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SCIENCE AT THE ISLANDS.

.WORE THAT HAS BEEN DONE. (Sy DR L. COCKAYNE.) Rising out of that vast expanse of stormy ocean which surrounds the icecUd Antarctic continent are several •mall groups of islands, tiny specks indeed ripon the map. The principal of tfcea-_--___e Falklands, South Georgia, ihe ;G__zet6, Kerguelen Land and the jKrat__ern islands of New Zealand — though at most mere names to the majority are of surpassing interest to the _dei-t__c, pre-enting as they do many problems for elucidation, full of fascination but of extreme difficulty. Of greater extent, but having many biological features in common with the above, are Tierra del Fuego and South America west of the Andes as far Adrth as and including the Chronos Arihipelago. , _ . Now, although in the Northern Hemi•phere a fairly abundant vogetation of flowering plants exists beyond the Arctic CSreFe, the Antarctic is practically without plant-life except seaweeds and a few _rio__.es and lichens, the above■aentioned islands, though lying for the »o_t part at the same distance fromthe BDquator as Great Britain, marking, With a few trifling exceptions, the southern limit of the higher plants. Still more remarkable is it that, though separated from one another by thousands of tniles of ocean ; they have no jrciaall l; number of species in common. The earthworms of our jKHithern islands are closely related to those of Kerguelen Land and Fuegia; the wet coastal rocks of Antipodes and Marion Islands are equally adorned with the succulent, reddish masses of crassula mosohata, and the tender green feathery-leaved ootula plumosa equally flelights the eye both on the Crozets and the Aucidands, while the huge -ushions of that remarkable plant of the carrot family, azorella selago, defy the constant Antarctio gales of both Kerguelen Land and the Macquaries. luktll quite recently it has been the habit to speak of the fauna and flora of the above islands as Antarctic, but this quite evident misnomer has recently been changed to sub-antarctic, since their biological conditions have Nothing analogous with those of the Arctio, and also are very different to what are found at similar latitudes in ihe Northern Hemisphere. So far as the New Zealand subantarctic region is concerned, there are six groups of __iai_ds, or which the Aucklands are by far the largest. The s following are th-dr names, distances, and direction from the South Cape of Stewart Island : The Snares, sixty miles S.W.; the Aucklands, 190 miles S. by W. ; the Campbells, 330 miles S. by E. ; the Antipodes. 490 miles E.S.E. j the Bounty Islands, 490 miles E., and the Maoquaria., 570 miles S.W. by S. These latter have an anomalous position, as they belong politically to Tasmania, but biologically to New Zealand. • !.•_. It was trade and not science wnicn first made these remote portions of our dominion famous. "Where the waves break over the jagged rocks was a countless host of fur seals, now, alas! all but extinct. For years small sailing craft, manned frequently by Stewart Island Maoris, visited their shores, riding secure. in the fine harbours of Auckland or Campbell Island, or landing parties on the shining granite books of the Bounties or the tussockclad Antipodes. The havoc wrought amongst the seals was almost incredible; for instance, the story goes that one ship alone landed 100,000 skins at Antipodes. A quite remarkable incident in the history of the Aucklands was the Enderby Settlement, a grant of the islands being made to Messrs Enderby, Who establi-hed what was known as the Bottthern Whale Fishery Company. For some year-, 1860-1852, a population of 800 Europeans and Maoris lived at the north end of the main island and on jinderby Island, braving the inhospitable climate, but, as the venture was a financial failure, the settlement, from (Which great things were expected, was abandoned. With the decline of whaling and sealing, the non-scientific interest in. the islands would have ceased, had it not been for the fact that their iron coasts

I lay right in the track of sailing vessels by the Cape Horn rout, to Europe. Consequently j as might well be expected many shipwrecks have taken place, the barren shores and fantastic forests being silent witnesses of frightful sufferings and no little splendid heroism. One example alone can be here briefly touched on. The Grafton, a small sailing vessel of seventy-five tons, was wrecked in the land-locked Carnley Harbour. Officers and crew, five in all, landed 1 safely and lived at the south end of Auckland Island for a year and a half. Finally, however, seeing no hope of escape from a most, miserable life, the shapes dinghey was mended, with what makeshift tools they possessed, and in this most crazy craft Musgrave, the captain, Raynal, the mate, and one of the crew started out on what must have looked the most hopeless of forlorn hopes to brave the tempestuous two hundred miles of heaving waters separating them from Stewart Island, wnioh place, marvellous to relate, they gained in safety. This most daring deed roused the enthusiasm of Invercargill, whose people equipped the Flying Scud and rescued the two sailors left behind. ' The case of Musgrave and his crew aroused -the public from its apathy, so that first the Victorian Government steamer visited the islands in 18b5, while three years later the brig Amherst examined ail our southern islands for castaways. Later on, the New Zealand Government erected huts and clothing and bedding in the former and a boat in each of the latter. Each year, too, one or more trips are made by the Hinemoa, the Tutanekai, or a man-of-war to the islands, and more than once the first-named vessel has returned with rescued mariners. Much more could easily be written as to the human element in these far-away islands. Especially is the voyage of Bellmghausen, first brought to the knowledge of New Zealanders by the Hon R. M Nab, f ull of interest, . but space forbids, suice we must pass on to the scientific side, that which concerns New Zealand most at the present time. First and foremost amongst those wno have advanced sub-antarctic science stands Sir Joseph Hooker, the most honoured and the greatest amongst British botanists. The early summer of 1840 saw him, a young man. filled with delight in the meadows and forests ot the Aucklands and Campbells, where almost every plant was unknown to science, and whose forms were very deferent from those of Europe. And bow at tae great age of ninety he has/Jfearrc that the sparsely populated I*fid he visited in his youth bas so rar advanced as to be able U> send forth to that same field where ho won his spurs a fully-equipped band of scientific men, representing many and varied branches of science. Think of those sixty-seven years which have passed away since 'Hooker's visit, the greatest period ot scientific advance in the history of mankind. Branch after branch of science, unknown to the youthful scientist burning with zeal, has developed since his famous voyage. The bosom friend and most trusted adviser of Darwin, he has seen the evolution doctrine l-seli evolved, and though met at first with virulent hostility, finally conquer and convert its opponents, illuminating and revivifying all domains of human knowledge. He has lived to see his own daiTng hypothesis of an ancient sub-antarctic continent, not merely hold its own, but become strengthened by many pregnant facts. The immediate outcome of Hooker's visit, was tho magnificent "Flora Antarctica, published in 1847, which will ever be indispensable to the investigation of sub-antarctic problems. The year previous to Hooker s visit the French, under Admiral D' Urville, and the Americans, under Commodore

