THE WEST COAST HINTERLAND.
It will be recollected that a little more than a year ago Mr Thomas Mackenzie discovered some new country between Manapouri and Dusky Sound, and claimed that it contained a goodly quantity oi laud that might be fit for settlement. Mr It. H. Wilmot, district surveyor at Queenstown, placed himself at the head of an exploration party who traversed the country in January last, aud in a report which he furnished to the Land Department, and is published in this year’s annual report, he discounts considerably the value of the discoveries of the late member for Clulha. This is what Surveyor Wilmot Bays on the subject:—
As you are aware, ihe.object of the exploration was to ascertain whether or not there was a practical route to Eusky Sound from Lake Manapouri via the Spey and Mackenzie -Rivers, as suggested by Mr Thomas Mackenzie when ho was out in that country, to ascertain the courses of the Seaforth and Mackenzie Rivers, and at the same time to sketch in the topograph v of the country thereabouts. This wuu'd naturally include looking for any other parses that might bs of use for roads or tracks from the lake to the Sounds. Starling about the middle of January last with a party of six men and provisions to last for three months, I pitched my first main camp at the head of the west arm of Lake Manapouri. Thence I cut and blazed a track up the Spey River to the Mackenzie Pass, and from there down the Seaforth River to DuskySound. I'rom this mam line I made several branch lines, taking out flying camps and ascending a good many hill-tope, so as t) obtain the beat views of the country and pints of vantage from which to fix the topegfapny. On most of these points I built cairns about 7ft high, which came in very useful as means of identifying the various peaks. To ensure accuracy in the sketching of the topography I measured carefully a base nearly a mile long at the head of the lake, and from this fixed the position of Leaning Peak and two other peaks, and worked from these as a base using tor this work a 4in tbccdolito. The heights wore carefuliy taken by barometer, and cheeked by reciprocal vertical angles. On my return I carried true bearings from View Hill, east of Manapouri, to Leaning Peak, and thence to a number of tops on which I had built cairns • and also from a small base at View Hill I fixed the position of that peak. By these means 1 have secured a thorough check on tho woik. Judging from tho nature of the country that a triangulatioa survey will not for many years, if over, be carried out there, I have endeavored to make a thorough topographical survey, and not merely a leconnaisanoe. The area included in the survey will be about 200,000 acres, a-.d it is approximately bounded by lines running from Supper Cove, Dusky Sound, to Deep Cove, Smith Sound ; thence to South Aim, Lake Manapouri; thence to point on Grebe River, five miles below South Ann; and thence to Supper Cove again. This will be plotted and shown on a map drawn on a scale of one mile to an inch. I have, also carefully examined all passes in order to ascertain their suitability for roads and tracks. To do this involved a considerable amount of hard climbing, as the country is extremely broken, and it was very difficult to trace the course of the streams, as they branch and- double about in a very eccentric manner. ~
I returned to the main line to Manapoun, and then went up the south arm of the lake. From this point I out a track some five or six miles up the Grebe River, and intended to have continued it through to Lake Monowai, but very fo"»y weather having set in I deemed it advisableto stop work for this season. The trip occupied about eleven weeks, of which three or four were wet._ No hitch of any kind occurred, and for this in great measure I have to thank the men who accompanied me, who proved themselves first-rate bush hands, and well earned the extra wages paid.
The whole country travelled over hj excessively rugged and broken, the valleys and sides of the mountains, to a height of oyer 3,000 ft, being densely bushed where not absolutely precipitous, and the tops to the west of the Grebe and the Mackenzie Rivers for the most part bare broken rock, rising to heights varying from 4,000 ft to 5,000 ft. To the east of these rivers, however, the tops are rather smoother, and those on the cast of the Grebe River are well grassed. The bottoms of the main valleys vary from a few chains to half a mile in width ; the side valleys are mere ravines, with precipitous sides. When open patches occur in the bush they are almost invariably peat swamps The valley at the head of the Seaforth, described by Mr T. Mackenzie as “a lovely valley opening out wide, grassy, and sunny, with 'streams wandering through groups of shady trees, etc , is in reality a large swamp, the peat andmoss many feet deep, with rocky knobs projeoting here and there, covered with stunted birch. In many places even the. main valleys are filled up to a considerable extent with huge rocks which have fallen from the mountain sides. These are now covered with moss, and the bush has overgrown them. . There is scarcely any land fit for cultivation. The timber consists for the most part of silver birch, with the usual undergrowth of fern and BC ™h. Here ard there patches of black and white b.rch take the place of the silver birch, and occasional trees of black, red, and white pine, totara, and kamai are met with. The whole of it is ill-grown and quite worthless for nulling purposes. 1 found no rare ferns;.in fact, excepting the usual , rough , fern.and the crape fern (Todea Su,<crba), the fora family is not well represented. Tree-ferns .only occur here and: there. Above the bosh level alpine plants flourish in large variety. - At the head of the Seaforth I found three varieties of the mountain lily, besides Cclmesias, Ranunculi,
