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THE NELSON GOLD-FIELDS.
THERE is a notion popular in New Zealand, that when the work of creation was going forward, that colony was overlooked until nearly the termination of the six days, and only finished late on the Saturday night. The reason for this idea is the irregularity in everything connected with the geology of the country. Several coalmines have been discovered in Nelson, but instead of the seams lying in their natural position, and the lines being continuous, disorder has taken place in every stratification; there appears to have been some immense force at work, which has turned over and disconnected them, so that generally disjointed masses instead of regular mines are found.
So with copper, which has been discovered at the Croixelles, D'Urville's Island, and the well-known Dun Mountain. The ore is not found in regular lodes, only here and there in isolated masses, which renders the prosecution of operations difficult and heavily expensive. As with coal and copper, so with gold. A prospecting
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party finds a suitable place to commence work; they are successful in procuring the precious metal in payable quantities, some hundreds of people follow to the supposed mine; but although the field may be worked on every side, and holes sunk to the rock below, perhaps not one other party may meet with more success than finding a few specks. This unfinished and irregular internal organization has given rise to the idea that New Zealand was the latest work of creation.
Gold was first discovered in the Nelson province at Aorere, a beautiful valley in Massacre Bay. Aorere is the native name of the place, and means "gushing wind." Englishmen like indiscriminately to christen every place they visit, and have since named it Collingwood. Honours are divided between the settlers and natives as to the discovery. Some claim to have known the fact of its existence for many years before any attempt was made to turn the knowledge to profitable account. Others state, that when the first settlers went there, eighteen years ago, the natives exhibited gold to them. Be that as it may, the actual working at the diggings did not commence till the year 1857, when some hundreds of people flocked to the place.
One great advantage connected with the New Zealand diggings is, that they are easily accessible--that is, when compared with those in Australia in its early days. The Aorere fields are within a distance of ten to twenty miles from the port; some are not more than three or four miles distant. The appearance of the country about the Aorere is very bold and striking. Far off in the distance is a magnificent chain of snow-capped mountains, known as the Hapiri Ranges, glistening with
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quartz; below, are hills rising one above the other, broken by deep gorges and gullies, and around is an extensive plain, in parts overgrown with high fern, and elsewhere miles of almost impassable swamp. It is over this country that the diggers have to travel, carrying with them their tents, provisions, long-toms, cradles, and other appliances for working; and many a poor fellow has found himself in the swamp, done up on the journey, the high Toi-toi grass preventing him getting a glance of the direction he ought to pursue, and the moist ground yielding to his weight, often holding him captive until, tired out, he has had to make his bed for the night on his bundles, and wait till fresh strength came to make the completion of his journey possible.
There are two principal kinds of diggings: river diggings, carried on in the beds of the streams; and dry diggings, in the conglomerate and gravel accumulated on the slope of the mountains. The latter were the first successfully worked, and the gullies between the hills at the foot of the mountain ranges were the scene of activity.
In both classes of diggings, the source of the gold is supposed to be the Hapiri Mountains. The Slate River, Appoo's River, Boulder River, Salisbury Creek, and Para-para River, all of which proceed from the same range, have been worked with success. Nature has been doing on a large scale, and from a remote period of time, the very work in kind, but not in degree, that gold diggers do now. By the action of the elements, the rocks have gradually been wearing away, and the heavy particles of gold have been carried down by the streams and deposited in the gullies; thus preparing for the more
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minute and detailed operations of man. This agency of nature is proved by the rounded appearance of the gold, and also by the fact, that at the head or upper parts of the streams the heaviest gold has been found. Both classes of diggings have their peculiar disadvantages. The difficulty of procuring water on the dry diggings is an obstacle to individual enterprise. A Company was formed to work a place called Golden Gully, where the water had to be brought from the Para-para, a distance of four miles, in canvas pipes, which were raised on a framework over the open country, and lodged amongst the branches of the trees through the bush where it had to pass. This method is attended with an immense outlay, which can only be borne by Companies, and men on the diggings generally prefer running the risk of making a considerable amount by their own individual exertions, or, in case of failure, losing everything, rather than earn ten or twelve shillings a day in the employment of a Company. The scarcity of water on the dry diggings, however, is not a greater obstacle to success than the superabundance of that element on the river diggings. When a party intends commencing work, their first efforts are devoted to the erection of a dam to turn off the river into another channel. This is a work of considerable time, fatigue, and expense. When accomplished, perhaps the claim may not yield sufficient "wages" to pay for lost time, 1 certainly not enough to compensate for rheumatism and the concomi-
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tant train of evils often brought on from working for weeks in water. And even supposing a large sum is obtained, there is always the uncertainty of a rainy season coming on, during which the snow gets melted on the mountains, the river rises in what is termed "a fresh," and the whole of their works are washed away. Then the amount accumulated has to be again invested in repairing damages.
