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Volume 3, 1870
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3. “Note on Coastal Whaling Stations, and the probability of their being instrumental in the destruction of the young of the Whale,” by J. S. Webb.

Having learnt from a member of the Institute, Mr. Burns, that there was every reason to believe that a whale caught near this port had but recently been delivered when she was captured, I addressed a note to Dr. Drysdale, of Port Chalmers, to ask for further information on the subject. The subject appeared to me to be one of considerable importance. The recent revival of whaling enterprize in this part of the world. recalls the disastrous results which attended the costly attempts of Boyd and Enderby in the same line, some quarter of a century ago. At that time these seas were rapidly depopulated of all species of whales, and it

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occurred to me that the large number of whales captured near this coast, and neighbouring coasts, might have had much to do with this fact. The question which arises is, whether the whales which are caught close to the coast are not chiefly females, which have sought shallow water in order to give birth to their young. On this subject I can obtain no information, and in the hope that other members of the Institute may be better acquainted with the natural history of the tribe, I have thought it desirable to bring the question before this meeting.

In reply to my application, Dr. Drysdale writes as follows:— “There must be some misunderstanding, either on the part of Mr. Burns or yourself, as the fact is, that from unavoidable circumstances I was prevented from seeing the whale. The deductions I drew were thus merely at second hand, and founded on what had been told me by friends (Mr. J. R. Monson and others), accompanied by the fact that when the whale was in tow of the Maoris, it voided a large mass of gelatinous looking matter (apparently from the vagina), which I conjectured might probably be the placenta. My own opinion quite coincides with yours and that of my friend Mr. Burns, as to the propriety of discouraging coastal whale fisheries; but from the hearsay nature of the above, as well as from my comparative ignorance of the subject, you will agree with me that it would be presumption on my part to address the Institute on the subject.”

The Chairman remarked that the whale being a mammal, the fact of killing the mothers whilst the calves were very young, must naturally cause the latter to die from lack of nourishment. It had been ascertained as a fact that the cow whales did frequent the bays and shallows to bring forth their young.

It was resolved to obtain information from old whalers and others as to the calving time of whales, and to communicate with other societies as to the best method of discouraging coastal whaling, which tended to exterminate these animals.

4. The Chairman proposed that a sub-committee should be appointed, to be empowered to make collections of the industrial productions of Otago, to send to the Colonial Society's Museum in London, and of works on the province, to be added to its library.

Mr. Murison asked whether the Colonial Society had, or intended to have, any rooms set apart for such a purpose.

The Chairman said that a museum and library were provided for in its constitution. He did not know whether they had established them yet.

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Mr. Stout thought the Government might take the matter in hand, as inducing immigration.

Mr. Cargill suggested that the Secretary should be written to, asking him whether the Society would take charge of such specimens.

The Chairman adopted the suggestion.

5. Mr. Murison suggested that as flax-dressing had made rapid progress lately, it was a subject with which the Council could well deal at the present time. The first difficulty was that of removing the gum from the fibre, which had been overcome, and the present and future one was that of obtaining a supply of flax in its natural state, for manufacturing purposes. He thought that those who took an interest in flax-dressing should endeavour to discover the best method of cultivating the plant. Mr. Travers, in his paper read before the Canterbury Society, considered that the natural supply would be exhausted in two or three years, but he thought that in districts where flax-dressing machines were in operation, it would be exhausted in a shorter period; in fact it was already falling short in some districts, and from the number of machines which were being made, he thought that the natural supply would very soon cease. The public would recognize the Institute as taking up a practical subject, and if they succeeded in obtaining good papers upon it, they would deserve the thanks of the public. The whole community would benefit by flax dressing, and, no doubt, at a future day, it would be a more profitable industry than gold or wool. He proposed that a premium should be offered for the best paper on the cultivation of flax; or, that a sub-committee should be appointed to obtain information on the subject.

Mr. Cargill thought that the only result that would be gained by offering a premium, would be the production of a number of papers of doubtful value. If the native flax could be brought successfully into the European markets, the demand would only be limited by the supply. Persons cutting it on Government ground, not caring for those who came after them, had wastefully and carelessly destroyed it, and he thought it desirable that they should obtain reliable information on the subject.

The Chairman pointed out that, as they had not the practical knowledge amongst themselves, they would be unable to decide which paper would be best. He disapproved of the course of offering premiums for work which could be done by members of the Society.

Mr. Webb suggested that seeds of the Tihore flax could be procured and grown here.

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The Chairman said it looked better and whiter than any other variety of flax, but he had heard that in reality it was very brittle.

It was suggested that a request be made to the Government to direct the Curator of the Botanical Gardens to grow flax plants for experimental purposes. It would be no expense, and though it would take time, it would be a step in the right direction.

Mr. Cargill approved of this suggestion, and stated that a large number of flax roots had lately been taken to Canterbury from the North for purposes of cultivation.