It is the usual custom for the President of this Society to address the members at an early period during the session for which he is elected. I will on the present occasion conform to the custom by selecting a few subjects for comment which relate either to the past Transactions of the Institute or to collateral scientific work which has been done in the colony during the last few years, and which, I think, may be reviewed with profit.
I wish, in the first place, to allude to one section of our published Transactions to which only very short notice has been devoted in previous addresses from this chair, as some of the results are important from a practical point of view. I allude to the communications on chemical subjects, which, with one exception, have all been made by Mr. Skey, the Analyst to the Geological Survey Department.
I am aware that such papers are not very attractive to the general reader, nor can they be expected to excite much interest or discussion at our meetings; but it must be remembered that the statements advanced in chemical papers are not mere opinions or theories, but describe actual experimental observations which are open to the test of verification by other chemists in their own laboratories.
One of the subjects of most general interest on which Mr. Skey has written disproves the view generally held that gold is unaffected by sulphur or sulphuretted hydrogen gas, and shows on the other hand that these elements combine with avidity, and that the gold thus treated resists amalgamation with mercury, a most important fact, which, it will be remembered, was strikingly illustrated by experiment after one of our meetings. The author has also proved this act of absorption of sulphur by gold to be a chemical act, as he has shown that electricity is generated in sufficient quantity and intensity during the process to decompose metallic solutions. He thinks further that much native gold is thus sulphurized, and that this circumstance is the greatest obstacle to its thorough amalgamation in ordinary quartz mills.
Mr. Skey was led to this interesting observation while investigating the causes of the loss of gold experienced in the Thames district, and the object of his inquiry must be held to have been satisfactorily accomplished by the discovery of this important fact.
He was aware that sulphur in certain forms has long been known to exercise a prejudical effect upon the amalgamation of gold, but this has always been attributed to the combination of the sulphur with the quicksilver used; now, however, it is certain that the sulphurizing of the gold itself must be taken into account. So long as our chemical books described gold as being unaffected by sulphuretted hydrogen it appeared as if in the ordinary amalgamating process we had nothing to fear from this gas, except its effect upon the mercury, but now that it is proved that gold itself is also readily attacked by this compound we must take the circumstance also into account that the particles of gold in the stone may be enveloped with a film of auriferous sulphide, by which they are protected from the solvent action of the mercury.
The merit of this discovery, from an experimental point of view, is that the sulphurization of the gold gives no ocular manifestation by change of colour or perceptible increase of weight, as in the case of the formation of sulphides of silver, lead, and other metals, on account of the extremely superficial action of the sulphur, and hence probably the existence of the gold-sulphide hitherto escaped detection by chemists.
Closely allied to this subject is the investigation of the mode in which certain metals are reduced from their solutions by metallic sulphides, or, in common language, the influence which the presence of such substances as mundic and galena may exercise in effecting the deposit of pure metals such as gold in mineral lodes. As this investigation has a very direct bearing on the discussions relative to the origin of large gold nuggets and the heavy masses of gold that are sometimes found in reefs formed by hydrothermic agencies, I will take this opportunity of stating the position of the question.
The close relation which the richness of gold veins bears to the prevalence
of pyrites has been long familiar both to scientific observers and practical miners, and I remember in 1860 specimens of quartz were given to me in California having cavities left by the decomposition of cubic pyrites, and which contained only a brown powder of oxide of iron and thin films of gold, as showing that the pyrites and not the quartz was the true matrix of gold.
This view, however, has not proved to be the correct one, the gold having been shown to be an after deposit to the pyrites, and, as Mr. Skey has been the first to explain, due to its direct reducing influence. It appears that in the first place my friend Mr. Daintree, who is now Agent-General for the Colony of Queensland, at the time he was on the geological survey staff of Victoria, pointed out that a nucleus of gold, when placed in a solution of chloride of gold undergoing decomposition by organic matter, is increased in bulk by a deposit of pure gold. Following up this hint, Mr. Wilkinson, also a Victorian chemist, found that many other substances, chiefly metallic sulphides, would also act as nuclei, but that quartz does not do so; and Mr. Cosmo Newbury afterwards indorsed the correctness of these results. In this state of the question Mr. Skey took up the subject, and by a series of experiments, which are detailed in our Transactions, proved that the organic matter is not at all necessary to produce the reduction of the metal, but that it is due bo the direct action of the sulphide, and showed that each grain of iron pyrites, when thoroughly oxidised, will reduce 12¼ grains of gold from its solution as chloride, which is a proportion far beyond that which could be effected by the same weight of organic matter. He also included salts of platina and silver in this general law, and demonstrated that solutions of any of these metals traversing a vein rock containing certain sulphides would be decomposed and the pure metal deposited.
We are thus enabled to comprehend the constant association of gold, or native alloys of gold and silver, in veins which traverse rocks containing an abundance of pyrites, whether they have been formed as the result of either sub-aqueous volcanic outbursts or by the metamorphism of the deeper-seated strata which compose the superficial crust of the earth.
