Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
Volume 1, 1868
This text is also available in PDF
() Opens in new window

Proceedings
of the
New Zealand Institute,
1868.

Proceedings
of the
New Zealand Institute,
Session of 1868.

Minutes of The Meetings.

Inaugural Meeting. August 4, 1868.

The New Zealand Institute was opened by a Conversazione at the Colonial Museum, on the evening of August 4th, 1868, when many members of various local societies for the promotion of Arts and Science, assembled to listen to the Inaugural Address of His Excellency the Governor.

In a few prefatory remarks, His Excellency referred to the presence of so many members of the legislature, while an important debate was in progress in the House of Representatives, as a proof that the attractions of intellect and science could even triumph over the excitement of politics.

His Excellency's Address. (Vide ante.)

Mr. Fox, M.H.R. rose at the conclusion of the address. He did so (he said) with diffidence, and would much rather that some gentleman more accustomed to academic and scientific subjects had been selected to perform the pleasing task which he had consented to discharge. He was glad, although it took him somewhat by surprise, to behold such an assemblage as he now saw filling that place. Such an assemblage for such a purpose, would have been impossible in the early days, though even then there was a William Swainson, and other men of his stamp. They made attempts to do something more than simply to colonise these islands; but there was no union for the prosecution of scientific pursuits. Science in those dark and distant days had no voice and the finer arts were a dead letter. Thus, shortly after his return from Europe, he was

– 14 –

gratified beyond measure to be one of such an assemblage, presided over by His Excellency the Governor. Glad he was on returning from the old countries, and from travelling in remote parts of Europe and Asia, where he had seen evidences of the rapid strides which modern science and enterprise had made in some of the Old World's formerly most benighted places,—where he had seen the telegraph wires crossing wastes and deserts, the iron horse in his mighty strength, and the Archimedian screw upon Old Nilus. Everywhere the mighty developments of Western civilisation were marvelous; it was something to see in Egypt, —the cradle of learning, and the tomb of a past civilisation,—Western Europe taking back to her the results of a little seed which ages ago had been sown on the banks of the mighty Nile. In Greece the same metamorphosis was in progress. Rome, too, was being elevated from its ruins. This truly was a great fact,—it was also gratifying. We, in New Zealand, were not behindhand, but were engaged in the “heroic work,” described by Lord Bacon in the words quoted by his Excellency; —we were here to lay the basis of a true civilisation, not only to subdue nature, and till the soil; but impelled by Anglo-Saxon ardor and energy, to develope all that was worthy of development. It was not usual to offer a vote of thanks on such occasions, but as Sir G. Bowen had evinced so deep an interest in the Institute, he (Mr. Fox) would call on the assembly to express their gratification by acclamation; which was cordially responded to.

His Excellency thanked Mr. Fox heartily for his eloquent speech, and referred to the gratification, which he (Sir G. Bowen) had felt, in examining a most valuable series of sketches which Mr. Fox had lent to the museum, as one of the results of his recent travels. It gave him great pleasure to take part in reunions of that kind, and to meet the members of all political parties, on the neutral ground of Science and Literature. He was sure that all present rejoiced with him at the presence among them that evening of an officer of the Imperial Navy of France,* of that great navy, which had sent forth to the exploration of the Southern Seas, a La Perouse, a Baudin, a Bongainville, a D'Entrecasteaux, and other famous seamen, worthy to stand in history by the side of our own immortal navigator, Captain Cook. He (the Governor) would remind the audience, that next year, a hundred years would have elapsed since Captain Cook first set his foot on the shores of New Zea-

[Footnote] * Capt. Villemseus, H.I.M.S. “Dorade.”

– 15 –

land; and he would suggest that some celebration of this centenary should take place under the auspices of the Institute. As he had said before reading his inaugural address, he was glad to see present so many of the fair votaries of Science; and he would address them in all seriousness, in the words of one of the greatest thinkers, as well as soldiers and statesmen that the world had ever seen,—one, too, who was not liable to be swayed in matters of thought by the charms of female society. Napoleon Buonaparte had said: “Almost everything in the future man depends on his mother.” If then study is requisite for the men who are to rule the world, is it not also requisite for those who are to form the men?—whose blessed duty it is to instil those early habits of industry, and lessons of virtue, on which the future destiny of life depends. It is thus that women will best discharge the holy mission of their sex, and regain in their homes that Paradise which a woman once lost.

This ended the formal portion of the proceedings. The company proceeded to promenade the Museum, and to examine objects of interest. A most attractive subject was the interior of the Maori house, which was lighted up for the first time; and Mr. Fox's sketches taken during his recent tour in Palestine, Egypt, Greece, and Italy; while microscopes and geological specimens engaged the attention of those of a more scientific disposition.

Second Meeting. August 11, 1868.
The Hon. W. B. Mantell, F.G.S. in the chair.

James Hector, Esq., M.D., F.R.S., delivered a Lecture on the “Geology of New Zealand.”

(Reserved.)

Third Meeting. August 18, 1868.
His Excellency the Governor in the chair.

