Art. LI.—Notes on the Hot Springs Nos. 1 and 2, Great Barrier Island, with Sketches showing the Temperature of the Waters.
[Read before the Auckland Institute, 14th June, 1886.]
I.—On Monday, the 11th January, during the morning, I left Rosalie Bay, situated on the east of the south end of the Great Barrier, in a boat, rounded Cape Barrier, crossed Tryphena Harbour, arriving at Blind Bay in the afternoon.
From Blind Bay to the Hot Springs No. 1 there is a fairly good track, the walking being quite easy, and the surrounding country not being devoid of interest to both the botanist and geologist; but as my time was limited, and my special object was to examine the springs, I could not, though I much wished, search amongst the vast masses of volcanic rock and abundant growth of plants found skirting the heights of the White Cliffs.
When once the cliffs are mounted the track is a comparatively easy one, for the most part consisting of a gradual descent, and any hardship experienced during the first part of the journey quickly vanishes as portions of the forest are entered. Groups of fine Cyathea, Lomaria, and Pteris at once attract attention; and under the spreading leaves of the beautiful nikau (Areca sapida) the weary traveller, if he may be so termed, may rest and refresh himself, the solemn silence of the forest being alone disturbed by the melodious song of the tui (Prosthemadera novœ-zealandiœ) and the lively twitter of the little fantail (Rhipidura flabellifera), ever flitting about.
After about two hours' walk the first lot of hot springs are reached, their nearness being announced by a strong sulphurous smell, and, on reaching the place where the track cuts across the creek flowing into the Kaitoki Swamp, a sensation of warmth, and at times of oppression at the chest, is felt. This is, no doubt, caused by the accumulation of the sulphurous fumes in the valley-like locality in which the creeks and hot springs are, and is noticeable chiefly on calm days. In the early morning, and also in the evening, clouds of steam may be observed rising from the creeks, giving a very weirdlike appearance to the place.
There are two creeks, which run from two opposite directions and join at a point just below where two baths are now constructed; the water, after passing through the baths, flowing into the creek running to the Kaitoki Swamp.
The temperatures of the baths are 106° Fah. and 108° Fah., respectively, and I could obtain no deviation from these results. Various other temperatures will be found by referring to the accompanying rough sketches, all of which were carefully taken —186° Fah. being the highest, found at No. 1 spring. (See Pl. XXIII.)
The banks of the creeks, which are narrow, and turn about in all directions, are covered in most places with shrubs and ferns of several genera, including Pteris incisa, which here attains a height of 6–7 feet, Gleichenia flabellata, also the grass Paspalum scrobitulatum, and several varieties of Lycopodium, all of very luxurious growth in the vicinity of the hot water, but at some distance off assuming a more stunted appearance.
Articles of silver placed in the water of the baths turn black, thereby indicating the presence of sulphur; and the water possesses a very strong saline taste.
That the water has curative properties can, I think, be no longer doubted. The Natives on the island hold the springs as excellent for the cure of rheumatism, and several Europeans have derived benefit by a short stay in the locality, and constant bathing. There are other diseases that might be, indeed are, benefited, if not cured, by these waters. Taking the water internally acts as a mild aperient.
In one of the creeks large deposits of red ferriferous clay are to be found, containing by analysis about 16 per cent. of iron, a specimen of which I have secured—marked “No. 1.”
II.—On leaving the first lot of springs the traveller takes the track cutting across the creek into which the water from the two baths flows, and gradually ascends a low spur. After this he descends on to a flat, and the road is very easy. Soon the fern land is lost sight of, and the forest is again entered, and in about an hour the point is reached where the second lot of thermal springs are situated.
There is nothing to mark the locality, and, as the bush is very dense, no small amount of caution is requisite, otherwise the object of search is sure to be missed. Ferns greet one on all sides—the ground is covered with them. Fungi of various kinds are noticed on the trees, and graceful festoons of Lygodium articulatum, intermixed with vines of supplejack, (Rhipogonum scandens), are in places difficult to avoid. The vegetation in this part of the forest is very rank, and will amply repay the labours of the botanist.
