1859 - Thomson, A. S. The Story of New Zealand [Vol.I] - Part I. The Country and its Native Inhabitants - CHAPTER I. GEOGRAPHY AND NATURAL HISTORY.

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  1859 - Thomson, A. S. The Story of New Zealand [Vol.I] - Part I. The Country and its Native Inhabitants - CHAPTER I. GEOGRAPHY AND NATURAL HISTORY.
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Area and shape. -- Name of islands.--Physical description of North Island. -- Description of Middle Island. -- Stewart's Island. -- Harbours. -- Tides. -- Earthquakes. -- General rising of country. -- Geological curiosities. -- Flora of country. -- Number of plants. -- Description of Flora. -- Use of Flora to natives. -- Use of Flora to settlers. -- Fauna of country. -- Mammalia. -- Dogs and rats not indigenous. -- Birds. -- Notes on birds. -- Necessity for collecting birds. -- Amphibia. -- Fish. -- Insects. -- Shells. -- Wingless birds supply the place of quadrupeds. -- Resemblance between New Zealand and other islands with large wingless birds. -- Decay of wingless birds.

GREAT BRITAIN is situated near the greatest extent of land in the globe, and New Zealand is placed almost in the midst of the greatest extent of ocean.

New Zealand consists of three islands stretching from 34 1/4 deg. to 47 1/2 deg. of south latitude in the South Pacific Ocean, about 1200 miles south-east of Australia.

The North Island is nearly 500 miles long, with a breadth varying from 5 to 300 miles. The Middle Island is 550 miles long, with an average breadth of 110 miles. The South Island has a triangular shape, and measures about 30 miles on each side.

The North Island contains 26,000,000 of acres, the Middle Island 38,000,000, and the South Island 1,000,000 of acres. United, the whole group has nearly the same

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area as Great Britain, and in its likeness to a boot on the map resembles Italy.

Cook's Strait separates the North Island, from the Middle Island, and Foveaux's Strait the Middle from the South Island. Cook's Strait at its narrowest part is 18 miles, and Foveaux's Strait 15 miles across.

The coast-line of the whole group measures 3120 miles.

Around the coasts of New Zealand are many islands, some of considerable extent; and among them Durville's Island, the Kauau, and the Great Barrier are celebrated for containing copper ore.

Of the three islands forming the Zealand group, Rakiura, or the small South Island, is the only one which possesses a native name. Since the days of Cook, the North Island has been named on old maps Eaheinomawe, and the Middle Island Tavai-poenammo. These names originated thus. When the great navigator asked the natives the name of the North Island, he was told that it was "a thing fished from the sea by Maui,"---He mea hi no Maui; and that the Middle Island was Te wahi pounamu, or "the place of the greenstone."

When New Zealand became a British colony, the first governor, who was an Irishman, proclaimed that the North, Middle, and South Islands were thenceforth to be denominated respectively New Ulster, New Munster, and New Leinster; and these names he selected for the colony because New Zealand, like Ireland, had no toads. This modern method of naming places by applying the epithet "New" to countries which are as old as the originals is not only incorrect, but possesses many disadvantages. The Constitution Act of 1852 discarded this unsuitable nomenclature, and the North,

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Middle, and Stewart's Islands are the names now invariably given to them by the settlers, and those by which they are familiar to seamen. The South Island was named in honour of the sealer who, in 1808, discovered its insularity.

Sentimental settlers designate New Zealand the Britain of the southern hemisphere, on the same principle that the Dutchman Tasman, who discovered the country, called it New Zealand.

It is difficult to give a description of a country, at once brief, minute, and intelligible, although a general idea may be derived from an outline. The centre of the North Island of New Zealand is occupied by broad and lofty mountains, which send off spurs in various directions to the sea coast; the valleys formed by these diverging mountain ranges are at first gullies which open out as they approach the coast into fertile districts, through the centres of which flow the rivers Waikato, Thames, Waipa, Mokau, Wanganui, Rangitikei, Tara Wera, and other streams. It is the abrupt configuration of these mountain chains which renders the land communication between Auckland, Taranaki, Wellington and Hawke's Bay so difficult. Ruapahu, the highest mountain in this central range, has an elevation of about 9000 feet, and its summit is covered with perpetual snow. Tongariro, one of Ruapahu's peaks, rising upwards of 6000 feet above the sea, is an active volcano, and discharges from its crater smoke and cinders. Primeval forests cover nearly the whole of these mountain ranges from their bases to their summits.

In the interior of the North Island are numerous freshwater lakes, which beautify the districts, and furnish easy means of communication and abundance of small

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delicate fish. One of these lakes, the largest, called Lake Taupo, is 30 miles long and 20 broad; another, named Rotomahana, is in parts boiling hot. Several of these lakes are of great depth, and the natives, seeing no outlet for the water, and ignorant of the powerful influence of evaporation, suppose it to be carried off by subterranean passages.

Three lines of volcanic craters, with high cones, stretch across the North Island; one occurs at the Bay of Islands, another at Auckland, and the third extends from Mount Egmont near Taranaki to White Island, an active volcano in the centre of the Bay of Plenty. Between these two last igneous points, the district abounds in lakes, boiling springs, solfataras, tufas, and other volcanic products.

Rivers and tidal creeks are the distinguishing features of the North Island, and with their aid the innermost districts are of easy access. The largest river, the Waikato, rises in the Taupo lake, runs a tortuous course of 200 miles, and pours into the sea on the west coast a large quantity of water with much pumice stone. Sudden rises of all the rivers in New Zealand occasionally occur. In the river Hutt, near Wellington, a disastrous flood in 1858 destroyed the lives of thirteen persons and much property.

