His Excellency Sir George F. Bowen, G. C. M. G.
Delivered to the Members of the New Zealand Institute, at the
Anniversary Meeting, Held on the 24th July, 1869.
It is the well-known duty of the President of every Society, such as is the New Zealand Institute, to open the annual session with a review of the proceedings of the past year, and of the general condition and progress of the Association. This is a deliberate pause, as when a guide, showing a mountainous and interesting country, calls upon a party of travellers to look back on the scenes which they have just passed, and the difficulties which they have already surmounted, and to contemplate the prospect around and before them.
In my Inaugural Address at the opening ceremony of last year, I explained the character and objects of this Institute; and showed that the main object of the Legislature in founding it, was to provide guidance and aid for the people of New Zealand in the practical work of colonization. The recently published volume of the Transactions and Proceedings of the Institute, and of its affiliated societies, during the first year of its existence, proves that this eminently practical object has been carefully kept in sight; while there is abundant promise of future usefulness. It should here be mentioned that the value of this volume has been considerably increased by the incorporation of a series of Essays, some of which were placed at the disposal of the Governors, in a printed form, having been issued at Dunedin shortly after the Exhibition of 1865, through the indefatigable exertions of the Honorary Secretary, Dr. Eccles. The progress already achieved appears to have been appreciated
throughout the Colony; for a large accession has lately taken place to the number of members of the affiliated societies; while new societies have been organized, and propose to seek incorporation.
As the first volume of our Transactions has been for some time in the hands of the members of the Institute and of the public, it is only necessary for me to refer briefly to some of its more prominent contents. It cannot fail to be generally acknowledged that the records of the proceedings of the several departments are remarkable for the great variety of topics which they embrace. And here I should mention that the brilliant essay by Mr. Fitzgerald, to whose eloquence we all listened with delight, has been, by his own desire, reserved for the volume to be published next year.
Among the less formal communications embodied in the printed Proceedings, we observe practical suggestions concerning building materials, agricultural processes, and metallurgy; on the preparation and manufacture of the indigenous flax (Phormium tenax), which is rapidly becoming an important industry in this Colony; notices of the results of the chemical analyses of a great variety of vegetable and mineral productions; and records of the striking natural phenomena that occurred during the past year.
The communications published at length afford elaborate information; and I will now glance at a few of the chief points of interest which they present.
The first paper, by Mr. Crawford, calls attention to some obscure phenomena respecting erratic boulders in the North Island, which appeared to him to have required the intervention of ice to effect their distribution. Considering the vast extent of surface over which the operations of that mighty ice tool, the glacier, have recently been recognized in the Northern Hemisphere, our geologists should search closely for similar evidence in all the mountain centres of New Zealand. Dr. Haast, and other explorers, have shown that in the South Island there are still glaciers rivalling in magnitude those of the Alps of Europe; that in former ages they were even of greater extent, and that there are no sufficiently marked differences in the climate of this country to warrant the assumption that glaciers could not have existed at some remote period, in valleys radiating from the mountains, which are even now visible from Wellington, as ranges covered with snow during several months of the year. It appears, indeed, that so lately as in 1863, an avalanche of ice forced its way for a distance of seventy miles, from Ruapehu, in the centre of this island, to the sea, by the Wangehu river.
Mr. Mantell's address on the Moa, is particularly valuable, as embodying the results alike of his scientific knowledge and of his extensive researches. Many of you, gentlemen, have had the pleasure of inspecting the group of skeletons of the Moa in the Christchurch Museum. The effect is very striking and suggestive; and when we consider that these are stated by
Dr. Haast in his paper on the Measurements of the Moa, to be but a few, selected from the remains of nearly two hundred skeletons obtained within a small area in the Province of Canterbury, we are enabled faintly to imagine the strange appearance of this country when these gigantic birds roamed over it in large flocks.
The admirable paper by Mr. Travers, dealing with the principles involved in the discrimination of the various species of plants, proves that our local botanists are co-operating with those of Europe in settling many of the higher questions of their science. In another paper, Mr. Travers has applied his botanical knowledge to a very practical purpose, by an able dissertation on the manufacture of the New Zealand flax. Sir David Monro has also contributed to the botanical literature of this country, an Essay as charming in style as it is valuable in substance.
I will not recall the disagreeable sensations which the earthquake waves caused in last August, by commenting on the descriptions given of them by Dr. Hector and Dr. Haast, beyond congratulating the members of the Institute in having the facts so well recorded in our Transactions, concerning phenomena which have excited a world-wide interest. In this, as in many other respects, our acknowledgments are due to the accomplished Director of the Museum, Dr. Hector, who is also the editor of our Transactions.
