Fourth Meeting: 25th August, 1897.
Mr. W. T. L. Travers, F.L.S., President, in the chair.
Mr. Tregear said he felt great pleasure in being asked to move a vote of thanks to Mr. Christian, because, as secretary of the Polynesian Society, he welcomed him as one of their corresponding members on his return from arduous travel, undertaken partly for the Society. When some years ago he became acquainted with Mr. Christian he had just returned from the Marquesas, where he had been gathering vocabularies and folk-lore. His great facility in acquiring and noting dialects, and his peculiarly sensitive ear for the soft Polynesian vowels of the Eastern groups, marked him out, in his opinion, as one whose services would be of the highest value in philological research. He was a scholar also, and knew along what lines and in what directions to make inquiries. He (Mr. Tregear) then begged him to make his next journey in the direction of the little-known islands of the north-west Pacific. Mr. Christian was one of those men that were rarely found among us busy colonial people —he was a man of means, who could afford to go in any direction wherever his love of exploration and research might lead him. He went away. He (Mr. Tregear) heard from him in Japan, then at Hongkong, then he disappeared into darkness, and the lands of the savage swallowed him up. Great, therefore, was his delight when a short time ago he heard from him again on his emergence from among the barbarians at the Caroline Islands, and when he found that he was on his way to New Zealand, bringing with him photographs, vocabularies, and collections he had procured in his travels. Of course, the greater part of his work was not popular, but technical, and he felt sure that it would one day make him famous, as fame went among specialists in scientific research. They welcomed him back as one who, at great expense, with tireless industry and risk to his life, had pursued his studies in lands
[Footnote] * In the Transactions the title has been changed by the author to “On the Outlying Islands.”—Ed.
almost unknown to Europeans, and brought to them the first-fruits of his harvest of knowledge.
Mr. Maskell, in seconding the vote of thanks, said it was a good thing that there were men to be found who were willing to give up the ordinary business of life and the accumulation of money for the purpose of making explorations, with the view of acquiring knowledge and imparting it to their fellow-men. They owed a debt of gratitude to any traveller who did such work as Mr. Christian had done, and they were especially fortunate in having made known to them the first-fruits of his knowledge. He hoped Mr. Christian would publish the result of his valuable work. Mr. Christian's object, he supposed, was to ascertain the whence of the natives of the Pacific Islands, and the origin of the wonderful ruins found on some of the islands, especially at Easter Island. How they came to be there has never been satisfactorily explained.
Mr. Harding said it was strange that so little, if any, ancient stonework had been found in New Zealand when it was so abundant elsewhere in the Pacific. He mentioned the extraordinary stone rampart seen by the Rev. Mr. Colenso some years ago when crossing the Ruahine, on the summit of that range. Though it might have been a natural feature, it was so suggestive of human handiwork that Mr. Colenso regretted that the heavy snow and his failing provisions compelled him to hurry past without a careful examination.
Sir James Hector said that stone fortifications were not wholly unknown to the Maoris, and he described a remarkable example in Taranaki. Other ancient works of the kind doubtless existed in New Zealand, buried like those already described in forest growth. He had suggested to Mr. Christian, who intended shortly to set out with a number of scientists on a voyage of exploration to the South Sea Islands, that he should carry with him a phonograph, and by this means place on record the languages spoken by the natives of the various groups. Sir James Hector also stated that the mission of Mr. S. Percy Smith amongst the islands of the Pacific was to locate the base from which the Maoris issued to come to New Zealand, and to trace the path by which they made their way here. Before departure, Mr. Smith expressed his firm conviction that he would succeed in securing a complete chain of evidence in regard to the matter.
Mr. Tanner offered his thanks to the author for his admirable paper. The monuments spoken of were most interesting; he supposed they were carved by the natives to while away their idle moments, and not with any special purpose. There were fortifications at Kapiti like some of those described.
After some remarks by the Chairman, the motion was put and carried.