Wellington Philosophical Society.
First Meeting: 25th June, 1901.
Mr. G. V. Hudson, President, in the chair.
New Members.—Mr. Ben Keys, of Wellington; Rev. H. J. Fletcher, of Taupo; and Mr. D. Matheson, of Wellington.
Inaugural address by the President, G. V. Hudson, F.E.S., “On the Senses of Insects.” (Transactions, p. 18.)
Sir James Hector spoke in high terms of the President's valuable and suggestive address. It took the thoughts of members out of the beaten track, and led them to the consideration of some of the profoundest and most suggestive problems of natural science. Regarding the external ears of the weta, he was reminded of somewhat similar organs found on the cephalic section of the Japanese crayfish—large and conspicuous auditory apparatus arranged like a Venetian-blind. Strange to say, the New Zealand species was quite destitute of these organs. He proposed a vote of thanks to the President for his instructive paper.
Mr. R. C. Harding seconded the motion. He said that bees were not, so far as he knew, supposed to be conspicuous for the homing instinct, a very small change in surroundings causing them to lose their way. He could not see that Lord Avebury's experiments justified the conclusion that light and colour appeared otherwise than as light and colour to all creatures with eyes, though it seemed to be proved that other creatures were sensitive to vast ranges of vibratory movements which made no impression on any of our senses. That colour produced similar effects on the nerves of vision of other creatures might be inferred, he thought, from the effects of the red rays. Lord Avebury had found them cause intense discomfort to insects; the irritating effect of red on birds and mammals was notorious in the instances of the turkey and the bull; and red in mass had an irritating effect on the human nervous system. If the weta was deaf to musical notes, such was not the case with all stridulating insects. He had on many occasions in warm weather noticed a cicada on the wall in church perfectly quiet and silent till the organ voluntary began, when the insect would keep up his characteristic note till the music had ceased, remaining quiet till the hymns were sung, and then joining in again. Others had doubtless observed the same in regard to this little insect.
Paper.—“On the Comet of 1901,” by G. V. Hudson. (Transactions, p. 31.)
Some interesting exhibits of birds were shown by Sir James Hector, amongst which were two Rosella Parrots.
This gaily coloured bird is a native of Australia, but a few, escaped from captivity, have multiplied in the North Island. In New Zealand the bird is apparently taking to a ground life, with the result that a native variety far less adapted for flight than its Australian progenitor is already being developed.
Another curiosity was a sparrow with a deformed beak, the upper mandible being of extraordinary length and curved downwards, giving the head of the bird the appearance of that of a miniature female huia.
Second Meeting: 6th August, 1901.
Mr. G. V. Hudson, President, in the chair.
Paper.—“On Caves in the Martinborough District, and Moa-bones found therein,” by H. N. McLeod.
The paper set forth minutely the details of the route to the caves, which are situated on the Makara Stream (not to be confounded, of course, with the better-known Makara near Karori), as well as careful measurements of the caves and fissures and fossil bones found therein. The locality is about sixteen miles from Martinborough, and the caves are found in what is known as the “Cliff Paddock,” a hill some 1,300 ft. high, with precipitous sides, rising from the stream. The stream itself appears to mark the route of a subterranean river. A stream issues from one of the caves, while in another place a creek plunges into a shaft and is lost to view. Moreover, after descending one of these pits, about 16 ft. deep, and winding along a narrow tunnel for some distance, the roar of an underground torrent was distinctly heard, but no access to the dark river was discovered. When the land was first occupied, some twenty years ago, the existence of the caves was unsuspected. The locality was covered by a forest so dense that, as the station-manager said, “a hawk could not have penetrated the undergrowth,” yet from the various caverns since exposed quite a cartload of moa-bones, some of large size, have been removed, and are now mostly distributed among settlers in the neighbourhood. The author gave precise and minute descriptions of eight separate caves, also of the fossil remains, stalagmites, stalactites, and other ordinary contents of such receptacles. In the vertical shafts the bones of sheep and cattle were found, as well as those of extinct birds. The moa-bones had not only been found in the form of skeletons, but lying piled at the angles and in the narrow portions of the caves, where they had been carried by water. Investigations of a gallery, which they had some hope would open into a larger chamber, has been checked by stalactite pillars 12 in. to 18 in. in circumference. Water was still oozing from the roofs of the caverns, and the solid lime was still being slowly deposited. One passage, about 3 ft. wide, the sides coated with much siliceous deposit, somewhat damaging to clothing and knuckles, was followed up for quite 100 ft., when it became too narrow to permit of further progress.
