Permanent link to this item
NOTES OF A JOURNEY THROUGH A PART OF MIDDLE ISLAND OF NEW ZEALAND., Volume III, 5 October 1844
NOTES OF A JOURNEY THROUGH A PART OF MIDDLE ISLAND OF NEW ZEALAND.
l&mcluded from page 108.] Having now, sir, led you over the ground traversed by the expedition — much, I fear, to the fatigue of your readers — and having discovered New Edinburgh, the "Auld Reekie" of the Britain of the South, and left the surveyors at work, and other preparations making for the plantation of a civilized community, I shall wind up by' a few very general remarks upon the character of the country we saw, and at the same time glance at one or two of the more remarkable objects of the natural history of this country, with which we had an opportunity of becoming acquainted. On the whole, the east coast of the Middle' Island much exceeded my anticipations; which, however, I may mention were by no means extravagant. It offers a large extent of level and undulating land; while the circumstance of its being covered with grass is of the greatest importance, as affording to industry a natural production of inestimable value, capable of being converted, with the smallest amount of labour or outlay, into a source of wealth and abundance.
It is a remark which has been put into the mouth of Dr. Dieffenbach, that we came here to colonize New Zealand one thousand years too soon. Applied to the North Island, any one who I has seen it must have been struck with the justice of the remark. But it is much less applicable to the east coast of New Munster. Altogether this portion of the country has much more the appearance of being matured, and has an older and more respectable look. You do not see those numberless sharp, fresh-fractured-looking ridges which cut up the surface, and render it hopeless to anything but goats, who alone might live there ifthere were anything to eat On the contrary, the outline of the hills is more rounded and swelling, with expanded tops, while plains lie at their feet, resulting from the same causes which have produced the rounded outline of the former, what geologists term " degradation," viz., the washing down of the more elevated portions of the land by the long-continued action of the elements. The geological structure of the country appeared to me of an older character than that of the North Island. Thus in Banks' Peninsula we find an old vesicular trap — at Moeraki, Waikouaite, and Otago, we met with the coal formation and old basaltic rocks— between Molyneux and Totoes the coast consists of grand and lofty cliffs of dark red sandstone, the strata of which rise not towards the interior of the country, but towards the sea. Stewart's Island (at least the portion of it I saw) is basaltic, and it may be supposed that the force which determined its upheaval was the same which gave to the strata above mentioned their rise to the southward. la the North Island, on the other hand, the rocks are, generally speaking, of a more recent geological date ; while, as volcanic forces are still in operation there, we find more of their recent products, and more of the effects of their disturbing forces upon the general configuration of the country. In the interior I understand considerable districts are covered with cinders and ashes, and, consequently, perfectly barren.' Other parts of the country, nonvolcanic in their origin, seem to have been shattered and broken up as it were but yesterday. Near the East Cape, I have walked along ridges which I could have sat stride legs upon, one leg in one valley, the other in the opposite one. The east coast of the Middle Island seems to me to hold out greater attractions to the colonist than any part of New Zealand : but to take advantage of its resources to the full extent, I humbly conceive that it will be necessary to dispense both with the Wakefield system and Lord Stanley's Act for regulating the sale of waste lands in the Australian colonies. Regarding the Wakefield system, it may be said to have been " weighed in the balance and found wanting." That it exhibits great ingenuity and has certain advantages, no one will deny ; but that it is of necessity attended with many disadvantages, which more than balance any good which it secures, is equally clear. It has one prima facie and insuperable defect: it entails, or, more correctly speaking, it attempts to entail upon the settlers the expense of founding a colony, a business which, under the most favourable circumstances, is only accomplished by a very great outlay of capital. Thus in South Australia, after the settlers were all ruined, it was found necessary that the British Treasury should pay large sums of money; and an immense capital having thus been expended, tht. place begins to breathe and show some symptoms of life. It may be said that this was the fault of the settlers, who never hitherto applied their energies to production ; but this is not true : it was the fault of the system, which placed men in a false position, in circumstances in which men never did and never will act otherwise than the South