Time and space will permit me only to glance at several other interesting papers, such as those of Mr. Colenso, respecting the History, Language, and Customs of the Maoris; of Mr. Buller, and Captain Hutton, on Ornithology, the former of which has called forth a critique from Professor Finsch of Bremen, and a rejoinder by the author, all of which appear in the volume; of the Bishop of Wellington, on the Celtic origin of the English vowel sounds; of Mr. Dobson, on the Present State of Applied Science in the Province of Canterbury; of Mr. Henry Travers, respecting the Chatham Islands; of Mr. Kirk, on the Flora of several parts of the Province of Auckland; of Captain Vine Hall, on the Island of Rapa; of Mr. Pharazyn, on the Taranaki Iron Sand. I would also direct attention to the Inaugural Address delivered to the Auckland Society, by its first President, Mr. Whitaker, as I have stated on a previous occasion, “Co-operation is the secret of success in all scientific pursuits; and the New Zealand Institute, while leaving its affiliated societies unfettered in the performance of their separate functions, will publish their chief transactions on a uniform plan, thereby concentrating the information collected by local observers throughout the country, and providing for the preservation, in a permanent and accessible form, of the result of their labours.”
Passing from the records in the annual volume, it now seems desirable to notice briefly the progress which has been achieved during the past year, under the auspices of the Institute, in various points of practical and scientific enquiry.
1. The establishment of a uniform system of time, to be observed throughout the Colony, in pursuance of a decision of the Legislature to that effect, has rendered necessary the erection of a small Observatory, which is now nearly complete.
2. The attention of the Government having been solicited by Commodore Lambert, to the expediency of a more accurate determination of the longitude of this Colony, a Board has been appointed to take advantage, for this purpose, of the above-mentioned Observatory. As this establishment will be in communication, by electric telegraph, with all other stations, it may be rendered available for determining the differences of longitude between the several parts of these Islands.
3. Much practical interest attaches to the accurate investigation of the prevailing currents of the ocean, and the ends of science would be promoted by taking systematic observations with the thermometer and dredge round the New Zealand coasts. Some progress has already been made in this direction, and we may confidently rely on the co-operation of the Admiralty, in this, and in all other enquiries of a similar nature.
4. The reports of the Meteorological Department show, that the machinery for carrying out this important branch of research is now thoroughly organized, and that full dependence may be placed on the results, as affording an exact comparison of the climate in the several districts of these Islands. Meteorological data, respecting the southern latitudes, will be of great assistance to the expeditions organized to visit these seas in 1874–1882, with the special object of making astronomical observations of the same kind as those, which first, one hundred years ago, led Captain Cook to this quarter of the globe. It should never be forgotten that it was an expedition planned for the purpose of one scientific determination, which ultimately brought about the settlement of the entire group of the Australian Colonies.
5. From the reports of the Geological Department it will be seen that fossils have been obtained which will facilitate the comparison of our coal strata with those of the neighbouring Australian Continent; also, that New Zealand is not without representatives of the secondary formations, containing the remains of gigantic reptiles, similar to those occurring in England, and so familiar to us through the writings of Buckland and Mantell.
To the same department belong Captain Hutton's Reports on the Thames Gold Fields, showing, in a clear and suggestive manner, the wonderful development of that district.
I have already detained you too long, and can now only allude to many more interesting subjects; among others, to the efforts of the several Acclimatization Societies already established in New Zealand. We may confidently hope that, sooner or later, they will be as successful in introducing the salmon and other fish, as they have already proved in introducing so many of the animals and birds of the Old World.
In concluding this imperfect sketch, it would be unpardonable to omit a further and fuller reference to the fact, that this is the hundredth year since the arrival, in New Zealand, of Captain Cook. He landed for the first time in this country, in October, 1769, at Turanganui, which he afterwards named Poverty Bay,—apparently because the ferocity of the Natives of that district (of which we have lately had fresh and terrible experience), prevented him from obtaining water and other supplies for his crew. When, some months ago, I visited Turanganui, and stood on the spot where tradition reports that the illustrious navigator first set his foot on these shores, the thought struck me that it would have cheered his gallant spirit, amidst his many dangers and distresses, if his imagination (a faculty seldom wholly wanting in great men) could have portrayed the future destiny of the Terra Australis—of the vast Continent and Islands of the Southern Ocean—previously invested, like the fabled Atlantis of old, by the reports of the early Dutch and Spanish navigators —with a dim and mysterious interest, but which Cook first made practically known to his own countrymen, and, through them to the civilized world. It would, however, have required prophetic inspiration to foretell, that in the “Great Southern Land,” in which Cook first recommended the foundation of British settlements, there would arise, within less than a century after that recommendation, a British Empire, embracing a territory nearly as large as Europe, and already far surpassing in wealth, in trade, in all the arts which advance and adorn civilization, those American colonies, which, a hundred years ago, were on the eve of renouncing their allegiance to the mother country. It need scarcely be mentioned, among the many obvious proofs and illustrations of these statements, that, in 1769, the trade of all the Colonies which now form the American Republic and the Dominion of Canada, did not much exceed in value three millions sterling yearly; whereas the trade of New Zealand alone now reaches nearly ten millions sterling, while the annual trade of all the Australasian Colonies reckoned together amounts to sixty millions sterling. Again, the richest and most populous city in North America, a century back, was Boston, which, though then more than one hundred and fifty years old, contained only 20,000 inhabitants. Now, in 1869, Melbourne, the largest and wealthiest city in the southern hemisphere, though barely thirty-five years old, contains not far from 150,000 inhabitants.