Among the audience, which numbered nearly three hundred, were his Lordship the Bishop of Lichfield, the Bishop of Wellington, and many members of both Houses of Parliament.

His Excellency introduced the lecturer, Mr. J. E. Fitzgerald, with a few appropriate remarks. The subject chosen was “The Nature of Art.”

(Reserved.)

At the close of the lecture his Lordship the Bishop of Lichfield gave a short address.

– 16 –

Fourth Meeting. September 1, 1868.
His Excellency the Governor in the chair.

His Excellency stated that the business for the evening was the second of a series of Lectures on the “Geology of New Zealand,” by Dr. Hector. It had however been suggested, as the evening would be broken by other special business, it would be advisable to postpone that lecture till a future occasion, and in place of it he would request Dr. Hector to give them an account of the recent tidal phenomena, which had excited so much interest in all parts of the Australian Colonies.

Dr. Hector then stated that he had received some interesting details from other localities, since his communication to the Philosophical Society, which would help to throw some light on the subject; and such a remarkable occurrence should be discussed, and the fullest particulars recorded whilst they were still fresh in the memory.

(See Proceedings and Transactions, W. P. S.)

In reply to Mr. Travers, asking for some particulars of the great tidal wave at Japan in 1854, Dr. Hector gave an account of that terrible catastrophe.

Mr. W.B. Mantell, F.G.S. read some quaint extracts from “Holingshed's Chronicles,” Vol. II, published in 1577, describing earthquakes that had occurred in England, between the years 1077 and 1575; and stated that we were too much given to look upon the colony as peculiarly an earthquake country; but by dipping into such records as the above, we find frequent reference to the occurrence of earthquakes and sea waves like those just discussed, as having taken place even in England. He concluded by pointing out that notwithstanding the advance of science in the colony, he believed we were not in a position to hand down to posterity, any clearer or more exact account of such phenomena than Holingshed had recorded, and urged that steps should be taken, by the use of proper instruments, to supply this want.

His Excellency the Governor then presented to Sir George Grey, the following Valedictory Address, from the Governors of the Institute, remarking, that it was to Sir George Grey, that the colony is indebted for the foundation of nearly all of its scientific Institutions.

– 17 –

Valedictory Address presented by the Governors of the Institute, to Sir George Grey, K.C.B., September 1, 1868

“Wellington, New Zealand,,
“September 1, 1868.

Sir George Grey, K.C.B.,

“Sir,—We, the Governors of the New Zealand Institute, which was founded last year under your auspices, for the promotion of Science, Literature and Art in this country, and which has been established on a statutable basis for carrying out the objects in view on the formation of the New Zealand Society, originated and founded by yourself in 1851, avail ourselves, with much satisfaction, of the opportunity afforded by your presence here this evening, on the eve of your departure for England, of acknowledging the obligations which the people of the colony owe to you, for the cordial interest you have ever taken in the promotion of Science and Art in New Zealand. We desire especially to recognize the influence which you have exercised in this respect, not only in your capacity as a Governor of the colony, but also from the high position which you have earned amongst the Learned Societies of Europe, by your practical advancement of knowledge. For, amidst the cares incident to your high political position, you have not only found leisure to aid in the formation of Scientific Institutions, but have given the practical example of your own labours, more especially in those directions which have a special bearing on our knowledge of the history and progress of the human race. On behalf of New Zealand, we, as representatives of its Scientific Institutions, beg especially to thank you for the great work which you have achieved in collecting and preserving the early traditions and poetry of its aboriginal inhabitants, thereby securing the permanence of valuable records for the future study of Ethnologists. In bidding you a hearty farewell, it is our earnest hope and prayer that all honour, health and happiness may attend you.”

Sir George Grey replied, and stated that he was not aware until just before the meeting, that such an address would be presented to him; he felt very grateful for the honour His Excellency and the Governors of the Society had done him, and hoped that though about to leave New Zealand he might still have it in his power to be of some assistance in advancing scientific pursuits in the colony. He then spoke at some length as to the interesting field open in this colony for contributing to science important observations bearing on the study of the human race. Sir George Grey gave some interesting examples of the curious results likely to ensue from a comparison of the traditions and history of the

– 18 –

Maori race, with that of the early inhabitants of Britain, and concluded by expressing his earnest thanks for the address, and the great interest he would always feel in all matters affecting the colony.

After a few observations from the Bishop of Wellington as to Sir George Grey's academic career, and his acquaintance with the hard work by which he had attained his present high political and scientific position, the meeting adjourned.

Fifth Meeting. September 19, 1868.
His Excellency the Governor in the chair.

(Extracts.)

