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Photos by Keith Oliver

Waiuku's whimsical weather stone is rarely wrong

Visiting New Zealand recently, we were intrigued to see what must be the world's most accurate weather forecaster, in the tiny township of Waiuku (wy-OO-koo), 42 km (26 miles) south of Auckland. It's a huge stone, shaped like a brick, suspended from a hardwood gallows.

Beneath it is a notice with these words:



Stone is wet   Raining
Stone is dry   Not raining
Stone casts shadow   Sunny
White on top   Frosty
Can't see stone   Foggy
Swinging stone   Very windy
Bottom of stone wet   Very high tide
Stone swinging or gone   Tornado

When we returned to Australia, we wondered whether Waiuku's whimsical weather stone was unique, or merely a copy of similar tourist magnets in other countries.

A few questions to Google revealed that weather stones are common on Irish golf courses, and are also popular in Germany, Iceland, Bermuda and Canada.

Most of the notices carry similar wording, but one in Woerth, Germany, ends with these ominous words:

If the stone is upside down, it's the end of the world.
If the stone is gone, it's been stolen.

In Canada, a stone at the Sooke Region and Visitor Information Centre on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, must be suspended close to ground level, as the notice says:

When the stone is wet on one side, it means that a dog has recently passed by.

The forecast on the notice at Fort Scaur, in tropical Bermuda, says:

If ever it is white on top - believe it or not - it is snowing.

The Bermuda Insiders' website says: "Believe it or not, some visitors actually read this notice and nod very wisely, especially when they get to the part: 'When it jumps up and down there's an earthquake.' Don't be one of them, will you? And bear in mind that if a blob of white appears on top of it, that does not mean it's snowing. It never snows in Bermuda. A bird is likely to be the culprit."

A notice in Iceland, where snow is no novelty, reads:

If the stone is white on top, it is snowing.
If the stone is jumping up and down, there is an earthquake.
If you can't see the stone, it is either dark or it has been stolen.

One of our Kiwi friends suggested that the comical forecasts might have originated in Ireland. She could be right, as we found this information (addressed to someone else named Eric) on an Irish online notice board:

Anyone heading to Ireland to play golf and not sure about the weather, should look out for a weather stone, normally a hanging stone on a rope about 3 foot wide...

Our colleague Barry Downs, who live is Kimberley, South Africa, says: "I've seen numerous such 'weather stations' in this country, including one from our recent trip down to the Drakensberg Mountains in June.

"The first I ever saw was supposedly from Australia and comprised nothing more than a piece of string - not sophisticated like the technically advanced models which have rocks attached to them."

We still don't know the name or nationality of the humorist who first dreamed of a weather stone, or where the original stone swings on a windy day.

Hrefna and the Icelandic weather stone
Photo courtesy Hrefna Marin Gunnarsdottir



Story first posted December 2005

Copyright 2005

Eric Shackle

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