Geology of the Provinces of Canterbury and Westland, New Zealand : a report comprising the results of official explorations
Journey to the West Coast, 1865
Journey to the West Coast, 1865.
I now prepared myself to start for the West Coast, to examine and report upon the goldfields opened up in the northern portion of the Province, and to trace the extent of the auriferous ground, not only as an assistance to the mining population, but also as a guidance to the Provincial Government. This journey to the West Coast taking place during the most remarkable period in the history of the Province, I shall offer here a transcription of a portion of a paper treating on the subject, which was read on February 11th, 1868, before the Imperial Geographical Society of Vienna, and printed in its Transactions,* and I trust that such account will not be without interest to the inhabitants of Canterbury and Westland, many of whom will have a lively recollection of those stirring times.
* Beschreibung einer Reise von Christchurch, der Hauptstadt der Provinz Canterbury auf Neu Seeland, nach den Goldfeldern der West Küste in Jahre 1865. von Dr Julius Haast, Mittheilungen der K.K. Geographischen Gesellschaft in Wien, No. 4 und No. 5,1868.
Whoever is acquainted with life in the goldfields, will understand that, with the gold-diggers proper, the whole population which follows in their train, immediately departed. Not only the storekeepers and packers, artisans, and publicans, but also the demi-monde, sharpers and idlers of every kind, resembling marauders who follow an army, moved like a living stream through the country. In the meantime the gold fever had not only attacked the population of the Otago page 67province; all New Zealand, and even the Australian Colonies were more or less affected, and numerous steam and sailing vessels unloaded their living freight on the formerly desolate West Coast. Thousands of men who in consequence of their usually sedentary lives, were the least fitted to bid defiance to the elements, to carry heavy burdens on their backs, and at the same time put up with scanty and bad food, would not be warned, but followed in pursuit of the gold which, as report said, was so easy to obtain. Thus the clerk left his desk, the artisan his workshop, even doctors, lawyers, and merchants whose sphere of action was not quite what they desired, preferred to give up their professional position and domestic life in pursuit of the uncertain wealth in the distance. As a matter of course, most of these people returned without having attained any results, while many, terrified by the mountain torrents, and being to their advantage, soon sobered down, came back again when they had scarcely gone half-way.
This migration began in December, 1864, during the time I was occupied in preparing the results of my geological explorations for the Art and Industrial Exhibition in Dunedin, the capital of the Province of Otago. This was the reason that I was able to set out to follow the general stream to the West Coast, only towards the end of March, 1865. All those who did not prefer to come by sea had to travel over the "saddle," the only pass then known, and which leads from the sources of the Hurunui river to those of the Teramakau. The Government had sent out several parties in the beginning of the year, to the sources of theRakaia and Waimakariri rivers, to see if any pass existed there through the Southern Alps, but meanwhile in order to facilitate the traffic in some degree, had despatched a number of roadmen under qualified engineers, to improve the bridlepath made some years previously, so that pack-horses could be brought from the East to the West Coast.
On the 29th March I left Christchurch with three horses, and accompanied by three men; the weather was glorious, as it nearly always is in the latter part of our summer, not a cloud in the deep blue sky, and travelling was pleasant and easy, as a well-made road only a few miles distant from the sea coast, leads from the capital for thirty miles north to the Waipara. What stirring life was on the road! waggons of all kinds came and went, bringing provisions and other goods to the Waitohi gorge, where the waggon road ends. An endless train of gold-diggers with pack-horses, packers driving horses before them, and even women walking stoutly along by the side of page 68their husbands and often leading pack-horses, all going to the new Eldorado. Travellers on foot with heavy pacts on their backs, and shovels and pickaxes in their hands, were also there, many of them having already come several hundred miles. It was easy to see from their appearance that most of them were accustomed to such journeys with their accompanying privations and hardships; but an experienced traveller could easily descry among them single groups whose outfit and appearance showed at once that they were novices, and hardly in the condition to bear the fatigues before them. After the Kowai river is crossed, the high road leaves the alluvium or littoral zone, consisting of drift sand which it has hitherto passed through, and ascends a terrace about fifty feet high, consisting of the older drift alluvium which forms the Canterbury plains.