The rocks in the North Island are primary, metamorphic, volcanic, trappean, and sedimentary. All the sedimentary rocks yet discovered afford in their embedded fossils undoubted evidence of their tertiary origin. The mountains are almost entirely composed of lower slate rocks, intersected with basaltic veins, scoria, slate, primary sandstone, and limestone. Embedded in the rocks are pumice stone, sulphur, copper, alum, manganese, iron, obsidian, silver, and gold. Around the

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coasts iron-sand abounds. The plains are composed of the detritus of the older rocks: clay, sand, and boulders, mixed with lignite, are frequently found in horizontal strata. Hot and cold springs of water, holding in solution sulphur, iron, and siliceous matter, are found over the island, although they abound most in volcanic regions. In limestone districts extensive picturesque caverns, formed by the action of water, occur.

The Middle Island is traversed by a mountain range, which commences at its northern extremity, and terminates in the south-west, after forming a sort of backbone to the island. The summit of this range is covered with perpetual snow, and as it reaches an elevation in some parts of 13,000 feet, that portion of it has been, called the Southern Alps.

On the west coast, this range of mountains sinks abruptly, leaving a narrow slip of fertile land between its base and the sea; and on the eastern coast, where it falls in the same abrupt manner, extensive and fertile plains intervene between the sea and its base. Through this eastern plain, upon which the settlements of Otago and Canterbury stand, flow rivers of considerable width, subject to sudden floods, occasioned by the melting of the mountain snow. At the northern and southern extremities of the island are hills covered with primeval forests; and between them plains of considerable extent, upon the northern of which the settlement of Nelson now stands.

In the centre of the Middle Island are table-lands and several extensive lakes; one, called Te Wai Pounamu, is said to be of a green colour, with greenstone rocks forming its banks.

There are no extinct craters in the Middle Island, and

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no evidences of any other but submarine volcanic action. The lower rocks are clay, and metamorphic schists, intersected by dykes of greenstone, with compact and amygdaloidal basalt. Obsidian and other volcanic products are intruded in some places. Granite has not been found; copper, iron, gold, and silver have. The plains are composed of loam clay, overgrown by ancient forests. Around the bases of the hills, alluvial deposits, the decomposition of the trachytic rocks, are found, and beds of coal and lignite occasionally crop out. 1 Stewart's Island, like most other parts of New Zealand, is of a mountainous character; the highest mountain attaining an elevation of 3000 feet. The whole island is well wooded and watered. Cook considered it a portion of the Middle Island, and this erroneous opinion continued among Europeans until the year 1808, when the sealer Stewart discovered its insularity. The coast line of the North Island measures nearly 1500 miles; its harbours are not numerous, the the best and greatest number lying between the North Cape and Cape Colville. In this district are found the magnificent harbours of Mongonui, the Bay of Islands, Wangarei, and Auckland. Within 200 miles south from Cape Colville there are only two safe anchorages; one of these is at Mercury Bay and the other at Tauranga, both difficult of access, and the former unfit for large vessels. From the East Cape to the excellent Wellington harbour, a distance of 350 miles, except Port Napier in Hawke's Bay which is safe with offshore winds, there is no secure harbour. On the west coast of the North Island they have all sandbars at their entrances. Manukau, Kaipara, and Hokianga,

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when once inside, are spacious and adapted for large vessels; while Porirua, Wanganui, Manawatu, Rangitikei, Mokau, Kawhia, Whaingaroa, Aotea, Waitara, and several others, are fit for small vessels.

Most of the safe harbours in the Middle Island are at its northern extremity. From Cape Farewell to Cape Campbell there are numerous deep, extensive sounds and harbours, where excellent anchorages may be obtained; while along the whole of the eastern coast, from Cape Campbell to the Bluff harbour, an extent of nearly 500 miles, Akaroa, Port Victoria, and Otago are the only ones which offer shelter to the mariner. The Bluff and New River are the only harbours available in the south part of the island for large vessels, though both are occasionally difficult of entrance; and there are several safe ones in Stewart's Island to which vessels can run. On the south-west extremity of the island, as far as Milford Haven, a distance of 120 miles, there are thirteen deep sublimely picturesque inlets, surrounded by perpendicular precipitous mountains, some running inwards 20 miles; but as their depths generally exceed 100 fathoms, an anchorage can rarely be obtained, except at the head of some remote cove. Fifty miles from Milford Haven is Jackson's Bay, a safe anchorage with off-shore winds. From Jackson's Bay to Cape Farewell, a distance of 300 miles, the coast is open and exposed. 2

The iron-bound west coast of the Middle Island presents little inducement for anchorage, unless it be to the whaler or the mariner seeking refuge from the coming gale when he has not room to keep the sea, or the sealer in pursuit of his calling.

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The sea-worn features of the coasts in the northern and the extreme southern portions of the islands surprise all navigators; and settlers sailing round Cape Horn have remarked some resemblance between the features of this solitary promontory and parts of New Zealand.

Eight feet is the average rise of the tide around the eastern coasts; on the western coasts it rises higher than this, and at some other places the average rise is upwards of ten feet. So great is the rise at Nelson, that vessels of 500 tons burden have been beached and repaired. Extraordinary tides occur once in two or three years all round the coasts, covering lands which for years have been far above high water.

Ever since the arrival of the aborigines slight earthquakes have been occurring in the country between White Island and Banks's Peninsula; in other words, between latitude 37 deg. and 43 deg.. European evidence of the occurrence of these phenomena is abundant. In 1769 Captain Cook felt an earthquake in Queen Charlotte's Sound. In 1843 an earthquake was felt at Wanganui, but the Wairau massacre then engrossed all men's minds, and no notice was taken of it. Mr. Stephens registered fifty-five slight shocks at Nelson during the eleven years ending 1854. Judge Chapman recorded twenty-four at Wellington in 1846, and sixteen in 1847; and in 1848 and 1855 the city was shaken to its very foundation.

