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Volume 42, 1909

Philosophical Institute of Canterbury.

Sixth Meeting: 1st September, 1909.

Present: Mr. Edgar R. Waite (President), in the chair, and sixty others.

New Members.—Miss A. C. Finlayson and Mr. E. Herring.

Darwin Celebration.—The report of Mr. T. V. Hodgson, the Institute's representative at the Darwin celebration at Cambridge, was received.

Papers.—1. “Some New Zealand and Tasmanian Arachnidœ,” by H. R. Hogg, M.A.; communicated by Dr. Chilton.

This paper contained descriptions of some new species of spiders from New Zealand and Tasmania, with notes on their distribution

2. “Observations on some New Zealand Halophytes,” by Miss B. D. Cross, M.A.

In this paper the author deals with some of the commonest of the New Zealand Halophytes—that is, plants living near the sea-shore—describing the life form and the anatomy of the various species, and contrasting the structure of the plants growing normally on the shore with that of other plants artificially cultivated without an excess of salt in the soil.

Address.—“The Distribution of the Subantarctic Fauna and Flora,” by Dr. Charles Chilton.

The address was illustrated by lantern-slides, and the lecturer gave a general account of the fauna and flora of the various subantarctic islands, and discussed the distribution of the various forms in accordance with the results arrived at by the recent expedition to the islands lying to the south of New Zealand, and by the recent Antractic expeditions.

Seventh Meeting: 6th October, 1909.

Present: Mr. Edgar R. Waite (President), in the chair, and fifty others.

New Member.—Mr. R. D. Barker.

Papers.—1. “On the Influence of Ripples on the Gas Content of the Christchurch Artesian Waters,” by Dr. C. Coleridge Farr and D. C. H. Florance, M.Sc.


The experiments described in this paper were undertaken with a view to determining the nature and quantity of the dissolved gases in the water of the artesian wells, in order to decide whether the curious effects found in fish and on their eggs and fry when confined noar outflow of a well could be attributed to the presence of any gas. The principal gases dissolved were found to be nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon-dioxide, and of these nitrogen is in excess of the normal saturation-value, whilst oxygen is in defect. The way in which the saturation-values were reached on rippling over obstacles was examined and compared with the change of effect on fish confined in boxes into which the water was rippled.

2. “Petrological Notes on Rocks from the Kermadec Island, with some Geological Evidence for the Existence of a Subtropical Pacific Continent,” by R. Speight, M.A.

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The author gives some account of a collection of rocks from the Kermadec Islands, now in the Canterbury Museum. These are, with one exception, andesites of basic affinity and basalts. Fragments of granite frequently occur on the islands, but the rock has not been found in position. This suggests that the island has been built up on a continental area either a little above sea-level or but slightly submerged. Brief reference is made to the geological evidence for the existence of a former Pacific continent, as demanded by various zoologists in order to explain distribution in the south-west Pacific region. The Kermadecs no doubt formed part of this area, which probably broke up in late Cretaceous or early Tertiary times.

3. “The Vegetation of the Kermadec Islands,” by Reginald B. Oliver.


The paper is descriptive of the plant covering of the Kermadec Islands, and gives a list of the species of pteridophytes and spermaphytes inhabiting the group. It is the result of several months'i nvestigation on Sunday Island by the writer during the year 1908.

The main portion of the paper is devoted to the descriptions of the plant-formations of the Kermadec Islands. These are arranged according to the probable order of their evolution, and fall into five groups.

The coastal formations include rocks, sand-dunes, ngaio scrub, &c. Such characteristic plants as Coprosma petiolata and Scœvola gracilis, together with some New Zealand and some tropical forms (e.g., Ipomœa pes-caprœ, Canaialia obtusifolia) are inhabitants of these situations.

The common bulrush (Typha angustifolia) is the principal swamp-plant. On inland cliffs Poa polyphylla, Asplenium Shuttleworthianum, and a new species of Veronica are usually to be found.

Forest which owes its existence to a humid atmosphere is the principal plant-formation on Sunday Island. It covers the hills from sea-level to their summits, and is only absent from such places as were destroyed by a volcanic eruption in 1870, and a few clearings made by the settlers.

