New Zealand photographer Henry Winkelmann was a passenger on the Wimmera on three voyages, two in 1910 and one in 1911. Each passage related to his participation in expeditions to observe and photograph a solar eclipse.

On Friday 25 March 1910 the Wimmera arrived in Sydney from Auckland. Winkelmann was a passenger. He arrived at Launceston from Melbourne by the Loongana on Saturday 2 April.

In April 1910 Winkelmann participated in an expedition to Port Davey, in S.W. Tasmania to observe and photograph a solar eclipse. Following the expedition Winkelmann journeyed to Sydney from where he returned to his home in Auckland aboard the Wimmera departing on Wednesday 25 May 1910 and arriving 29 May.




One of the members of Mr. F. K. McClean’s solar eclipse party to Port Davey, Tasmania, was Mr. Henry Winklemann [sic], of Auckland, who returned by the Wimmera from Sydney yesterday.

In conversation with a Herald representative Mr. Winklemann [sic] said the expedition, which was a private one, and comprised mostly of English members, was financed by Mr. McClean, its leader, the cost of the instruments alone running into something like £2000. The party numbered seven.

Port Davey is an uninhabited spot on the south-west corner of Tasmania, and is very wild and desolate. On arrival there a camp was pitched on the beach, and the party proceeded with the erection of an observation camp on a hill, a quarter of a mile away. This was difficult work, for the hill was 100ft above sea-level, and 205yds from the landing-place, and everything, including the materials for the concrete foundations of the observatory, had to’ be carried up.

Monday, May 9, was the date on which the total eclipse of the sun took place, but so atrocious was the weather that the expedition was fruitless, no results being obtained. In fact during the whole of the five weeks which the party spent at the spot only three fine days were experienced, rain and wind alternating with hail and thunderstorms. During one fall one of the valuable instruments was overturned, and in consequence ” break-winds” had to be erected around all the instruments.

One day, through an accident, a case of straw and packing materials, which had been temporarily placed outside the instrument tent, caught fire. The party at the time were in the “living” camp. One of them noticed the smoke rising, and rushing up the members found the whole of the observation camp and about 60 or 70 acres of the surrounding country, which is composed of peat, ablaze. However, after great trouble the fire was beaten out. The flames advanced to within about 4ft of the instrument tent, which contained about £2000 worth of instruments.

On the day of the eclipse all the instruments were in readiness, and the party stationed at their posts despite a heavy rain squall, and a gale of wind but nothing was visible. During the eclipse it was so dark that Mr. Winklemann [sic] could not see his neighbour 10ft away.

During their sojourn at Port Davey the health of the party was excellent, in spite of many hardships.

The next total eclipse of the sun will be visible at Tonga, and Mr. McClean proposes to go there in the hope of making observations. Two years ago Mr. McClean organised an eclipse expedition to Flint Island, in the Pacific, 400 miles north of Tahiti.

New Zealand Herald, Volume XLVII, Issue 14382, 30 May 1910, Page 6

In March the following year Winkelmann joined a British expedition to Vavau in Tonga to photograph another solar eclipse. Another British Expedition was also conducting observation as was another, which included meteorologist Clement Wragge. Following the end of this expedition Winkelmann visited Fiji aboard HMS Encounter and returned to Sydney from Suva via Brisbane aboard the Makura.

On 24 May 1911 he boarded the SS Wimmera for his return passage to Auckland where he arrived in the afternoon of 28 May. On the Wimmera’s approach through the Rangitoto Channel, it is recorded that Winkelmann took the opportunity to photograph the paddle-steamer Victoria.

© Ralph L. Sanderson 2004-2021