Still following the same line of induction, Mr. Skey has also shown by very carefully conducted experiments that the metallic sulphides are not only better conductors of electricity than has hitherto been supposed, but that when paired they are capable of exhibiting strong electro-motive power. Thus, if galena and zinc-blende in acid solutions be connected in the usual manner of a voltaic pair, sulphuretted hydrogen is evolved from the surface of the former, and a current generated which is sufficient to reduce gold, silver, or copper from their solutions in coherent electro-plate films.
By pairing the different metallic sulphides Mr. Skey was further able to construct a table of their relative value as electro-motors and conductors
of electricity, the latter of which a comparative quality, he suggests might be usefully employed as a preliminary test in the analysis of mixed minerals.
The attributing of this property of generating voltaic currents, hitherto supposed to be almost peculiar to metals, to such sulphides as are commonly found in metalliferous veins, further led Mr. Skey to speculate how far the currents discovered to exist in such veins by Mr. E. Fox some forty years ago might be produced by the gradual oxidation of mixed sulphides, and that veins containing bands of different metallic sulphides, bounded by containing walls and saturated with mineral waters, may constitute under some circumstances and large voltaic battery competent to produce electro depositions of metals, and that the order of the deposit of these mineral lodes will be found to bear a definite relation to the order in which the sulphides rank in the table of their electro-motive power.
It is quite unnecessary for me to point out that these researches have a most practical bearing on bur knowledge of the conditions under which precious metals will be found, and when applied by geologists may yet lead to some clearer comprehension than we at present possess of the law which regulates the distribution of auriferous veins, and why in some cases the metal should be nearly pure, while in others it is so largely alloyed with silver.
There are many other subjects, to which I cannot at present refer, on which Mr. Skey has advanced our knowledge, such as the investigation of the poisonous matter of the tutu, karaka, and other indigenous plants, the formation of coal seams, and Other matters of interest.
As being a subject of general interest at the present time, in the discussion of which many of our members who have not much taste for technical science can take part, I wish now to refer to the state of opinion relative to what we must term the pre-historic period of New Zealand.
A most complete summary of the views on this subject prevalent a few years ago is given in Professor Hochstetter's valuable work on this colony, in which he adopted the conclusion that the Maoris first arrived in New Zealand about 500 years since, and gradually spread over the country, altering the surface features considerably, and, for instance, among other changes effected the extermination of the Moa, which, from the authorities he quotes, he supposes to have survived to about the middle of the seventeenth century.
I do not feel competent to judge of the extent to which Mr. J. T. Thomson's paper in the last volume of the Transactions modifies the previous opinions held respecting the origin and migration of the Maori race,* but his paper, and also the critical paper by Mr. Travers,† on the Value of native traditions as evidence appear to indicate that the subject is still open to discussion, and I am glad to learn that during our meetings this season we may expect several communi-
[Footnote] *See Trans. N.Z. Inst., Vol. IV., Art I.
[Footnote] †Vol. IV., Art. II. 1
cations from Mr. Travers and other members relative to the early history of the Maoris, and what will, have even, greater interest, the traditions that have been preserved by the small remnant of the Moriori race that now survives in the Chatham, Islands.
There is one branch of investigation relative to the native race to the importance of which I venture to invite the attention of medical men in this colony who have opportunities for collecting such information, and that is the nature and especially the early history of the diseases that are peculiar to the natives, and to which they were subject before the arrival of Europeans. I will only instance as an example one disease, respecting which it is desirable that full information should be obtained, and that is leprosy, as from remarks that lately appeared in the newspapers relative to the occurrence of leprosy in the Sandwich Islands, I infer that it is it generally known that there is a form of this disease amongst the Maoris, although it is mentioned by Mr. Colenso and other writers. I have myself seen eight or ten cases in the interior of this Island, and I observe that during a recent visit to Stewart Island, Professor McGregor found two well marked cases even in that comparatively ungenial climate. The unfortunate victims of this disease were, I believe, in former times kept carefully secluded, but I fear that this provision for preventing the spread of the disease, like many other old customs of the natives, is now less rigidly enforced. In the case of the Maoris it is usually supposed that it can be traced to the use of improper food, but, whatever be the cause, experience in other countries where this insidious disease prevails dictates that proper seclusion of the sufferers should be maintained.
Leaving to others the discussion of purely historical and traditional matters affecting the Maoris, I shall advert to the period at which the gigantic Moa birds were exterminated, and the circumstances that led to their destruction. Communications relative to this subject occupy a very large share of the last volume of our Transactions, and conflicting opinions are expressed which deserve a brief notice.
This question has an important bearing on many inquiries that should occupy our attention in New Zealand. You are all well aware that this country possesses an indigenous fauna and flora that is peculiar to these islands. The period at which it first acquired this insular character is a most interesting subject for investigation by the geologist, and the period of the first interruption of that isolation from other zoological and botanical regions which must have been effected by the introduction of the human race is not less important in its relation to the diffusion and persistence of types of animals and plants.