Australians did. In New Zealand the same system has been tried both by the Company and the Government. The means of the settlers have been crippled by paying large sums of money for land, and everything at present seems to point to the same consummation as in South Australia — total exhaustion, and then health, from necessity and the contact of starvation : a system like that of Doctor Sangrado, who cured his patients by bleeding and hot water. We may remark, however, in passing, that the Government settlements have been much better off than the Company's. The money paid for land at Auckland ought (one-half of it at least) to have been sent home for emigration. No farthing was forthcoming for such a purpose. The money was spent in the place, foolishly perhaps, but still some good was got out of it But in the Company's settlements large sums have found their way, to pay for emigration, into the pockets of the English shipowners, who are greatpromotersof emigrating schemes, and are generally considered to be rather knowing fellows. Lord Stanley's Act appears to me a bad one, inasmnch as it demands a price for wilderness land which no wilderness land is worth. At the same time, seeing that people were determined to emigrate, were enamoured of the Wakefield system, and bad "made up'\ their minds to buy waste land at any price, at was the case a few years .'ago, it certaanly was ' very reasonable conduct on tne part of the Bri- - tish Government to pass such an act, and as • far as in them lay transfer the expense of ibnading colonies from the shauktar* of the Jtrinsh rple to the shoulders of those who rnsjritf the "heroic work." Lord Gkr*ij w#|i»y
much abused by Mr. E. G. Wakefield and his associates, because he did not jump at once into the South Australian scheme: was called a sleepy-headed old dolt, and received other such compliments. Lord Glenelg told the colonizing gentlemen that colonies were very expensive things, in saying which he certainly saw quite as far into the millstone as any of the sharp, self-supporting theorists.
Pasture is the natural and great resource of the east coast of this island. Agriculture will be subordinate to it for a long time, although there is a good deal of land which may profitably be brought into tillage, particularly when the soil has been enriched by stock running over it and manuring it. In commencing upon a wilderness, it does not pay to break up second or third rate soils. The richest land alone will yield a remunerating return for the outlay. But, as provisions become abundant and labour cheaper, land of inferior quality comes into cultivation. In the block intended for survey for New Edinburgh, it will be impossible to find the required number of sections of first rate land, if any thing like continuity is to be preserved. The great proportion will be pasture land for many years, and for this the colonists will find they have been paying at the rate of £2 per acre. From an acre of such land, a return of perhaps Is. 6d. per annum may be obtained — aninterest upon the sum paid of less than four per cent. — to say nothing of the expense of a colonist establishing himself in a wilderness. If the colonists of New Edinburgh see their own interests clearly, they will take but little account of the land they have purchased, but, taking advantage of the great extent of natural pasture which surrounds them, they will run their flocks far and wide over the surface of the country. Let them keep in view the advantages which that part of New Zealand possesses as a wool-growing country, and they will secure their prosperity. There is a very large field for the production of wool along the east coast of this island, and I am convinced that it can be grown with greater profit there than in any part of Australia. There are no native dogs, which are the principal cause of the expense of shepherding in Australia. (There are, however, I should mention, a few Maori dogs, run wild, but these might soon be got rid of). There is abundance of water enabling the flock-master to wash his wool thoroughly ; and the climate of this country is particularly favourable to the constitution of the sheep. Having seen most of the Australian colonies, and acquired a little experience at some expense, I see no occupation which affords so good a prospect of rapid return upon the money invested as sheep-grazing in this country, whereever pasture is sufficiently abundant ; and there is a great extent of grass land between Banks' Peninsula and the Bluff.
This district of country possesses also a great advantage in this, that there are almost no natives. On the great plain to the south of the Peninsula there are not, we were told, more than thirty or forty altogether. Otago and its neighbourhood and Robuki are their head-quarters, and there their numbers are very inconsiderable. In the fine district behind Molyneux Bay, there are only four men. To the southward along the coast, there are hardly any. So that settlers in this part of the country have nothing to fear from claims to land or annoying attempts at extortion.