Many here present must be familiar with the celebrated passage in one of the most eloquent speeches of Edmund Burke, where the aged statesman, Lord Bathurst, is supposed to have foreseen, in his youth, with the aid of a heavenly guide, the rise of American colonization from insignificance to greatness during his own lifetime—that is, during the first seventy years of the eighteenth century. “Suppose,” said the brilliant orator, “that the angel of the auspicious youth, foreseeing the many virtues which made him one of the most amiable, as he is one of the most fortunate, men of his age, had
opened to him in vision, that when in the fourth generation, the third Prince of the House of Brunswick had sat twelve years on the throne of that nation, which (by the happy issue of moderate and healing councils) was to be made Great Britain, he should see his son, Lord Chancellor of England, turn back the current of hereditary dignity to its fountain, and raise him to a higher rank of peerage, whilst he enriched the family with a new one. If amidst these bright and happy scenes of domestic honor and prosperity, that angel should have drawn up the curtain and unfolded the rising glories of his country; and whilst he was gazing with admiration on the then commercial grandeur of England, the genius should point out to him a little speck, scarce visible in the mass of the national interest, a small seminal principle, rather than a formed body, and should tell him: ‘Young man, there is America, which at this day serves for little more than to amuse you with stories of savage men and uncouth manners, yet shall, before you taste of death, show itself equal to the whole of that commerce which now attracts the envy of the world. Whatever England has been growing to, by a progressive increase of improvement, brought in by varieties of people, by succession of civilizing conquests and civilizing settlements in a series of seventeen hundred years, you will see as much added to her by America in the course of a single life?’ If this state of his country had been feretold to him, would it not require all the sanuine credulity of youth, and all the fervid glow of enthusiasm, to make him believe it? Fortunate man he has lived to see it!”… I need not remind you that the progress of America during the first three quarters of the eighteenth century, which appeared so wonderful to the statesmen of that age, was insignificant when compared with the progress of Australia and New Zealand within the memory of many of those whom I now see around me.
The centenary of the first arrival of Captain Cook in these seas has been commemorated at Sydney by the erection of a statue in his honor. The foundation stone of the pedestal was recently laid by the Duke of Edinburgh, the great grandson of that sovereign whom Cook had proclaimed the lord of this mighty segment of the globe. On that occasion His Royal Highness spoke in words that well deserved to be recorded, as follows:—“One of the happiest privileges which the members of the Royal Family enjoy is, that of being able to do honor to the memory of great men and of noble deeds, by their presence at such a ceremony as that which we are met to perform to-day. But when the man whose fame we desire to commemorate, has, by a life of great discoveries and of scientific research, increased so materially the territorial extent of the empire, and has conferred so great benefits upon the whole civilized world by his valuable additions to geographical knowledge, and when, by these noble actions he has shed a lustre upon the profession to which he belonged, and to which I am so proud to belong—I mean the maritime service of the greatest maritime nation of the world—then indeed I feel that a
very high honor is conferred upon me in having my name associated with this memorial of his greatness. There is no one among the names of England's heroes more deserving of this recognition on your part, and none whose career could be held up as a brighter example to every Englishman, than that of Captain Cook. Humble as his origin was, he possessed that true nobility of character, which has for its object, not the aggrandizement of self, but the welfare of the nation. He is among the chief of those who, in making Englishmen proud of their name and of their mother country, have helped to cement in one powerful brotherhood the subjects of the British Empire in every part of the world. In conclusion, I trust that there are many among the sons of Australia who will emulate his example, and gild with noble deeds the name of this great country, and the fame of England.”
Had the present circumstances of this country permitted it, the Duke of Edinburgh would have been requested, on behalf of the New Zealand Institute, to join with us in some similar celebration. There can be no doubt, but that the time will come when there will arise in this country, as at Sydney, a monument to the memory of Captain Cook. Meanwhile, let us at least place on record, among the Transactions of the Institute, that we are not forgetful that this is the hundredth anniversary of his first arrival in New Zealand; and that we yield to no community of our countrymen, elsewhere, in admiration for his character, and for the magnificence of his achievements. It has been truly remarked that Cook, as a seaman and navigator, occupies the first rank in nautical history and science; and that later mariners and observers, though they have added to his discoveries, have rarely found it possible to dispute them. In his charts and journals nothing is uncertain, nothing is irrelevant, the modern investigator starts from them as from authorities of undoubted accuracy. A few years ago, I had myself a favorable opportunity, in concert with the late lamented Commodore Burnett, during our voyage of 1,200 miles along the eastern coast of Queensland, from Moreton Bay to Cape York, of verifying the vivid truth of Cook's observations. Every bay and headland was, at first sight, easily recognized from his graphic descriptions, often from the picturesque and somewhat humorous names, for example—Cape Upstart, Cape Bowling Green, the Glasshouse Mountains, and the like, which he had assigned to them. In a word, the fresh explorations of every year display more fully the value of Cook's discoveries, and the almost prophetic foresight with which he was guided and inspired. It has been said, without any exaggeration, that he stands forth as the founder of a new era in nautical discovery, and as the revealer of a new world.