After having traversed about eight miles of this monotonous grass-covered plain, the road enters the tertiary limestone range through which the Weka Pass leads to the Hurunui district. The road instead of leading over the Waikari plain to the Hurunui river goes towards the Waitohi, one of its tributaries, where it enters the alluvial plain from the eastern slopes of the Southern Alps. The good high road which we followed hitherto, ends here, and only a small bridlepath leads farther into the country. The Waitohi enters the plains through a rather narrow valley with a small alluvial terrace, about 100 feet high on both sides, in which as well as in the underlying cliffs the stream has formed its present bed. Within a few weeks a small township had sprung up here, consisting mostly of tents, but a few people had already begun to erect wooden houses and shops, for the numbers of people who came were increasing every day. The traveller could not help being especially struck here with the feverish movement of a population hastening to a newly discovered goldfield. Many of the diggers and storekeepers who had brought loaded waggons from Otago, in the belief that they could take them at least to the foot of the saddle, which leads over the central chain, were now obliged to leave them behind and take their stores on with pack-horses. Many large waggons were therefore sold for a trifle, while others which did not immediately find a buyer were simply left behind. And what a busy active life was here to be seen, everywhere tents and campfires, around which several hundred persons were encamped, most of them making preparations for continuing their journey, and often speaking in different languages, English being of course predominant. During the whole of the afternoon and till late in the evening travellers kept page 69arriving. As I observed the different groups, I could not help noticing in spite of the commotion and the noise, how very earnest the people were. There was very little drinking, and still less singing; each one was too much occupied with putting up tents, cooking, and especially with his preparations for the journey, and was thinking no doubt at the same time of the difficulties before him. At the Waitohi gorge I met several parties of diggers, who were on their way back to Christchurch, not being able to endure the hardships of the journey; they had found themselves compelled to make their way back overland, as soon as their means were exhausted. Most of them were dreadfully ragged, and looked quite famished and fallen away, and they could not say enough about the horrible condition of the road and the dangers they had gone through. The gold-diggers by profession did not however consider it worth while to listen to them, as they saw directly that they did not belong to the right class of men to undertake such journeys successfully. Although I was told that 40 miles farther on, immediately below the pass, provisions and oats might be bought, I wished to be quite safe, and sent two more horses on with provisions from here, that I might not be hindered in my progress.
Where the Waitohi enters the plain, the good made road ends, and only a bridlepath leads on towards Lake Sumner, into which the Hurunui falls, 16 miles from its source; and then, increased in volume, flows towards the East Coast, forming the boundary between the provinces of Nelson and Canterbury. This bridlepath, about 18 miles long, was originally formed by the sheep farmers who used the hilly ground in the Hurunui lake district as pasture land. The path continues for three miles along the northern terrace of the Waitohi river, a continuation of the Hurunui plain. This terrace consists of alluvium resting upon rocky cliffs, into which the present river has cut its way 100 feet deep, so that it is shut in on both sides by high perpendicular walls of rock. Here we leave the tertiary, and enter into a much older formation, palæozoic sandstones alternating with reddish brown clay slates. Here and there quartzose and diabasic slates occur, dikes of hyperite are also not rare, but their position does not offer any clue to their age. Altogether the geological conditions of this zone show a great similarity with the Mount Torlesse chain, of which this is without doubt the northern continuation. I searched here in vain for fossils, of which generally in our older rocks for more than a hundred square miles scarcely a trace has yet been discovered. Numerous parties crowded past us, scarcely allowing page 70themselves a moment's rest, in order that they might not be too late for the golden harvest. After three miles the bridlepath leaves the principal valley of the Waitohi, and follows a little tributary from the north, which crosses the path about twenty times before the foot of the pass, 1858 feet high, is reached. Immediately at the beginning of the rush, the Provincial Government had sent on a number of roadmen to repair the worst places, to build bridges, to drain swamps, and where the bridlepath led along steep declivities, to make it less dangerous by blasting and earthworks. Although this had been done here, and not-withstanding the really splendid weather, the road was nevertheless in many places in a very bad condition, for the immense traffic of men and horses and the numerous herds of cattle which were daily driven towards the West Coast, had soon destroyed the generally temporary earthworks, so that in many places we had great difficulty in getting the pack-horses over the swampy ground. Here too, I met several people returning from the West Coast, covered with rags, and whose hollow features showed only too plainly traces of the unaccustomed privations they had endured. We now rode up the grassy saddle which leads between the mountains, about 3000 feet high, to the Hurunui river, without encountering any difficulties. In spite of the unpleasant change in the weather which had taken place, the road was very interesting.