Of the west coast of the Middle Island, commonly called by the whalers the " West Side," we heard a good deal both from the whites and the natives. All accounts agreed that it is of a most rugged and inaccessible character. Mountains towering to an immense height rise, it is said, almost perpendicularly from the water, while their aides, rent and shattered, form deep sounds and arms of the sea affording the most perfect shelter. It would seem that no part of the coast of New Zealand is so inaccurately delineated on the charts as this. Instead of the tolerably uniform line with which it is drawn at present, I believe it will be found, when surveyed, to present an outline somewhat like that of the west coast of Norway. The ■mall portion of it which has been surveyed, viz., Dusky Bay, will afford an illustration of this. Numerous harbours, known only to the sealers, and named by them, were mentioned to us. We were told that harbours for boats could be found every five or six miles. There are still upon this coast a few seals, the pursuit of which gives occupation to one or two boats' crews. In former times they were very abundant, and yielded a very handsome profit. The sealers do not go further north, in general, than Jackson's Bay, or a harbour called Harness, which is still further to the north. Beyond this, there is said to be a narrow belt of low land between the mountains and the shore, which consists of open beaches without shelter. There is no level land of any extent on the west aide. The climate is said to be mild with much rain. In answer to our inquiries about the natives there, we were told that at one time there had been a considerable number, and that they were remarkable for their ferocity. At present their total number U phon^ six. The greenstone, so much prized by the Maories, and also it was hoped by the Chinese, is found in various places on the west coast. It has principally hitherto been worked in a place called Barn Bay. A block of it, weighing several tons, lay on the beach here, in breaking up which Captain Anglin and some of his crew were so much injured. But the mineral must be abundant, for I was shown several rounded pebbles of it picked up on the beach, where they are Sufficiently common. There are two kinds of greenstone, that which is commonly seen, and which is named the ponamoo, and another sort more glassy and transparent named tuggewai. The ponamoo is exceedingly hard, and has an irregular fracture. The tuggewai is much softer, of a more transparent green, and divides easily into plates. It can be scratched with a penknife, or thin plates can thus be nised.
The greenstone prized by the Chinese is undoubtedly the same mineral, slightly different in colour. It has a transparency and brilliancy which ! have never yet seen in the New Zealand stone. Ornaments made of the Chinese £l tinstone look almost like a stained glass, or some parts of them are nearly colourless, while others are clouded with beautiful transparent grass-greens and whites. The annejp^ of these shades of colour is exceeding valß»jln^itt China— worth its weight in gold. It is by no meanfnnHkeJy that the mineral having the resmnte Ajk&c'tmjytst be found in New Zealand. WnerV*«re3r*li«%e extent of greenstone, it i»
rather indeed probable that very considerable varieties in its tint will be met with.
The kivi, called by the sealers the emu, is met with in great abundance on the west side. It is a common article of food with them, being caught with the assistance of dogs. It seems likely that there are two species of kivi, one much larger than the other.
Another bird, called by the whalers the " green bird," by the natives the kakaho, is abundant on the west coast. Dr. Dieffenbach, in his work on New Zealand, mentions having seen some feathers of this bird, but considers it to be extinct. The kakapo is nearly as large again as a kaka, nocturnal in its habits, hiding itself in hollow trees in the day time, and, though possessed of wings, hardly able to fly. I was fortunate enough to obtain a mutilated skin, without either the wings, bill, or feet. The general colour is green, which about the head and neck is of a brilliant shining colour. The under surface of the body is yellow, but the colours blend into one another, and some of the feathers are of both colours, some barred with black*. It is impossible from such a skin to aaf to what family the bird belongs. From what I learnt of the structure of its feet, I ascertained that it is not a parrot, nor a cuckoo, as Dr. Dieffenbach supposed it to be. I think it probable that it may belong to the podargus branch of the goatsucker family, having some analogy, perhaps, with the celebrated guacharo bird described by Hutnboldt, which also is nocturnal in its habits, and makes its nest in holes in the side of a cavern. I observe in the mutilated skin which I have, that near where the bill has been there are some hairs pointing upwards.
