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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 6 (September 2, 1935)

The Grave at Mesopotamia

The Grave at Mesopotamia.

A memorable, and tragic expedition, undertaken in 1861, soon after von Haast's appointment as Provincial Geologist, was the exploration of the Rangitata and Ashburton Rivers up to their alpine sources. The geologist was accompanied by his friend Dr. Andrew Sinclair, who went to assist him with the botanical researches. Their headquarters were fixed at Mesopotamia, where Samuel Butler, presently to become famous as the author of “Erewhon,” had a few months previously established himself as a sheep-farmer. The scientists explored the glacial heads of the Rangitata — space prevents Haast's eloquent description of those scenes of alpine gloom and glory — and returned to Mesopotamia to rest their horses and obtain food. A few days later, when crossing one of the deep main streams of the Rangitata, Dr. Sinclair was washed away and drowned. His body was found next day 300 yards below, where he entered the river; the riderless horse had arrived at the Mesopotamia Station the previous night. It was a sad blow to Haast.

“We brought the body of my lamented friend to Mesopotamia and buried him on March 29. Near the banks of the river, just where it emerges from the Alps, with their perpetual snowfields glistening in the sun, amidst veronicas and senecios and covered with celmisias and gentians, there lies his lonely grave. With almost juvenile alacrity he had climbed and searched the mountain sides, showing that notwithstanding his advanced age his love for his cherished science had supplied him with strength for his pursuits, until at last, over-rating his powers and not sufficiently aware of the treacherous nature of alpine torrents he fell a victim to his zeal. Great and deep was my sorrow, and with a saddened heart I had to continue alone the work upon which we had set out together.”