Cook's Strait is the centre of the earthquake region, and pieces of pure bitumen are washed on shore along the west coast after every severe shock. In that part of the North Island where extinct craters exist, earthquakes are almost unknown; nevertheless, extinct cra-

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ters in fertile districts, where earthquakes have not occurred for ages, excite anxious forebodings, as volcanoes occasionally destroy in a moment the creation of years.

Earthquakes cannot occur without producing obvious physical alterations, and over the whole group of islands there is a general rising of the level, and ground formerly under the sea is becoming dry. The Canterbury and other plains owe their origin to this elevating movement. Thorndon and Te Aro flats, upon which Wellington now stands, are nothing but elevations of what was once the sea bottom, and the Wairarapa and the Thames valleys are merely arms of the sea emptied by this rising of the country. Proofs of each successive upheaval may be traced in the Hutt valley near Wellington by consecutive layers of pumice stone, and in the varying level of the banks of the Waikato river above Maungatautari; in the drying up of lakes, and in the alterations in the course of rivers since the arrival of the natives in the country; in the appearance of rocks in Cook's Strait since the advent of the Anglo-Saxon colonists, and in the undoubted rising of Port Nicholson to the extent of five feet since 1848.

Evidence is likewise given of the extent of this rising in the terraces of sea gravel which are now seen far above the ocean, and occasionally far inland. At Cape Palliser marine shells, chiefly petrified Terebratulae, are found 200 feet, at Mount Grey in the Middle Island 300 feet, at Long Point in Hawke's Bay 1180 feet, above the present level of the sea; and in the interior of the country at greater elevations than this.

At some distant geological period New Zealand was a portion of a large continent which now lies beneath

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the sea, and at a more modern geological age it consisted of a number of rocky islands, precipitous and barren, except in the mountain ravines. At this era the North Island consisted of three islands, since united, about the Bay of Islands, and in the neighbourhood of Auckland; and a large inlet of the sea extended nearly across the island in a line between White Island and Mount Egmont. The evidence upon which this rests is supplied by the numerous lakes in the district, around the margins of several of which the Pohutukaua tree is still to be seen growing; the only place where this tree has been observed flourishing away from the sea coast.

New Zealand is an admirable geological school: there travellers may see the form of Vesuvius, the dome-shaped summits of Auvergne, the elevated craters of the Caraccas, and the geysers of Iceland. Taupo, Tongariro, Rotomahana, Rotorua, and White Island are almost unrivalled geological curiosities. Above the entombed village of Te Rapa, on the border of the Taupo lake, basaltic rocks may be seen in the process of conversion into soft clay by heat and chemical action; where the Tongariro river falls into the lake, travellers may observe how rapidly pumice stone and other deposits are lessening the size of this inland sea. Grand and beautiful geysers, ejecting water two degrees above the boiling-point of pure water, and holding various silicates in solution, are found around the lakes of Rotomahana and Rotorua. This water on cooling incrusts every substance it comes in contact with, and birds thrown into it are brought out like pieces of flint. On looking down through the clear smooth water of the Te Tarata geyser on Lake Rotomahana, the siliceous

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Vol. I., page 13.

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matter is observed deposited at the bottom like the hills on the eastern side of Lake Taupo, a formation which, when seen from a canoe on the lake, suggests to the eye waves of lava suddenly cooled. Near the geysers at Rotomahana, a noise is heard similar to the sound in a large steam-engine room. Adventurous travellers may sail on the lake on hot water, and luxurious ones swim in baths of various temperatures, the sides of which are lined with flint, white as snow and smooth as glass.

Between two smouldering bills at Rotomahana there is a quantity of mud having a temperature far above the boiling-point of water. In certain places this clay is cool on the surface and of a firm consistence, and here a number of liliputian mud volcanoes, several in a state of great activity, may be seen. Some of these mud cones are half a foot high, others six feet, and the bubbling spluttering hot mud is to be observed on looking down their craters. All these miniature volcanoes, like the giant Tongariro, have the lips of their craters lower on one side than the other. On this mud-flat, fissures may be seen in the surface, and dome-shaped cones caused by pressure from below. While contemplating this strange scene, an impression steals over the mind that it is all artificial, and the apparent ebullition the result of successful imitation; but the delusion is removed by the sad story of an infant's creeping into a circular hole pointed out by the natives, into which its sister also fell in endeavouring to extricate it; the poor children were both stewed alive in the molten clay.

At the village of Ohinemotu, on the Rotorua lake, the natives may be seen cooking their food at the hot

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springs, sleeping in huts placed for warmth over the hot soil, and smoking and gambling for hours in the hot baths. Geologists may speculate about the date of Tongariro's last grand eruption, from the pumice stone in several places over its surface not having yet collected sufficient soil for vegetation.

Wakari, or White Island, in the Bay of Plenty, is a sight full of interest to all navigators. The island is three miles round, and its highest point is 860 feet. Near the centre there is a boiling spring 100 yards in circumference, throwing off volumes of steam which rise to heaven like a white cloud, and give to the island its name. Around the edges of this boiling spring, which is probably a crater full of water, there are many small geysers expelling steam with such violence that stones pitched into their vortices are shot up into the air. No animal lives on the island, for it is hot all over, and covered with immense quantities of crystallised sulphur. Half a mile from White Island the sea is 2000 fathoms deep. 3

The geological curiosities of the Middle Island are yet unexplored, although the natives tell stories which almost seem fabulous, about the existence of a lake whose rocks are entirely composed of greenstone.