Concerning the moa, we could meet with no one who said he had seen it, although the belief prevails that it still exists. Near Waikouaite, many of the bones of the moa have been found. I have five in my possession, obtained in that locality, from the condition of which it must be inferred that the animal to which they belonged cannot have died, I should think, more than 200 years ago. It is, however, at all times very difficult to say what the age of a bone may be, so much depending on the kind of soil in which it has been entombed. I did not myself see the locality in which the bones were found, but I understand it is at the mauth of a creek upon the sea shore that they are got, buried in sand. After heavy rains, when the banks of the stream have been encroached upon by its swollen waters, is the best time to look for them.
I observe by some notices in the English newspapers, that Professor Owen, from some fragments of the bones of the moa which were transmitted to him, conjectures the bird to have stood sixteen feet high. The bones which I have obtained do not warrant the supposition of any such extraordinary height. The largest bone I have is a tarsus, which measures fifteen inches and a half in length. (The tarsus, I may mention, is the bons below what is vulgarly called the knee, in a bird, — that part of the leg which is commonly uncovered with feathers.) In the ostrich, which the moa is believed to have resembled, the tarsus is about a sixth of the height of the bird when erect. This would give to the moa, to which the aforesaid tarsus belonged, a height of seven feet nine inches, which is not greater than that of the African ostrich, which sometimes even reaches eight feet. Three thigh bones, which I possess, all left thigh bones, consequently belonging to different individuals, are very nearly the same length, viz., ten and a half inches ; but these appear to me to have belonged to birds of a smaller size than that of which the tarsus above mentioned is a relic. Mr. Earl, who lately resided at Waikouaite, showed me a thigh bone sixteen inches in length, with a circumference of eight, and a tibia, the length of which was thirty-two inches. These had probably belonged to a bird which must have stood, at least, twelve feet high. The smallest bones which I possess have no appearance of having belonged to immature individuals, and it therefore seems to me likely that there were more species of moa than one.
The question of the existence of the moa at present cannot be satisfactorily answered until the Middle Island has been explored. The probability is, however, I think, much against the. existence of the moa.
In other countries bones of animals known to be extinct are found near the surface, and in a tolerable state of preservation. In the North Island, the bones of the moa are found frequently in the rivers which flow into Poverty Bay and elsewhere, but, though the island is populous, and has been traversed in different directions, no trace of a living moa has yet been seen.
When in Molyneux Bay, we heard a great deal about some animals -said to be beavers, which frequent the lakes at the source of the Molyneux River. So many persons told us of them, and one very intelligent native who walked with us, and said he had seen them, described their manner of swimming, and diving, and building houses on the bank, so circumstantially, that it was scarcely possible to doubt that there was some foundation for the story. These additions to the Fauna of New Zealand — and a floating island which also is said to sail about on one of these lakes — will, I trust, yet tempt some settler of New Edinburgh to visit the region in which they are found. Behind Toutuki, be may explore the mountain dreaded by the natives on account of its being the favourite residence of the mairoero. This is a wild man of the woods, strong, cunning, and mischievous, and addicted to running off with young people and damsels. His body is covered with coarse and longhair, which also flows down from the back of V head nearly to his heels. To compensate for this excessive quantity behind, his forehead is said to be bald. He was vividly described to us by a Maori who had seen one long ago, when he was a little boy, and was of opinion that " there is not a more fearful wild-fowl than your mairoero living." The pukatuola is another wonderful animal of the southward, told of by the old men. Under a different name he is heard of in the north. A gigantic animal of the lizard species, most dangerous to humanity. A very shrewd man, whom we met to the southward, was of opinion that these hairy men and crocodiles had their origin in the Maories seeing pictures of animals in books belonging to Europeans, and then persuading themselves that they existed in their woods : but I cannot take this view of the case. I would appeal to the actual discovery of the bones of the moa as a
striking instance of corroborating the natives' tales. And I can imagine New Zealand existing under different physical circumstances, when both large monkeys and crocodiles formed part of its inhabitants; and recognize the far distant tradition of these surviving (though modified) the lapse of many ages among a people naturally talkative and legend-loving. It will be of the greatest interest if hereafter the fossil bones of some large monkey or saurian animal should be discovered. The field for such researches in New Zealand is yet almost unexplored.
