1878 - Buller, James. Forty years in New Zealand - INTRODUCTION.

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  1878 - Buller, James. Forty years in New Zealand - INTRODUCTION.
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NEW ZEALAND is the name given to two large islands, and several smaller ones. The larger ones are spoken of as the North and South Islands. They are divided from each other by Cook's Straits, which are about twenty miles wide. New Zealand lies between the parallels of 34 deg. 30" and 47 deg. 30" south latitude, and the meridians of 166 deg. 30" and 178 deg. 45" east longitude--just at the Antipodes. The extreme length is over one thousand miles, and the mean width, one hundred and twenty. The outline is very like that of Italy reversed, and the whole area about the same as that of Great Britain and Ireland. More than a thousand miles distant from the great continent of Australia, it is situate in mid-ocean;--the centre of an immense semicircle, dividing the globe from the Cape of Good Hope to Behring's Straits in the Old World, and from Behring's Straits to Cape Horn in the New World. Such is the position of the "Young Albion of the- Antipodal World."

The country bears ample proof of volcanic origin. At some distant geological era, it was perhaps a portion of a large continent which is now under the sea. In the north, extinct craters meet the eye on every hand, and add to the picturesque effect of the scenery. In the

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centre of the island, the burning mountain, Tongariro, is in constant action, with occasional eruptions. It is the same with White Island, on the south-east coast. Hot lakes, boiling springs, and hissing geysers--numerous in what is called "the Lake District"--all bear witness to volcanic agency. Earthquakes have been felt in some places: in 1848, and again in 1855, they did some damage at Wellington, which is now the capital of the colony. On the last occasion, after a series of alternate depressions and elevations, it left the coastline, for a long distance, four feet higher than it was before. To this day, the buildings of that city are of wood. The Government House, a large and handsome structure, is of that material.

In 1859, New Zealand was visited by an eminent naturalist, Dr. F. Von Hochstetter, of the Austrian-Novara Expedition. With the consent of Commodore Wullenstorf, he remained there nine months on an exploring tour. He says that, to the eye of the geologist, New Zealand "presents a scene of the grandest revolutions and convulsive struggles of the earth, which, continually changing the original form of the land, gave it by degrees its present shape."

Very little was known of this far-off land till the days of Captain Cook. As far back as 1504, the French claimed for one Gonneville the honour of its discovery. The Spaniards did the same in 1576 for Juan Fernandez. The Chinese or Japanese must have had knowledge of it at an early period. Some years ago, W. Colenzo, Esq., F.L.S., when at Wangarei, saw some natives boiling potatoes in a bronze ship-bell of large size, and he found on it an ancient inscription. They were willing to accept an iron pot in exchange for it. Their account

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was that a large tree being blown down in a gale of wind this bell was found underneath the roots of it. May it not be that some junk was wrecked on those shores, and the survivors, living with the inhabitants, left their mark upon them in several points of resemblance?

The Maories retain a tradition of the arrival of a ship, commanded by one Rongotute, about 1640, and that they plundered the ship and destroyed the crew. Two years after that date, a Dutch navigator, called Tasman, came to anchor, but did not land. Several of his men were killed by the savages. In 1769, our famous circumnavigator, Cook, found his way to that distant shore. The story of his five visits within seven years is well known. He obtained much knowledge of the country, its people, and its resources; and he conferred no small benefit on the Maories by the seeds, the roots, and the animals which he gave to them. Not long ago, an old chief died, whose name was Taniwha, but he was better known by that of "Hook-nose." He was a boy, about twelve years of age, at Cook's first visit to Mercury Bay. He could well remember it. He used to say that, when they saw a boat coming to the shore, they thought the men had eyes behind their heads, because they rowed with their backs in the direction of their course. The Maories paddle their canoes, with their faces to the bow.

