[With a Map.]
[Read before the Auckland Institute, August 3, 1868.]
Arid Island lies about three miles from the north-east coast of the Great Barrier. It is rather less than one and a half miles long, by about three-quarters of a mile broad, and contains nearly 600 acres. Its highest point is about 700 feet above the sea level.
In December, 1867, in company with Mr. A. J. Allan, we spent several hours in examining this island, which, owing to its out-of-the-way
position, and its rugged cliffs, is seldom visited, except by Maories, in the Mutton-bird season—the end of November. The accompanying map, which we then made, will serve to show its principal features; although being merely an eye-sketch and made without any instruments, it has no pretensions to strict accuracy.
Arid Island certainly does not deserve the name bestowed on it by Captain Cook. The high, rugged, desolate-looking cliffs, that encircle the greater part of the island, hide within them, beautifully sheltered valleys, covered with luxuriant fern and bush, and watered by streams which, uniting, empty themselves into the small boat harbour on the west coast. This harbour although too small for a cutter to swing at her anchor, and exposed to north-westerly winds, is well adapted for boats, as it terminates in a fine, sandy beach, up which they can be easily hauled. It is the place where the Maories always land when they come to eat Mutton-birds. These Mutton-birds, or Oil as they call them, are a kind of petrel of a dark-brown color, belonging we suspect, to the genus Puffinus. We were not able to procure a specimen, the season being too far advanced, and saw nothing but the feathers lying about, where the Maories had been eating them. These birds live in holes which they burrow into the soft hill sides. We were informed by the natives of the Great Barrier, that formerly they used to be very numerous, but that, latterly, they had become scarce, having been killed off by the rats. The other birds that we saw on the island were, the Tui, (Prosthemadera Novæ Zelandiæ), the Bell-bird, (Anthornis melanura), the Fan-tail (Rhipidura flabellifera), the Ground-lark (Anthus Novœ Zelandiœ), the New Zealand Titmouse (Certhiparus Novœ Zelandiœ), the little Miromiro (Petroica toi-toi), and the Pigeon (Carpophaga Novœ Zelandiœ). The greater part of the island is surrounded by high precipitous cliffs; the harbour, one point on the eastern, and possibly another on the northern side, being the only places from whence the island seems to be accessible. On the north and south, the sea has eaten back the cliffs into mere ridges, only a foot or two wide in some places.