I conceive, Mr. Editor, that I now owe you some apology for having so long occupied your columns. It appeared to me that a knowledge of our island of the New Zealand group should be interesting from several considerations ; but, perhaps, I may have erred in transferring too much to other people the feelings which I have on the subject myself. The whole of the interior of the country, the whole of the west coast, still remain unknown; and, as a subscriber to your paper, I will read with the greatest pleasure any communications which shall give us a knowledge of these parts. I am, sir, Your obedient servant, D. Monro.
The Dinoriods, or Danger-Bird of New Zealand. — Professor Owen, at the last meeting of the British Association, furnished some interesting particulars of this supposed extinct bird. The dinorious is one of the most extraordinary additions to zoology which modern times have seen. The causes which led to the discovery were, that about three years since a person called at the museum of the Royal College of Surgeons with the fragment of a bone for sale, which he said was that of a gigantic eagle of New Zealand. At the first inspection, however, which he made of it, Professor Owen decided that it was part of a bone that belonged to a bird, but not a bird of flight, as it wanted the air-cells with which such are furnished. It is much larger than the bone of the ostrich, and differs very riuch from that of the apteryx, a bird whose wings are reduced to the lowest rudiments* In the course of three years, Professor Owen obtained further information on the subject, through a gentleman who had gone out to New Zealand, and who, at the house of a church missionary, saw large collections of the bones of these birds, of which the aborigines possessed some traditionary knowledge. They said that their grandfathers formerly hunted them, and ascribed to them several healing virtues. The largest ostrich is nine feet high, but the dinorious, comparing the bones in existence, must have been sixteen feet high. This bird is confined to New Zealand and it appears only in the north of that island. In other parts of the world large birds have been found, and the footsteps of a bird as gigantic as the dinorius have been discovered. — London paper.
Oil Casks. — Commodore Berard, of the French corvette Le Rhin, has sent the following communication to the New Zealand Gazette respecting the method adopted at Akaroa for supplying oil cas>ks : — " I caused a cask to be made thirteen English feet long, and rather more than three feet at its greatest diameter, to hold about 714 gallons, and to contain a calf whale. This cask has now been full of water for more than one month, and has not yet leaked a drop. The wood we. have made use of is the kawia, or gowai. Mr. Clark, an English cooper, for some time established at Akaroa, is the person who pointed it out to me as the best for this purpose. He has already made, for the fisheries on this part of the coast, a great number of casks of this wood; and assures me they have answered perfectly well, inasmuch as no leakage of oil has taken place. The kowai is a mimosa, common in the Middle Island — the clianthus pnniceus of the celebrated botanist Allan Cunningham. It grows, generally, near the sea shore, or on the banks of rivers, where it is found of great size : but those are not the best kinds, for it is remarked that the old trees of this species are nearly all rotten at the heart. This wood splits extremely well and very straight. Thus Mr. Clark obtains his staves with ease, by merely splitting the trunk. But for our cask, the staves of which are very long, we have found it impossible to use this cheap method, and have sawed the trees into planks about four inches wide, and 1£ inch thick ; and, as we have used them at once, it has not been found necessary to heat them in order to bend them. Mr. Clark, however, informs me that to make smaller casks he used fire to render the staves flexible. In splitting the kowai, it is to be observed that there are two woods of different colours : one brownish red and the other yellow. The first is always the best and solidest ; and, if possible, this only should be made use of. Nevertheless, a small portion of the yellow part may be left if it should be hard ; otherwise, water, and much more oil, will filter through it. When it is necessary to use these mixed staves, attention should be paid to placing them in the upper part of the cask (near the bande), for there the pressure of the liquid is less."
NOTES OF A JOURNEY THROUGH A PART OF MIDDLE ISLAND OF NEW ZEALAND., Volume III, 5 October 1844
See our copyright guide for information on how you may use this title.
Use these buttons to limit your searches to particular dates, titles, and more.
Print, save, zoom in and more.