First Meeting: 13th June, 1894.
Major-General Schaw, President, in the chair.
New Member.—Mr. P. W. Tait.
A copy of vol. xxvi. of the “Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute,” and copies of the Proceedings of the Society for last year, were laid on the table.
Address by the President.—“The Last Glacial Epoch: explained by Major-General Drayson's Discovery of the Second Rotation of the Earth.” (Transactions, p. 513.)
Sir James Hector proposed a cordial vote of thanks to the President. At the same time, as he had been specially asked to express an opinion, he must dissent from any view of the cause of the Glacial period that rested on the occurrence of astronomical cycles. Geological evidence was opposed to such regular cycles. The period since the great Ice Age in the north is quite insignificant compared with the immense time preceding, covering all the Tertiary and Secondary formations, during which evidence of extreme refrigeration is wanting. He described the glacial phenomena of New Zealand, which indicated a former greater extent and altitude of the land, with broad, lofty plateau-ridges that formed breeding-grounds for glaciers that have since eaten their way back, and converted the plateaux into sharp ridges and peaks. This, with the subsequent depression of the land, attended by changes in the distribution of shore-lines and ocean-currents, he thought, might be quite sufficient to account for the former great extent of glaciers in New Zealand. Of former glacial action, in the usual sense of the word, there was no evidence in the New Zealand islands.
Mr. Travera had great pleasure in seconding the vote of thanks, which was carried. He could not, however, agree with the views of Major-General Drayson either as to the causes for or the period at which the last glacial epoch took place. His views upon these points were entirely opposed to those of astronomers, geologists, and writers on biological matters, especially as affecting the distribution of plants and animals in the regions subjected to glaciation during that epoch; and it would certainly be extraordinary if such men as Laplace, Leverrier, Adams, the Herschels, and a host of other astronomical observers and writers who had dealt with the motions of the earth, should have altogether overlooked so important a matter as that which is involved in General Drayson's supposed discovery, or that such a discovery, though propounded nearly twenty years ago, should ever since have been, as it is, entirely ignored. It is suggested that this has been the result of jealousy; but it is impossible to suppose that the host of great men who have dealt with the question under discussion, and whose sole desire has been to discover the truth, could have been actuated by so unworthy a feeling if there had really been anything in it. The occurrence of the glaciation referred to, and its extent, are unquestionable. That it was partly due to astronomical causes and partly to changes in the distri-
bution of land and water has been clearly enough established by the writings of Croll, Geikie, and others, which are admirably summed up in Mr. A. R. Wallace's interesting work on “Island Life,” in which he also gives a very complete account of the distribution of plants and animals within the area affected, and it is impossible to rise from the perusal of this work without being convinced that the causes mentioned were sufficient to bring about the effects investigated without resorting to such an hypothesis as that propounded by General Drayson. The General assumed, too, that the glaciation in question completed its retreat from the area affected within the historic period, for he fixed it at about eight thousand years ago. It would be curious if the area now occupied by England and Ireland—all of which, except a small portion of the more mountainous districts, was absolutely hundreds of fathoms deep below sea-level during the glaciation—should, when the Phoenicians traded to it, upwards of three thousand years ago, have been found inhabited by a race so far civilized as to carry on mining operations and the manufacture of metals, clothed with forest, and possessing a fauna since but little changed, but which had unquestionably for ages after the close of the glacial epoch been roamed over by the lion, the hyena, the cave-bear, the rhinoceros, and other animals not found in Europe for thousands of years anterior to the period of the Phoenicians' visits. These animals could only have found their way there when England became, on its re-emergence, united with the Continent of Europe by a tract of intervening land, which has since disappeared owing to a fresh subsidence. The commencement of the glacial epoch in the Northern Hemisphere has been fixed by Croll and others at about 260,000 years ago, and its termination at about 80,000 years ago, for during the whole of the intervening period the eccentricity of the earth's orbit was at its maximum, and winter occurred there when the sun was in aphelion. These, combined with matters affecting the then distribution of the land and water within the districts affected, seem fully to account for the occurrence of the glacial epoch; and much more cogent grounds than those advanced by General Drayson would be necessary to displace those upon which the authors referred to have based the views they have propounded.
Mr. Blair said that there were two works lately published by Sir H. Howorth, K.C.I.E., F.R.S.—viz., “The Mammoth and the Flood” and “The Glacial Nightmare”—which threw quite a new light on this glacial question, and which the President had not seen. He would also call the President's attention to the remarks on these works in the Quarterly Review of January, 1888, and January, 1894. There seemed to be great difference of opinion on the subject, and it had been by no means settled. Instead of glacial action, we must look to that of water and snow.
Mr. M. Chapman had a great deal to say on the subject; but, unfofortunately, there was no time at present.
General Schaw remarked that General Drayson had stated facts, and no one had yet contradicted them, and he did not think they could.