Art. IX.—On the Occurrence of Footprints of the Moa at Poverty Bay.
[Read before the Auckland Institute, 29th May, 1871].
On 2nd March last, being at Gisborne, Poverty Bay, I remembered having heard that Archdeacon Williams had discovered some moa footprints in the neighbourhood, and, on inquiry, I speedily found the spot whence he had taken out slabs containing the impressions. The spot is below high-water mark, on the Gisborne side of the Waikanae Creek, within 100 yards of its junction with the Turanganui River. On examination I found some other footprints on the surface of the same stratum, but so much effaced by the wash of the waves as to be scarcely worth removing. Judging, however, by the direction in which these semi-obliterated footsteps led, I determined to split off the overlying strata in hopes of finding some better impressions. In this I fully succeeded, as the blocks in the Museum, containing eight or ten footprints, will show you. A Mr. Worgan, of Napier, has, I see, further prosecuted my explorations. The footmarks are about eight inches in length from the extremity of the heel mark to the point of the projecting toe, and about an equal width between the extreme points of the two side toes. The extreme depth of the heel impression is about one inch to one inch and a quarter under the ordinary surface of the stone. The difference between the point of the toe and extreme of the heel in each step is between five and six inches, and this struck me as extraordinary in relation to so large a bird. Probably observations on the stride of other birds may throw light on the cause of the short distance between each footmark of the bird that left these tracks. The position in which they are found is worthy of special notice. The height of the land above the high-water mark is about five feet. This is composed of sandy alluvium, containing shelly layers of recent species. Below this occur successive strata of imperfectly solidified pumiceous sandy mud-stones, or muddy pumiceous sandstones, each of some four to six inches thick, but separated from each other by a thin layer of from a quarter to half an inch thick of pure coarse sand. These footmarks are found on about the fourth or fifth layer below the alluvial deposit above referred to, and are protected from the superincumbent layer by this thin layer of pure sand to which I have referred. These layers have a dip of about six degrees to the southward, and the footmarks were found about two feet six
inches below the level of the alluvial deposit above, the rock, however, dipping eastward to about ten degrees.
My knowledge does not entitle me to build any theory on the facts observed, save this, that these footmarks are those of a bird proceeding southward over a sandy mud surface, soft enough to receive the impressions, and hard enough to retain them; a surface shortly after protected by a layer of pure sand, probably deposited dry; afterwards receiving successive depositions of similar sandy mud, having time to partially consolidate and receive a renewed drift of dry sand, and so on until an immense deposit of alluvium created the present soil of five feet deep, which was afterwards scooped out by the Waikanae Creek, till the rock surface was arrived at. This is all very recent, and deserves the attention of those having more time and knowledge at their disposal than I have.