Friday, September 7, 2012

Captain Musick's memorial

Aerial view of Musick Point, Howick, Auckland, March 1946. Reference Number: WA-02384-F.  Alexander Turnbull Library.

My friends Bill and Barbara Ellis sent through a few weeks ago images of the Musick Memorial radio station building, at Musick Point, Howick. The colour images attached to this post are from them (and thanks very much, Bill and Barbara!)

Captain Edward Musick (image from Evening Post, 13 January 1938) died in January 1938 when the plane he was captain of, the Samoan Clipper, exploded near Pago Pago. He hadn't visited New Zealand all that often, but his fiery death struck a chord amongst New Zealanders at the time, perhaps because he came to symbolise the pioneering field of flight, the reduction of our sense of isolation from the world, and the romance of it all. Flags in Auckland City flew at half-mast.

In May 1938, with national feeling still high, the Government announced that a two-way radio station proposal, intended by the Auckland Electric Power Board for the benefit of ambulance, police and automobile patrols, would be taken over and dubbed the Musick Memorial Station. In April the following year, a site was decided: Tamaki Point (Te Naupata), on the eastern side of the Tamaki River estuary, a site clear of transmission interference from power or telephone lines, and one seen to be "of very great value for the navigation of aeroplanes or flying boats to New Zealand from either America or Australia." (Auckland Star 15 April 1939) It was determined by the following month that Tamaki Point would be renamed from that time on as Musick Point.

There is something of a similarity between the classic 1930s architecture of the completed station, and the lines of the Samoan Clipper which had such an ill-fated last flight. According to the New Zealand Historic Places Trust:
"The design of the new building has been credited to John Blake-Kelly, who later became the first New Zealand-trained Government Architect. Its style represents an early local use of Modern or Functionalist-influenced architecture in Auckland, and was conceived as part of a wider landscape modelled on the appearance of an aeroplane and jet stream that was evidently intended to be viewed from the air."

Musick Point Air Radio Station, Howick, Auckland, 29 August 1946. Reference Number: WA-03615-F. Alexander Turnbull Library.

"The Musick memorial radio station at Auckland, which has been established primarily to meet the requirements of the trans-Tasman and the trans pacific air services, is now in operation," stated the Minister of Aviation, the Hon. K. Jones.

"The test, which have been conducted with the Rose Bay terminal, at Sydney, and with Suva, Fiji, indicate a high grade of service is assured," added the Minister. Regular schedules are now being observed by the station with Rose Bay, Suva and Awarua."

The facilities provided at the Musick Memorial station, stated Mr. Jones, included (a) radio telegraph transmitters for a point-to-point service with overseas airports and local aeradio stations, such as Awarua, which would co-operate in the direction-finding service; (b) radio telegraph and telephone transmitters for working to aircraft, and sea direction-finding equipment, to assist in the navigation of aircraft on overseas flights.

Assistance for Coastal Shipping.

The Minister stated that the new radio centre, with its separate transmitting stations and modern teleprinter service to Mechanics' Bay, besides meeting the requirements of overseas services, would be an important national asset and would provide a nucleus for all radio services required in Auckland. When the final scheme was in operation, the comprehensive cervices at Musick Point would also make it possible to extend services to ship stations and include small ships, which at the present time had no radio facilities, but to which a radio telephony service would be a great boon and would give a greater measure of safety in the operation of the coastal trade.
Auckland Star 26 August 1939

Musick Point Air Radio Station, Howick, Auckland, 29 August 1946. Reference Number: WA-03617-F. View of the interior of the Musick Point Air Radio Station building, Howick, Auckland. Radio transmission technology lines the walls and station personnel are at work. Photographed on the 29th of August 1946 by Whites Aviation. Alexander Turnbull Library.

Civil aviation moved its services to the Auckland International Airport at Mangere in 1966, while the Post Office retained maritime and emergency radio services from the station until it closed in 1993. In 1999 it became occupied by the Suburban Amateur Radio Club, and was rededicated by the American Ambassador in 2003.


  1. Neat story Lisa. As a boy in the late 1980s, a mother of one of my friends was the cleaner here. We spent many a saturday going in with her, running around inside the building.

  2. Nice to see Musick Point again - thanks.

    Ray & Cilla Hardy Radio Operators 1983 -1993