Under the heading “Young Formations” are included those which have grown since the eruption of 1870, and the landslip of 1904. These will ultimately become forest.

“Introduced Formations” are certain meadows where the principal plant is an imported species. There are three described from the Kermadec Islands—buffalograss and Ageratum conyzoides on Sunday, and beard-grass on Macauley Island.

The flora of the Kermadec Islands is most fragmentary, and characteristic of oceanic islands where plants are accidentally carried by ocean-currents and possibly other means. The greater number of species have been received from New Zealand, but Polynesian and Norfolk Island forms constitute the largest part of the vegetation.

The floras of Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands are considered in this connection, with the result that the writer believes them to be remnants of the larger one which migrated from Malaya by this way to New Zealand, together with a number of Australian forms which have arrived from time to time across the intervening space of ocean.

The three groups of islands possess oceanic floras, and properly are included in the New Zealand biological region, and together form a subregion for which is proposed the name “subtropical islands province.”

From the number of kauri logs and pieces of D'U rvillœa and other Algæ cast up on the shores of Sunday Island, it is evident that the strongest and most frequent ocean-currents reaching the group are from the direction of New Zealand, and this, in the writer's opinion, is sufficient to account for the preponderance of New Zealand forms in the flora of the Kermadecs.

4. “On a Non-flowering New Zealand Species of Rubus,” by Dr. L. Cockayne.

A form of Rubus from Westland is dealt with related to R parvus, but differing in its leaves being compound, larger, and somewhat different in colour and serration. The plant has been in cultivation twelve years, grown under many conditions, and yet has never flowered. The author considers that possibly it is incapable of flowering, and that it originated as a non-flowering species, either by mutation from R. parius or as a hybrid between that species and R. australis.

5. “List of Lichens and Bryophytes collected in Stewart Island during the Botanical Survey of 1908,” by Dr. L. Cockayne.

Fifteen lichens, thirty-six liverworts, and thirty-four mosses are enumerated, a reference being given in each case to the “Handbook of the New Zealand Flora,” if the species occurs in that work. The stations of each species are briefly indicated.

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Eighth Meeting: 3rd November, 1909.

Present: Mr. Edgar R. Waite (President), in the chair, and thirty-seven others.

Papers.—1. “On the Fishes of the Kermadec Islands,” by Edgar R. Waite.

This paper contains an enumeration of the fishes previously known as living at the Kermadec Islands, with the species recently collected and presented to the Canterbury Museum by Mr. W. R. B. Oliver The majority of the fishes recorded exhibit an alliance with the faunas of Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands, some species—as, for example, Machœrope latispinis, Ogil.—not being known elsewhere.

2. “Some Hitherto-unrecorded Plant Habitats,” by Dr. L. Cockayne.

3. “Summaries of some Recent Papers relating to the New Zealand Insect Fauna published outside the Dominion in –9,” by G. W. Kirkaldy.

4. “List of Recent Shells found Fossil in New Zealand,” by H. Suter; communicated by Dr. Charles Chilton.

This paper is a list of recent shells that have also been recorded as fossils from New Zealand, with the geological range in time of each as known at present.

5. “On an Isopod inhabiting Ants' Nests in New Zealand,” by Dr. Charles Chilton.

This paper gives a description of an Isopod, Trichoniscus commensalis, sp. nov., that is found in constant association with two species of ants; it has been found by Mr. W. W. Smith in Taranaki and by Mr. McMahon in Marlborough. It is pale in colour, but is not blind, having fairly well-developed eyes. Though similar in habits and general appearance to the European species found in ants' nests (Platyarthus hoffmanseggii), it belongs to a different family of the Oniscoidea.

Annual Meeting: 1st December, 1909.

Present: M. Edgar R. Waite (President), in the chair, and thirty-seven others.

New Members.—Messrs. S. Hurst Seager and A. Dudley Dobson.

The following is an abstract of the annual report and balance-sheet submitted to the meeting and adopted:—

In presenting the annual report of the year 1909, the Council has much pleasure in recording the continued success of the Institute in those matters which fall within its special province. The year has been an interesting one in many ways. During the month of April, Canterbury had the honour of welcoming back Lieutenant Shackleton from his memorable voyage to the Antarctic and his determined and almost successful attempt to reach the South Pole. As the leading scientific institution of the province, this Institute decided to entertain Lieutenant Shackleton, his officers, and the scientific staff of the S Y. “Nimrod” at a banquet. Every assistance was received from members and prominent citizens, and the gathering was a gratifying success.