About the same time that Captain Cook first visited the country, De Surville also arrived at another part of it, in the St. Jean Baptiste. But nothing of importance resulted from his visit, excepting the death of a chief whom he forcibly and treacherously took away. In 1772, Marion du Fresne anchored his two ships in the Bay of

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Islands. For a month, a cordial intercourse was kept up with the natives. Then, unfortunately, the feelings of the latter were outraged by the violation of their tapu, in consequence of which the captain and a boat's crew were killed and eaten.

From that time, New Zealand was occasionally visited by ships, but generally at great risk, and sometimes with fatal results. Dr. Thompson rightly says: "It is difficult to convey an idea of the terror in which the New Zealanders were held about this period. Sailors, groaning under scurvy, and in sight of a country covered with vegetables, the specific for that dire disease, preferred toothless gums to contact with cannibals. As a deer dreads the tiger, so do all men dread the eaters of men. In 1791, Captain Vancouver anchored at Dusky Bay, in the Middle Island, on his voyage round the world; but no vessel entered any of the northern harbours during that year; and an idea of the dread in which the natives were held, even by educated travellers, may be drawn from the following incident. Admiral D'Entrecasteaux, when searching for La Perouse, arrived off New Zealand in 1793. His naturalist represented the importance of obtaining several flax plants, but the Admiral refused, out of terror, to approach too near to the coast, although the natives were friendly, and paddled in their canoes to the ship, to barter mats and weapons of war for iron and for fish-hooks."

New Zealand is one of the finest countries on the globe. It has been well described as an "epitome, in miniature, of all the great continents in the world." A grand future is before it. Its climate is salubrious, its resources manifold, its geography unique. We find

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there, all that can be desired to make homes for millions of the overcrowded population of the mother-country.

There are many good harbours in the North Island, but those on the west coast have either bars or overlapping sand-spits. On the east coast, the Hauraki Gulf, protected by Cape Colville and the Great Barrier Island, is itself a large basin, in which all the navies in the world may find room to play. To the westward of it is the Waitemata, a safe and capacious harbour, where the city of Auckland, " beautiful for situation," is fixed. This is divided from that broad sheet of water, the Manukau, by a narrow isthmus. It was there that H.M.S. the Orpheus was wrecked in fine weather, some years ago, through following an obsolete chart. The Waitemata flows to within a few miles of the Kaipara. Four large rivers discharge their waters into that estuary; and one of them, the Otamatea, is nearly connected with a branch of the Wangarei, on the opposite coast, and seventy miles to the north of the Hauraki. In olden times, the natives dragged their war-canoes from one river into the other. They did the same from the Kaipara into the Waitemata, and from a branch of the latter into the Manukau, and from that into the Waikato. The facilities for intercommunication by water can hardly be excelled.

To the south of the Hauraki, there are Mercury Bay, Tauranga, and Poverty Bay; to the north of it, Wangarei; and, passing by several inlets, such as Ngunguru and Wangaruru, we come to the magnificent Bay of Islands. Further north, Wangaroa, Mongonui, and Parengarenga. The Hokianga, on the west coast, is a degree north of the Kaipara; and away south of the Waikato are Waingaroa, Aotea, Kawhia, Wanganui,

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and many boat-harbours, till we come to Wellington. This is completely landlocked, and affords shelter for any number of ships. New Plymouth and Napier are open roadsteads.

Tracing the coast of the South Island, we find Queen Charlotte's Sound, Cook's favourite recruiting-ground. The Pelorus Sound runs far into the interior of a mountainous and romantic country. Here also is Massacre Bay, so called by Tasman. Through the remarkable French Pass, or along the coast, we enter Blind Bay, where the town of Nelson is situated. Here, again, is safe anchorage for any number of navies. Along the western coast there are a few rivers, such as the Buller, the Grey, and Hokitika, which are navigable for small steamers. Further south is Milford Haven, the grandeur of whose scenery can hardly be surpassed. "Here the steamers from Melbourne, which during the summer months bring crowds of health-seeking tourists to our cooler shores, often call, and the unqualified testimony of the Australians bears witness to the singular and favourable contrast between the green tree-clad hills, the snowy mountains, and the impenetrable forests of the west coast of New Zealand, with their own parched and waterless plains."