For these reasons there are not many who have worked on the New Zealand gold-fields who can boast of having made very brilliant fortunes, for the quantities found are not in any way comparable to Australia. The nature of the gold on the dry diggings is nuggety, little round pieces varying from the size of a pin's head to that of a pea, while the gold which is obtained in the rivers is more scaly, worn down by the water passing over it. The largest nugget that has been found weighed nine ounces eighteen pennyweights.
From the Aorere to Takaka Valley, comprehending a breadth of twenty miles, gold is everywhere dispersed, and in many places wages are to be made by merely washing the surface in a tin dish; but it is only in distinct and not very extensive localities that at present any considerable quantities have been found.
The advantage of the gold-fields to New Zealand has been very great. During the space between seed-time and harvest, hundreds of small farmers and farm-labourers have gone over and earned their fifteen to twenty shillings a day, with merely the expenditure of a few pounds in expenses connected with outfit and working utensils. Nor does there seem a probability that the gold-fields will be easily exhausted. During the
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THE NELSON GOLD-FIELDS.
past year, several new and extensive districts have been prospected which yielded satisfactorily; and, no doubt, when bush-tracks are cut, or roads made to render them more accessible, and offer greater facilities for working them, larger numbers of people will be gathered there.
Dr. Ferdinand Hochstetter remarks:--"The Nelson gold-fields are a fact, and that which is at present known of them is but the beginning of a series of discoveries which time will bring to light." He has given the following calculations relating to the only fields (then) known:--"We will reckon the superficial extent of the Aorere and Para-para diggings at 30 English square miles--the average thickness of the gold-bearing conglomerate, at a very low rate, at one yard; and the value of gold in one cubic yard at 5s. Upon this data the value of the Aorere gold-field is £22,500,000 sterling, or £750,000 sterling for one square mile."
Since that time the old works have not been abandoned, and many new fields have been discovered. "Still waters run deep;" and steady, persevering work, with a moderate population, is more profitable to a country than a great excitement which draws thousands of people together, without the means of providing for the many, and benefiting only the few.
It has been estimated that the average wages of all who have worked on the Nelson diggings have been 12s. per day. This, considering the number of mere adventurers, who, unaccustomed to work, and growing weary of the hardships necessarily attendant on that mode of life, only scratch over a claim and leave it in discontent, is anything but a contemptible average.
The General Government Gazette recorded that in
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August, 1859, the whole produce of the gold-field, from 1857, amounted to about £150,000 sterling; since which time a steady progress has been made.
During the past year very extensive gold-fields have been discovered at Wangepeka, about 50 miles from Nelson. Great expectations are entertained that these will prove even more valuable than those in the Aorere. A road is being cut, and every facility rendered for their development, and ere long a large population may be gathered there.
The New Zealand diggings are yet destined to create a stir in the world, and to attract adventurers from England as well as the neighbouring colonies.
Since the above was written, a great rush has been made to Otago, where gold has been discovered in larger quantities than elsewhere in New Zealand. The result is that, for every hundred people who have been successful, a thousand have been disappointed. The supply of provisions has been wholly inadequate to the demand, and a great deal of want and privation has had to be endured. The over-crowded province has not been able to afford inducements for its new inmates to settle and cultivate other branches of industry; the labour-market has been glutted, and consequently, for the few who have amassed money, many hundreds have been ruined.