Darwin Celebration.—As the year is the centenary of the birth of Charles Darwin, and the jubilee of the publication of the “Origin of Species,” appropriate addresses were delivered on different phases of Darwin's life and work.

Subantarctic Islands of New Zealand.—During the year the publication of the results of the expedition to the subantarctic islands of New Zealand has been steadily proceeded with under the editorship of Dr. Chilton. The reports by the various specialists proved to be very much longer than was at first anticipated, and the work will consist of two quarto volumes of about four hundred pages each, and will be illustrated with numerous plates (some coloured), photographs, and text figures, and will be accompanied by a large coloured map of the antarctic and subantarctic regions showing the ocean-depths as ascertained by recent expeditions. It is hoped to have the work issued before the end of the year.

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The printing of the work, which has been done with great care by the Government Printer, will greatly exceed the grant of £500 made by Government for the purpose, and the Council has been unsuccessful in its attempt to have the grant increased. It will therefore be necessary for the Institute to be responsible for the additional cost—viz., about £550. This will entail a serious drain on the finances of the Institute for a few years, but the value of the work for the purpose of exchanges for the library will be very great, and some part of the cost will be regained through the sale of the work. The price of the publication has been fixed at two guineas.

Meetings of the Council.—The principal matters to which the attention of the Council has been directed during the year are as follows: The publication of the report on the subantarctic islands, the raising of subscriptions to the Hector Memorial Fund, the consideration of the proposal made by Mr. A. Hamilton, President of the New Zealand Institute, for the better utilisation of the libraries of the affiliated institutes, and the setting-up of committees to deal with the following questions of scientific interest—A complete examination of the Christchurch artesian area, a survey of the Canterbury lakes, the more adequate protection of our native fauna, and the continuation of the observations in connection with the Arthur's Pass Tunnel.

Library.—The Council approved and cordially fell in with Mr. Hamilton's scheme of issuing a joint catalogue to encourage and facilitate reciprocity in the loan of books among members of affiliated societies. It is hoped that scientific workers in the Dominion will greatly benefit by the arrangements when completed, and that the project will lead to a more comprehensive scheme to embrace all the scientific libraries of the Dominion.

Antarctic Library.—The Library Committee has kept steadily in view the formation of a library of Antarctic literature, and many important publications have been added.

The principal books on Antarctica now in the library are as follows:—

“Voyage towards the South Pole,” by Weddell
“Reports National Antarctic Expedition,” 1901–4 (in part).
“Reports Scottish National Antarctic Expedition” (to date).
“Schwedischen Expedition nach den Magellanslandern,” –97.
“Through the First Antarctic Night,” by F A Cook, –99.
“Reports of the ‘Southern Cross’ Antarctic Expedition,” –1900 (in part).
“Reports Expedition Antarctique Francaise,” 1903–5 (to date).
“Antarctic Manual,” 1901.
“Ergebnisse der Hamburger Magalhaensischen Sammelreise,” –97.
“Zoological Reports of the Voyage of the ‘Erebus’ and ‘Terror.’”

The committee confidently hopes that further works on Antarctica will be added during the coming year, some being already under order, notably the “Reports of the Swedish Antarctic and the ‘Belgica’ Expeditions.”

Arthur's Pass Tunnel.—Observations in connection with the Arthur's Pass Tunnel have been continued throughout the year. Temperature readings have been taken every ten chains and specimens collected. Owing to the small depth of the present workings and the lowering effect of surface soakage there has been no marked rise in the underground temperature. The rocks met with are somewhat monotonous, being principally slate and greywacke. As the tunnel runs almost parallel to the axis of an anticline, rapid variations can hardly be expected. The thanks of the Institute are due to Messrs. John McLean and Sons for permitting the experiments, and to Messrs. J. Wood and Manson for assistance in taking the readings and in collecting specimens.