Sir James Hector exhibited a map of New Zealand, especially prepared to show the distribution of moa remains, in which some hundreds of limestone caves in both Islands were indicated.
He said he remembered his own surprise in the early sixties, when first exploring such caves, at finding, as Mr. McLeod had done, bones of sheep and cattle mixed with fossils of a period generally supposed to be remote. The animals had fallen into the cave, and flowing water had carried the bones into strange company. The caves at Martinborough were geologically recent; others, notably at Takaka, in Nelson, were of far more ancient date. Hundreds of these caves had never been properly examined, and they were full of valuable material for the scientific investigator. He was glad that one of our members had devoted serious attention to the subject. Some of the secret caves of the Maoris in the North Island in particular would hereafter be mines of treasure for the archæologist. For ages the natives had been in the habit not only of depositing therein the bones of their great chiefs, priests, and warriors, but their most treasured heirlooms, in the way of greenstone ornaments, &c., which were practically imperishable, and were the sole remaining relics of native art of prehistoric times.
Sir James Hector exhibited the skeleton of a young female whale of a rare species—Mesoplodon hectori, Van Beneden—which, with its mother, was captured last March at Titahi Bay.
Only four specimens of this species had, he said, been met with. The first two were fragments only. The adult specimen on this occasion the Museum, unfortunately, had not been able to secure, and this was, therefore, the only perfect skeleton available. Strangely enough, the two other specimens had been found in the same little bay. The Mesoplodon might be regarded as a miniature species of the family of which the great sperm whale was the type. A northern species was known, differing in several points from the New Zealand species.
Sir James Hector directed the attention of the meeting to a collection of some forty or fifty out of a large collection of water-colour drawings of our native fishes by the late Mr. F. E. Clarke, a member of the Society.
He said Mr. Clarke's knowledge of fish was minute and accurate, and it would be difficult to exaggerate the beauty and scientific fidelity of his drawings. A special value attached to these drawings inasmuch as some represented rare and others absolutely unique specimens which had come under Mr. Clarke's observation—one of these, notably, a large shark of a kind which Sir James had never seen, and which was undescribed save by Mr. Clarke, while it differed remarkably from any other known species. At some distant day, perhaps, these valuable drawings might be reproduced and issued in book form—that was, if they could be secured for the Museum; as it was, they were in danger of being lost or dispersed. Mrs. Clarke was willing to dispose of them, and he hoped the collection would be purchased in its complete form by the colony.
The meeting expressed its concurrence.
