1864 - von Hochstetter, Ferdinand. The Geology of New Zealand - EXPLANATION OF THE MAP OF NELSON.

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  1864 - von Hochstetter, Ferdinand. The Geology of New Zealand - EXPLANATION OF THE MAP OF NELSON.
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AFTER a sojourn of seven months' duration on the Northern Island of New Zealand, I availed myself of the kind invitation of the Superintendent to visit the Province of Nelson, and devoted the months of August and September, 1859, to a geological survey of that Province. On the Southern Island I trod on a new and, compared with the Northern Island, an entirely different geological field, most remarkable on account of the multiferous mineral treasures, such as copper, gold, and coal, which have procured to the Province of Nelson

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the renown of being the principal mineral country of New Zealand. The fine and temperate climate of Nelson enabled me, even in the middle of winter, to pass and to explore the mountain chain which terminates near Cook's Straits. Into the higher and more distant regions of the Southern Alps, however, it was not possible to penetrate. From the Rotoiti Lake (Lake Arthur), the most southern part of which I visited, I saw the mighty summits of the southern mountain chains, covered with snow and ice, and which my friend and fellow-traveller Dr. Haast has since so successfully explored, with a most courageous perseverance, and under a great many difficulties and privations. 1 In the annexed map the results of his and my own observations are combined in a comprehensive delineation which explains the character of the geological structure of the northern part of the South Island.

From a centre which forms the division of the water-courses between the east and west coast, and which is the source of the two frontier rivers of the Provinces of Nelson and Canterbury, the Hurumi flowing east, and the Taramakau which runs to the west, there extend the two great mountain chains of the Southern Alps in a northerly direction through the Province of Nelson, terminating at Cook's Straits, where they give rise to the complicated coast-line which is so characteristic of the north extremity of the Middle Island.

Both of these mountain ranges differ in character. The western mountains, which end in Separation Point and Cape Farewell, have a direction from north to south. To them belong the Brunner chain, Lyell chain, Marine chain, Mount Owen, the Tasman mountains, and Mount Arthur chains; while to the north and fronting Golden Bay are the Whakamarama chain, Haupiri and the Anatoki chains. All these mountains and chains consist of crystalline and metamorphic rocks, of granite, gneiss, mica-schist, hornblende-schist, quarzite, and clay slate. It is to these rocks, which are auriferous, that Nelson is indebted for her gold-fields, which were the first gold-fields of New Zealand that were worked, and which even in 1859 yielded gold to the amount of £150,000

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sterling. The nature of the gold-fields of the Aorere and Takaka valley convinced me that by a well-managed and regulated plan of working, and with a larger amount of capital, sufficient profits would be realised, and that the development of these gold-fields was only the commencement of gold discoveries which would ultimately extend throughout the whole mountain chain of the South Island; and that discoveries would be made which, though perhaps not equal to the gold-fields of California and Australia, will nevertheless class New Zealand amongst the gold lands of the earth. 2

The summits of these mountain chains, such as the picturesque Mount Arthur, Mount Owen, and others, which are from 5,000 to 6,OOO feet above the level of the sea, when covered with snow, are visible at a great distance. when arriving in Blind Bay, they give to the landscape of the Province of Nelson its peculiar charm. In the north of the Province are large plains, bordering important rivers, which intersect the mountain chains. Of these plains those by the Buller River are the most remarkable, where there is abundance of land fitted for agriculture, and rich natural pasture suitable for sheep runs. The western and south-western parts of the Province of Nelson are only now opened for settlement, and it may be surmised that in the next few years, these districts will become most important, on account of their treasures of coal, near the mouth of the principal rivers, viz., the Buller (Kawatiri) and the Grey (Mawhera).

The eastern mountain chain, running in a direction from south-west to north-east, consists of stratified sedimentary formations, comprising old grauwacke sandstone, red, green, and grey clay slates, and isolated patches of laminated calcareous strata. These strata, highly inclined, and trending in the same direction, are friction-breccias, accompanied by great masses of eruptive rocks, which have altered the contiguous strata. These eruptive rocks occur in a straight belt which extends from Stephens and D'Urville Island in Cook's Straits to the Cannibal Gorge in the south of the Province, over a distance of 150 miles. Throughout this line the lithological

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character of the rocks differs greatly according to the nature of the eruptive masses, which comprise varieties of Serpentine, Diabas, Syenite, Hypersthenite, and Augite Porphyry. To the belt of Serpentine and Hypersthenite belongs the celebrated Dun Mountain, the rich copper ores and chrome-iron from which have given rise to extensive mining operations.