Investigation of Christchurch Artesians.—Early in the year a committee was set up for the purpose of systematically investigating the artesian system of Christchurch and the neighbourhood. The committee has held several meetings, and has taken preliminary steps for ascertaining the extent, depth, and geological relations of the water-bearing strata, and for the examination of physical, chemical, and biological properties of the water obtained from them. Two papers on the radium emanation contained in the artesian water and on the effect of the water as it comes direct from the well on trout and other fish have already been laid before the Institute, and it is hoped that by next year further papers will be ready for presentation.

Animals Protection Act.—A committee was appointed to consider the Animals Protection Act, and to suggest amendments with a view to giving more effective protection to the native fauna of the Dominion. A conference was held with a similar committee appointed by the Canterbury Acclimatisation Society, and a number of recommendations were made, which received the approval of the Council. It is intended to submit the proposals to other institutes for their consideration, and, if they meet with approval, to bring the matter under the notice of members of Parliament and of the Minister of Internal Affairs.

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Meetings of the Institute.—During the year eight ordinary meetings of the Institute and one additional ordinary meeting have been held, and the average attendance has been eighty-five.

During the session twenty-three papers have been received. These may be classified as follows: Zoology, 6; botany, 5; geology, 4; chemistry and physics, 6; miscellaneous, 2. Several of these papers have been contributed by persons residing outside the Dominion. In addition to the papers of technical nature, five addresses of more general interest were delivered.

Membership.—During the year fourteen members have been elected and seventeen have resigned or been struck off, so that the number now stands at 167.

Balance-sheet.—The balance-sheet shows a credit balance on the ordinary account of £155 7s. 7d, after an expenditure of £60 16s. 7d. on the library and an additional contribution of £10 10s. to the Hector Memorial Fund. A further sum of £20 7s. 8d. has been expended on the Otira. Pass Tunnel investigation, and the balance to the credit of the Tunnel Account is £149 7s. 11d.

Election of officers for 1910.—President—Mr. R. M. Laing; Vice-Presidents—Mr. A. M. Wright, Dr. L. Cockayne; Hon. Secretary—Mr. R. Speight; Hon. Treasurer—Dr. Charles Chilton; Hon. Librarian—Mr. Edgar R. Waite; Council—Mr. J. Drummond, Dr. W. P. Evans, Dr. C. Coleridge Farr, Mr. E. G. Hogg, Mr. J. B. Mayne, and Mr. S. Page; Representatives on the Board of Governors of the New Zealand Institute—Dr. C. Coleridge Farr and Mr. R. Speight; Hon. Auditor—Mr. G. E. Way, F.I.A.N.Z.

Papers.—1. “Glacial and Geological Memoranda from McMurdo Sound,” by T. V. Hodgson.

This paper embodies the results of observations made by Mr. T. V. Hodgson, biologist to the National Antarctic Expedition, and deals chiefly with the varying effects of pressure on the ice near the ship's winter quarters, as well as with the occurrence of heaps of rubble which cover the ice in certain localities. The author attributes the latter indirectly to volcanic action.

2. “Notes on New-Zealand Fishes,” by Edgar R. Waite.

The paper states that the local species of Cephaloscyllium should be known as C sabella, Broussonet, this name antedating C. laticeps, Dumeril. Centrophorus plunketi is a new species, and the first record of the genus in New Zealand. Triarcus is a new genus proposed for Maurolicus australis, Hector. A Centrolophus identified by Hutton with C. britannicus is described as new under the name C. huttoni. Cheimarrichthys fosteri, Haast, is redescribed, and its known range extended.

3. “Additions to the Terrestrial Isopoda of New Zealand,” by Dr. Charles Chilton.

A supplement to the paper published by the author in the “Transactions of the Linnean Society” for 1901, containing additional information with regard to the group.

4. “The Absorption of Moisture from the Atmosphere by Wools,” by A.M. Wright, F.C.S.


Wool is very hygroscopic, and may contain from 8 to 50 per cent. of moisture, according to the condition of the atmosphere to which it is exposed. The moisture content is an important consideration in the sale of wool, and in Great Britain and on the Continent the percentage of moisture contained in the wool to be sold is officially determined in “wool conditioning” laboratories. The legal amount of moisture allowed in most European countries is 18.25 per cent.