The last "rush" seems to have satisfactorily proved, however, that there are very rich gold-fields about Otago. The discoverers of the new diggings came to Dunedin one morning, and deposited in the Treasury eighty-seven pounds weight of gold, the alleged produce of ten weeks' work. The social state of Otago has declined in proportion as the diggings have increased. Judge Gresson,
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THE TARANAKI WAR.
in a recent charge to the Grand Jury, remarked, "It is a fact, that with our material prosperity we have imported a great social sore, which is festering beneath the surface of society. . . . We have amongst us a deplorably large number of the most dangerous crime-steeped wanderers. . . . We cannot blind ourselves to the fact that the off-scourings of Van Dieman's Land, New South Wales, and Victoria, are being poured in upon our shores."--Otago Colonist, October, 1863.
Within an easy distance of port, the greatest difficulties of a digger's life are removed. With a beautiful climate--not exhausting in summer, nor cold enough to prevent the continuance of work in winter--with bush supplying any quantity of fuel, and abounding with birds and wild pigs for food, without a single venomous animal to engender fear, New Zealand is, of all places in the world, the most suitable for the successful prosecution of gold-digging.
THE TARANAKI WAR-BATTLE OF MAHOETAHI.
(From the Correspondent of the "Nelson Examiner," November 10, 1861.)
"STIRRING events have occurred which render it necessary to take advantage of the delay of the Airedale, to tell you something about the battle of Mahoetahi, which took place this morning between the troops and the Waikatos. But while the camp and the town may be rejoicing at the return of our brave troops and volunteers from the field of blood and victory, we must not forget
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that amidst all these manifestations of pleasure are to be seen the melancholy countenances and weeping eyes of those who mourn for their dear but now silent ones; and while distant eyes are poring over these details, let them not begrudge a tear in memory of the brave, whose blood has been so freely offered for the honour of our beloved Queen and country.
"Last night a slight skirmish took place between a working party of our men and the rebels, the latter were speedily drawn off with loss. Two were wounded on our side.
"This morning about 400 rank and file, with one twenty-four-pounder howitzer, left camp under the command of Colonel Mould, R.E., and Major Nelson, for Mahoetahi, to join another body of men from New Plymouth under the command of General Pratt; and who were now engaged with the rebels in the direction of the Bell Block. After a hasty march, our men arrived at the scene of conflict, and not only claim but deserve the honour of putting the rebels completely to the rout.
"It appears to have been the general's intention to occupy Mahoetahi as a military post; and, in order to carry out his plan, he proceeded there this morning with about 600 men. On approaching the pah, a line of skirmishers was thrown out, and advanced in this order until within 300 yards of the pah (Mahoetahi), when, observing that it was occupied by rebels, they opened fire, which was speedily returned, the line still continuing to advance. The supports were now ordered up, and. a few shells thrown into the pah; this lasted for a few minutes only, for the 65th and volunteers cheered and charged the place, which the rebels observing, ran out
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and entered a scrubby gully, from which they opened a heavy fire upon our men, who with the guns took up positions and commenced a destructive cross-fire, which, with the shell and canister from the guns, did great execution. The rebels bravely maintained their position, heedless of the awful slaughter around them, for about an hour, when they began to retire by one and two at a time, but most of these were shot down before they reached many yards.
