Parihaka, Mt Egmont and comet

T.S. Muir, Parihaka, Mt Egmont & Comet, October 1882.

This image is apocryphal, both legendary and fictional. The Parihaka leader Te Whiti o Rongomai’s name refers to a comet, and at the time this comet was seen he was in exile in the South Island. However, the photo is almost certainly faked. Retouching of negatives was a common practice, and the comet definitely has the look of being painted on. In fact two versions of this image show different-sized comets. The snow-capped mountain also has the look of being amended post-development.

Rather than detract from the scene this retouching actually reinforces it – the eye is drawn through the village to the mountain and then the comet. In her book The Parihaka Album, Rachel Buchanan discusses this image at length, concluding that the photograph shows ‘people’s willingness to believe in the magical powers of Parihaka.’

Community contributions

2 comments have been posted about Parihaka, Mt Egmont and comet

What do you know?

Anonymous

Posted: 05 Nov 2019

I have a Christmas card from 1882 showing the comet above mount earnshaw on the morning of october 2nd. So perhaps a month out?

Ian Cooper

Posted: 01 Mar 2013

The photo has obviously been touched up by an artist, but the view is a highly accurate one of what the "Great September Comet of 1882" as it would have been seen from Parihaka. That comet was visible in broad daylight for 5 days, a record it still holds. The comet was seen rising over the mountain for over five months starting in September that year. The Great September Comet (there had already been a 'Great Comet' earlier that year )was the first to be photographed and was one of the first celestial objects ever photographed as well. If anything the artists impression of the comet under-promotes the brilliance of the comet which had a somewhat broader tail, the length looks good though. the significance for the people of Parihaka of such a brilliant comet rising over the mountain like that for all of those months can not be underestimated.

Ian Cooper
President Palmerston North Astronomical Society