Numbers of diggers on foot or on horseback, pedlars taking provisions on pack-horses, herds of cattle driven by stockmen on horses, and all going in the same direction, enlivened the landscape, the loneliness of which at other times would not fail to make an impression upon the traveller. Arrived at the saddle, a magnificent view opened out on the wild partly wooded rocky mountains, which bound both sides of the Hurunui valley; the river itself is not visible, as it flows in a deep gorge. Behind us lay the Hurunui plain, bounded by a succession of tertiary hills which form the horizon. At the northern declivity of the pass was a little swampy valley, which runs for a short space along the principal river, and afterwards enters it in a narrow gorge. After we had crossed this we had to ascend a drift terrace, along which the road goes for a short distance. The old alluvial deposits lie about 150 feet above the present surface of the river, but traces of higher, still older terraces, are also visible, 100 feet above the road on the mountain sides, consisting also of shingle deposits, out of which at some places rocks crop out. After a short distance, the foaming river washes against its southern bank, formed for the most page 71part of wild rocky cliffs, between which the small remains of a luxuriant forest are here and there visible, for the romance of the district has been destroyed in nearly all the accessible places by the practical hand of the sheep farmer, in order to obtain food for his flocks. Burnt bare stumps, often of gigantic trees, show everywhere how great this destruction has been. At some places enormous declivities covered with taluses of debris descend from the mountains, four to five thousand feet high, into the valley, the crossing of which with horses, owing to their steepness, is of ten attended with great difficulty The path continues along the mountain side for a few miles, often ascending three or four hundred feet, then again nearing the riverbed At some places it had been necessary to blast the road through the hard bluish sandstone rocks, but in spite of the great improvements that had been made by the Government roadmen during the last two months, I found the road in many places so steep and narrow that the heavily laden horses could scarcely find room to pass by the often overhanging cliffs, or to obtain a foothold on the slippery shelving ground. Various accidents had already taken place here, without however any human life being sacrificed, only some horses and cattle having been lost.
The view of the jagged mountains, of the deep blue Hurunui rushing down its wild gorge, or of the romantic lonely valleys in which crystal streams trickled down, was really enchanting, and I was never tired of admiring the ever changing picture before me. After three miles, the valley opens out, and a little flat goes along the southern side of the river, on which Mr. Taylor's woolshed is situated. A storekeeper, who also sold spirits, had settled himself here, and was doing a good business. A great many gold-diggers had also erected their tents here, and a stirring bustle prevailed when I arrived towards evening. The rushing of the river and the melodious song of the birds woke me before daybreak, and on going out of my tent I found that many of the travellers had already taken theirs down, and were preparing to continue their march. The forest here on the southern side also is nearly all destroyed, whilst on the other side, on the steep rocky mountains, often 5000 feet high, it is preserved, as the country is too wild and inaccessible for the sheep farmer. A mile above our camping place we reached the so-called South Hurunui, near its junction with the principal river, where a tent for selling spirits was erected, and horses kept in readiness to take foot passengers over the river, which, when low, is about three feet deep, for the payment of a shilling. On page 72the opposite bank the path ascends a terrace more than 150 feet high, and is comparatively easy, although here and there steep places still occur. Above this junction the valley assumes a less gorge-like character, and keeps on widening, until three miles westward it opens out completely. A wall of debris several hundred feet high forms the southern side of the valley, out of which grassy rounded roches moutonnées, 500 feet high, rise, and are a sign that we are in the neighbourhood of the glacier lakes. After the shingle wall, consisting of stratified subangular alluvium, is ascended, the path leaves the valley of the principal river and continues towards Lake Taylor, in a thickly grassed river-bed filled up with quarternary debris, leading us two miles further on to the remains of an old moraine. On the northern side the valley has been formed by a number of low roches moutonnées, all with their worn side towards the west. The contrast between these grassy rounded hills and the high rugged mountain, covered to a height of 4000 feet with dark beech forest, was very attractive.