After a few appropriate remarks from his Excellency, the lecturer commenced by saying that the subject was of too extensive a character to be dealt with fully in one lecture, as it involved the consideration of difficult questions in comparative anatomy, geology, and archæology, and in the traditional history of the Maoris. After instancing examples to show that New Zealand was not peculiar in the circumstance that huge birds without the power of flight, were the highest form of life previous to the arrival of man in the Islands, he proceeded to describe the different circumstances under which the remains of the Moa are found, assigning the highest antiquity to those that are found under the stalagmite in certain limestone caves similar to the bone caves in which traces of the early animals which inhabited Great Britain are preserved to us. He drew attention to the fact that, in the British caves, among the great variety of animals represented, there is always evidence that they were dragged into these caves by beasts of prey; but New Zealand caves have failed to show any such cause for the presence of Moa bones in them, or that any animal existed beyond larger forms of those now inhabiting the islands. These cave Moa bones, and probably those found in certain alluvial deposits, he considered to belong to a period before the arrival of the aborigines. He then described the several circumstances under which the remains of the Moa are found associated with works of man, in such a manner as to leave no doubt that they co-existed with the earliest aborigines, and were largely used as food, along with seals and a variety of other animals. From the examination of the umus or Maori ovens, there was evidence that cannibalism prevailed at the time the Moas were used for food, but only in the North Island. Certain works of Art associated with bones in these early deposits appeared to indicate a period when many of the implements in common use among the Maoris, and supposed to have been brought with them from Hawaiki, were unknown to these early aborigines. The highly prized Ponamu or Greenstone appears also to have been discovered in New Zealand at a later date. The most ancient of these ovens which he had examined were scooped out in the surface of marine deposits, generally blue clays or sands, such as those deposited in estuaries or tidal lagoons, and were never covered by other than fresh water or blown sand deposits.

Picture icon

Ngatimamoe paintings Takiroa caves.

Picture icon

Takiroa Caves
Looking N to Punaamokators across the rise.

– 19 –

Those at Wainongaro in the North Island, and at Awamua in Otago, were the oldest he had seen, and contained fragments of stone used as cutting implements, of kinds that showed that even at that early period the natives had extensively explored the interior of these islands. In Otago, especially, it is probable that the interior was their usual dwelling place, and that they only paid occasional and periodical visits to the sea coast. He referred to certain rude figures which he discovered drawn on the walls of a cave in the Waitaki valley (See Illustrations), among which was rudely depicted the likeness of a Moa, by some early aboriginal artist, and proceeded to describe the causes which led to the extermination of those birds. This must have taken place within a very short period after the appearance of man, adducing the very slight and obscure allusions in the most ancient Maori traditions to their existence as proof of this.

After alluding to the probable habits and mode of life of the Moa, and to the present representatives of the class of bird to which they belong, Mr. Mantell concluded by saying that in his lecture he confined himself to the subject of the Moa, the native word including these birds as a whole, leaving the different species of Dinornis, Palapteryx, and other genera which have been made, to those who believe that they have the necessary data; for his part he did not believe that with the exception of the very fresh skeleton found in Otago, and now in the York Museum, of which the integuments and feathers are partly preserved, there was yet a single skeleton restored in such a manner, as would be at all suited to the wants of the bird if it were alive; he therefore strongly urged the careful collection of specimens, and that those persons who discovered bones, if they did not consider themselves well acquainted with the subject, should leave them untouched until they could be exhumed by properly qualified collectors.

Dr. Hector in proposing a vote of thanks to the lecturer, remarked that it was highly important to have obtained the expression of his opinions respecting the association of the Moa with the aborigines of this colony, as Mr. Mantell had arrived in this country well qualified for the task by previous training, and had enjoyed favourable opportunities as the first explorer of a large extent of the colony where these birds formerly abounded. The collections in the Museums in Europe and America show how well he availed himself of those opportunities. He (Dr. Hector) understood Mr. Mantell to incline to the opinion that the Moa owed its destruction to a race of aborigines different in their habits and savage attainments from the Maoris of the present day, though perhaps having the same origin; but while agreeing in this he stated that he did not attach much importance to the alleged absence of greenstone and other implements of an advanced stage from the early Maori ovens; and explained how the use of chert flakes would naturally suggest itself, as they would be abundantly formed when chert stones were heated and quenched with water in the process of cooking according

– 20 –

to the Maori fashion. It would seem as if when one of these flakes had a convenient shape such as a knife, cleaver, or spear-head, it was trimmed and sharpened in the same manner as a gun flint, rather than cast away when the edge became defective, and that a race advanced far beyond such rude works of art might yet find it convenient under certain circumstances to employ them. Dr. Hector alluded to the profusion of Moa eggshells in the ovens of the interior which showed that the eggs must have been prized as food; and that their consumption must have soon led to the extinction of the birds.

Mr. Travers remarked, with regard to the origin of the aborigines by whom the Moas were exterminated, that he considered them to be a distinct race, now represented by the Morioris of the Chatham Islands. He impressed on the attention of the meeting the important field which New Zealand offered for ethnological research, and related as a circumstance requiring explanation, that in a circular pit in the Waikato, a number of human skeletons were found in an erect position, arranged round the side, each with a block of wood on its head, and hoped that some one would investigate the matter.

Sixth Meeting. September 29, 1868.
His Excellency the Governor in the chair.

Lecture by W. T. L. Travers, Esq., F.L.S., on “The Botany of New Zealand.”

(Reserved.)

Seventh Meeting. October 20, 1868.
His Excellency the Governor in the chair.

Lecture by Felix Wakefield, Esq., on “The Progress of Geographical Discovery.”

(Reserved.)