The destruction of the Moa must have been one of the most obvious and direct results of this, accompanied no doubt by extensive, alteration in the
flora of the country by the rapid spread of fires. It is true that fires probably originated in some districts in the North Island from volcanic eruptions, and that the large open tracts in the vicinity of Taupo where there are pumice drifts, containing charred wood, are probably of an earlier date than the first arrival of the Maori race, but in the South Island there are no recent volcanos to account for the spread of fires, and there is no other cause to which the conversion of what has evidently been within a modern period forest land, first into scrub and finally into grass land, can be attributed, except artificial fires.
The co-existence of man with the Moa, and the fact that these gigantic birds were hunted and consumed as food, was long ago recognized, in the first instance I believe by Mr. Mantell, but the question of whether it was by the ancestors of the Maori race now inhabiting these islands was never distinctly raised till last year, when Dr. Haast did so in the first of the series of papers on the subject to which I have referred.
In this communication Dr. Haast, led by his extensive researches and the study of a magnificent collection of Moa bones, and of the ancient native cooking-places, which are plentiful on the east coast of the province of Canterbury, adopts the view that the extinction of the Moa was effected by a race of men altogether distinct from the Maoris, who belonged to the palæolithic period, and had passed away long before the Maori settled here.
The evidence upon which this hypothesis is based is of two kinds. First the nature of the implements that were used by the early Moa-hunters, as Dr. Haast terms them, and secondly the supposed ignorance either direct or traditionary, which the Maoris display of the former existence of the Moa. There are other arguments brought forward, but as they are not so direct in their bearing on the question I will not allude to them on the present occasion. The description given of the cooking-places in which Moa bones have been found by Mr. Mantell, Dr. Haast, and other observers, does not indicate any difference in the habits of the Moa-hunters from the ordinary mode of life of the Maoris even at the present day; the only supposed peculiarity being the occurrence in the ovens of rough stone flakes with cutting edges instead of the polished implements of stone which we are accustomed to see now in the hands of the natives.
It is hardly necessary to point out, as has been already done repeatedly, that evidence of this kind cannot be considered to establish a difference of race, for the uses to which the two kinds of stone implements could be applied must have been totally different. It has never been alleged that before the time of Captain Cook's visit the natives were in possession of any cutting instruments made of metal; and yet as they ate seals, porpoises, and other fleshy animals, they must have had some means of cutting them up, and for
this sharp-edged flakes of stone would be best adapted. I am inclined to think that the old Maori woman who officiated as cook at one of the Moa-hunters encampments would have found it a most trying task to dismember a Moa with a polished stone adze or a green-stone mere, even if she would profane so valued an implement for such a purpose; and I also think that unless the meat were very much overcooked the hungry Moa-hunters, however large their stock in trade of polished weapons might be, would prefer to pick up a sharp-edged stone to assist them in cutting slices from the ponderous drum sticks. The fact is that the adzes and other polished tools were no doubt then, as they are now, used as implements for tilling the soil and grubbing up fern root, and when occasion required, for felling a tree or a foe, and that for cutting up a pig or flaying a seal, a Maori, if he had no knife, would at the present day use sharp stone flakes, of which there are abundance about all Maori cooking-places, especially on the sea coast, where their services are most required. I may mention as a further confirmation of this view that among a very interesting collection recently brought by Mr. Henry Travers from the Chatham Islands, where no Moa bones have ever been found, there are many of these flakes, together with stone implements of all kinds, rude and polished, specimens of which are on the table for your inspection.
The other evidence advanced by Dr. Haast respecting the absence of any traditions among the Maoris of the existence of this remarkable bird within the memory of the race is merely negative, and against which contrary evidence can be advanced. Dr. Haast quotes Mr. Colenso, who was well acqainted with the Maoris at the time when the former existence of the Moa first became known to Europeans, and who admits that they had a certain amount of indefinite information concerning the existence* of large birds like the Moa prior to that date, but attributes it to the traditions of the cassowary, which they had preserved from the time of their original migration from Hawaiki. Dr. Haast also suggests, as a further source of their knowledge, that these were the bones of a
[Footnote] * Polack, whose observations were made many years before the first discovery of Moa bones by Europeans, says:—“That a species of the Emu, or a bird of the genus Struthio, formerly existed in the latter (North) Island I feel well assured, as several large fossil ossifications were shown to me when I was residing in the vicinity of the East Cape, said to have been found at the base of the inland mountain of Ikorangi. The natives added that in times long past they received the tradition that very large birds had existed, but the scarcity of animal food, as well as the easy method of entrapping them, had caused their extermination.” And speaking of the South Island he states:—“I feel assured, from the many reports I received from the natives, that a species of Struthio still exists on that interesting (South) Island, in parts which, perhaps, have never yet been trodden by man. Traditions are current among the elder natives, of Atuas, covered with hair, in the form of birds, having waylaid former native travellers among the forest wilds, vanquishing them with an overpowering strength, killing and devouring, etc.”—Polack's “New Zealand,” Lond, 1838, Vol. I., pp. 303, 307.