Sir James, in continuing his remarks, said that something more than accurate delineation of our fishes was needed. We had still much to learn of their habits and life-history, though we knew far more about them than might be supposed from occasional reports published at public expense, in which, it was not too much to say, a great deal of nonsense might be found. One fact we could not escape—that New Zealand was an island, and that the surrounding hundred-fathom limit within which fishing operations could be conducted was a narrow one. It was impossible, in the absence of breeding-grounds such as the North Sea or the banks off Newfoundland, that New Zealand could ever establish a great fishing industry. He then called attention to some curious facts
about fishes, which, though no doubt familiar enough to naturalists, were not commonly known. The herring and the pilchard, he said, were so closely allied that the external resemblance might deceive an expert, yet they differed widely in their habits. The herring glued her ova to stone and seaweed at the bottom, where it hatched; but the pilchard discharged hers in the open water, to float to the surface and be hatched by the sun. The fishes themselves were so much alike that the usual test was to balance doubtful fish by the dorsal fin. If the head went up it was a pilchard, if the tail went up it was a herring. Pilchards were abundant off our coasts, but New Zealand had no herring. The flat fishes, he explained, started in life symmetrical and swimming upright, like other fishes. While still young they took to deeper waters, sunk, and lay at the bottom, turning to one side or the other. Deformation gradually set in, the upper side darkened, the eye underneath, being useless in its place, forced itself through the skull and came out on the upper side. A distinction between the sole and flounder tribe was that the sole lay with the left side and the flounder with the right side uppermost. A curious distinction between the English and New Zealand mackerel was that the southern fish was provided with a swim-bladder, which was absent in the English species. But the distinction was not a matter altogether of northern and southern distribution, for the only other mackerel besides that of New Zealand possessing the swim-bladder was found in the Black Sea.
A letter was received from Mr. J. T. Stewart calling attention to the fact that in boring in the Wanganui district for artesian water the water was obtained from below the papa rock. (Transactions, p. 451.)
Sir James Hector remarked that if this was the case it was a most Important thing for the whole district.
Sir James Hector exhibited a preparation of the head and beak of a great octopus.
This was taken from a specimen captured at Island Bay, being the second specimen of the species found in that locality. The biggest of these could sweep into his ravenous maw any living creature within a circle a chain in diameter.
Specimens of some large Fiji chestnuts, about which very little is known, were exhibited.
Third Meeting: 5th November, 1901.
Mr. G. V. Hudson, President, in the chair.
New Member.—Mr. T. L. Buick.
Mr. Martin Chapman was renominated to represent the Society on the Board of the New Zealand Institute.
A letter was read from the Secretary of the Canterbury Institute inviting members of the Wellington Philosophical Society to attend a garden party now being arranged to welcome the members of the British Antarctic expedition on their arrival in Lyttelton.
Mr. Hogben said that the expedition was expected about the last week of November.
The Chairman regretted that the Society would not have the opportunity of welcoming the party in Wellington also.
Papers.—1. “Notes on Coleoptera,” by Mr. J. H. Lewis. (Transactions, p. 201.).
The author explained tha, with the exception of moths and butterflies, none of the orders of insects occurring in New Zealand could be considered to be catalogued in even a moderately satisfactory manner. The most extensive order, that of Coleoptera was in almost as bad a state as any, for although much had been done and a long list of species published, yet the number of coleopterous insects occurring here was so great and the students so few that it would be many generations before all the forms were described. Description, though a dry and tedious process, was a needful preliminary to the elucidation of the problems connected with distribution and variation, whic were the most attractive portions of the study of natural history. As in other orders so among beetles, the male insect was often different in form from the female. Not sufficient cognizance had been taken of this fact, except where the describer of a species had himself been able to study the insects in their homes, or where he had attached some weight to the observations of the field naturalist who had collected for him. Some results of this were evident in Captain Broun's list The frequent description of identical species in New Zealand and England would not cause so much trouble, as in most instances the identity was obvious. It was not for him to attempt to criticize the work of the able naturalist who had for a quarter of a century studied this order, but the reflection suggested itself that the larger genera might very well be tabulated by the only one who was at present in a position to do so. Was it too hazardous to say that when a table could not be prepared, then the species were not distinct? He had tabulated some families with much advantage to himself, but he was not anxious to publish his work while Captain Broun was able to do the same thing in a more accurate manner.
The President said that Mr. Lewis, who for the past ten years had been doing valuble work in his special department of entomology, was too modest in his claims, and he hoped that the resuults of his tabulations, so far as they had gone, would be published. There was a vast amount of this work to be done, and no naturalist could claim any prescriptive rights in the field of scientific research.
Volume XXXIII. of the Transactions was laid on the table.
Professor Easterfield exhibited some branches of the whau (Entelea arborescens).