Not less curious than the geology of New Zealand is its Flora, the singularity of which has already drawn many botanists to the country, and has led the French and English governments to publish illustrations of its plants. Notwithstanding the attention bestowed on this subject, the record of the botany of New Zealand is yet imperfect, and every year is adding to the number of its known plants. Besides the elevation plants grow

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above the level of the sea, their varieties and local distribution are still unsettled, and Mount Egmont and Mount Ruapahu's lofty peaks, much of the Southern Alps, and the banks of the solitary lakes in the Middle Island have not yet been trodden by the feet of botanists. New Zealand is luxuriantly clothed with vegetation, and the Flora of the country is characterised by the comparatively large number of trees and ferns, the paucity of herbaceous plants, and the almost total want of annuals. In England there are 40 indigenous trees, in New Zealand 120. 2000 species of plants have already been collected, and Dr. Hooker anticipates that 2000 more will yet be discovered. 507 species of flowering plants, or more than two thirds of that division of the vegetable kingdom found in New Zealand, are peculiar to it; of the remaining third

193 species are Australian.
87 " South American.
77 " common to the above.
60 " European.
50 " Antarctic, &c.

The botanical orders most numerous in species are as follows:--

The Filices


117 species.


" "






" "



" "



" "



" "



" "


But the individuals of each species are often few, and, except the Filices, none of these orders forms a feature in the landscape. The Coniferae are the most conspicuous natural order, although with fewer species

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than any of those now enumerated. Out of the 117 ferns in New Zealand, only 42 are peculiar to the country, and it is probable some of those now reckoned peculiar will be found in the New Hebrides or New Caledonia, as several have been seen on the lofty mountains of Java and South America. Of New Zealand ferns 30 inhabit South America, and 61 Australia and Tasmania; 25 species are common to Australia, New Zealand, and South America; while 10 only are European, a small proportion apparently, although it is necessary to remember there are few species of ferns in the northern hemisphere in the latitude New Zealand occupies in the southern.

From this enumeration it will be seen that European travellers find themselves surrounded in New Zealand with a new vegetation; the landscape is not soft or gay, but grand and sombre. It presents to the eye a dark green colour, and, except in the tree-ferns, little that is striking. Unfortunately for the beauty of the floral scenery, the tree fern shuns observation, avoids the sun, lives in solitary places, and flourishes best in stagnant air. Almost all the New Zealand trees are evergreens; forests are consequently never leafless, and the change of seasons makes little difference in their appearance; in winter they are greener than in summer, and the luxuriance of the vegetation, the palmlike tree fern, the nikau, the cabbage tree (Dracaena australis), and the obscure green flowers of the cryptogamic ferns, give to them a somewhat tropical appearance. Indescribable is the charm of New Zealand forests for the lovers of nature. There generations of noble trees are seen decaying, and fresh generations rising up around the moss-covered trunks of fallen patriarchs.

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The profound silence which reigns in these regions produces a pleasing gloom on the mind, and the scene displays better than the most classic architecture the grandeur of repose. No sound is heard save the falling of trees, or the parrots' shrill screech, as birds which enliven the outskirts of forests are mute in their interior. Around the graves of past generations of trees the air is hushed into stillness, while the tops of the living generation are agitated with gales and breezes. At Christmas the Pohutukaua (Metrosideros) is covered with scarlet flowers, and is then the most gaudy of forest trees; and the Rimu (Dacrydium cupressinum) possesses a melancholy beauty and an indescribable grandeur. Few of the pines recal to the settler's eyes the same trees in England, and singular to relate, unlike their congeners, the majority of them grow intermixed with other trees. The celebrated and beautiful Kauri (Dammara australis) is the only pine bearing a cone, and the male and female cones are found on the same tree.

Travellers talk of the solitude of the forests, but there is society in trees which men miss on immense plains; it is on the prairie alone that the solitary traveller has a sensation of loneliness, feels that he is in the world and does not belong to it, that he is a solitary wanderer on a vast oceanless desert without landmarks.

On the coast plains in the North Island ferns and flax plants supply the place of grasses. The sight of an immense district covered with short fern fills the mind with an idea of sterility, while the long grass covering the Middle Island plains, and parts of the interior of the North Island, looks like hay.

There are few flowering plants in New Zealand.

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Great Britain contains upwards of 1400, and New Zealand possesses scarcely 750. To compensate for this want, some of New Zealand's flowers are very beautiful; and the starry clematis creeping from tree to tree, and hanging in festoons from the branches, makes, in certain seasons, her wild forests "blossom like the rose."

Travellers in one part of New Zealand become only partially acquainted with the whole Flora. The magnificent Kauri pine is limited in its growth to the country surrounding and to the north of Auckland, although a few stray trees are found near Kawhia, and pieces of Kauri gum have been dug out of the earth in the Middle Island. Formerly Kauri forests covered the land in the neighbourhood of Auckland, and no reasonable explanation has been given why new generations of trees have not risen up to supply their places. The Puriri {Vitex littoralis) and the Pohutukaua grow best in the warm north, while the Rimu, Totara (Podocarpus Totara), Matai (Podocarpus spicata), Mairi {Podocarpus sp.), and Rata {Metrosideros robusta), flourish in the southern parts of the colony. The Pohutukaua is rarely seen away from the sea coast, or the margins of lakes which were perhaps formerly once on the sea coast. One palm tree {Areca sapida) grows in New Zealand, the most southern representative of the order.

In the Kew Gardens are to be seen several New Zealand plants, carefully tended. Dr. Traill relates that a New Zealander laughed contemptuously on seeing a dwarfed flax plant in a flower-pot at Liverpool; and New Zealand settlers, on visiting Kew Gardens, feel that the New Zealand plants vegetating there, although beautiful, exhibit to the untravelled but a faint semblance of the beauty and grandeur of the same plants

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as they grow in their luxuriant native climate at the antipodes.