Struthious bird, and that they had no doubt, on finding these huge bones, compared them, with those of the existing kiwi, and thus arrived at a correct conclusion respecting the nature of the original owners, and even determined the kind of feathers with which the bird was clothed. Such an exercise by the untutored savage of scientific skill, that among civilized nations is only acquired by great comparative anatomists, is to my mind less easy to understand than that the Maoris bad at one time been familiar with the Moa in the district where the inquiries were made. So far as the subject can be enlightened by a study of the language and traditions of the natives, I am sure there can be no higher authority than Mr. Colenso, whose high scientific reputation was established at an early date in the colony by his many contributions to the natural history of the country; and I sincerely trust that he will yet find leisure from the great philological work on which he is now engaged to go fully into this matter; but there is also the evidence of his own observations to be taken into account, relative to which I will read to you the account of his earliest acquaintance with the Moa, as it was communicated by him to the “Tasmanian Journal,” in 1842:—
He states that during the summer of 1838 he accompanied the Rev W. Williams on a visit to the tribes inhabiting the East Cape district. Whilst at Waiapu, a thickly inhabited locality about 20 miles south-west from the East Cape, he heard from the natives of a certain monstrous animal, which, while some said it was a bird and others a “person,” all agreed that it was called a Moa, that in general appearance it resembled an immense domestic cock, with the difference, however, of its possessing a face like a man;* that it dwelt in a cavern in the precipitous side of a mountain; that it lived on air, and was attended or guarded by two immense tuataras, who, Argus like, kept incessant watch while the Moa slept; and that if any one possessing temerity sufficient dared to approach the dwelling of this wonderful creature he would be infallibly killed by it—the process suggested being trampling to death—indicating, I venture to think, that they knew the habits of the bird, which were no doubt like those of the emu in its mode of attack. He further states that the belief in the Moa was universal, and to doubt it was a crime. Natives had, however, seen and described large bones, which they ascribed to the Moa, and all the natives had great fear of the bird, and belief in its prodigious physical power. On returning to the Bay of Islands, natives from the East Cape district confirmed the foregoing information.
In 1839 the Rev. Mr. Taylor,† being at the East Cape and hearing of the Moa, searched, and was rewarded by finding a gigantic toe of the bird. In 1841–42, while at Waiapu, he heard that Wakapunake had been visited by
[Footnote] *Mr. Mantell suggests that the phrase would be “Ahua tangata,” which might be rendered “stature of a man.”
[Footnote] † Vide ante p. 67.
some baptized natives, and, though they found no live Moa, they found some huge bones, which they declared to be those of the true Moa. These had been collected by the natives apparently as a matter of course, for the manufacture of fish-hooks, for he obtained such hooks.
Mr. Colenso then proceeded himself to the mountains, and made inquiries at a native village, where he was informed that the Moa still lived, though he had not been seen. The bones were, however, stated to be common. Similar inquiries in another district—Tiwhiti—also reported to be inhabited by Moas, gave the same result, the natives proving their knowledge of the bones, and that they belonged to the Moa, but without being able to afford any proof that they were justified in believing that he still lived. These inquiries stimulated the natives to search, so that in a short time the bones of nearly thirty birds, all of one gigantic species, were obtained.
After thus recounting his experiences, Mr. Colenso proceeds to infer that the above knowledge of the existence of this bird must have been merely traditionary; but I do not think this a fair deduction, because Mr. Colenso evidently hoped to be shown the live bird by the natives he employed, and though the natives could not do so, they yet had no difficulty in finding the bones for him in large numbers and in perfect preservation. It must also be remembered that the natives with whom Mr. Colenso communicated on the subject lived in a district which was the first settled by their ancestors, and that, although the Moa may there have been extinct for many generations, this is no reason why it may not even at that date have been existing in the South Island for all they knew to the contrary.
Having in a former communication on the subject referred to the interior of Otago as probably the part of New Zealand in which the Moa survived longest, and feeling anxious to discover the condition in which that district was found by the first European explorers, I applied to my friend Mr. John Buchanan, who is as distinguished for his power of accurate observation as he is for the skilfully executed lithographs which illustrate our Transactions and Natural History publications.
Mr. Buchanan was attached to the first surveying—I may call it exploring—party sent out by the Otago Government in 1856 into the district where the best preserved Moa remains have since been discovered, the surveyor in charge being Mr. Garvie, who was at the time in bad health and did not long survive the hardships the party underwent.
