So what is Tunnel Vision all about?
What sparks our interest and fires our imagination? As I scanned the New Zealand Herald on 8 May 1992 one headline in particular captured me. It read:
Government to probe secrets of North Head
The mysteries of North Head are to be unearthed. The Government has given approval for Department of Conservation staff to dig into the North Shore landmark’s mysterious past.
The investigation, announced yesterday by the Minister of Conservation, Mr Marshall, follows years of public speculation and rumour that North Head contains a secret labyrinth of defence tunnels and a buried ammunition dump.
Repeated denials by the Ministry of Defence have served only to fuel the intrigue.
Other more romantic talk suggests that two 1920s Boeing flying boats lie entombed in the Devonport headland, a strategic military post during both World Wars which is now a historic reserve managed by the Department of Conservation.
Mr Marshall said it was time to put an end to the conjecture by uncovering solid proof – one way or another. He had received a stream of inquiries from Devonport residents concerned by regular reports of hidden ammunition caches.
Their fears had persisted in spite of department research, which failed to turn up any evidence of munitions remainingon North Head since its closure as a military installation.
The planned work would involve excavatingsites, and delving intoarchival files and records. ‘If any unknown tunnel or installation is discovered, work will cease immediately until explosive experts have checked the site,’ the Minister said. Searches would also be made for the remains of old aircraft.
‘Whether or not any tunnels, ammunition or long-lost aircraft are found, the research willcontribute to a fuller understanding of the reserve and its history.’
Excavated sites would be restored to their original condition. The exploration would be carried out in conjunctionwith the Departments of Defence andLabour, and the North Shore City Council.
Mr Marshall yesterday met the Minister of Defence, Mr Cooper, to discuss the project. Defence chiefs are believed to have promised their full co-operationduring the investigation whichcould take up to a year to complete.
The work will be led by Department of Conservation archaeologists and isexpected to start before the end of next month.
A departmentofficial said the probe was intended as ‘the final word in a long saga’. ‘It is in response to community concerns about whether North Head is safe. We are not responding to any new evidence which indicates the presence of a munitions dump.’
The search would be systematic and orderly. The MP for North Shore, Mr Bruce Cliff, said nearby residents deserved to know if North Head contained livebombs and other munitions.
Reproduced with the permission of the New Zealand Herald
Initially my interest extended to visiting North Head to get a feel for where all this drama and intrigue was taking place. Over the next two years, the odd bit of news filtered through and finally culminated with a newspaper report that nothing of significance had been discovered. I found it difficult to accept that the first Boeing aircraft ever built had simply vanished without a trace. As a result I resolved to conduct my own investigation.
And so it began – the tangled web. Where to start? Finding the answer would not be a simple task as there were only small fragmented pieces of information readily available. All I had was a resolve to follow the trail wherever it led and to carefully collate all the information until a reasonable explanation emerged. My quest would involve many hours spent in public libraries, film libraries, newspaper libraries and archive buildings, sifting through facts and raking over historical records. These were the mundane aspects of my research. There were also many enjoyable times with my (then) small children on the hill itself, exploring existing tunnels – getting a feel for what must have been, or might have been. There was no pressure for this study. I would leave it for a year, then pick it up again. But it was always there in the background – the need to know.
However, I was soon to find a problem as too many pieces of the puzzle did not fit the official version of events. There was also an underlying theme to the stories about North Head that needed to be checked out, persistent stories of explosives and the spectre of a conspiracy at the highest levels. If true, the Boeing aircraft had become a curse to the conspirators as they stimulated unwanted public interest and focused attention on the real area of concern – North Head.
After more than 20 years I am finally in a position to prove or disprove this folklore tale that is Auckland city’s own story. Folklore indeed, because there are few people born in Auckland that have not heard about aircraft or explosives inside tunnels at North Head.
There have been many investigations, including a court case; but now there is new and compelling evidence that ‘forgotten tunnels’ and the first Boeing aircraft may actually exist. In order to relate what has been found in the minefield of information, this saga has been put together as a time-based portrayal of events. It is also the seemingly incredible statements from credible people that necessitate this story being told as a factual account, albeit with my conclusions and suppositions.
Clearly, the first Boeing aircraft are of historic aviation significance worldwide. In 1991 a TV documentary revealed that the Boeing Company would be likely to pay the equivalent cost of a new Boeing 747 jet should their first–ever aeroplanes be discovered. Therefore, with all the ingredients of a good treasure hunt in the making, mystery, danger and intrigue, this is the story of the search for the first Boeing aircraft.