The Bluff harbour is in the extreme south. This is connected with the town of Invercargill by a railway, twenty-two miles in length. North of it is Port Chalmers, the beauty of which no words of mine can paint. The larger ships anchor here, while the smaller ones run up to the wharf at Dunedin, a distance of ten miles. Waikowaiti, Moeraki, Oamaru, and Timaru, lie between that and Akaroa, or Banks' Peninsula. For safety, for space, and for scenery, this is unrivalled. Port Cooper comes

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next in order. Here stands the town of Lyttelton, which communicates, through a tunnel, with Christ-church, the capital of the famed Canterbury province. The harbour is roomy, and well supplied with wharves and jetties.

The large rivers are chiefly in the north island. The largest in the south is the Molyneaux, which pours down as much water as the Nile. Of small rivers the name is legion.

New Zealand contains 65,000,000 of acres. To the eye of the voyager, the contour of the coast is monotonous, and brown-coloured. It is generally mountainous, and covered with either forest, tall fern, or tussosk-grass. The clay hills are intersected by deep gullies. Snowy mountains are seen in the distance, especially on the west coast of the South Island. Mount Cook is more than 13,000 feet above the level of the sea. In 1867, Sir Charles W. Dilke, Bart., was visiting the country. He says:--

"In our little steamer of a hundred tons, built to cross the bars, we had reached the mouth of the Hokitika river soon after dark, but lay all night, some ten miles to the south-west of the port. As we steamed, early in the morning, from our anchorage, there rose up on the east the finest sunrise view on which it has been my fortune to set eyes. A hundred miles of the Southern Alps stood out upon a pale blue sky, in curves of a gloomy white, that were just beginning to blush with pink, but ended to the southward in a cone of fire, that blazed up from the ocean: it was the snow-dome of Mount Cook struck by the rising sun. The evergreen bush, flaming with the crimson of the rata blossom, hung upon the mountain side, and covered the plain with a dense jungle. It was one of those sights that haunt men for years, like the eyes of Mary in Bellini's Milan picture."

The lofty range of mountains called the "Southern Alps," to which the foregoing quotation refers, forms

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the backbone of the South Island. The Kaikouras stretch out to the east coast, and are 10,000 feet high. A certain writer says:--

"It is one of the finest sights to be imagined to pass the coast end of this range at night, when the cowering peaks appear, here and there, above the encircling cloud-belts, the pure snow glittering in the moonlight, showing the dark masses of mountain which run down to the sea."

In the North Island there are similar ranges. Tongariro is 8,000, and Mount Egmont 9,000 feet high.

"When the voyager has sat upon the deck of a vessel sailing to Taranaki, and watches the play of light and shade upon this noble mountain, and the woods at its base, and far behind, in the centre of the island, the thin wreath of smoke which marks the volcano of Tongariro, and, to the south of it, the sister mountain of Ruapehu, covered with perpetual snow, then he may be qualified to speak of the scenery of this country, especially if he has added to his sketch-book the great chain of the Southern Alps, which I have lately seen in all its grandeur, stretching in almost an unbroken line from north to south for more than three hundred miles."

The "Lake District" is very remarkable. It combines the natural wonders of Cumberland, Scotland, and Iceland. Beginning at the northern base of the Ruapehu and Tongariro mountains, at the southern end of Lake Taupo, it extends, in a north-easterly course, for a line of about a hundred and fifty miles, to White Island, in the Bay of Plenty; and through the whole distance, it is about the same width as the Taupo Lake, which may be from twenty-five to thirty miles. In many other parts of the country, sulphur, soda, and hot springs, are to be found; but they all fade into nothing, compared with the variety, the number, and the extent

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which this district contains. Hochstetter divides the steam jets into three kinds: i. Puias, which are geysers, continuously or intermittently active. 2. Ngawas, which are inactive puias--emitting steam, but not throwing up columns of hot water. 3. Waiarikis, which mean any sort of cistern of hot water, suitable for bathing. Besides these--not perhaps very accurately defined-- there are many boiling mud-pools, and streams of water of all degrees of temperature, from boiling heat to tepid warmth. The late Hon. H. Meade, R.N., thus describes the native settlement of Ohenimutu, on the bank of the Roturua lake:--