He said he had gathered these specimens from the bush on Sunday, in the only locality where the plant was known to exist between Wellington and New Plymouth, though it was found in localities on the East Coast, and was abundant north of Auckland. The specimen showed clusters of small pretty white flowers, also the seeds, rough and spiny, like large burrs of the piripiri. Mr. Mantell had a flowering tree now growing in his garden, and at this moment was searching for a specimen. [As he spoke the specimen was brought in, displaying the bold green leaves and the flowers to great advantage.] He exhibited it because he thought it was little known, and was one of the most handsome of our many handsome shrubs, though the general form of the tree was not always graceful. In the bush it grew to a height of 30 ft. He understood that it was readily raised from seed. It was sometimes
known as “corkwood,” on account of the exceptional lightness of the wood, which, because of this quality, was used by the natives for floats.
2. “Studies on the Chemistry of the New Zealand Flora: Part II., the Karaka-nut,” by Professor Easterfield and Mr. B. C. Aston. (Transactions, p. 495.)
Twenty years ago, said Professor Easterfield, the late Mr. W. Skey, in the intervals of his official duties, pursued some investigations into this subject, and succeeded in isolating a white bitter substance, intensely poisonous, to which he gave the name “karakin.” The quantity obtained was too minute to allow of thorough investigation, and Mr. Skey's results could therefore be accepted only as provisional. The melting-point of the substance was below 212° Fahr., or the heat of boiling water, and it was described as containing no nitrogen. He had begun the investigation de novo, and, though Mr. Skey had done excellent pioneer work, further investigation did not bear out all his conclusions. The karaka (Corynocarpus) was a tree well known throughout New Zealand. It was also found in some of the other islands of the Pacific, notably at the Chathams, where it was abundant, and on account of the absence of timber was an important tree—so much so that it was customary to inscribe symbols of ownership on the bark. A trunk in the Museum now had a mark of this kind, supposed to be a “portrait” of the former proprietor. The wood, however, was of little use as timber. One point he had been unable to ascertain, and he hoped that inquiries, if necessary, would be made and definite information obtained while a remnant of the Moriori people of the Chathams still survived—did they, like the Maori, prepare the kernel and use it as an article of food? The fruit of the karaka was a berry, the pulp of which some people esteemed. To him its taste was objectionable—suggestive of decayed dates. Within was a thin shell, enclosing a kernel possessing the qualities of a nut, and from which could be obtained a thick oil. [The oil, which was shown, was of a very dark-brown colour, and so thick as to appear almost solid, scarcely moving though the bottle was inverted.] This oil contained oleine and yielded oleic acid. The thickness of the oil was due to its association with vegetable wax. [The wax, pure white, was shown separately.] The poison did not reside in the oil, which was innocuous, had no bitter taste, and was just such as might be found in any of the sweet nuts. To prepare the kernels for food the Maoris first cooked the berries, which would have the effect of loosening the textures of the kernel and rendering it more accessible to the water in which it was afterwards soaked for a period varying from a few days to some weeks, when the poisonous constituents had disappeared. Mr. Skey, finding that the extract from the berries heated to boiling-point lost its bitter taste, inferred that the cooking was sufficient, without the subsequent process, to render the kernel non-poisonous. But he (the professor) found that if the nut was boiled in water prussic acid was given off. Now, only two other similar cases were known, and the only known substance yielding prussic acid by decomposition in this way was amygdaline, found in bitter almonds, peach and cherry kernels, &c. It seemed reasonable to infer that the karaka contained amygdaline or some analogous substance which by decomposition yielded prussic acid and a specific poison, while there was the alternative possibility that the poisonous effect of the kernel was due only to the prussic acid. There was another point of resemblance to the almond. From the original solution in water ether removed practically nothing, but if the solution was boiled and the prussic acid driven off then ether became effective as a solvent. Amygdaline isolated was not poisonous. It was found associated in the almond with a substance known as “emulsin,” a kind of ferment closely allied to diastase, and to certain digestive ferments pro-
