charge of the Marine Laboratory.