These mountain ranges terminate at Cook's Straits in numerous islands and peninsulas, which inclose these fiord-like bays and sounds, Pelorus Sound and Queen Charlotte Sound, which even in Cook's time were celebrated as most excellent harbours. The mountains get gradually higher towards the south. Ben Nevis and Gordon's Knob, which are visible from Nelson, rise to an elevation of 4,000 feet. The mountain range is then broken for a short distance, rising however again in the immediate vicinity of the southern banks of the Rotoiti Lake to a much greater height, forming Mounts Travers and Mackay, and further, in a south-westerly direction, to a height of 10,000 feet in the Spencer Mountains (Mount Franklin and Mount Humboldt) much above the snowy line. This grand mountain chain forms a centre from which the principal rivers of the Province of Nelson have their source. It is to be regretted that the sandstones and clay-slates of this formation contain no fossils, and that the scanty traces of animal and vegetable remains which have been discovered give no certain clue to their geological age. There is only a single locality where fossils are to be found, and that is only at the extreme flank of the mountain system, near Richmond, a few miles south of Nelson, and these indicate a mezozoic age.

The country to the eastward of these mountain chains, from the Pelorus Sound to the Wairau Plains, and including the alluvial valleys of the Wairau, Awatere, and Waiautoa Rivers; also the great mountain ranges, 8,000 to 9,000 feet in height, of the seaward and landward Kaikoras, and the lofty peaks which have been named after the Scandinavian gods--Odin 9,700 feet; Thor, 8,700; and Freya, 8,500--was withdrawn in 1859 from the Province of Nelson, to form the Province of Marlborough.

Between the eastern and western mountain ranges, is the deep indentation of the coast which forms Blind Bay, and from the southern extremity of which the land rises gradually to an

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altitude of 2,000 feet above the sea. Here are situated the picturesque mountain lakes Rotoiti and Rotoroa, at the points where the two ranges coalesce to form the Spencer Mountain, by which they are continued in a south-westerly direction. Near Nelson, the commencement of the highland is known as Moutere Hill, where it is intersected by innumerable ravines. This highland is composed of irregular layers of grit sand and yellow clay, resting on a tertiary formation containing brown coal, and filling up the contracting valley between the two mountain systems. These strata are of quaternary age, and being part of the generally diffused drift formal ion which fills up the principal valleys, and covers the flats amongst the mountains, afford evidence that only in the most recent geologic age they were covered by the sea. There is no doubt that the admirable climate of the shores of Blind Bay is due to the above described configuration. Even when there is a storm in Cook's Straits, it is calm and still in Blind Bay, being sheltered from the break of the sea by Separation Point and Cape D'Urville, while the strong southerly winds are broken by the mountain ranges which converge in that direction. Ships find in Blind Bay shelter from the dreaded storms that rage in Cook's Straits. The town of Nelson, situated at the southeastern border of the Bay, and at the base of the eastern mountain, enjoys, unlike the other ports of New Zealand, an agreeable absence of wind, and which, combined with a clear and rarely clouded sky, renders its climate the most agreeable and beautiful in New Zealand. With justice it may be called "The Garden of New Zealand."

The town of Nelson was established in 1842, and was the second settlement formed by the New Zealand Company in Cook's Straits. In spite of the grievous trials with which this young colony has had to contend, it has steadily gained ground. Thus, in 1843 it lost a great number of its best men in the bloody conflict with the natives when Rauparaha and Rangihaeata opposed the colonisation of the Wairau. However, through the exploration of the country, resulting in the discovery of coal, copper, chrome, graphite, and gold, Nelson has become the principal mineral-producing Province of New Zealand. Its population at this date amounts to 10,000 inhabitants, 5,000 of whom reside in the town and

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its vicinity. The town lies at the foot of the mountain, being built upon an alluvial delta formed by the confluence of two streams, named the Matai and the Brook Street Creek, extending also up their valleys and along the hill slopes that face the harbour. An excellent road leads from Nelson to the south through the luxuriant fields and meadows which bedeck the agricultural districts of the Waimea and Waiiti plains. On these fruitful alluvial flats are to be seen farm after farm, while many villages are rapidly springing into existence. Since 1861, Nelson has possessed a railway, being the first constructed in New Zealand. It is the work of the Dun Mountain Company, for the purpose of developing the chrome mines, and leads from the harbour through the town and up the Brook Street valley. The existence of the harbour of Nelson is due to a most singular boulder bank which extends along the coast for eight miles, forming a natural dam, behind which there extends a narrow and shallow arm of the sea, which deepens towards the south, where it communicates with Blind Bay, and forms a small but safe harbour.


1   J. Haast's Report of a Topographical and Geological Exploration of the Western Districts of the Province of Nelson. Nelson, 1861.
2   It will be remembered that the very rich gold-fields of the Province of Otago were discovered in 1861.

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