duced in the glands of animals. If a kernel containing these two substances was crushed in water, the action of the emulsin upon the amygdaline produced an immediate decomposition, prussic acid being formed. The natural ferment in the saliva produced a similar result on amygdaline, though in less degree. By numerous solutions and crystallizations he had isolated a white, bitter, poisonous substance, for which he had retained Mr. Skey's name of “karakin,” though he could not absolutely say it was identical with Mr. Skey's product. For one thing, it contained a considerable proportion of nitrogen, and its melting-point was as high as 250° Fahr. If Mr. Skey's karakin was impure the lower melting-point would be accounted for, and there were two classes of substances that would resist Mr. Skey's test for nitrogen, this being one of them. In Mr. Skey's test he looked for the nitrogen to come off in the form of ammonia, whereas another reaction would take place and cyanide of sodium be formed. In addition to the karakin he had isolated another white crystalline substance, very similar in appearance, which he called “corynocarpin” [exhibited], with a higher melting-point than karakin. In addition to the wax he had found also mannite, a substance closely allied to sugar. Karakin he described as a glucoside—formula probably C15H24N8O15. It was interesting as the third example known in the vegetable kingdom of a substance which in its breaking-down yielded prussic acid, the first being the amygdaline of the almond and the second the Lotus arabica. Much still remained to be done in investigating the properties of karakin, as well as of the specific poison of the tutu. In the present case the amount of the sought-for glucoside amounted to 0 1 per cent. of the material tested, and there were fifteen crystallizations before a perfectly pure product could be obtained. The process was slow, laborious, and costly, and he was glad to say that the Royal Society had granted £50 towards the expense of the work on which he and his colleague were engaged.
3. “Raoult's Method for Molecular-weight Determination,” by Professor Easterfield and James Bee. (Transactions, p. 497.)
These methods, the professor said, were practised in the laboratory of the Victoria College, and were easily within the reach of first-year students. They gave accurate results, and were performed in turn in the course of instruction by each member of the class. One of these methods, which was devised by himself, was to determine readily the densities of vapours at the actual boiling-point, a very difficult process by the usual methods—so difficult that densities were usually taken at a much higher temperature, leaving the density at the moment of vaporization uncertain. Already valuable results had been obtained with many substances, but so far his process had not been successful with mercury, in dealing with which special apparatus would be necessary. He thought, from his researches so far, that it might yet be demonstrated that the mercury atom consisted of two molecules.
The second part of the address was illustrated by an experiment in measuring and calculating molecular density by Mr. James Bee, of Wellington College, illustrating the simplicity and brevity of the method.
Two very large trout from Spring Creek, near Blenheim, belonging to Mr. T. E. Donne, and mounted by Mr. A. Yuill, taxidermist to the Museum, were on exhibition.
Fourth Meeting: 11th February, 1902.
Mr. G. V. Hudson, President, in the chair.
New Members.—Dr. Archer Hosking, of Masterton; Messrs. A. B. Chalmers, Gerald Fitzgerald, A. E. Pearce; and William Gray, of Palmerston North.
Papers.—1. “Embryology of New Zealand Lepidoptera,” by Ambrose Quail, F.E.S. (Transactions, p. 226.)
2. “On a Marine Galaxias from the Auckland Islands,” by Captain Hutton, F.R.S. (Transactions, p. 198.)
3. “On the Latent Heat of Fusion of the Elements and Compounds,” by P. W. Robertson; communicated by Professor Easterfield. (Transactions, p. 501.)
Sir James Hector and Professor Easterfield spoke in high terms of the accuracy of Mr. Robertson's work, and of the great importance of his discovery. It would be known, the professor thought, as “Robertson's Law.”
4. “On the Phenomena of Variation and their Symbolic Expression,” by E. G. Brown. (Transactions, p. 520.)