They penetrated as far as what is now the Cromwell township, at the upper end of the Dunstan gorge, or almost seventy-five miles west from the coast in a direct line, the settled country, or rather that which had been taken up as sheep runs, not extending at the time beyond the depression between the Manguatua or Lammerlaw ranges, or a distance of twenty-five
miles back from the east cost in a direct line. The Rough Ridge, Raggedy, Rock and Pillar, and Dunstan ranges, with their intervening rallies, were prior to their visit a terra incognita, as far as Europeans were concerned. The upland district east of the Lammerlaw hills, between 2,000 and 4,000 ft., was at that time covered partly with coarse grass and partly with dense scrub. The grass patches had been several times burnt, much to the detriment of the country, as the finer species were giving place to the coarse tussock-grasses (Danthonia), spear-grass (Aciphylla), and other worthless pasture plants. The scrub consisted of open sub-alpines, consisting chiefly of Veronicas and Celmisias, such as still survive in most parts of these uplands. The form of the surface and the abundance of well-preserved trunks of trees in certain parts of this district showed that at no distant date it had been forest land. In this district Moa bones were remarkably abundant, the large leg bones lying strewn on the surface in great profusion and in very perfect preservation, most of them being quite hard, except when they had been roasted by the later grass fires. At the same time, Mr. Buchanan remembers that much fresher bones had been found near the coast, and that it was well known to some of the old settlers at Green Island, near Dunedin, that the dogs used to be seen gnawing the Moa bones, which we must therefore presume contained some nutritious juices. This is a very important statement, because it has been urged that the superior state of preservation in which the Dunstan Moa remains have been recently found is due to the extreme dryness of the climate of the interior of Otago. But this argument is quite inapplicable to bones found on any part of the eastern seaboard, where the climate is well known to be extremely moist even now, and must have been still more so when the country was covered with dense forest such as that which still surrounds or till within a few years did surround Dunedin harbour.
Leaving the occupied country and pushing north-west towards the Dunstan, the ranges were found covered with rich sub-alpine scrubby vegetation, the soil being deep and well pulverized by the frosts. The formidable spear-grass abounded in the gullies, being six to eight feet high, and flower-stalks four and five inches in diameter, but every here and there patches of good pasture were found. Paradise ducks and a few of the smaller species abounded near the lagoons and water-courses, and except a few small black hawks, larks and grass-birds were the only representatives of the feathered tribes met with. Pigs, which abounded on the eastern side of the Lammerlaw range, had not found their way westward at that time, nor indeed were they ever abundant in the far interior, but wild dogs of a great variety of breeds were commonly seen, living chiefly upon ducks; every swamp and creek-side having well-beaten dog tracks along their margins. These dogs were very tame, or rather had no sense of danger, as they used to sit down at a short distance and watch
the party in a very cool manner. They comprised many varieties, some being evidently collie or sheep dogs, and a bull terrier was also seen, but all of breeds that had escaped from Europeans. As an instance in proof of this, Mr. Buchanan mentions that a spotted coach dog that escaped from Mr. Jones at Waikouaiti, gave rise to a numerous and easily recognized progeny of wild dogs. These dogs are therefore not to be confounded with the true wild dogs of New Zealand, of which only a few specimens have been obtained, and always in dense bush such as the district between the Mataura and Waikava. Rats were also present in this country, but did not form so conspicuous a feature as in later years.
In the wide extent of the Manuherikia and upper Clutha basins, which are occupied by beautifully moulded terraces, the character of the vegetation was different from that on the ranges. The terraces were covered by a smooth, equal, but sparse growth of short green grass, that from a distance appeared like the turf of a well-trimmed lawn, but on walking over it proved only to be a thin scattering of grass plants with very light soil between, that rose in clouds of dust on being disturbed. A fire had evidently only a short time previously run over these plains, and from the total absence of all larger vegetation it is very probable that, owing to the dryness of the soil, the fires had done their work more thoroughly than on the ranges. It is therefore not to be wondered at that no Moa bones were observed on these level terraces, although it is in the recent alluvium and in the crevices of the rocks surrounding this very district that all the freshest specimens have been lately obtained. Indeed, so far as bones on the surface are concerned, the very dryness of the climate, which might be suggested as a reason for their preservation, was the actual cause of their more thorough destruction, by favouring the passage of fires over the district. Near the rivers the level flats that are liable to be flooded and altered during freshets were occupied by a very dense growth of scrub, chiefly of Olearia virgata and Coprosmas. On the more open parts of the river-bed Maori cabbage grew in great luxuriance, the stems forming thickets 4 or 5 ft. high, through which it was difficult to force a path. In this river-bed scrub Moa bones were abundant, and it is in sandy ground occupying this very position that the remarkably perfect skeleton now in the York Museum, and more recently the Moa feathers, were found. The only trace of natives seen by the party was an old cultivation, about an acre in extent, in the Dunstan gorge, which could not have been long abandoned, as the crop of Maori cabbage with which it was stocked had not spread beyond the line of the fence; but many other traces of the visits of natives have since been discovered by the diggers. Among other things, Mr. John Graham in 1865 found a roll of tapa cloth under one of the overhanging rock caves which are so common in the district, and I have myself found fishing appliances and bags made of kelp in similar positions, but lower down the river.