"The whole village is built on a thin crust of rock and soil, roofing over one vast boiler. Hot springs hiss and seethe in every direction: some spouting upwards, and boiling with the greatest fury; others merely at an agreeable warmth. From every crack and crevice spurt forth jets of steam or hot air, and the open bay of the lake itself is studded far and near with boiling springs and bubbling steam-jets. So thin is the crust on which the little town is built, that in most places, after merely thrusting a walking-stick into the ground beneath our feet, steam instantly followed its withdrawal."

This description equally applies to some other places. The natives seldom light a fire. They cook their food by boiling it in one of the pools, or steaming it by covering it up in the hot earth. Stone flags have been laid down to receive and retain the heat of the ground; and on these, in cold days or at eventide, they find a luxurious lounge. The country in this district is yet, for the most part, in a state of nature, and a great deal of it is weird and barren. A rough road has been made from Tauranga to Napier, and a light van, or coach, leaves each end twice a week. It takes four days, and implies tremendous jolting. There are several houses of accommodation on the road, and a chain of

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military posts, all of which are manned by detachments of the "armed mounted constabulary."

As yet the journey is too rough, and the entertainment too scant, for weak invalids. But the number of visitors is continually increasing--some coming even from Australia, to be cured of their rheumatic pains. The day is near when the curative properties of the waters, the novelty of the scenery, and the advantage of good family hotels, will attract crowds of invalids, tourists, and excursionists, for the sake of health, recreation, or curiosity. The Hon. W. Fox says: "It might be, and is probably destined to be, the sanitarium, not only of the Australian colonies, but of India and other portions of the globe."

To give anything like an exhaustive account of the lakes, the pools, and the geysers, would require a volume. The waters of one are of sapphire blue, of another green, of a third bitter. At Whakarewarewa, a geyser throws up a column of hot water to a height of fifty or sixty feet, with an explosive noise that is all but deafening, and sometimes reflecting all the colours of the rainbow; while many others splutter, hiss, and heave around it. Crossing the beautiful lake Tarawera, the traveller comes to that of Rotomahana (hot lake). This is one of the smallest, and yet the most notable, of all, by reason of the extraordinary white and pink terraces. The former is the Tarata, and the other the Otukapuarangi. These terraces, of natural formation, resemble the curved battlements of ancient castles, though not so lofty. Bathing pools, of every degree of temperature, present themselves as you ascend the steps.

Te Tarata flows from a furiously boiling pool, which

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fills a deep crater of about sixty by eighty feet. The water is of an intense and brilliant blue. The action of the vapour in escaping keeps the middle of the pool always raised in a cluster of foaming hillocks. At times, Te Tarata discharges the whole of the water from its crater in one tremendous explosion, which is a magnificent sight, but rather dangerous to any one who happens to be near it. The chemical action of the water leaves a deposit--silica, which, as it falls in cascades from terrace to terrace, forms a pavement of alabaster--white on the sides of Te Tarata, and of salmon-colour on the other, at the opposite side of the lake. Hence the broad flights of steps and curving terraces are, in one, as white as snow, on the other like the pink of a rose. It is not possible to convey an idea of its beauty on paper. Hochstetter got out of the difficulty simply by saying that it baffles description. The following account, given by the late Hon. H. Meade, R.M., brings the whole scene vividly before my eye:--

"The sun was setting behind the sombre western hills. Above us were clouds--orange, golden, and purple, of unusually warm and brilliant tints, even for an Australasian sky; before us, acres and acres of water-terraces, such as might belong to some giant's palace in fairyland; every ray of the sinking sun caught and broken into a thousand prismatic hues by the countless crystals that hung like lustres round the margins of the successive basins, or mingling, in the blue waters within them, with the gorgeous reflexions of the glowing clouds above.