Sir James Hector said that Mr. Brown was doing substantial and valuable work in one of the obscure corners of scientific research.
5. “On the Horizontal Component of the Earth's Motion in Space,” by D. Hector; communicated by Sir J. Hector. (Transactions, p. 513.)
6. “Mathematical Treatment of the Problem of Production, Rent, Interest, and Wages,” by D. Hector; communicated by Sir J. Hector. (Transactions, p. 514.)
7. Notes on New Zealand Fishes,” by Sir J. Hector. (Transactions, p. 239.)
8. “The Vapour Densities of the Fatty Acids,” by P. W. Robertson; communicated by Professor Easterfield. (Transactions, p. 499.)*
Annual Meeting: 12th March, 1902.
Mr. G. V. Hudson, President, in the chair.
Abstract of Annual Report.
During the past year five meetings were held, at which twenty papers were read.
Nine new members have been added to the roll during the year, making a total of 147 members.
[Footnote] * For discussion, see p. 570.
The balance-sheet shows the receipts for the year to be £156 10s. 5d., and the expenditure £76 14s. 3d., leaving a balance in hand of £79 16s. 2d.
The Research Fund, a fixed deposit in the bank, now amounts to £36 10s. 10d., which increases the credit balance to £116 7s.
Election of officers for 1902.—President—W. T. L. Travers, F.L.S.; Vice-presidents—Sir J. Hector, F.R.S., and R. L. Mestayer; Council—Messrs. H. N. McLeod, E. Tregear, F.G.S., M. Chapman, G. Hogben, M.A., R. C. Harding, G. V. Hudson, and Professor Easterfield; Secretary and Treasurer—R. B. Gore; Auditor—T. King.
Papers.—1. “The Theory of the Polar Planimeter,” by C. E. Adams, B.Sc.
Sir James Hector said that a most ingenious form of a planimeter had been devised by Mr. Beverley, an inventive gentleman of Dunedin, still among us, and was shown at the, New Zealand Exhibition nearly forty years ago. The following was an abstract of the account of Mr. Beverley's instrument which was given in the Report on the New Zealand Exhibition, 1865, page 188. This was now a very rare book. “Two Plato-meters (not named ‘Planimeters’), invented and made by A. Beverley, Dunedin, are interesting and valuable instruments. An instrument to effect the same purpose was first exhibited by the famous inventor and mathematician Mr. E. Sang, of Kirkcaldy, in Scotland, at the exhibition of 1851. Other similar instruments have been invented, especially by Professor Clerk Maxwell, to overcome the mechanical difficulties by the introduction of contact spheres. This is a beautiful idea, but mechanically impossible. Mr. Beverley's platometer, which rejects sliding motion, and is very simple and inexpensive, should come into general use in all survey offices.” At the same time he showed a clock which had been going ever since it was made without the aid of weights or springs—which, in fact, as far as motive-power was concerned, had been untouched since its construction. A glass cylinder filled with air resting on a surface of cantor-oil supplied the power, every change in temperature affecting the pressure. The force thus generated was taken up by an ingenious mechanical contrivance and conveyed to the works. For forty years the timepiece had kept time without stopping, and it bade fair to go as long as the works held together and the day and night temperatures continued to vary.
A member who objected that the pinions would clog and wear out was reminded that the problem of perpetual motion was apart from wear-and-tear of mechanism.
Mr. Martin Chapman remarked that he had known the clock, which was still going, for many years past.
2. “Notes on the Sydney Chain Standard.” by C. E. Adams, B.Sc.