A small clearing is soon reached, and the dark outline of the creek in which the springs are situated is seen in the distance. A little caution is necessary in approaching, as quantities of mud will be found in the vicinity, for the most part hot, and in places steaming; and should the unwary traveller find himself knee-deep, the experience will be the reverse of pleasant.
All is quiet, save alone the sound of the water as it trickles over the stones and falls from one hole into another. Some of these holes are simply filled with muddy water; while others, and notably one of the natural baths, are full of clear hot water of a green colour. In exploring some of the many branches feeding the main creek it is necessary to take off one's boots and stockings; and in doing this no small amount of care is requisite, for in places where the water appears, and is in fact, cold, yet, on wading about, innumerable spots are found where the stones in the bed of the creek are quite hot, and where hot water is constantly coming up, though not in sufficient quantity to reach the surface. Steam rises from several holes, and on digging down a few inches almost boiling water can be obtained.
A strong sulphurous odour pervades the locality, and a good deal of silicious deposit is noticed that is not met with at the first springs. I have secured some of this deposit, which accompanies this paper, marked “No. 2.” There are two rough natural baths found at these springs, with temperatures of 124° Fah. and 116° Fah. respectively, each holding a considerable amount of water, that runs out as fast as it runs in.
The water discolours silver, and has a strong saline taste with a slight sensation of bitterness. It is, in my opinion, much stronger than that found at the first lot of springs.
142° Fah. was the highest temperature that I here found. The Natives consider these waters to be specially useful in skin diseases, and would visit these springs in preference to the others (No. 1) on this account.
Owing to the fact of my time being limited, I was unable to further explore this locality, but I have reason to believe that within a radius of a quarter of a mile no small indications of thermal action will be found.
In closing my remarks, I must not forget to mention the discomfort that one has to contend with in the shape of our little enemy the mosquito. During the day this industrious insect is not so troublesome; but, so soon as the shades of evening draw upon the scene, these creatures assemble by the million—clouds of them, everywhere—the whole atmosphere becomes dense, and the difficulty is to find a chance to sleep during the night even for a little. I should strongly advise others to follow my example—viz., to create as many fires around the camp as possible, and, on retiring, to place quantities of smoking embers as near the blankets as convenient. In this way, and in this way alone, was I able to obtain an hour's repose. Should the smouldering embers die out, one is very quickly informed that fresh fuel is needed. It is therefore advisable to lay in a stock before going to bed.
Accompanying this paper are a few specimens of the ferns that I collected during my travels at and around the Hot Springs District. I append a few remarks anent some of them:—
Lomaria patersonii.—In great abundance; the ground covered within a radius of 50 feet from where I stood. A very pretty sight.
Schizœa dichotoma.—Very local, and scarce at that. The gum-diggers seem to be exterminating this pretty species.
Lindsaya viridis.—Very scarce, only one specimen found.
Asplenium trichomanes.—In great abundance.
Lycopodium consimilis.—Very plentiful.
Lomaria oligoneuron.—Very local.
Trichomanes tunbridgense.—Only discovered in one place, about 1,500 feet.
Several hundred specimens, and many belonging to several genera that are not represented amongst the lot I now bring forward, are still unpacked and unarranged for want of time.
In closing this paper, I cannot refrain from remarking that, with a very small expenditure, both these thermal springs might be utilized, doubtless proving of great service in curing many diseases. That they should for so long have been known, and never properly examined, is a mystery. The Natives of the Barrier have long used them medicinally with success, and there is no reason why Europeans should not do so. They are
within easy access of Blind Bay, where a steamer calls regularly; and a good carriage road might easily be formed. As they now are, visitors can without difficulty go there, and to those who have not yet done so, I say, by all means go.
To the botanist and geologist I venture to promise an excellent field; and to the lover of nature abundance of material will be found, enough at any rate to prove the mighty workings of a strong but unseen hand.