On the evening of the 5th of April I arrived at the grassy shores of Lake Taylor (1948 feet), the deep blue surface of which is charmingly situated between the dark green beech forest, and in which the mountain, rising abruptly at its southern shore, with its rugged peaks more than 6000 feet high, is reflected. At the house of the hospitable runholder, Mr. Taylor, I received a most hearty welcome, while my men put up their tents on the shore of the lake. As this was good pasture ground, and firewood was close at hand, several butchers' stalls and huts for selling provisions had already been erected at this place, at other times so lonely. The numerous white tents on the shore of the lake looked quite cheerful, and as night came on I counted, in different directions, thirty camp fires. The benevolence of the excellent man whose guest I was, and who had already lived here many years, had been sorely tried during the last few months, but he nevertheless continued through the whole of the rush, which still lasted several months, to give willingly and without remuneration, flour, meat, tea, and sugar, to all those who were returning from the coast starving, so that they were able to continue their journey with renewed strength. Only those diggers went back overland who had not the means to take a passage in a steam or sailing vessel from the West to the East Coast.
During the next day I was occupied in visiting the different lakes, in order that I might become acquainted with the geological conditions page 73in their neighbourhood. After we had ridden through the outlet of Lake Taylor, two miles long and half a mile wide, we crossed a saddle between two roches moutonnées which separate the Taylor Lake valley from a northern valley running parallel to it; here a little lake (Lake Mason) and several lagoons are situated, and in the Ice period it must have been the bed of another arm of the great Hurunui glacier. In the south, to our left, was a mountain range about 5000 feet high, the upper part of which consisted of wild jagged rocks, and it was easy to perceive from this how high the ice masses of this glacier had once reached, above which these rocks must have risen like an island. After two miles, in the course of which we had climbed over several moraines which cross the valley, we reached the Hurunui river, flowing 400 feet beneath us, in a broad valley. In order to descend to it, we had to climb over the very distinct side moraine of the former principal glacier and then ride down five steep terraces, in doing which the path made by the cattle was of great assistance to us. The valley of the principal river is here a mile broad. After we had found a good ford to cross the river, we continued our way on the northern side of the valley, where at some places beautiful sugar-loaf shaped roches moutonnées occur, while behind them, mountains rise 5000 feet above the valley, the lower declivities of which are generally thickly covered with Fagus Menziesii. Numerous herds of cattle enlivened the solitary region, the vegetation of which was already quite sub-alpine. In some stony places the ground was covered with such thick masses of Aciphylla Colensoi, that it was only with difficulty we could pass through amongst its sharp bayonet-shaped leaves. Celmisia coriacea, and spectabilis, the gigantic New Zealand asters, were also very frequent, while the regular shaped bushes, often forming a half globe of Veronica Colensoi, vernicosa and salicifolia, Olearia nitida, and different Cassinias, Coprosmas, &c., covered the shore near the river-bed with their delicate leaves, and masses of blossom. The nearer we approached the Stunner lake, the more the high terraces walled in the river, till two miles from the lake it is quite confined between high shingle walls Half a mile from the lake a moraine, situated about 250 feet above its surface, covers the valley, which, however, has been partly concealed or destroyed by the large cone of debris deposited by a mountain stream coming from the north, and flowing into the Hurunui. When we had ascended this cone, covered for the most part with thick beech forest, the peaceful deep-blue surface of the beautiful lake lay quite 150 feet beneath us, surrounded on both sides by high mountains which, for about 2000 feet above it, were clothed with thick forest. Before the page 74shore can be reached, at least ten old beaches, fully preserved and extending over the valley in a half circle, have to be descended. It was indeed a great pleasure to be able once more to enjoy nature in her pure virgin solitude. The quiet mirror of the lake, only disturbed here and there by ducks and other water birds; the dark forest, with the rugged rocky peaks above it, reflected in the lake, formed a landscape of such exquisite beauty that I was very unwilling to leave it.
