Account of Travels in Europe and America
7. At the invitation of the President, Dr. Hector then gave a short account of his travels in Europe and America since he left New Zealand.
Dr. Hector thanked the President for the kind terms in which he had welcomed him back to the Society, and said he was not prepared on such short notice to say much. He would first express his deep obligation to the Hon. Mr. Mantell, who, during his protracted absence from the colony, had voluntarily carried on the work of his department, accepting the whole of the responsibility, and performing duties of a multifarious and very laborious kind. He next called attention to the numerous exhibits on the table, for the bulk of which he was indebted to the liberality of Captain Dow, F.Z.S., of the “City of Sydney;” also, to a magnificent Orchid (Dendrobium tokai), standing two feet high, and in full flower, which was also the gift of Captain Dow. This plant was particularly interesting, from the circumstance that the New Zealand flora contains a very diminutive representative of the genus. He pointed also to skins of several remarkable birds from the Farallone Islands, together with a fine series of the eggs of one species, which exhibited a marvellous variety of character, some being creamy white, others green or blue, and others brown. He mentioned that 18,000 dozen of these eggs are annually taken to the San Francisco market, where they are sold for 18d. a dozen. It is computed that 100,000 of these birds breed every season on the islands. He exhibited
also a specimen of the Tropical Booby (Sula fusca), which was captured one day on the yard-arm of the ship, and forthwith sacrificed to science; also, the head of a Leather Turtle (Spharcis coriacea), the carcass of which must have weighed not less than one-third of a ton. After a passing reference to a beautiful white land shell (a species of Bulimus) from the Solomon Islands, and a remarkable Water-Snake (Pelamys), which exhibited the peculiar characteristic of a vertically flattened tail for the purpose of aiding its progression through the water; he pointed to a collection of Birds from Vancouver's Island and North California, which he had been fortunate to obtain for the Museum. There were also some other American Birds. He intended to hand all these over to Dr. Buller for examination and identification, and would therefore only refer now to one of them—a very beautifully-coloured Woodpecker (Colaptes mexicanus), which possessed a spiny-shafted tail expressly adapted to the climbing habits of the bird. In fact, it held on by its legs and tail while hammering at the tree with its powerful beak in search of its food. In addition to these things, he had brought a fine collection of shells from California, which would be valuable for comparison with our own molluscous fauna. Dr. Hector then proceeded to give an account of his recent trip to England, and of its results from a scientific point of view. He had succeeded in making some valuable exchanges with the British Museum. Only part of the collections so obtained had reached the Colony, but there were twelve or fourteen large cases now on their way out. The Fossils taken home by him had been cursorily studied and classified by Professor Etheridge, who was permitted by Professor Ramsay, of the School of Mines, to devote a considerable amount of time to this work. The results would be very valuable, as placing the researches of the Geological Survey, in this respect, on a thoroughly sound and reliable basis. In the next place, he had visited all the Museums where he could obtain material for ethnological investigation, as he considered that this would be very interesting as bearing on the question of the origin of the Maori race. He had endeavoured to interest ethnologists at home in this question, and the first practical outcome had been the valuable treatise by Mr. Vaux, which appeared in last year's volume of “Transactions of the New Zealand Institute.” Among a number of things lent to him by the authorities of the British Museum for examination, he had opened a closed glass case, supposed to contain articles brought home by Captain Cook after one of his voyages to New Zealand, and subsequently handed over to the Museum by the Admiralty. This case contained Native weapons and carvings; but the most interesting of these was a Taiaha, with a bunch of feathers at the top, which he detected to be Moa feathers. This specimen was afterwards submitted to Mr. Sharpe, Professor Newton, and other ornithologists, all of whom pronounced it the feather of a struthious bird, more allied in character to the Ostrich than the Emu, There was also a common pawa shell fish-hook, with an iron barb, to which were attached some feathers with a distinct afterplume—a character not possessed by any New Zealand struthious bird now existing. The evidence thus obtained he considered very valuable, as showing that the Moa existed down to the period when these modern implements were in use by the Maoris. In addition to ransacking Museums for everything of New Zealand interest, he had attended the various meetings of learned Societies, and the annual gathering of the British Association, where he had done all in his power to promote a feeling of interest in the Colony, and to make known its great natural resources. Just as he was preparing to leave England, he received instructions from the Government to visit America, for the purpose of representing the Colony at the Philadelphia Exhibition. He characterized this as the most wonderful industrial collection that the world had ever seen, occupying in space an area about equal to Hyde Park, and embracing exhibits in such number and
variety that it would take months even to get a cursory glance at them. The Agricultural Hall alone was a sight which would attract visitors from all parts of the globe, and was a perfect marvel of what could be accomplished in the way of National Exhibitions. The lecturer concluded with a somewhat detailed account of the New Zealand Court, which occupied a space about equal to the lecture-hall in which the meeting was being held, although somewhat narrower, and held a very creditable position in the group of Colonies represented at the Exhibition. He mentioned the objects which appeared to attract most attention, and referred particularly to the exhibition of Feather Furs by Mr. Liardet, a magnificent series of Photographs by Mr. Deveril, Messrs. Burton Bros., and others, and a fine collection of Maori exhibits forwarded by Mr. Richard Woon, R.M., of Wanganui.
On the motion of the President, a cordial vote of thanks was then passed to Dr. Hector for his address.