"Lower still, as a foil to this glorious picture, lay the dark waters of the calm lake, buried in the deep shade which the mountains cast eastward,--and motionless, save where the still surface was ruffled by the teeming flocks of wild-fowl. Beyond the lake, towering dark and sharp against the warm western sky, rose the grim mountain 'Te Rangi Pakaru,' with its great crater vomiting dense clouds of sulphurous vapour.

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"The feelings which this spectacle brought forth may perhaps be imagined, but the sight itself was one which no pen could well describe, no brush portray. As a touching piece of music that has struck some hidden chord will ring in the ear long after the sound itself has ceased, so the impression of that sunset scene remained pleasingly present to our minds, while the Maories plied their paddles in the dark, smooth waters, to the tune of their wild and uncouth songs."

Forests of evergreen trees clothe large tracts of the country: they are tangled, sombre, and silent. Timber is abundant for house-building, ship-building, or cabinetwork. In some parts there are wide plains of grass, or fern, or scrub. The soil is varied: a great deal of it produces heavy crops of grain without manure; but the extensive kauri forests leave nothing behind them but stiff clay hills, which yield only stunted fern. But in these wastes, a gum resin is dug out, which has proved to be a valuable commodity for export. Many hundreds of men are employed in this work.

A fine mould is found even to the summit of some of the hills; and in other districts a warm volcanic deposit sends forth luxuriant grasses. The alluvial banks of the rivers are extremely fertile, and the flax-swamps, when drained, are rich in produce. Vegetation is so rank that there seems a superfluity of life in the wild woods.

One of the charms of the country is in the many gushing streams of pure water. With only rough husbandry, large crops of corn, potatoes, hay, etc., are reaped; and all kinds of animal life flourish abundantly. No one can do justice to the scenery or the soil of New Zealand, until he has seen, both the natural beauties, and the golden harvests, and fat kine, of Taranaki.

In a land lying more than a thousand miles, north and south, and of a varied configuration, we must expect a diversity of climate. But it is equable,--not oppres-

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sively hot in summer, nor severely cold in winter: it is both healthy and pleasant. Droughts are unknown, and floods are rare and local. There are occasional gales, but no hurricanes. The rainfall is equal to that of England,--more than in London, less than in Devonshire. The atmosphere is humid, but changes are not extreme. The sky is generally bright, and the air pure; perhaps nowhere is it more agitated by winds: all round the coast a sea breeze blows in summer. On the Canterbury Plains, the north-west wind partakes of the hot or sirocco winds of Australia, a phenomenon for which no sound explanation has yet been given.

If it be true that "men live as much by air as by bread," then the question of climate is of first importance. It has a determining effect upon the constitution, and, therefore, we may predict for New Zealand a robust race, for the climate is as favourable to health as it is to vegetation and beauty. The thermometer takes but a narrow range: the mean annual temperature of the north is 57 deg., and that of the south 52 deg. The mean daily range is under 20 deg., and the extreme range 30 deg. The nights are 12 deg. colder than the days. The mildness of Nelson and Canterbury is seen in the fact that sheep often lamb in winter, with no greater loss than that of ten per cent.; and nowhere do farmers house their cattle at night.

New Zealand is not an Elysium. It has its dull days and wet seasons, but perhaps it excels every other country for its salubrity. The birth-rate is far in excess of the death-rate. Situated in almost the centre of the widest expanse of the ocean in the whole world, we must see that the continual evaporation will produce a great degree of moisture; but it is not that of a raw

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dampness, and it gives an exquisite softness to the skin. Dr. Thompson says: "No single locality in Europe has a temperature, during the whole year, like that of New Zealand. The North Island has the summer heat, tempered with a sea breeze, of Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam, with the winter cold of Rome; while the South Island has a Jersey summer, and a winter in mildness like that of Montpellier."

