Topic: Hubert Foster

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The botanic gardens of Christchurch had been the original site of the observatory, but due to the introduction of electric trams in 1910, the sensitive equipment picked up vibrations and this affected the readings, It was therefore moved to Amberley.
The processing and developing of the readings was still done in Christchurch.
Time markings were done at night. It was a marking at one and two minute intervals of the magnetic readings. Mr Foster remembers a panel of switches.
"I dont quite know what they did. I never did the technical stuff," he said.
Men from Christchurch would come out once a week on Thursdays and spend all day in the observatory underground, checking the equipment and making sure everything was in order.
The machines were very sensitive and could record a falling tree - any disturbance in the nearby surroundings would come out in the readings.
When asked if he ever saw anything interesting in the readings Mr Foster said he supposed
"it would pick up the Southern Lights and such things, but I never knew".
He just collected the readings for 17 years and did not interpret them.
"I just did the job," he said.
Sometimes he took his children along, but they couldn't see much because everything was infra-red and they had to be "careful and very quiet". But they enjoyed it.
"I never thought of giving it up," said Mr Foster. It was a "great shame" when it had to go.
"I really liked doing it, I did miss it actually," he said.
Mr Foster said the Geophysics Department of the Department of Scientific and Industrial research, looked after him well and he remembers he was given a lawnmower and also got three weeks holiday.
Hubert Foster
40 years of taking rain and weather data.
"Hubert I have a job for you."
Long time Amberley resident, Hubert Foster, was originally from South Canterbury. He moved from Albury to Amberley in the early 1940's.
Mr Foster served as a mechanic in the 19th Field Regiment in New Zealand for four years, before serving in Italy and Egypt, in the recovery division.
When he returned from overseas service, he worked for Arthur Burke Motors in Amberley, and owned property close by.
Few Hurunui people would know about the magnetic observatory in the Amberley Domain, or that for 17 years it was operated by Mr Foster.
The observatory was one of 12 major stations in the world and the only one in the Southern hemisphere.
The unusual job was given to Mr Foster when he met Mr Boyce who worked there at the time.
He said "Hubert, I have a job for you".
"I didn't know if I could do it at first,''
Mr Foster confessed.
But it turned out he didn't need to know anything particularly technical, so took on the job. He had to collect the magnetic readings from the observatory. These were taken in the morning at 5am and after dark.
Few Hurunui people would know about the Magnetic Observatory in the Amberley Domain or that for 17 years it was operated by Mr Hubert Foster. The Observatory was one of 12 major stations in the world and the only one in the Southern Hemisphere.
"I didn't mind having to get to get up early in the mornings," he says.
At night he would come home from work, have dinner, then go to the station and take the readings.
Sometimes he drove his precious 1953 Vauxhall. But most of the time he walked up to the domain with his beloved Border Collie named Champ.
The observatory was situated on the domain and consisted of three buildings sunken half underground. Two of the buildings housed the machines that took the readings.
Mr Foster said the room was like the dark room of a photographer, with an infra-red light builb.
"This red light prevented the readings on the film from being affected," he said.
Mr Foster had to take accurate readings which were recorded on a film, along with atmospheric pressure readings.
"I had to wrap the film around the reel and clip it into gear. It then did a 24 hour rotation," he said.
The films were changed in the mornings, with the completed ones put in cardboard tubes and then put on the rack of the bus that ran from Amberley to Christchurch.
This is the second in a series of the Hurunui District Councils Oral Histories project.
JUNE 2011
Hurunui Oral History Project
Sarah van Eyndhoven: "It is great to understand
the world around us and what makes
people, communities and a nation."
Sarah is a Year 13 student who loves history, a subject she took up on the
recommendation of a friend.
Sarah van Eyndhoven talks to long time Amberley resident
Hubert Foster about his dedication to duty.
Sarah is a Year 13 student who loves history, a
subject she took up on the recommendation of a
"I have never regretted the choice," she says.
Sarah hopes to be a journalist one day and the chance
to interview Mr Foster had given her new skills in interviewing
and wiritng.
"It is great to understand the world around us and
what makes people, communities and a nation. I also
love listening to the personal stories that people have
to share. I really enjoyed hearing and writing Mr Foster's
story," says Sarah.
Sarah says she had no idea there was an observatory in
Amberley and was amazed at the time Mr Foster had
put in for the cause, accepting his role without fuss,
"Which I think is a great truly kiwi attitude to have".
As Amberley expanded the machines began picking
up too much interference so it was then moved to
Lauder, with a backup station at Eyrewell.
"I went over to check it when it was done," Mr Foster
However, the Geophysics department had made a
giant technological leap forward, making the readings
"No-one had to come to take the readings anymore,"
he said.
Mr Foster has also operated the government local rain
gauge for Amberley for 40 years.
At first it was up at the magnetic station and now it is
situated on his property.
Every morning at 9am he takes the rainfall measurement
and writes the figures down on a recording sheet.
He also records cloud cover and these readings are
sent up to Wellington once a month.
"I am getting ready to finish now, I have had enough.
Have to pack up," he said.
Mr Foster has every reason to kick back and relax after
17 years of collecting magnetic readings morning and
night and 40 years of taking rain and weather data.
When asked if giving up so much of his time for these
causes has been worth it, Mr Foster says "absolutely".

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