From the Flora of the country the aborigines formerly supplied many of their wants. Fern root furnished them with much food; twelve kinds of fungi, almost all the seaweeds, and many forest fruits were occasionally eaten, while epicures gloated over the tender shoots of the solitary palm. From the poisonous Tutu berries (Coriaria sarmentosa) a grateful and not intoxicating drink was expressed; from six plants a dark dye was extracted, and others were celebrated for medicinal virtues. Out of the large trunks of the Totara and Kauri pines canoes were scooped, and the tough Ti tree furnished paddles and spears. The flax plant was to the New Zealanders what the cocoa-nut tree is to the Hindoos; it was used for building and thatching huts, for sails, nets, fishing-tackle, plates, ropes, baskets, medicine, and for tying up anything requiring to be kept together. From the flax flowers a honey drink was extracted, and from the roots of the leaves an edible gum; sandals were made out of flax by the natives living in the Middle Island; and flax differently prepared furnished various mats and articles of clothing, some being as coarse as straw mats, while others rivalled the shawls of Cashmere in softness.

Already settlers draw from the Flora of New Zealand several valuable articles. The Kauri and Totara pines in size excel, and in durability equal, Baltic pine for houses and ship-building. One Totara tree, near Akaroa, measured 37 feet in circumference. Kauri trees are used for ships' masts, being often 90 feet long without a branch, and the large Kauri trees have often a girth of 40 feet. There are several admirable

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woods for fencing, and barks suitable for tanning. The Puriri, which belongs to the same botanical order as the teak, rivals English oak in hardness, grows 20 feet without a branch, and has a girth of 20 feet. Valuable and beautiful furniture planks are sawn from the Rimu, Kakikatea, or white pine (Dacrydium excelsum), Matai, Mahi, and Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium). At the Great Exhibition of 1851, Tao Nui, a New Zealander, was awarded a prize for specimens of useful woods obtained from his native land. Cook obtained for his crew several useful articles, and Sir Joseph Banks discovered in the forest the finest indigenous fruit, the Kiekie (Freycinetia Banksii).

English settlers find native grass fattens flocks and herds, and London merchants have realised £80 a ton for Kauri gum. This curious substance has no commercial value when fresh, and, like gum copal, it is found buried in the earth on the site of ancient forests. Fresh gum, only found in modern Kauri forests, has a milky colour, and, like amber, turns yellow and transparent with age. Some obscurity hangs over the use Kauri gum is put to in the commercial world: in England it is said to be used for glazing calico, candles, and paper, and in the United States as a substitute for gum copal in varnish.

It is now necessary to describe the Fauna of New Zealand, and the subject is well worthy the attention of naturalists, because the country presents one of the best proofs in the world that every portion of the earth has its own peculiar forms of animal and vegetable life. 4

There are only two representatives of the land

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Mammalia in New Zealand, and these are two small bats. 5

It is worthy of remark that several of Captain Cook's sailors related they saw in the neighbourhood of Queen Charlotte's Sound a four-footed mouse-coloured animal about the size of a cat with short legs; and Mr. W. Mantell found natives in the Middle Island who described an extinct terrestrial quadruped called Kaurrehe, which, according to their account, resembled a beaver, an otter, or a badger, 6 Careful inquiries were made by me on this subject, and I never met a New Zealander who had seen or heard of such an animal.

Thirteen sea Mammalia are found on the coasts of New Zealand; viz. eight whales, two dolphins, and three seals. All are now comparatively rare in the different bays where they once abounded; a result brought about by the ruthless destruction made among them by sealers and whalers during the breeding season of these animals.

Dogs and rats are enumerated among the indigenous Mammalia of New Zealand, although neither are so. It is true Cook found dogs and rats there in 1769, but both these animals were brought to the country by the New Zealanders, and curious enough both are now nearly extinct. The large Norway rat imported into the colony by the Anglo-Saxon settlers has destroyed the native rat, and the native dogs, formerly kept and propagated for food, have all been eaten or destroyed, no care having been taken by the New Zealanders, after the introduction of pigs, to preserve the race of dogs. Observant travellers may still occasionally see on the banks of Lake Taupo a few curs

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crosses between Maori and English dogs, with bushy tails, foxy-coloured hair, pricked-up ears, and having a howl in place of a bark, the only remnant of the breed of dogs brought by the natives to New Zealand. What are called native dogs by the Middle Island shepherds are English animals, free, not wild.

That the true native dog was introduced into New Zealand is proved by traditions, by the Maori term for dog being a true Polynesian word, and from the calcined bones of men, moas, and dogs having been found by Mr. Mantell on a sand flat near Taranaki, one of the earliest spots upon which the New Zealanders located themselves.

That the native rats, which were small and frugivorous, were also introduced is proved by the traditions of the people and the existence of similar rats all over Polynesia.

England has 273 species of Birds, New Zealand possesses only 83. This scarcity of the feathered race in the colony is rendered very obvious, as with two or three exceptions the individuals of no species are numerous, a result partly produced by the activity of owls and falcons. Land-birds are more numerous in species than sea-birds, but the individuals of each species of sea-birds are more numerous than land-birds. There is a great deficiency of active insectivorous birds, a peculiarity which has led farmers to propose the introduction of hedge-sparrows and crows. With a few exceptions, the plumage of the birds, like their country's foliage, is dull. The vocal powers of some of them have however obtained high praise; and at a quarter of a mile from the shore Captain Cook relates he was awoke by the singing of birds, which he compared to the sound of exquisitely hung bells. Town settlers

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have often doubted the accuracy of this remark, as the feathered songsters are only heard at dawn and at sunset, in the neighbourhood of clumps of trees or the outskirts of forests. Drawings of several of the birds of New Zealand have been given in Cook's illustrated voyages, in some books on Zoology, and in Gould's Australia. The valuable sketches made by the two Forsters are still to be found in the British Museum.

Many of the native names of the birds are derived from their cries: thus the pigeon is Kukupa, the brown parrot Kaka, and the owl Ru-ru, or Kou-Kou. The New Zealand birds are singularly ingenious in searching for food. The Korora, a sea-bird, carries up into the air living shell-fish, which it breaks by letting fall on hard rocks; or it drops a pebble between the open valves of shell-fish basking in shallow water, and so prevents their closing.