Mr. Martin Chapman said that in order to be able to tell whether a thing was done properly its actual working had to be gone into. He once happened by accident to be concerned in a matter which enabled him to see how the testing of weights was worked practically. As members of the society probably knew, there were Inspectors of Weights and Measures all over the colony. These Inspectors were generally policemen. Sometimes they were retired policemen. An Inspector bad a set of standard weights with which he had to compare weights submitted to him to be tested, or weights which were suspected to be untrue and which he had secured in order to test them. An important question, therefore, was how nearly the standard weights in the possession
of the Inspector agreed with the proper standard weights in the hands of the Government. Some time ago a circular was sent to certain persons in Wellington asking them to state the price at which they would furnish the Government with iron ingots. The respective weights required were specified, and it was also stated that the ingots had to have handles by which they could be lifted. One tender, sent in by a person of thoroughly good character, gave a price which amounted to a few pence per pound. His tender was at once accepted, with a condition, “Please let them be accurate.” He replied that that was not exactly what he tendered for—that in the iron trade an inaccuracy of 4 or 5 per cent. in the weight of ingots was not thought to be worth considering, and that the ingots might be from a fraction of an ounce to several ounces out, according to their size. The conditions of contract were amended so as to require that the ingots should be accurate in weight, and a few pence per pound was added to the amount of the tender. The ingots were cast at a foundry, and they were weighed on the machine on which all metal arriving at the factory was weighed. They were passed by the gentleman who was appointed to pass them. The Government, however, then wrote to say that the “standard weights” which had been sent in had been found to be inaccurate. Previously they had used the word “ingots” These “standard weights” were accordingly adjusted, some by being planed down and others by being plastered up. And that was how the standard weights used by Inspectors were made. So it would be seen that an Act of Parliament might be perfect, and the standard weights obtained from England might be perfect, but if the manner in which the Act was worked was not perfect there would be inaccuracies as to weights and measures.
Mr. R. C. Harding said the weights in use in the post-offices apparently needed to be brought into uniformity, as he had known several cases where parcels which had been weighed and passed as correct in the office where they were posted had been surcharged and fined at the office of delivery.
3. “On the Vapour Densities of the Fatty Acids,” by Professor Easterfield and P. W. Robertson. (Transactions, p. 499.) This paper, read at a previous meeting, was discussed.
Sir James Hector said the discovery was of great importance, and showed how admirably the professor was leading his students in original research. He deplored the lack of proper apparatus and appliances in the University for the prosecution of valuable work of this kind.
Mr. Tregear spoke of the hopeful prospects of the Philosophical Society. For years, as the pioneers fell out of the ranks, they had deplored the lack of younger men to fill the gaps. Now all this was changed. Young men of the greatest promise—–
A Member: And young women too.
Mr. Tregear said, Yes, young women too—were taking a prominent place in the scientific field. He congratulated the professor and students on the energetic work—work of permanent value—they had already accomplished. We need have no fears as to the future of the Society.
Natural History Notes from Dusky Sound.
4. “Natural-history Notes from Dusky Sound,” by Richard Henry.
1. Pilchards.—In reading back numbers of the Transactions I notice an account of the Picton herring which says that they remain in Queen Charlotte Sound all the year round, which implies that they must get their food there; and when they have no teeth their food must be small and soft; and when they flourish it implies that some
combination of circumstances relieves them from any very destructive enemies. I have seen pilchards in many places, and always wondered at their immense numbers and where they came from, for wherever I have seen them they seem to have thousands of enemies who could easily catch them. I dipped a baker's basket in the sea off Queenscliffe and got it half-full of pilchards, while the air was alive with birds and the water thick with porpoises and all sorts of fish following them. Surely they must have some peaceful places to breed in or they could not spare such losses without extinction. Cook Strait may be one of those. They represent the Home herring, and the herring is an old acquaintance of the salmon; therefore if the salmon have not been tried in Queen Charlotte Sound it might be a good plan to try some when you have the salmon, for they might meet with some favourable conditions that we do not understand. I have not seen pilchards on this southern coast, where we put most of the salmon, but Mr. Sutherland says that they come into Milford. It might also be a good plan to try a few salmon on this west coast if they never have been tried there, for there is great variety of conditions between such rivers as the Hollyford and those coming into the heads of the sounds. The temperature may be of great importance to give the young ones a start; and though there is a warm current coming down the coast the heads of the sounds are often frozen in winter. I think that owing to the quantity of food that sometimes comes in it is far the best coast for fish; but the rain brings a colouring matter out of the bush that darkens the water, and I think the fish do not like it, because it is only when the water clears that the shoals of migratory fish come in. However, this dark water is always much colder than the clear sea water, and that may be why the fish dislike it.
