1868 - Pyke, V. The Province of Otago in New Zealand - CHAPTER I. DESCRIPTIVE, p 1-4

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  1868 - Pyke, V. The Province of Otago in New Zealand - CHAPTER I. DESCRIPTIVE, p 1-4
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THE COLONY of New Zealand consists of three principal islands, originally designated New Ulster, New Munster, and New Leinster. These are now better known as the North Island, the Middle Island, and the South or Stewart's Island. The Province of Otago is situated in, and comprises the larger portion of, the southern part of the Middle Island, extending from 44° 15' to 46° 40' south latitude, and being, therefore, antipodal rather to the south of France than to the British Isles, as is commonly supposed. Its greatest width from east to west is about 200 miles; its maximum length from north to south, 170 miles; and it possesses a coast line of more than 400 miles in extent. On the north it is bounded by the sister Province of Canterbury, and at the extreme south it is indented by the new Province of Southland. The latter was originally included in Otago, but in 1861 it was severed from the parent stem and erected into a separate Province.

The area of Otago within its present boundaries is estimated at 20,876 square miles, or 13,360,640 acres. It is, therefore, equal in extent to about four-fifths of the area of Scotland. The special characteristics of this extensive tract, and the degree to

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which it is available for settlement and occupation, will be dealt with hereafter under the heading of "The Land."

The physical features of the Province are largely and agreeably diversified. On the eastern sea-board, and for about forty miles inland, the country consists of rolling hills, the higher peaks of which occasionally attain elevations varying from 1000 to 3000 feet. Intersecting the ranges are many large and fertile valleys, sometimes expanding into plains, and watered by many-branched rivers. Chief among these are the valleys of the Waitaki, the Waihemo, the Taieri, the Tokomairiro, the Clutha, and the Mataura. Farther in the interior the hills assume a loftier character, and their peaks attain to the dignity of mountains. Plains and elevated valleys of considerable extent occupy the intervening basins the margins of which are bordered by "terraces"--similar in appearance to the celebrated "parallel roads of Glenroy"--with smooth escarpments, and geometrically regular outlines, evidencing the lacustrine agencies to which, in remote periods, the country has been subjected. Proceeding onwards, the ranges gradually swell into chains of continuous mountains, till they merge into the Great Southern Alps, whose lofty summits, crowned with eternal snows, culminate in Mount Cook, the altitude of which is estimated at 13,200 feet above the sea level. This majestic mountain is in Canterbury; but other peaks in the same great chain, within the boundaries of Otago, are of a respectable height. Mountains of from 5,000 to 7,000 feet elevation are numerous. The loftiest are the Earnslaw, 9,200 feet, and Mount Aspiring, 9,949 feet high. In this region the scenery is truly magnificent and sublime. Deep in the bosoms of the mountain-ranges there are several lakes of limpid water, considerable in extent and beautiful in aspect, and picturesquely varied by rocky and wooded islets.

At the extreme northern boundary of the Province are the twin lakes, Hawea and Wanaka, separated only by a narrow belt of mountainous country. The area covered by the former is estimated at 48 square miles, and by the latter at 75 square miles. About 40 miles to the south-west of these is Lake Wakatipu (i.e.,

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"the crooked water"--equivalent to Windermere), covering 114 square miles. All these are of nearly similar altitude, namely, 1,000 feet, Hawea being slightly the most elevated of the three, and Lake Wanaka the lowest. Still further to the south-west are the Te Anau and Manipori Lakes, having jointly an area of 182 square miles, and being situated respectively 700 and 600 feet above sea-level.

Many attempts have been made to ascertain the depth of these lakes. On Lake Wakatipu, 200 fathoms of line were on one occasion let out before reaching what was considered to be the bottom; and similarly, on Lake Wanaka, 75 fathoms of line were paid out. 1 It is by no means certain that the true bottom has yet been found. Abutting on these lakes there are extensive plains; and tributary streams flow through deep valleys, where formerly rolled the waters of mightier rivers. The "terraces" everywhere surrounding the existing lakes indicate that their surfaces are now many hundred feet below their original level, and that they are but remnants of the ancient lake-system, the traces of which are so abundant and palpable, that he who rides may read the record.

Of the country to the extreme west very little is yet known. From seaward it presents but little attraction, save what is derived from the sublimity of the scenery. The rock-bound coast is indented by numerous arms of the sea, termed "Sounds," which are hemmed in by lofty mountains, rising precipitously above and descending vertically below the water. Less than 12 fathoms is rarely found even at the upper extremities of these Sounds. There are, however, two striking exceptions to this general description, namely, Preservation Inlet at the west and Martin's Bay at the north-west of the Province. The information in the possession of the Government is of a nature to induce the belief that both these localities are exceedingly well adapted for settlement. Explorations--conducted by Dr Hector, F.R.S., Government

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Geologist of New Zealand, in 1863, and by the present Superintendent of Otago, Mr James Macandrew, in 1867--have resulted in the discovery that at Martin's Bay there is a considerable tract of country suitable both for agriculture and for pastoral purposes; and prompt action has been taken by the Provincial Council with a view to the utilization by settlement of this new District. 2 The country intervening between Preservation Inlet and the Waiau River has been but very partially explored. All that is certainly known of it is that it is well timbered, with fine stretches of open terrace land, and that its lake-system is similar in character to that of the more settled portions of the Province. Much of the land bordering on the eastern shores of some of these lakes has been taken up for pastoral purposes, as also has the country immediately to the west of the Waiau. But an extensive region yet awaits future investigation.

1   Mr M'Kerrow's Report of Reconnaissance Survey of Lake Districts, October, 1863.
2   See Appendix A. Report of Select Committee on West Coast.

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