The nature of this work prevents me attempting to describe the birds: the following desultory observations may, however, prove interesting to unphilosophical observers.

Of the Falcon family, there are two species in New Zealand; one, called Kahu, is about the size of a pigeon, and the other, named Karewarewa, is a sparrow-hawk: both are the terror of all other birds and of poultry yards; the sparrow-hawk is the more active and daring of the two.

The Owl family has only one representative, and the cry of the bird, an hour before daybreak and an hour after sunset, resembles the words, "More pork;" from which circumstance, this bird is familiarly known among the settlers by the name of "More pork." The natives call the owl Kou-Kou or Ru-ru.

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The Alcedinidae family has only one species, the Kotaretare or kingfisher. It builds its nest in holes, and possesses the habits of the English bird, although its plumage is not so bright.

There is one species of the Upupidae family. It is one of the most celebrated birds among the natives, and is called Huia. This bird is rarely seen in the northern half of the North Island; it has the colour and is about the size of a blackbird, with four long tail feathers tipped with white. The latter and the head of the bird are highly esteemed as head and ear ornaments.

Three species of the Honey-sucker family are found in New Zealand; one, well known among the settlers and the natives by the name of Tui, is the Parson or Mocking-bird of navigators; the former name is given to it from the two snow-white feathers which hang under the chin over its dark plumage like clergymen's bands, and the latter from the bird's imitative habits. The Tui feeds on berries and insects, is short-lived, and of such a delicate constitution, that few of the many Tuis taken from New Zealand have reached England alive. The Tui is one of the most numerous birds in the country.

That bird which has raised the reputation of the New Zealand birds as singers far above their merits is a honey-sucker. It is the Kokoromaka of the natives, and the Bell-bird of the settlers. It is about the size of a sparrow, with a long beak; and although it has only four notes, these create the strangest melody when repeated independently by hundreds of throats.

The Kotihe is a beautiful honey-bird about the size of a bullfinch.

The Certhidae}, or Creeper family of birds, possesses

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five species, none of which are very remarkable save the Pokokatea, a social bird not unlike the English finch in its habits.

The family Luscinidae has five species. The Matata, a small low-flying bird with a shrill cry, and the Riro or wren, the smallest bird in New Zealand, are the only species worthy of notice. The Matata has four long and four short tail feathers, similar in texture to those of the Kiwi.

The Turdidae family has only one species in the colony; the Piopio, a bird about the size of the thrush, which is supposed to be a visitor in the North Island from the south.

The Muscicapidae family has eight species in New Zealand, none of which are very remarkable or very numerous.

There is one species of the family of Crows, a sly, thievish, and timid bird, about half the size of an English crow.

The Sturnidae, or Starling family, has five species.

The Fringillidae, or Finch family, has two species; one of them, the Kataitai or ground-lark, is the most numerous bird in the country. It rarely sings unless its nest is approached, when it rises in the air a short distance and sings, evidently for the purpose of drawing off the danger.

The Parrot family is a very celebrated one in New Zealand, and has five species. Three are small green birds, about the size of thrushes, with different-coloured heads, all possessing the chattering and imitative habits of the species in other lands. The Kaka is a large brown parrot well known to bush travellers: before sunrise and at sunset these parrots assemble on trees

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yielding them berries, and fly with discordant screams over the forest. At the sound of the Kaka's harsh cry native travellers commence their journey; and the saying of "The Kaka has cried" is synonymous with "It is time to get up," or "The cock has crowed." -The Kaka lays five white eggs in the holes of trees; it can be taught to imitate the human voice and to act as a decoy bird to ensnare its kindred. The most remarkable species known of the parrot family is the Kakapo or night parrot, now very scarce; it is about the size of a domestic fowl, with short wings, which it rarely uses. Only another species of this remarkable bird is known, and that one before extinction was restricted in its abode to Phillip's Island, a mere rock near Norfolk Island.

Two migratory Cuckoos visit New Zealand in summer from Australia and the southern islands, and depart in autumn. During the warm summer nights they sing sweetly. The Kohoperoa, one of these cuckoos, is about the size and colour of the sparrow-hawk; the Pipiwarauroa cuckoo is a much smaller and a more variegated-feathered bird.

There is only one species of the Pigeon family. The bird is large, singularly stupid, very numerous, and excellent eating.

The Quail is the only species of the Tetraonidae family in the colony: it was once numerous over the whole country, now it is chiefly met with on the Middle Island, and appears to shun the footsteps of civilisation. In 1848 Dr. Monro and Major Richmond shot forty-three brace of quails at a place near Nelson, where they are now rarely seen.

There are three species of the Struthionidae, or Runner

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family: these are the celebrated Kiwis of the natives and the Apteryx of naturalists. The largest is about the size of a turkey, the smallest is eighteen inches long, and the other species is of intermediate size. It was this strange family of wingless and tailless birds which first drew the attention of scientific men to the Fauna of New Zealand. Kiwis in their habits are nocturnal and burrowing, live in densely wooded districts, have hair-like feathers, and long beaks for searching out worms in mud and water.

Five Plovers are found in New Zealand.

Three of the Heron family live on the land. The Matuku, or bittern, has the cry of a bull. The Kotuku, or white crane, the noblest bird of this family, is abundant in the Middle Island, but is rarely seen north of Wanganui in the North Island.

Of the Scolopacidae there is one species, which is occasionally seen on the Taupo lake, with other sea-birds.

Three species of the Rail family are met with. One of them, the Weka, is about the size of a pheasant; it is called the Kiwi's friend, from associating with that bird, and resembling it in its habits. In the North Island Wekas are now scarce, in the Middle Island they are still numerous. The Pukeko, another rail, about the size of a pheasant, with long red legs, lives in swamps; it shows a tendency to domesticity, and traditions state the New Zealanders brought the bird with them into the country.

