Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
Volume 20, 1887
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Eighth Meeting: 17th November, 1887.
Dr. Hutchinson, President, in the chair.

Papers.—1. “On the Korotangi, or Stone Bird,” by Major Wilson; communicated by Mr. Tregear.

2. “On Red Deer, and their Ways,” by the Hon. J. W. Fortescue.


The rapid increase of the various species of Deer that have been acclimatized in the New Zealand mountains, renders it interesting and important that exact information should be made known respecting their habits. The author having enjoyed special facilities for acquiring such information, was led to communicate his observations to the Society.

Hinds consort with stags in their second year, and as a rule produce but one calf at a time; though there are instances of twins. The calves till four months old are white spotted. Male calves begin to grow horns in their second year, and as a rule have, till eight or nine years, larger horns every year. The age of a deer cannot be proved from his horns alone. Injury tells directly on the growth of the horns. Castration of a male calf stops the growth of the horns. Partial castration has no such effect. Castration of a stag causes the horns to be soft and to remain cased in the velvet.

Deer may often be distinguished in their sex by the manner of picking up their food, as in the case of turnips and growing corn. Both sexes of deer bite at a turnip till it comes out of the ground; but a stag has the stronger neck, so uproots them the quickest. A stag takes half an ear of corn, a hind the whole.

The slot, or footprint, of a stag differs from that of the hind, being broader at the heel and blunter at the toe. As a rule, the older the stag the blunter the toes, and the broader the heel. It is often difficult to distinguish between the slots of the hinds and of young male deer.

Generally speaking, all deer tend in extreme old age to revert to the appearance of their youth. The horns grow smaller, and in some cases the slot and body also. The points of the horns also are blunt and ill developed.

The shooting season for stags should begin when the new grown horn is fully developed, i.e. when the stag has shed the velvet, and should cease at the beginning of the rutting season. When stags begin to bell, or bellow, the rutting season has commenced. Hinds may be shot from the end of the rutting season for about three months, after which time they are too heavy in calf to be of much value, though barren hinds may be shot even in the spring.

Sir James Hector would like to ask Mr. Fortescue, as an expert on the subject, whether the chief use of the antlers was not so much for fighting, as for facilitating the progress of the stag through dense woods. He had considerable experience with the Wapiti, in North America, and found that by throwing up the head, thereby placing the horns along the back, the animals were enabled to go forward with great rapidity and follow the hinds. He asked this, as it had been stated at a previous meeting of the Society that the antlers tended to entangle the deer.

Mr Fortescue said that Sir James Hector was quite correct in stating that the antlers assisted the stags in penetrating dense forests.

Mr. Higginson also bore out this statement from his experience in India.

3. “On Earthquakes in New Zealand,” by Sir James Hector.

This paper is an attempt to place on record all earthquakes that have been noted in New Zealand. The author held that earthquakes, like other

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natural phenomena, required to be classified. Until within the last few years this had been attempted only by theories of their origin. What is required is accurate description and record, so that the varieties may be differentiated. A classification somewhat of the following nature might be adopted: Thus, in the first place, earthquakes and volcanic action are popularly connected, and their relation is easily understood, but applies only in a comparatively few cases, as there are many-. other kinds of earthquakes that do not appear to be connected with volcanoes. Secondly, we may have a primary impulse radiated from a deep-seated focus of small diameter—of which the Charleston earthquake of 1st September, 1886, was a marked example. This spread 1,000 miles in all directions from a focus 12 miles beneath the surface. The area within which the vertical displacements exceeded the lateral was 26 by 18 miles, but the focal points were along a curved line only 12 miles in length. Even in this earthquake we thus see a tendency to a longitudinal extension of the focus, but the impulse that caused the primary shock was simultaneous. This leads to the next class of heavy earthquake shocks that have great longitudinal extension, and which generate fresh impulses successively as they are propagated through a tract of country in which the undulations meet with strata in a condition of stress. It is to this class we must refer the only two great earthquakes that have been recorded in New Zealand, as they were propagated from N.E. to S.W. for a distance of at least 800 miles, while the lateral propagation was not more than 100 miles to the N.W. or S.E. A short abstract was given of the principal features of these two earthquakes, which occurred in October, 1848, and January, 1855, from the descriptions published at the time by Sir William Fitzherbert, and the late Judge Chapman. Lastly, we have slight tremors that frequently reach us, evidently from a great distance to the S.E., and which, except where they locally encounter superficial conditions of instability, do no material damage. They are widespread; and, if the undulations are circular, they must have an enormous diameter, as they affect New Zealand nearly as if they were straight lines.

The early records are necessarily very incomplete, and commence with the earthquake felt near D'Urville Island by Captain Furneaux on the 11th May, 1773. Subsequently only prominent shocks are referred to, until from the beginning of 1846 to October, 1848, when the shocks felt in Wellington were recorded. From that date until 1868 the record is very imperfect; but since 1868, when the present Meteorological Department was organized, and the telegraph brought into operation, the record has been tolerably complete for the whole Colony. The earthquakes during this latter twenty years have therefore been scheduled, the Colony being divided into six districts, each having a characteristic structural peculiarity, as shown on the map exhibited. An analysis of this schedule showed that during the period 537 earthquakes have been recorded: of which only 2 were recorded in the northern district of Auckland; 184 in the central district of the North Island; 183 on the east coast of the North Island; 88 on the west coast of the South Island; 98 on the east coast; and 30 in the extreme south. But of the above number 142 were felt only in the middle section of the North Island, between the South Taranaki Bight and the Bay of Plenty; 147 only in the district between the East Cape and Wellington; and 115 were confined to the east and south coast of the South Island. Of the whole number, only 7 could be identified as having been felt in places outside the Colony. In conclusion, a short reference was made to the modern views as to the causes of earthquakes, and especially to the important bearing of a recent paper by Mr. Autray Strachan, F.G.S., regarding the destructive effects of explosions from “slickensides,” or smooth surfaces formed by motion along deep-seated faults, when these faults have been brought within reach of the miner's pick by the elevation of the land. It appears that these smooth-faulted surfaces are in a state of intense molecular tension, probably acquired through slight movements when under intense pressure at pro-

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found depths. The force thus stored may be liberated under certain circumstances by insignificant vibrations, and thus become an important factor in the generation of violent earthquake shocks. It at least points to a method, hitherto unsuspected, by which intense force may be stored up as a consequence of earth movements, without calling in the aid of the plutonic fusion of rock masses.

On the walls were exhibited specimens of the dally weather charts for the whole Australasian Group, which are now issued by the Government of Queensland under the superintendence of Mr. Clement Wragge, the Government Meteorologist.