The purposes of this investigation were—(1) To determine under what conditions wool absorbs moisture from the atmosphere; (2) to determine what constituents present in wool enable it to absorb such relatively large amounts of moisture.

The chemical composition of wool-fibre is nitrogenous, but in addition to the true wool-fibre there are normally present the following encrustating and mechanically adhering matters; (a) Wool-fat or yolk; (b) other fatty matter; (c) suint, which exudes from the body of the animal with the perspiration, and is sometimes called “wool-perspiration”; (d) adhering impurities, or dirt mechanically mixed with the above, or entangled among the fibres.

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The analyses of the greasy and slipe wools used in this investigation are given, from which it is seen that the slipe wools contain less moisture than the greasy wools; also, the amounts of wool-fat and suint are lower in the slipe wool.

The amounts of moisture absorbed were determined after exposing the wool to the atmosphere for from twenty-four to 408 hours after drying absolutely, determinations of the relative humidity of the atmosphere and the amount of moisture in grains per cubic foot being made at the same time.

The results obtained show that greasy wool absorbs from 24 ½ to 29 ¼ per cent of moisture, and slipe wool under the same conditions absorbs from 16 to 20 ½ per cent of moisture. It is found that the amounts of moisture absorbed increase and decrease as the relative humidity rises and falls, it being the relative humidity of the atmosphere rather than the absolute amount of moisture present which determines the amount of moisture which wool absorbs.

Pure wool-fibre, of which greasy wool contains from 50 to 70 per cent, and slipe wool about 75 per cent, can absorb from 18 to 20 per cent of its weight of moisture from the atmosphere. This amount is not sufficient to account for all the moisture absorbed by dry normal wool.

Natural wool-fat or yolk present in greasy wool in amounts up to 17 per cent, and in slipe wool to 6 ½ per cent, is capable of absorbing 17 per cent. of its weight of atmospheric moisture.

Suint, or wool-perspiration, can absorb from 60 to 67 per cent. of its weight of moisture when exposed to the atmosphere, this matter being very hygroscopic, and is present in greasy wools in amounts up to 13 per cent and in slipe wools to 2 per cent.

Fatty matter other than natural wool-fat present in slipe wools in amounts of from two to six times that found in greasy wools, and picked up by the wool from the greasy underside of the skins during the washing process, has a retarding effect on the amount of moisture absorbed.

5. “The Formaldehyde Method for the Estimation of Nitrogen in Organic Substances,” by A. M. Wright, F.C.S.


The reaction between ammonia and formaldehyde whereby hexamethylenetatiaumine is formed has been used for some time as a means of estimating formaldehyde but the reaction has only recently been utilised for the estimation of ammonia.

Bennet* has applied the method particularly to the determination of nitrogen in leather and tannery lime liquors, and has shown that accurate results can be obtained.

The author of the present paper has investigated this method as applied to the estimation of nitrogen in meat products, organic nitrogen in fertilisers, dried tankage, and blood.

Detailed results are given in the paper which show that the method can be successfully applied to the determination of nitrogen in the above-mentioned substances.

6. “On an Apparent Relation between some of the Physical Properties of Solids,” by S. Page.

This is an endeavour to show that all modes of breaking down solids have the same forces to deal with and require the same energy and hence that solids, if arranged in order of solubility, are also in order of mechanical strength, and vice versa.

7. “A New Method of defining or expressing the Properties of Oxyacids, Bases, and Salts,” by S. Page.

The following expression is suggested as containing in itself the essential properties of the compounds named: “When any two elements or groups are united by oxygen, the more positive element is readily displaced by another positive element or group.” The application of this principle to typical cases is shown.

8. “Some Theorems relating to Sub-polar Triangles,” by E. G. Hogg.

9. “Notes on the Geology of the West Coast Sounds,” by R. Speight.

A short account is given of certain physiographical features of the Sound country, and petrological notes on the rocks collected at a number of localities not previously visited by a geologist. The rocks are almost entirely gneisses, chiefly diorite gneisses and amphibolites, and probably are not Archæan, but are metamorphosed diorites and diabases. They show cataclastic effects very frequently, and contain much rutile and epidote.

[Footnote] * Journ. Soc. Chem. Ind., vol. xxviii, p3. –92.