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Other Din Eidyn, Dunedin - March 2016

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Dunedin, formerly the largest city in New Zealand by territory, derives its name from the Scottish Gaelic designation for Edinburgh, Dun Eideann. Although archaeological evidence indicates that Maori occupied the area from the mid-1200s, Lieutenant James Cook landed on what is now the coast of Dunedin sometime in February 1770. A high number of sightings of penguins and seals were documented, and this led to the arrival of sealers at the beginning of the 19th century. Feuds between the sealers and Maori settlers escalated rapidly; this epoch was known as the ‘Sealers’ War’. The first Europeans to settle permanently in Dunedin, however, were led by William Tucker in 1815. Whaling stations were set up, alongside Johnny Jones’s mission station and farming settlement. By 1848, The Lay Association of the Free Church of Scotland, founded Dunedin as the principal town; in time the town was to emulate Edinburgh and, regardless of the difficult steep terrain, streets began to follow a grand and quirky ‘romantic design’. As the settlers established a new life, though, disease quickly killed off most of the native Maori population, as their immune systems were not used to European illnesses.  

The discovery of gold in 1861, at Gabriel’s Gully, led to a large influx of new arrivals to Dunedin, from Scotland and England, Ireland, Italy, France, Germany and China. With the flood of people into the area, industrialisation across Dunedin was set in motion. The old dreams of a new, more grand, Edinburgh began to fade as the focus was now set on extracting New Zealand’s natural resources, and consolidating the region by building a railway line to Christchurch. Dunedin became New Zealand’s first city by population growth in 1865. After this time the city’s landscape changed dramatically, as The University of Otago was founded, a town hall was built, public trams were installed and various business and institutions were created. Other notable buildings emerged in the early 1900s, such as the train station and Olveston. Much of the newly developing city followed a Victorian Gothic Revival style of architecture, including the new drainage and sewage channels that were suddenly required. 

Construction of Dunedin’s first large public combined sewer and drain began sometime in the late 1800s. The increasing number of people arriving into Dunedin meant that more space was needed for the construction of new buildings; this meant that various streams had to be culverted and sanitary issues had to be addressed sooner rather than later. Like most Victorian drains, Din Eidyn began life as a shallow gutter, using the flow of natural water to waste away waste products. It was culverted shortly after its initial assembly. Nevertheless, by the end of the first decade, Dunedin’s drive for progress ended abruptly as influence and activity moved further north, to other prosperous cities such as Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland. Only the university continued to expand, so largescale projects, like the construction of Victorian drainage/sewage systems, were halted as they were no longer warranted. The abundance of concrete in New Zealand at the time meant that smaller, more cost effective, channels and pipes were installed instead as an alternative. As far as records show, Din Eidyn was the first and last Victorian styled subterranean system to be built in Dunedin. While the original plan had been to develop a grand city, comparable to the likes of Edinburgh and Glasgow, it was never to be; various remnants of Victorian and Edwardian architecture can still be found across Dunedin’s cityscape of course, but the cobbled streets, large stone storm drains and awe-inspiring architectural wonders are conspicuously missing. 

Our Version of Events

Soon after arriving in New Zealand, back in 2014, I began to hear rumours about an old redundant Victorian styled sewer system that was still said to exist beneath the city of Dunedin. A lot of time went into researching this mythical system, and I had images in my head of some incredible storm drain analogous to Megatron in Sheffield. The thought of finding something like that would make any keen exploring type pretty enthusiastic. Well over a year later, after much digging around and following false leads, we eventually found the rough location of what we thought might be the old conduit. Immediately we got excited. 

Following up our lead late one night, we found ourselves scrambling around in the bushes for traces of something that looked tunnel-like. Since we were still in a fairly public area, as people kept walking past us while we flashed our torches around erratically; more so as our frustration gradually escalated, we tried our best to blend in and look inconspicuous when we actually noticed them. However, three hours or so later, following a lot of faffing about, we finally managed to uncover the entrance to the old sewer/drain we’d been searching for. Feeling like intrepid explorers, we ventured into the darkness with eager spirits. 

Alas, and much to my disappointment, it turned out that Din Eidyn didn’t quite match what my imagination had spent more than a year visualising; not at all. For a start, the passage we were walking through was stoopy as fuck; the proper backbreaking sort of thing that most drainers despise. Second, it was filled with rather large spiders and weta, which can be exceptionally large by insect standards. They give a good bite too, apparently. Thankfully, though, all New Zealand’s species of weta are flightless, so we didn’t have to worry about aerial attacks. Before this drain I was under the assumption that no weta inhabited Dunedin, but I guess my knowledge was in need of some refinement. 

As we progressed further into the drain, the stoopiness eased off a little, but the dial would still be pointing at the backbreaking level on the pain-o-meter (which is pretty high up on the overall scale), if we’d had one with us. On a more positive note, although the drain didn’t quite met my expectations, it was constructed out of a satisfying mix of stone, brick and concrete, rather than just lacklustre concrete, so it was still pretty interesting and diverse as we ventured deeper inside. Also, as we continued on, following the rough cobbled surface of the drain, I noticed we were descending quite noticeably; this meant we were heading down the hill that surrounds Dunedin into the city centre itself, so that was yet another positive aspect of this particular explore. All in all then, I think it was well worth the effort to find, given that Dunedin lacks history as it is – compared to larger European cities at least – and I couldn’t help but feel as though I’d tasted some of that early 1900s ambition which sought to construct something spectacular. 

Explored with Nillskill and Bane. 





































































































Edited by WildBoyz

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On 4/12/2016 at 4:58 PM, Lenston said:

Like the look of this mate :) 



Thanks. Probably one of the oldest things you'll find in Dunedin. 

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On 4/26/2016 at 1:17 PM, Andy said:

Really interesting looking place, well captured. And beautiful spiders. :) 

Thanks. Need to try and get a snap of one of those weta things next time, they're even bigger. 

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