Sixth Meeting. 30th September, 1871.
W. T. L. Travers, F.L.S., President in the chair.
1. “Notes on the Habits of some of the Birds of New Zealand,” by W. T. L. Travers, F.L.S. (See Transactions, p. 206).
Captain Hutton drew attention to the important bearing on the Darwinian hypothesis of the peculiarity of the Whio, or Blue Duck, mentioned by Mr. Travers, which does not show any solicitude for the safety of its young like other ducks. Now the Blue Duck, having no allied forms found elsewhere, must be considered as one of the original inhabitants of New Zealand, whereas all the other ducks are, in comparison, colonists, their generic centres of distribution being in the northern hemisphere. There never having been any destructive animals in New Zealand till man came, this original duck never seems to have acquired instinctive fear, which the ancestors of the other ducks must have acquired by experience in other parts of the world before they migrated to New Zealand.
Dr. Hector stated his experience that Wekas were much more easily snared in the South Island than in the North, owing, no doubt, to the greater experience they had acquired of the treachery of men in the island which had the denser native population.
2. “On some Experiments showing the Relative Value of New South Wales and New Zealand Coals as Gas-producing Materials,” by J. Rees George, C.E. (See Transactions, p. 146.)
The results of this inquiry show that, of all coals tried, the best is that from the Grey River, if the value of the coke, ease of working, and other circumstances are taken into account; but if mere gas-producing is the test, the Collingwood coal is superior. Both are, however, far in advance of the Sydney coal. The author stated as an unusual and interesting fact that the “slack” of the Grey coal gives more gas, and of better quality, than the screened coal.
Dr. Hector thought that if the scheme of communication between the coal mine and the port, which Mr. Blackett and he had recommended, were adopted, the coal might be put on board at 8s. per ton. The quantity ascertained to exist is at least 4,000,000 tons, but there is reason to believe that a much greater extent of the seams will prove to be available when the industry is fairly started. He said Mr. George's results agreed very closely with those obtained by small experiments in the laboratory, and he had no hesitation in confirming the high opinion of the value of the coal that had been expressed by the author of the paper.
The Hon. Mr. Waterhouse drew attention to the waste of coal that was taking place in various parts of the colony through wilful firing of the seams, and suggested that it might be advisable to have legislation on the subject.
Dr. Hector informed the meeting that a coal seam, six miles north of the Grey River, was set fire to by some diggers more than a year ago, and is still burning.
3. “Notes in Support of the Alleged Alkalinity of Carbonate of Lime,” by W. Skey, Analyst to the Geological Survey of New Zealand. (See Transactions, p. 323).