On Saturday, the 8th April, still favoured by beautiful weather, I left my kind host, and followed the human stream towards the west. The path leads along the southern shore of Lake Taylor, which, like most of our alpine basins, is shallow only 30 or 40 feet from the shore, then suddenly falls off and appears to become very deep. Several cones of debris, some of considerable extent, come down from the southern side of the mountain, and often stretch far into the lake. One of these has at its extreme point, a tongue, several hundred yards long, going towards the east, which rises like a dam above the surface of the water, and is a speaking testimony of the duration and power of the west wind, which prevails here. The western end of the lake is likewise formed by the high-walled debris cone of a mountain stream of enormous dimensions, which covers the whole valley, and leaning against the " Skor," like roches moutonnées, of the northern side, forms here several lagoons. The glacier furrows, with a slight fall towards the east, are visible on both sides of the valley. Half a mile from Late Catherine the path ascends an old moraine, which likewise crosses the valley in a half circle, and is tolerably well preserved. On the ridge of this moraine the traveller has a charming view of Lake Catherine, 1742 feet above the sea level, lying below him and surrounded by little beech forests of a park-like character, between which the numerous white tents of the roadmen, with their camp fires, glimmered cheerfully. The valley of the Hurunui, above Lake Sumner, is already visible from here. As the old bridlepath along the lake was so dreadfully swampy that several horses had perished in it, a number of workmen were occupied here in forming a new road. This was already made for a good distance, but beyond this we had to pass a few places where the horses sank in so deeply that we had great trouble to get them through. A deep swamp fills up the level flat between the little Catherine lake and the large Sumner lake, which are united by a sluggish water-course. After any change in the height of the water in both lakes, the water runs from Lake Catherine into the Sumner Lake or the reverse, as there is only a difference of a few feet in the level of page 75the two lakes. For instance, I found Lake Catherine some 7 feet higher than Lake Sumner, whilst in the spring after the melting of the snow in the high Alps, or after continuous rainfall, the principal lake is said to be higher. Separate roches moutonnées go from the southern side through the swamp, towards the mountains lying at the southern end of Lake Sumner, called the Big Brother range, the western end of which is covered with glacier marks, while the summits have kept their rough rocky forms. Similar roches moutonnées and remains of large side moraines are also visible on the southern shore of the Hurunui river above the lake, and over these we reached the western shore. Like all the shores at the head of our alpine lakes, this is formed by the delta of the riper which flows into it, so that the lake is very shallow for some distance. The valley of the river itself continues in a straight direction, as broad as the lake, for at least ten miles towards the central chain without narrowing visibly; it is formed of masses of debris, over which the river hurries, in a number of branches, to the lake.
Going upwards from the shore of the lake, we followed along a grassy flat which occurs on the southern shore of the Hurunui river. A striking difference is here noticeable, when compared with the valley below the junction of the two principal branches. Instead of the deep gorge, the river has here a bed generally two miles wide, over which it spreads out in a number of branches, changing its course after each high freshet. Here and there, roches moutonneés of different sizes project out of it, often covered with thick beech forest. A similar luxurious forest vegetation ascends on both sides of the mountains for 500 feet; but, nevertheless, does not quite hide the numerous remains of moraines and glacier shelves. The predominating forest tree here, is Fagus Solandri with small finely cut leaves, reminding one by its regular shape of the European pines. In the eastern lower mountains and the Alps, the principal vegetation consists of this elegant kind of tree; whilst on the western declivities, Fagus fusca often six to eight feet in diameter, forms the chief vegetation. The range on both sides as far as the central chain, consists of a continuous chain, above which, isolated peaks project. Advancing on the right bank of the river for four miles, we came to a place where the principal branch of the river flows close under a perpendicular cliff, we had therefore to cross the river, which was very easily done, as the water was so low that it scarcely reached the horses' knees. Several storekeepers and a butcher had put up their tents here.page 76
The path led now along the northern side of the valley, which consists generally of grassy flats. Five miles from the late, although the valley is still tolerably wide, the river flows in a more narrowed bed, little terraces are formed on both sides, mostly covered with a luxuriant forest vegetation, which rises above the grass in smaller or larger groups not unlike a park, and consisting of either little thickets of beeches or bushes of Scrophularineæ, Coprosmas and Compositae. Of the first, different kinds of Veronicas, as V. salicifolia, Menziesii, buxifolia &c., form regular half-globe-like shrubs, while of the last, Olearia nitida and Cunning hannii, Cassinia fulvida, and several others, please the eye by their elegant forms and the variety of their tints. As soon as the view opens out to the west, the saddle which forms the pass lies before us, a clearly defined depression in the mountain range, which rises steeply above it 4000 to 4500 feet on both sides. About four milea from the pass, the road enters the forest and does not leave the river again, which now assumes the character of a true mountain stream, and rushes foaming over huge boulders; from here it has to be frequently crossed.