Edefvua, and others: in abundance. 1 Ih this country the absence of animal and bird life ,is. particularly notioeableV ■■ One may travel through the bush and not hear or see a bi-d except a robin. But still there must, be some «b>rds about, for at night we could hear ,tne kakapo, and on various occasions our v doz caught specimens of , these .birds, as well as wekas and large grey kiwis. We. only saw, one j oW , ever - ~ho' rivers ari poorly d u °k, excepting the lower reaches 5, where teal, grey and paradise iraW are plentiful I saw scarcely' any kakas or pigeons. Of course, we all kept a go* f °- r the ak l he Wotomis ManUlli), but ‘U? -•®?~ SW®.. 9* that rare bird. Ido not -know-what - to-attribute the scarcity- Ofvariitv' w! t0 f for though the number, ©/each variety was few.a great many varieties were such . as crows. thrashes, tuts, cananes, wrens; Hflebeaks," fantails, and many others. English blackbirds were numerous m places, especially up the Grebe-River. As a rule, too. In the bu-h rats arc very troublesome, but we saw very few, and were not troubled by them Traces of rabbits were to bo seen on almost ali the hfil-tops even west of the Seaforth, but the rabbits are very few. Our dog caught two or three in the Spey Valley. Ferrets and weasels are evidently scattered about, and ono of my men says that a ferret paid him a visit in his tent one night. Insect life is chiefly represented by the sandfly and_ the blowfly, which are. everwhere l in myriads, making the daylight hours spent in camp a misery. Fortunately there were no mosquitoes. I noticed particularly, too, the absence of grasshoppers, having seen only one all through the trip; whilst on the rooky tops, where on sunny days they are generally disporting themselves, ihere were no lizards. I was a little disappointed in the scenery. Doubtless a stranger would think it far greater than I would, who have been among so much similar scenery. When in the valleys one can see very little on account of the bush; whilst fiom the tops there is too muoh to bo seen. The peaks in every direction are crowded and crushed together, till, looking over the scene, onb appears to be viewing a petriflid ocean, and a feeling of isolation comes over one. But here and there are some fine contrasts. For instance •standing on the saddle between Lyvia and Seaforth Rivers on the one side one looks down on a grassy slope, starred with daisies and lilies, on to the grassy valley of the Seaforth, with its groups of i-bady trees and pretty watertails tnek,ing_ over granite faces from sparkling lakelets nestling in sunny nooks in the mountains. (As I have said, the grassy flat is a peat swamp; mats n’importc, the picture is the same.) On the other side is a sheer precipice of hundreds of feet, which rises to the summit of Mount Gladstone. From the foot the Lyvia River runs away through a dark narrow valley between vast cliffs, huge mountains S.OCOit high towering oh each tide, whilst yet to deepen the gloom in the darkest part of the valley b spark- - 1' I 1!? bike is set. These lakes are quite a feature 1 of this part of the country. They are scattered everywhere—some low in the bush, others right on the tops, but mostly near the heads or streams a littlo above busb level. They vary from small tarns to lakes over half a mile long. There are some fine waterfalls too, notably one about four miles up the Spev River from Lake Manapouri, discovered by Mr Mackenzie, and another on the Seaforth River, about four miles from its source. Hero two falls com© down side by side, and I have christened them the “Twin Falls.” As to the principal results of the exploration they may be summarised:— (1) -That the Seaforth River runs into Supper Cove, Dusky Sound, and is the same as the river explored by Mr Mackenzie, and named after himself the Mackenzie River. (The latter name, together with the name Lake Ada and the names given to a number of mountains, will therefore disappear from the maps.) That tie passes or saddles between the Spey .and Seaforth Valleys—viz., Pillaa Pass, Mnrrel Pass, and the Mackenzie Pass are unsuitable for through road routes, their altitudes (from 3,200 ft to 3.500 ft) being tco great, and the valleys leading up to them being crossed by steep benches and very narrow render it impossible to get grades without immense expense ia rook cutting. Moreover, from the appearance and altitude of these passes they will bo covered in snow during several months of the year. It is, however, possible to make a foot track by either the Piilan. or OJaokenzie Pass, and the former is the better, being a little L wer and the route more direct. (2) That no other practicable passes exist from I ake Manapouri to any of the Sounds between Dusky Sound and Smith Sound. At the head of the Dashwocd or Takaho Stream I discovered a good pass to the latter Sound. The altitude is below 2,100 ft above sea level; bush grows on it ; it lies well to the sun and tho north-west wind, and apparently the sno wdoes not lie there long at any time. Easy grades can be obtained to it from each side without much rock cutting, and the distance between Lake Manapouri and the head of Smith Sound, allowing for windings of the road, would be, 1 believe, under thirteen miles. From the relative positions of Lake Manapouri and the founds it is evident that no shorter route can be got as low. The pass from To Anau Lake to Milford Sound is more than half as high again, and the distance between )ai e and sound more than twice as long. (3) That from the view obtained of the country from 1 eaning Peak it appears very unlikely that any passes exist between either the Mica > urn, tne .-.weburn, or the Truman Burn and any ot the Sounds, the general altitude of the country appearing to iiao towards the north. (4) That there is a pass below bush level at the head of the Hauroto Burn, giving through communication between Hauroto Lake aut Duskv found by way of the Hauroto Burn and Daadwoed Creek. (6) That a low pass or flat saddle exists at the head of the Grebe River, giving an easy through route between tho south arm of Lake Manapouri and the north end of Lake Monowai. 1 ha/e not been at this_ saddle, and so cannot state its altitude, but it appears to bo very low.
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THE WEST COAST HINTERLAND., Evening Star, Issue 10441, 9 October 1897, Supplement