2. Vegetable Caterpillar.—I exhibit an aweto or vegetable caterpillar in a tube. Sometimes live ones are plentiful here in the spring about the roots of the Veronica hedges, but they do not appear to grow fungi every year, for lately I cannot find one in that state, though the first years we were here they were plentiful, yet we saw no live ones. The one I exhibit is a fine big one, and was very lively when I got it, so I put it in the tube. I exhibit it now to show how fond it must be of growing fungi when it will grow it in a spirit-jar. When the fungus starts to grow in the ground it seems as if the caterpillar had laid itself out for it, for it often forms a cavity around its head as if to accommodate the fungus, and I would not wonder if they are friendly relations instead of enemies. If they ever do turn into moths it is curious that I have not seen any of them when I can see all the others so readily. I do not know what caterpillar the moth breeds from. I have tried to nurse the live caterpillars into moths, but they take so long that I have never succeeded. They have grown fungus several times, until I began to think that that was the destiny of all of them, but I cannot see how the fungus could lay caterpillars' eggs.
Sir James Hector remarked that the “Picton herring” spawned from twenty to thirty miles off the coast of New South Wales. It was a true pilchard; it was not a herring. There was no herring in these waters. It would be a valuable achievement if the herring could be introduced.
Mr. H. N. McLeod said he saw the fish in question at Picton a week ago. They were in such numbers that they made the water phosphorescent as far as the eye could reach.
Sir James Hector said the fish had put in an early appearance. There were no fish in these seas which deposited their eggs, as the herring did, at the bottom of the sea. The reason, he thought, was the absence of such natural banks as extended from England to Denmark, and the acclimatisation of the herring, desirable as it was, would probably on this account be a matter of great difficulty.
5. “Notes on the Entomology of New Zealand,” by Captain J. J. Walker, of H.M.S. “Ringarooma.”
The President, in introducing Captain Walker, said that probably he had collected in more countries than any other entomologist.
In the course of an interesting address Captain Walker commented on the way in which the indigenous flora had disappeared from the older settlements in New Zealand. It was astonishing, however, what a number of the original insects seemed to hold their own where a little native bush was left. When he was at Westport recently he was kept to his hotel for three days and a half by continuous rain. All that time, however, the Buller River was working for him by bringing beetles down from a hundred miles up-country. On going to the beach when the rain ceased he collected specimens of no fewer than 105 species of beetles. There was a prevalent idea in England that New Zealand was a very poor country for beetles. He considered, however, that it was on the average quite as rich in them as any country in corresponding latitudes, north or south, though possibly not so rich as Australia or Tasmania. There were fully as many species of Coleoptera in New Zealand as there were in the British Isles. The South Island was far better from a collector's point of view than the North. At first sight the statement that New Zealand was a poor country for beetles seemed to be quite true. Save for members of certain species, a person might go all day and see only a few beetles. Most of the beetles had to be rooted and worried out. If patient and persistent, a collector could be sure of getting his bottle full. The beach collecting in New Zealand was very interesting, and Lyall Bay, near Wellington, was a good ground. He had been only five months in New Zealand, and he had secured specimens of all the important coast beetles save one, and that he hoped to get every time he went to Lyall Bay. The fauna of New Zealand was most interesting, not only on account of what was represented in it, but because of what was not represented. It embraced the most curious and most beautiful collection of weevils in the world. The weevils of New Zealand ran into most bizarre and striking forms.
Mr. R. C. Harding and Sir James Hector spoke of the intimate knowledge of his subject which Captain Walker had displayed in his impromptu talk.