The character of the landscape now becomes continually more extensive and grander. Roaring torrents come down from the northern sides of the mountain, and Fagus Solandri gives place to Fagus Menziesii which prefers a damper mountain climate: here and there isolated forms of sub-alpine Senecios, Veronicas and Olearias occur. The beautiful Ranunculus Lyallii with large cup-shaped leaves, and the delicate Ligusticum Haastii with deeply serrated leaves are found at the water-courses, while the Aciphylla Colensoi, which till now grew on the grass flats and open places, is replaced by the gigantic Aciphylla Lyallii with bluish-green, sharp bayonet-like leaves, and a flower-stalk often ten feet high. Everything showed that we were now ascending more rapidly, and approaching the pass. At the foot of the saddle two mountain streams, coming from the north-west and south-west unite and form the Hurunui. Here a blockhouse stands, built a few years ago by the party accompanying Charles Howitt, who was drowned in Lake Brunner while he was occupied in making a path through the bush and over the pass into the valley of the Teramakau; it was now filled with provisions and belonged to a dealer, who was doing a very good business, but complained that his profits were very much lessened by the numbers of half-starving people who returned without any money. I found in the blockhouse, the provisions that I had sent on from the Waitohi gorge, consisting of flour, bacon, sugar and tea. page 77Unfortunately, in spite of the precautions that had been taken, the rats had already demolished a part of them. We passed rather sleepless nights, for the place swarmed with rats, and we had great difficulty in protecting our provisions from them. These animals were really quite a plague and left nothing untouched; I even found traces of their sharp teeth in the shot. They ate holes with inconceiveable rapidity in the flour bags, although we put them under our heads for pillows and tried to protect them in other ways as well as we could.
I calculated the height of this camping place, and found that it attained already 2662 feet. The influence of the damp climate which is peculiar to the west side of the Island, began already to be perceptible here. Up to this time we had been favoured with the most beautiful weather, lovely days and nights, without a cloud in the deep blue sky, but it now began to rain violently, and continued to do so with very little intermission until we reached the West Coast. Several parties of returning diggers passed during my stay here, most of them ragged, starving, and without money, real pictures of misery. They were nearly all novices who had never seen a goldfield before, and after they had spent the few pounds they brought with them, and had looked round in vain for a new claim, they had been compelled to return without having done anything. Labourers had easily found work in the towns springing up so quickly on the Coast.
Early on the morning of the 11th April, I set out to cross the pass. A fine rain fell as I left the camp and rode through the luxuriant beech forest, which however, after we had ascended 200 feet, began already to be stunted, and almost disappeared beneath the cosmopolitan lichen Usnea barbata, which covers trees and boughs with its white beard. It is worthy of observation that the boundary line of the trees is already reached here at a height of 2800 feet, while on the sides of the mountains bounding the Canterbury plains, it ascends to an altitude of 4600 feet. It is therefore evident that absolute height alone does not fix the forest boundary line, but that the upper forest boundary depends upon the winter snow-line, which in the heart of the Southern Alps sinks to 2100 feet, while near the sea it lies more than 2500 feet higher. The road, which till now had been tolerably good, began to get almost impassable, in consequence of the great traffic on the narrow bridlepath, and resembled a morass canal; sharp stones, roots, and dead timber, made progress very difficult; the horses sank up to their knees and could only work themselves out with difficulty. About 200 feet below the saddle the gnarled forest wood ends, and a striking sub-alpine page 78flora begins, consisting of fine tree-like shrubs, often eight to twelve feet high, mostly Compositæ, among which Olearia ilicifolia, nummularifolia, and Cunninghamii, and Senecio elæagnifolius, are especially remarkable. The unpleasing sombre green colour of the beech forest in the valley is now replaced by different tints, very intense, varying from bright yellowish green to dark bluish green, and deep brown. Besides this, all the above-named Composite have the under side of the leaf covered with a white or yellow down, which gives the whole landscape a variegated appearance, especially when, as at many places, numerous shrubs of Dracophyllum lonqifolium and uniflorum, covered with dark brown leaves grow between them. Many bushes of Panax, with their bright green leaves reminding us of the river vegetation we had left, are also to be seen. The nearer we approached the summit of the pass, the denser became the vegetation. An undescribed, superb, tree-like Dracophyllum, not unlike the Drac. latifolium of the northern island, began to appear here (named afterwards D. Traversii by