This account of the features of the interior of Otago prior to its occupation by Europeans goes to establish that the destruction of the original forest and the destruction of the greater number of Moas must have been coincident, and that the after-growth which sprung up to cover the surface on which the prostrate trees and Moa bones lay was still growing on the ranges over which Mr. Garvie's party pushed their way, but that the burning on the terraces in the dry basins had been so frequently repeated that the vegetation had been at that date reduced to grass alone, and the Moa bones destroyed, just as has taken place during the last fifteen years over the whole of the rest of the country.
From the freshness of the timber lying on the ground, and the character of the growth that had succeeded it, no very great period could have elapsed since the last of the forest was destroyed; but the process of destruction was no doubt gradual, the heavy bush on the slopes of the hills being first reduced to clumps and patches, then confined to gullies, and finally exterminated in the same manner as can be observed in wooded parts of New Zealand at the present day.
But it must not be forgotten that a large area of the rolling country in Otago was much too high ever to carry forest, and this was no doubt the reason for the extraordinary profusion of Moas in this district, as they would feed on these large open patches, which must have had an extent of some thousand square miles.
As a great deal has been said about the absence of any mention of the Moa in Maori legends, I will read a note which Mr. Mantell has just received from Sir George Grey, in reply to an inquiry on the subject, and in passing I may state that Mr. Mantell himself has no doubt that the South Island natives, when he first collected Moa bones with their assistance, were well acquainted with their nature, and that they belonged to a bird that had become extinct quite recently.
In this note Sir George Grey says, About the Moa I can only say that when I came to New Zealand the old natives always represented it to me as a bird well known to their immediate forefathers. They gave it its name; it is not a fabulous animal with incoherent traditions, but was spoken of by them as the kiwi or other birds getting rare. They often spoke of its disappearance. Sometimes they told me it was possible there might still be living specimens in the Middle Island; others asserted that it had been entirely destroyed. If you turn to page 9 of the Maori poems I printed in 1853 you will find in an old Maori poem this similitude taken from its disappearance, ‘Ka ngaro, i te ngaro, a te Moa.’ Any old native will explain this poem to you.”*
[Footnote] *Also further reference in poems, p. 324, and at p. 74 of the Maori Proverbs. Governor Weld writes to me that when he first explored the open country in the interior of the Marlborough province the natives living on the coast warned him to beware of the Moa, and if he met one not to get behind it as it could kick like a horse and would break his legs.
But I fear that I have dwelt on this subject at too great a length, being led away by the desire to remove the impression that the Moa was limited to a palæolithic period, which is characterized by Sir C. Lyell as a period marked by a difference in the surface features from those now prevailing, or even that a palæolithic period can be recognized at all in New Zealand, as such an hypothesis, if incorrect, as I believe it to be, would greatly mislead those who are investigating the already complicated subject of the migrations of the branches of the human race.
That the Moa lived and flourished during far more remote periods there can be no doubt, but I think the discovery of the bones of the neck of one of the largest species, with feathers, skin, and muscles attached, which is now in the Museum, far outweighs all the arguments that can be advanced, and as Professor Owen pointed out in his first published paper on the subject, shows that the Moa belongs to the same very recent period as the Dodo. I must not neglect to notice that in his latest paper on the subject Dr. Haast has modified his first hypothesis so far as to say that the Maoris are not a fresh migration, but are the direct descendants of the Moa-hunters, and falling back on the supposed inferiority of the early stone implements as proof that the Maoris had attained a higher degree of civilization, he argues that a great period of time must have elapsed to account for that improvement; but against this may be urged that until the Maoris acquired knives from the Europeans they must have cut with flakes of stone with sharp edges, whatever their state of relative advancement may have been, as they possessed no other implements to supply their place. The evidence of the absence of the highly finished weapons from the cooking ovens which Dr. Haast describes at the Rakaia camping place, while they abound on the surface of the ground, appears to me to prove only that the final destruction or departure of the Maoris from that locality was rather sudden, and that in consequence valuable articles were left lying about which were not likely to be found in cooking-places that were in common use. Besides, it is certainly probable that the Moas near the sea coast on the Canterbury plains would be among the first to be destroyed, and that this particular encampment may have been used from a very early date, perhaps a century before the final extermination of the Moa elsewhere. On a revision of the whole question I do not think that the evidence which has been adduced proves that the Moas were not existing in Otago in considerable numbers less than 200 years ago, and that a few might not have survived to within seventy or eighty years; but I am glad to be able to state that Professor Owen intends to reproduce in a collected form his valuable series of memoirs on the Moa, and he will, I hope, take the opportunity to review the different hypotheses which have been advanced on this interesting subject.
As relating to this discussion, I should call attention to the description of
the feathers and microscopic structure of the egg-shell of the Moa by Capt. Hutton, which confirms the modern classification that places the kiwi in a different class of birds from Dinornis and other Struthionidœ, as it proves the incorrectness of the generally received notion that the kiwi is the living representative of the Moa kind that has remained to the present time, the fact being that Struthionidœ, once so abundant, are no longer represented in the New Zealand fauna.