The Tatahe {Notornis Mantelli), a bird about the size of a turkey, with imperfect wings, was discovered in Dusky Bay, in the Middle Island, in 1850, by sealers.

Five species of Ducks inhabit the islands, some of

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which afford good sport. The Paradise Duck is limited to the Middle Island, and the southern part of the North Island.

One species of the Colymbidae is found in New Zealand.

Two Divers, the Korora and the Hoiho, are met with, the famous wingless penguins of sailors.

Six species of the Procellaridae are found on the sea-coasts. The Titi, or mutton bird, and the Toroa, or albatross, are the most celebrated birds of this family.

Four species of Gulls, although somewhat different from real gulls, and eight Pelicans, are found on the coast, and the Cape Pigeon occasionally visits New Zealand.

It is high time some good collections of the birds of New Zealand were made, as some species have entirely disappeared, and others are decreasing. The whole family of the large Moas have long ago ceased to live; a few specimens of the Notornis Mantelli have been discovered; the Kiwi is now only found in the most dense forests, and the Wekas cry is seldom heard in the North Island. Night parrots are almost extinct; pigeons are becoming scarce where they once abounded; and other birds are decreasing in numbers, although this diminution is unobserved by man. This decay may spring from Nature's laws; but the introduction of men, dogs, cats, rats, pigs, and sheep into the country, must have proved destructive to birds without wings, or to birds which fly with difficulty, and more particularly to birds not instinctively aware to such enemies. It is probable some birds may increase when wheat, barley, and other grains are more extensively cultivated.

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Neither serpents nor snakes inhabit New Zealand. There are six small harmless Lizards in the colony, which are held in terror by the natives, from a superstition that within their bodies the spirits of their deified ancestors revisit the earth. Green and yellow are the prevalent colours of these lizards; but their colours change according to the colour of the locality they live in. One guana, the Tuatara of the natives, is now only found on rocky islands, although it was formerly numerous on the mainland, until pigs, dogs, and cats almost extirpated it. In such terror do the New Zealanders hold all the above reptiles, that the very pronunciation of the word Ngarara, a general term for the whole race, makes the bravest warrior tremble. Now and then small turtles are driven on shore along the coasts; one was picked up at the island of Kauau in 1855. Earthworms are found all over the country; and the Taranaki district is celebrated among the natives for producing worms of great size.

Bory St. Vincent states that Frogs are not found in any of the volcanic islands of the great oceans. 7 As regards New Zealand this remark is incorrect; for in 1852 six small frogs were caught in the mountain streams flowing into the harbour of Coromandel, near Cape Colville in the North Island. 8 Since that period similar frogs have been seen in a lake near St. John's College, Auckland; and in 1858 a swamp near Coromandel contained several specimens of them. Considerable obscurity hangs over the former existence of these frogs in New Zealand, because the natives, accurate observers of all Nature's

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works, were ignorant of their presence in the land until 1852, and there is no word in the native language signifying a frog.

One hundred different species of Fish have been described by naturalists as frequenting the coasts; and this list is apparently very imperfect, seeing that the natives have enumerated to me the names of many more they are in the habit of eating. Next to the shark, which renders bathing dangerous in the summer, the Hapuku is the largest New Zealand salt-water fish. One hundred pounds is no unusual weight for a hapuku. Immense shoals of fish visit the bays and inlets during summer, and various edible shell-fish abound in the sands along the beach. Flying-fish are frequently observed in close proximity to the coast.

In the lakes of New Zealand are a large number of delicate fish, not unlike white-bait, called Inanga; and in the rivers and lakes there are numerous eels, occasionally weighing fifty pounds. These are the only two kinds of fresh-water fish which can properly be said to form a part of the food of the natives. The lamprey, Pipiharau, is, properly speaking, a salt-water fish which enters the river to spawn. The fresh-water mussel and the crayfish are plentiful in some places.

Upwards of one hundred species of Insects have been found in New Zealand, one half of which belong to the order Coleoptera. Mosquitoes and other Diptera abound in the Northern Island in summer, and are occasionally very troublesome to strangers in the bush, they shun the smoke, and neighbourhood of towns. Spiders are likewise numerous, and two of them are poisonous: the one, found in the dry sea sand, has a bright red spot on its dark back; the other, found inland, is of a

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yellow colour. According to the natives, infants stung by the former of these spiders have died. A caterpillar three inches long, and producing a fungus four times its own length, is met with generally under the rata tree, and cicadae have been found in a similar diseased condition. The forests and fern brakes ring in summer with the loud and incessant grating sound of numerous cicadas; and grasshoppers two inches long are numerous. The crops on newly cultivated lands are now and then completely destroyed by swarms of caterpillars. Mr. Brodie, the settler who introduced pheasants, sent out, in 1859, 300 hedge-sparrows, for the purpose of keeping the caterpillars in check.

Several very beautiful sea shells are found on the coast, the finest of which are the Trochus Cookii, the Trochus imperialis, the Paper Nautilus, and the Haliotis iris mutton shell, from the shining interior of which glittering buttons are made. The ammonite-like Spirula is occasionally picked up on the coast. All the land shells are small, save the Helix Busbii and the Helix Hongi; and both of these, singular to relate, are local in their distribution, being hitherto only met with to the north of Auckland, and in greatest numbers about the Bay of Islands.

The absence of indigenous quadrupeds from New Zealand is the most remarkable feature in its Fauna, and a feeling allied to wonder steals over the mind when it is found that their places were supplied by a gigantic race of birds destitute of wings. The manner in which the former existence of these birds became known is a great triumph of mental reasoning, and exhibits in a very remarkable manner the value of scientific inquiry.