It is safe to say that, with much that is English-like in New Zealand, the climate is decidedly superior. The summer is long, and the winter mild. Snow is seldom seen on the ground, except only in the far south, and even there it soon disappears. Bishop Selwyn called it "the perfection of climate," and no man had more or wider experience of it, travelling, as he regularly did, over the whole country, in all weathers and at all seasons of the year, for a quarter of a century. "No one," he said, "knows what the climate is till he has basked in the almost perpetual sunshine of Tasman's Gulf, with a frame braced and invigorated for the full enjoyment of heat by the wholesome frost or cool snowy breeze of the night before. And no one can speak of the healthiness of New Zealand till he has been ventilated by the restless breezes of Port Nicholson, where malaria is no more to be feared than on the top of Chimborazo, and where active habits of industry and enterprise are evidently favoured by the elastic tone and perpetual motion of the atmosphere." And I can heartily endorse his words, when the good Bishop says in his Journal, "A sparkling breeze, a smooth sea, and a cloudless sky, give that indescribable sensation of a really fine day in this country, which I have never felt elsewhere."

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The productions of the country are multifarious. Its mineral stores are abundant: copper, iron, platinum, lead, quicksilver, plumbago, chrome, manganese, and sulphur abound; coal in its several stages, as lignite, brown and bituminous, is found in every direction. Stone for building and other purposes is ready for use. From its several gold-mines, more than £32,000,000 worth have been already exported. The flax plant grows everywhere. Of edible fruits, there are none worthy of note; but all our European trees and plants flourish. The geranium, myrtle, heliotrope, and others, live in the open air. Peaches, nectarines, figs, grapes, melons, etc, ripen out of doors, side by side with apples, pears, and plums. It is only in the extreme south where delicate fruits do not come to perfection. In the north, semi-tropical products can be raised. In the depth of a northern winter, I have often seen a beautiful bouquet gathered from the open garden.

Animal life was not abundant in New Zealand. The only quadruped was a small rat, which is now extinct,-- if we except a dog which was domestic. Among the reptiles, there was nothing venomous, excepting a small black spider, which is confined to a sedgy grass on the sea-coast. All imported animals do well. The export of wool for 1876 amounted to the value of £3,395,816. For the ornithology of New Zealand I will refer to a book written by my eldest son. 1 In the acclimatization gardens, our British song-birds, and others, are now finding a home, and multiply as fast as the hawks will let them. The song of the lark, the caw of the rook,

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and the music of the thrush, are heard in our fields and groves. Never can I forget the emotion awakened in my soul one day, about ten years ago. I was walking through the Domain in Auckland--a spot of exquisite natural beauty. I sat down on one of the seats under the spreading branches of a tree; suddenly my attention was arrested, and I felt as if chained to the spot, by a sound I had not heard for more than thirty years;--a grey thrush was perched on the bough of a poplar tree, and trilling out such a burst of joyous melody, that it carried my imagination away to the golden orchards of distant England, which grand old country I longed once more to behold.

New Zealand is a country which has within itself all the resources of a great nation. Nothing is wanted, but the magic wand of civilizing agencies, to evoke its latent riches. Dr. Hochstetter says that it is "one of the most remarkable countries in the world,--a beautiful country, which Albion's enterprising sons, its occupiers, looking forward to a rich and blooming future, are wont to call 'the Britain of the South.'" And Carl Ritter, the great geographer, says that "it is destined, before all other lands, to become a mother of civilized nations." The description of ancient Canaan is suited to it, for it is "a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil, olive, and honey; a land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack anything in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass,"--yea, even gold! In that country, so rich in promise, it was my lot to live for forty years. During that time I had the

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opportunity of a close acquaintance with the aboriginal tribes. I saw the rise and progress of the colony, from its foundation; and I took some humble part in, while I watched, with a deep interest, the successive changes which have marked the history of the country to the present time. In the following pages, I will, with studied brevity, give the results of my inquiry, of my experience, and of my observation in


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1   Vide "A History of the Birds of New Zealand." By Dr. Bullet, F.L.S., F.R.G.S., Corresponding Member of the British Ornithologists' Union, etc--Van Voorst, I, Paternoster Row, London, 1873.

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