I will now ask your attention while I make a short reference to the geological conditions, which prevailed in the New Zealand area at the time when the Moas may be supposed to have first appeared.
Dr. Haast, than whom there is no better authority on this matter, has stated that the Moa remains first appear in the glacier period, by which is meant, in New Zealand, the period of a former greater extension of the glaciers from their mountain sources.
The condition of New Zealand at this time is a point of great importance, if we keep clearly before us the problem that I have already stated as being one of the greatest interest to students, of the geographical distribution of animals and plants, and that is the period during which New Zealand has maintained its insulation from other large tracts of land.
I regret to observe that in some way the idea has got abroad that New Zealand and other southern lands have just recovered from a period of submergence, and that arguments based on this assumption have been used relative to an alternating of the ocean level between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.
By others our south polar climate is supposed to have undergone great amelioration, and even in Sir Charles Lyell's latest manual we have the choice given to us of either floating ice or land ice as the origin of a boulder-drift, supposed to envelop the country, and to correspond in character to the great boulder-drift of northern Europe and America. I must protest against this, for I am not aware of any evidence of the existence in New Zealand of anything analogous to the glacial drift of the Northern Hemisphere. Our extensive ice-formed drifts are all valley deposits, and exactly analogous to the moraines in the Himalayas and other tropical mountain ranges. They consist of moraines lateral and transverse, most of which occupy vallies radiating from our alpine peaks and ranges, while some outlived the drainage system which they at one time obstructed, and in process of time have come to form the present summit levels, throwing the water in a new direction. But during the long period in which the glaciers were more extensive than now the shingle brought down by the ice-fed torrents was poured out of the mountain gorges to form steeply inclined plains flanking the ranges, with a surface fall of from 35 to 40 feet to the mile. No trace of submergence of the vallies can be
found during this long period, the great duration of which may be judged of from the fact that lake basins, 1,000 feet deep and 10 to 40 miles in length, must have remained filled with ice, whilst the highest alpine vallies, containing many thousand times their cubic contents, were being excavated, and the material being carried over them and distributed in the lower plains outside the ranges, a feature which was first pointed out by Mr. Travers in a paper describing the Rotoiti Lake district of Nelson, which was published in the “Natural History Review,” in 1864.
Even if we resort to the neighbourhood of the sea-coast, where we might expect to find distinct signs of emergence, there the evidence is all in favour of a general subsidence of the land on a great scale during the post-pliocene period.
Vallies that were eroded by the extended glaciers in the hardest rocks, such as the sounds an the west coast of Otago, are now depressed far beneath the level to which they could have been eroded, as their extent and depth have no constant relation to the present area and altitude of the neighbouring mountain ranges.
In a similar manner, in the northern parts of New Zealand, where the rocky framework of the islands forms the coast line, and in situations where it has not been worn into precipitous cliffs by the surf, the vallies are prolonged beneath the water-level in a most distinct manner, forming deep water inlets and harbours, while the low shelving and sandy parts of the coast have a heaped up shore line that appears as if encroaching on the alluvial deposits. Except one raised beach—nowhere more than twenty feet above the sea-level, and which distinctly marks an irregular elevation of the land that has chiefly accompanied earthquakes since the first occupation of the islands by Europeans, and which may be examined at almost any point of this harbour—there is a total want of any inland cliffs, lines of sand-dunes, and ridges, and other familiar evidences of an emerged coast line.
The low country, where such evidence might reasonably be looked for, is invariably formed of marine strata of higher antiquity than the period of the extension of the glaciers, or of swamps that are either still exposed or have been overwhelmed by shingle deposits brought from a higher level by the rivers, as an example of which I need only refer to the sections which have been obtained in boring for artesian wells in Christchurch and elsewhere, which pass through shingle till they strike an old drift-wood bed at eighty to ninety feet beneath the level of the sea.
This peculiarity in the distribution of the alluvial deposits of the province of Wellington, and the important indication afforded by the limited altitude at which pumice drift is found in land-locked harbours not fed by streams that float down pumice from the interior, was adverted to in an early paper to the
Society by Mr. Crawford; and in our last volume Capt. Hutton, in his paper on the alluvial deposits of the Waikato basin, also arrived at the conclusion that the sea has never occupied that large area of slightly elevated land, the most modern marine beds in it belonging to the upper miocene period.
The mountains of New Zealand had, therefore, in all probability their greatest altitude during our great glacier period, but whether that period was attended by any marked changes in the climate analogous to the boreal conditions that prevailed during the equivalent period in the Northern Hemisphere can only be determined by a critical comparison of the fossil shells from marine formations belonging to the same period, if any such can be found.