Wilkes, had partially explored the Aucklands. Both expeditions published much of interest, the "Voyage au Pol Sud,'' with its fine botanical plates, being second only to the work of Hooker. At a much later date, 1874, Campbell Island was sought by a French "Transit of Venus" expedition, which made a lengthy stay, and much interesting information was published as to the fauna and geology _ by M. Filhol, naturalist to the expedition. The periodical visits of tbe New Zealand Government steamers have been taken advantage of by various local scientists. Sir James Hector, Captain F. W. Hutton, Mr J. Buchanan, Mr Justice Chapman, Professor W. B. Benham, Mr E. Waite, myeelf and others having visited the islands and added more or less to the knowledge of their natural history. Mr T. Kirk's work demands special mention, since be was the first to investigate the botany of the Snares and Antipodes Islands. Mr J. H. Scott and Mr A. Hamilton, Independently of one another, visited Macquarie Island and supplied almost all that is known aB to the biology of that interesting spot. Since so many have examined the New ealand sub-antarctic region it might seem at first glance there would remain little to do. Did natural history consist only in collecting and classifying the species, this might in some measure be true. But even from this standpoint it must be remembered that Hooker and his party worked only at the northern end of the Aucklands, while most of the other scientists haye only had a very short time at their disposal. Now scientific methods and aims are constantly coming into vogue, for science is merely another name for progress, and it must be borne in mind she will not rest content until the life history and habits of every organism are accurately known, together with the facts and reasons regarding the distribution ol all plants and animals, the manner in which the species themselves have originated, and their mechanism as living machines. Previous expeditions have worked chiefly near the coast-. The present well-equipped <no should traverse Auckland and^ _V.!;ir.-.s Islands from end to end, notwithstanding the boisterous and wet climate or the dense character of forest and scrub. To Campbell Island the same remarks apply, and there another . problem should be advanced, which I had the great pleasure of first approaching in 1903, that is, the changes in the vegetation which sheep-farming is calling forth. The fauna of the fresh-water streams is quite unknown, and here the zoologists will be kept busy. Much minute animal life also exists on the . masses of seaweeds along the shore- ' line. Ou the floor of forests and meadows and elsewhere will be found many land shells which will form welcome material for Mr Suter's great work. Tbe peat bogs should yield information as to the former vegetation of the islands. The virgin soils will bo analysed by Mr Aston and tbeir water-content noted, and such facts brought into line with the structure of tKe vegetation and life-forms of the plants. Insects have as yet been little studied in the sub-antarctic region, and, although rather early in the year, Mr Hudson will find even the long daye too short for this work. The sea-hone will be a constant source of admiration and alarm, while the wonderful bird-life will be a pleasure to all, and much that is new should be learned as to their habits. The fertilisation of the flowers, the structure of buds the life-forms of the various species, their combination into societies and many other matters botanical should receive attention. The artist of the early explorers will be replaced by the modern camera, and hundreds ot photographs, good, bad and indifferent —-these two latter categories doubtless in excess— will await development. As for the magnetio and geological work, an account is written by others, hut enough has been said to show that the excursion is not merely an "idle" one, though it will be a time of constant enjoyment never to be forgotten by those lucky enough to have taken a part in it. As for the gain to New Zealand, tne expedition will be watched with interest in every civilised land, since at the present time what with Antarctic expeditions and with the evergreen problem — the existence or non-existence ot former land connection with South America and Australasia — the sub-ant-arctic region as a whole and that of New Zealand in particular looms large before the scientific world. In _ these days of Nature study, too, it is imperative that our fauna and flora should be thoroughly investigated. If our children are to be taught true facts and good methods these must be found out by the learned of the land. Before the text-book can be written the scientific man must investigate; in short, original research is the keynote of progress. Nor should the practical man, looking for economic results, despair. Facts as to the life histories and physiology of plants and animals, s> true knowledge of soils and virgin •vegetation, the effect of environment on form and structure, these are matters which deeply concern the farmer, the gardener and the physician. New Zealand is not alone in these sub-ant-arctic explorations. Sweden is sending a party for two years to the Falkland xslands and Fuegia. Our energetio rival, the Argentine, sends another to the latter region, while she has already established one meteorological station on the far-off South Orkney Isles and proposes to erect a second to study weather conditions still further towards the Pole. Our expedition is small in comparison with the above, but it will do its best. We have, moreover, a Ministry which is fully aware of the hiec-i value of pure science as distinct from the so-called practical. For this present expedition the scientists of New Zealand as a whole are truly grateful to the Government, while at the same time they hope that it will mark a new scientific era, making our beloved land still nioTe worthy of its new title of dominion.

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Bibliographic details

SCIENCE AT THE ISLANDS., Star, Issue 9078, 6 November 1907

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2,272

SCIENCE AT THE ISLANDS. Star, Issue 9078, 6 November 1907

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