"Just at this moment our Waitara force arrived, and the quick eye of Major Nelson seeing how matters stood brought his gun into action, and a few well-directed shells, under the direction of Lieutenant McNaughton, forced the rebels out in a mass, who now began a hasty flight, followed by the town party, who shot down and bayoneted several on the south side of the river, while the Waitara party followed their example from the north. The rebels were so tightly pressed that many of them threw away their rifles and cartridge boxes, which fell into the hands of our men. While the pursuit was being continued by the men forming the town division, the Waitara division were employed collecting the dead and wounded. Thirty-two dead rebels were laid side by side in the road, fine strapping-looking fellows as ever were seen. Five wounded were taken and attended to by our doctors, and one fine able fellow was taken prisoner; but it is supposed that there are many more lying dead in the fern. Our loss is four killed (two volunteers, and two 65th), and about twelve wounded, including Colonel Sillery (slightly), and Captain Turner (severely). As soon as the troops were collected a strong party was left in possession of Mahoetahi, the
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remainder returned to their respective quarters at New Plymouth and Waitara, well satisfied with their day's work. The brave Waikatos (for it is ascertained that none of W. King's men were there) are as plucky a set of fellows as ever held a gun, and prove to our commanders that they have no mean foe to contend with." The Taranaki News, Nov. 8th, says:--"The fight lasted about an hour from the time it commenced, when the enemy broke and fled; and this may be considered the most sharp, short, and decisive affair that has ever taken place in New Zealand."
A LEASE of the iron-sand upon the beach was granted to E. Morshead, Esq., for the term of 21 years, provided that a half-yearly sum of £500 was spent or incurred in the procuring and smelting of the same during the continuance of the said lease. After procuring the lease, Captain Morshead returned to England for the purpose of making the necessary arrangements.
A Company has been formed in England, under the title of the "Taranaki Iron-Sand Company, Limited," for the purpose of working it.
In a letter to the Superintendent of Taranaki, the Managing Directors write:--
"The necessary machinery, furnaces, &c., with an efficient staff of workmen, will be shortly shipped, and we sincerely trust that success may crown this great enterprise for the welfare of the Company and the province, which has the honour of having you as its Chief.
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"The steel produced by the Taranaki sand is far superior to any yet known, conducing to main essentials, hardness and toughness, and peculiarly adapted for plating the vessels of the navy, requiring but half the thickness of that at present used, and in consequence producing a lighter and more invulnerable fleet, and the saving of some millions of money to the Government of this country."
(From the "Wellington Independent.")
"A MOA'S egg was found at the Kaikoras, while digging the foundation for a store. It is a foot long, about nine inches in diameter, and twenty-seven inches in circumference. The shell is the sixteenth part of an inch in thickness. A hole is drilled at the end of it, and the egg must evidently have been considered of great value by the natives, as it was found deposited at the head of a skeleton with a number of very large poanamu axes. We understand it is going to be sent home to the British Museum."
(From the "Nelson Examiner" June 12th, 1861.) About three weeks ago, while Mr. Brunner, chief surveyor of the province, and Mr. Maling, of the survey department, accompanied by a native, were engaged in surveying on the ranges between the Riwaka and Takaka Valleys, they observed one morning on going to their work the footprints of what appeared to be a large bird, whose tracks they followed for a short distance,
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but lost them, at length among rocks and scrub. The size of the footprints, which were well defined wherever the ground was soft, was fourteen inches in length, with a spread of eleven inches at the points of the three toes. The footprints were about thirty inches apart.
"On examining the bones of the foot of a moa in the Museum we find the toe to measure, without integuments, eight inches and a-half, and these evidently form part of the skeleton of a very large bird. The length of the impression of the toe of the bird in question was ten inches. The native who was in company with Messrs. Brunner and Maling was utterly at a loss to conjecture what bird could have made such a footprint, as he had never seen anything of the kind before.
"On a subsequent morning similar marks were again seen; and as a proof that they had been made during the night, it was observed that some of them covered the footprints of those the party made the preceding evening. The size of these footprints, and the great stride of the supposed bird, has led to the belief that a solitary moa may still be in existence. The district is full of limestone caves, of the same character as those in which such a quantity of moa bones were found, about two years ago, in the neighbouring district of Aorere. We believe it is the intention of the Government to take steps to ascertain the character of this gigantic bird, whether moa or not, which keeps watch in these solitudes, and the search cannot but possess great interest to all students of natural history."
GEORGE UNWIN, GRESHAM STEAM PRESS, BUCKLERSBURY, LONDON.