Referring only to the South Island, and judging from the fossil plants that have been preserved in lignitiferous deposits belonging to the pliocene period, which even in the extreme south of Otago contain large masses of a resin allied to the kauri gum, I venture to anticipate that if there was any difference in the character of the climate at that time, it was not an extension of antarctic conditions, but the reverse. With regard to the period of greatest elevation, the interesting question arises whether New Zealand during that period continued to be isolated from other land areas, or whether its peculiar fauna and flora were established at a time still more remote. From the great depth of the ocean round the islands, and the wide expanse separating them from even the nearest islands—such as the Chatham and Norfolk Islands, both of which possess a closely allied flora—the physical changes required to produce the disseverance must have been enormous and have required a lengthened period for its accomplishment.
We must suppose that the plains of barely consolidated tertiary strata that have been raised above the sea, and over which the progenitors of the Moas first reached New Zealand, have entirely disappeared by denudation and submergence, leaving the remnant of the race of giant birds to inhabit the limited area of these islands from that distant period down to the present time.
If the hypothesis of an excess in the area of elevated land being the cause of the more powerful erosive action of the pleistocene glaciers is correct, since that time there must have been a steady diminution in the area of low-lying land and a gradual liberation of mountain slopes from their snow cap. The effect of this on the rapid diffusion of plant forms and the probable influence which it exercised on the production, by variation, of the species which now characterize our alpine flora, has been ably dealt with by your late President Mr. Travers, in the instructive series of lectures which he delivered two years ago to this Society.
The description of the physical features of this very important epoch in New Zealand geology has been chiefly undertaken by Dr. Haast in various
reports that have not been communicated to our Transactions, but there are various papers on the subject by Messrs. McKerrow, Beal, and Dobson, to which I can refer as showing that the striking phenomena of the New Zealand glacier period have not been neglected by the members of the Institute. I may mention that the lower portions of our tertiary formation have not yet received much notice in our Transactions, and with the exception of one paper by Captain Hutton, and lists of fossils by Mr. Traill and Mr. Buchanan, all the information that has been obtained respecting them since the publication of Professor Hochstetter's work is to be found in the reports, of the Geological Department, which, however, rather deal with local details than attempts at a general classification, which will not be possible till a critical tabulation of the large collections of fossils, a work on which I am glad to say Capt. Hutton is now engaged, has been effected. These formations embrace a very long interval of geological time, and form several very distinct, groups both in mineral character and in the fossils they contain, the lowest of which I incline to think extends into the upper secondary (cretaceous) period. The upper groups are marine, and the lower chiefly fluviatile and of great importance to the colony from its containing the principal deposits of mineral fuel on which we have to depend for our supplies of coal, and notwithstanding the comparatively modern period to which this coal formation belongs it contains coal seams of a valuable character. In the associated sandstones and shales the flora of the period has been in many cases well preserved, and shows that at a period anterior to the deposit of the marine stratum the New Zealand area was clothed with a mixed vegetation of dicotyledonous leaves and ferns that in general character represent those which now constitute the flora of the country.
It would appear from the recent surveys by Dr. Haast that the large saurian reptiles in the Amuri and Waipara beds, the collections of which have been added to largely during the past year by the exertions of Mr. Henry Travers, lived during the formation of these coal seams, and coeval with them was a species of the kauri tree, the leaves of which have been found imbedded with the reptilian bones. May we speculate that even at this still more remote period, which was probably prior to the elevation of a great part of the Swiss Alps, New Zealand formed part of an area that possessed an insular flora, the peculiar characters of which have been preserved to the present time. Only a very skilful investigation and comparison of ample collections of fossil plant remains can determine this.
Such speculations as those on which I have lightly touched are a legitimate incentive to research, and I therefore make no apology for the theoretical character of the subjects on which I have addressed you this evening.
It is no doubt very satisfactory to have the proceedings of our Society
represented in the annual volume by valuable treatises that cannot be controverted, but a little theory now And then in our papers may perhaps awaken interest and provoke friendly discussion, which I take it is one of the most useful objects of our association.
With reference to the views expressed in the address, the Hon. Mr. Mantell remarked that there was a legend extant of a native having killed a Moa and taken the skin to Hawaiki.
Captain Hutton pointed out that the Maoris could possess no traditions of the cassowary or emu that would account for their knowledge of the Moa, as these birds do not belong to any islands where the race of men from which the Maoris are derived are found.
The Hon. Captain Fraser thought at one time that the destruction of the Moa had been accomplished by a race antecedent to the Maoris, which, nine years ago, he had described to the Ethnological Society of London as a race who grilled their food, in distinction to the Maoris, who bake their food, but his recent explorations had convinced him that that view was incorrect.
Dr. Comrie, H.M.S. “Dido,” stated, with reference to the remarks about leprosy, that it had been introduced into the Sandwich Islands since 1852 by Chinese coolies imported to work the sugar plantations, and that it was spreading rapidly amongst the natives. One of the greatest authorities on such diseases had suggested to him that the peculiar virus might have been imported in the dried fish which the coolies carry about with them as food.
Mr. Carruthers stated that a form of this disease is not uncommon among the negros in the American States.
1. “Note on Colluricincla concinna, Hutton,” by Capt. F. W. Hutton, C.M.Z.S. (See Transactions, p. 226.)