In the late Sir Robert Peel's gallery of modern

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worthies at Drayton Manor hangs a portrait of Professor Richard Owen, holding the leg bone of one of those gigantic birds; an appropriate connexion, seeing the world is indebted to that philosopher for the first hint that such birds ever existed. The discovery was made in this manner. In 1839 Mr. Rule brought to England a portion of a thigh bone of a moa, from which specimen Mr. Owen drew up a wonderfully correct notice of the bird. The conclusions arrived at were so improbable that Mr. Owen's friends tried to suppress the publication of the paper, from an impression that it would shipwreck his scientific reputation. Since then Professor Owen has established, on the evidence of fossil remains sent to England by various settlers, the former existence of fourteen species of wingless birds 9 in New Zealand; and not the least curious objects to be seen in the mighty city of London, are the skeletons in the Royal College of Surgeons and the British Museum of two of New Zealand's feathered giants. The British Museum skeleton has only lately been discovered, and was built up by Professor Owen from bones sent from the Middle Island; it belongs to a species distinguished from all its gigantic kindred by having a foot resembling that of the elephant.

The New Zealanders denominate this gigantic race of birds Moas; they belong to the Struthious family, an order characterised by massive legs and short rudimentary wings; to which order the ostrich, cassowary, rhea, emu, mooruck, apteryx, and perhaps the dodo, belong. Moas' bones have been discovered in both islands of New Zealand, embedded in the sands of the

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Vol.I. page 32.

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sea-shore, in swamps, forests, river beds, and in limestone caves. 10 The largest bones belong to the birds naturalists have denominated Dinornis, the next in size to the Palapteryx, the next to the Aptornis, and the smallest to the Notornis. One living specimen of this last species of moa, the link between a living and a dead race, was caught alive by sealers in the year 1850; and several others have been seen since then in unfrequented parts of the Middle Island near Dusky Bay. Thirteen feet was the average height of the largest moas; none of them were able to fly, and, unlike all other birds, their leg bones were filled with marrow in place of air. According to native tradition, moas were decked out in a gaudy plumage; and the present New Zealanders describe a Cochin-China fowl as what they conceive to have been the shape and the appearance of moas. One rather perfect egg of this gigantic bird was found with a human skeleton. It was nine inches in diameter, twenty-seven in circumference, and twelve long; and numerous other portions of eggs have been discovered, sufficient to show that a man's hat would not have been a large enough cup for a moa's egg.

It is whispered in the colony that gigantic moas still live in the solitudes of the Middle Island, an idle story, as no large moas have been seen alive since 1650. From all accounts, the moas were extirpated by natural causes, and the arrival of the Aborigines in the country, who slaughtered them for their flesh, bones, and feathers; the flesh and eggs were eaten, the bones were converted into fishhooks, the skulls were used for holding tattooing-powder, and the feathers were celebrated as ornaments for the hair. The natural causes which hastened

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the extinction of moas were the geological changes which ages had produced on the country; New Zealand was perhaps a great continent when the moas were first created, as it is difficult to conceive that such gigantic birds were ever hatched to live and die in the small portion of the globe now known by that name.

Naturalists infer, from the appearance of the bones and the traditions of the New Zealanders, that moas were stupid, fat, indolent birds; that they lived before extinction in forests, mountain fastnesses, and secluded caves; that their food was vegetable; that they swallowed stones to assist digestion; that they were in the habit of resting on one leg; and that their feet and toes were singularly well adapted for uprooting fern roots.

It is a curious that Mauritius, Madagascar, and New Zealand, the islands upon which large wingless birds once lived, are all situated in the Southern hemisphere, and that between Mauritius and New Zealand there is considerable resemblance in their natural history. Both islands are in the neighbourhood of large continents, and in genial climates; both have been recently peopled; both are destitute of quadrupeds, toads, and snakes; and in both islands the large birds once living upon them became extinct much about the same time. Bontius in 1658 saw the dodo alive in Mauritius, and it is inferred from traditions and other evidence, that several gigantic moas were living in New Zealand during the early part of the seventeenth century. One great difference, however, occurs in the history of the birds which formerly strode upon the two islands. There is written testimony of the existence of numerous dodos in Mauritius, but, singular to relate, the bones of the bird cannot now be found; whereas in New Zea-

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land the former existence of gigantic moas rests on a few traditions, while the bones of the bird are abundant, and supply evidence which none can doubt.

Two peculiarities are stamped on the whole race of birds with imperfect wings now living on the earth: one being an instinctive antipathy to the human race, for wherever men approach they disappear; the other peculiarity is that all are making rapid strides towards extinction. The ostrich selects his abode under burning suns and on sandy deserts, places where the human race live with difficulty; American rheas frequent secluded spots and are rarely seen, as their piercing eyes can penetrate far beyond the vision of men; the emu is fast disappearing before the Anglo-Saxon colonisation of Australia. The apteryx, notornis, kakapo, and weka, are only found in New Zealand's solitudes; cassowaries are now rare in the few islands where they were once indigenous; and the rarity of the mooruck, a large bird belonging to this family, may be inferred from the fact of its only having been discovered in the island of New Britain in 1857. It would seem that these strange animals, birds with imperfect wings, were created at a period long prior to the higher order of quadrupeds, as the footprints of gigantic birds have been traced in North America on the Connecticut sandstones of bygone geological ages. 11

1   Notes on the Geology of New Zealand, by C. Forbes, M.D., R.N.
2   The New Zealand Pilot.
3   Captain Drury.
4   Fauna of New Zealand, by Dr. J. E. Gray and Mr. Gray.
5   Annals of Natural History, vol. xx. 1857.
6   Mantell's Fossils of the British Museum.
7   Voyages aux Quatre Iles d'Afrique.
8   Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal, 1853.
9   Transactions of the Zoological Society of London.
10   Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal, 1854.
11   Transactions of the American Academy of Arts, 1848.

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