Please Note: Due to the recent earthquakes in Canterbury we have had to suspend all trips to Ripapa Island until further Notice.
About Ripapa Island
Nestled close to shore in Lyttelton Harbour is Ripapa Island. It was originally a fortified Maori pa before it became home to Fort Jervois, built in 1860 to repel the 'Great Russian scare'.
The island was then transformed into a prisoner of war camp and housed the infamous Count Felix Von Luckner.
Today Black Cat’s guided tours can take you back in time to explore and enjoy this historic island.
- Torpedo and Mine Stores
It was intended that torpedoes would be fired down a ramp on the island and into the sea, however the torpedoes were never delivered. Mines were also to be laid at the entrance to the harbour but it was decided they were not required either.
- Ripapa Quarantine Station
Three buildings were erected in 1872 to house immigrants heading for the new British settlement of Lyttelton. The voyage from England took three months and contagious diseases such as typhoid, scarlet fever and smallpox were common. The island served as a quarantine station for new settlers until larger facilities were built at nearby Quail Island. Accommodation for up to 350 people was possible.
- Ripapa Prison
A number of famous and notorious inmates included:
The only prisoner to successfully escape from Ripapa Prison; Roberts was a good-looking, athletic young man who many believed had been wrongly imprisoned for horse theft. With the help of his 40 fellow inmates Roberts loosened a sheet of corrugated iron and swam to the mainland. His escape was not discovered for over an hour by which time he was long gone. Roberts found shelter with many Peninsula locals and eventually moved to the USA.
Count Felix von Luckner
In 1916 Von Luckner was given command of a sea raider - a naval vessel disguised as a neutral Norwegian ship. Upon sighting an allied vessel, Von Luckner would signal for fresh water. When the allied ship was close enough the German flag would be raised and a cannon produced. 14 vessels were sunk this way and prisoners were treated with utmost courtesy. Eventually von Luckner was captured and imprisoned at Ripapa Island. His fellow prisoner, Lt. Kircheiss, wrote on the wall of their hut, '109 days POW in this dreary place. We are fed up with the monotony and off we go to Motuihe - thank God'.
- Fort Jervois
Named after Sir William Jervois who was the Governor of New Zealand from 1883 to 1889. The fort was built in 1886 to repel the "Great Russian Scare". It was described in the British House of Commons as "the strongest port fortress in the Empire". Still seen today are the massive fortifications built by prisoners from Lyttelton Gaol (jail).
- The Guns
The 'Armstrong' Disappearing Guns were installed in 1888. As their name suggests the guns were raised and fired at an enemy ship, then sunk back into the gun pit leaving the enemy with no target to return fire. Two machine guns were also placed at the fort along with a Maxim Gun (Pom Pom).
- Observation Post
This was the nerve centre of the fort operations. The officers would be stationed in the pit on top of the fort, protected by a massive curved metal roof. With the help of two range finders they would relay orders to the gun crews using speaking tubes.
- Ripapa Maori Pa
The island's name (ri=a flax rope; papa=flat rock) refers to times when canoes were hauled up onto the island's tiny shelving beach. It was an ideal site for a Pa (fort) because of its commanding views of the harbour entrance and its relative isolation from land. These features made it an excellent site in case of enemy attack. Ripapa Pa was the first fortified musket pa in the South Island. There are many stories of Maori feuds and battles centred on the island in the early 1800's.
During the early 1950's as many as 300 people would visit the island daily for tea. 1958 saw the island’s facilities used for sea cadet training. In 1986 Fort Jervois was classified as an historic place and in 1991 the Department of Conservation took over the management. In 2000 the Black Cat Group purchased Lyttelton Harbour Cruises and began running guided tours on the island.
For more information please see http://www.doc.govt.nz/templates/PlaceProfile.aspx?id=35293
How to Get to Lyttleton
Lyttelton is around 15 to 20 minutes drive from the centre of Christchurch. See http://maps.google.com/ for detailed information about how to drive yourself. Print this map out to help you navigate.
Alternatively you can catch the number 28 bus which departs from the Bus Exchange on Colombo Street just beside Cathedral Square in the central city.
Schedule and Prices
Note: This tour is now available for groups only (16 adults +. Reservations are essential. We suggest Quail Island for individual tours)
Includes ferry transfers, fully guided tour and map.
Prices are in New Zealand dollars and include GST.
What to Bring
Warm clothes are essential because it can be cool on the harbour, even when the sun is shining. A torch can be handy for exploring the island’s many tunnels. Bring snacks and a drink if desired.
Make a Booking
To make a booking, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 03 328 9078.