Dr. Hooker). The natives call it Nene. It has leaves a foot long running out into a slender point of a reddish brown colour in the upper part, between which the elegant flower panicle comes forth. This plant raises its tree-like crown gracefully above the other shrubs, and gives the region a highly peculiar character. The mist which had been falling began to change into rain as we arrived on the flat ridge of the saddle, at some places overgrown with Danthonia flavescens, the snow grass of the colonists, between which numerous specimens of Celmisia coriacea Lyallii, and discolor made their appearance. Other places were swampy and covered with Sphagnum moss, between which stood here and there little half globe-like bushes of Dracophyllum rosmarinifolium together with the large Ranunculus Lyallii, and one or two sub-alpine umbelliferous plants. This vegetation ascended on both sides of the mountains, bordering the pass for at least 1500 feet, before the real alpine flora began. The mountains on both sides, immediately above the pass, attain a freight of about 7000 feet, and do not reach the line of perpetual snow. From earlier descriptions, I had expected to find higher mountains here; but I could, nevertheless, perceive them more towards the west, and on both sides of the Teramakau valley. Though the view westward was very much limited by the rain, which fell uninterruptedly, I was nevertheless able to perceive that the saddle shelved off more steeply towards the western side than the eastern, and that at the foot of the saddle a broad straight valley commenced. Although the ascent of the eastern side had been accompanied with difficulties, still we had been able to reach the summit page 79of the pass without getting off our horses; now we could no longer think of riding. The unparalleled bad road led rather steeply downwards, either over smooth slippery blocks of rock, or through pools of slush full of roots and large and small stones, over and between which the poor horses tried to pick their way, panting and trembling, and often sinking up to their girths. Of course it was no better for the pedestrians, and I was now convinced that the famishing travellers, who had returned, had not at all exaggerated in their description of the horrible road. The change in the vegetation is very remarkable, as, after having descended several hundred feet, it is entirely different from that observed on the eastern side. The sub-alpine vegetation instead of going over into Fagus Solandri, is little by little supplanted by forms of trees, which we generally find on the West coast of the Island, and to the growth of which a damp climate seems particularly favourable. Some few of the shrubs on the saddle assume a treelike form, as for instance, Olearia ilicifolia, Panax Edgerlyii, while numerous trees of Metrosideros lucida, Fuchsia excorticata, Weinmannia racemosa, and several others are mixed among them and gradually supplant the sab-alpine vegetation. Fagus fusca, the black birch of the colonists, soon makes its appearance together with the two conifers Podocarpus Totara and Libocedrus Doniana, the Kawhaka of the natives rising far above the other forest vegetation with their erect stems and superb crowns. Twelve hundred to fifteen hundred feet below the saddle, on the steep declivity the forest has already assumed the character of the vegetation which we find everywhere in the lower mountains of the Alps near the West Coast. Descending about 850 feet, we came to the first considerable mountain stream, which comes out of a deep wide gorge on the northern side of the range and rushes over large blocks of rock to the valley. This stream was already more considerable than the Hurunui, three to four miles below the saddle. This crossed, we entered the forest again, which, for a short space, covering terrace-like ground, tolerably smooth and very mossy, much resembled a bottomless swamp. Continuing down the mountain, we passed several important tributaries from both sides, and after two hours continuous travelling arrived at the western foot of the pass. The valley widens here visibly, and is bordered on both sides by moraines twenty to thirty feet high. At a height of 1500 feet above the sea, it assumes the peculiarities before described of a broad shingle bed. The river has here such a considerable body of water, that even when it is low, the fords are difficult to cross, although good places can generally page 80be found above the numerous rapids; higher up, where large boulders lie in the bed of the river and the current is very strong, it is very difficult for the traveller to obtain a firm footing, especially when the river is thick from long continued rain. Many accidents have occurred here, so that the people that had already been drowned in the Teramakau could be counted by dozens. The rocks consist of chertose beds alternating with clay slates. It was clear to me directly, that the Teramakau saddle does not lie in the geognostical mountain axis, but several miles east of it. This accounts for the great abundance of water in the Teramakau river, which is formed not only from the mountain streams by and near the water shed, but for ten miles receives many tributaries from the left side of the mountain range, the southern declivities of which feed the Waimakariri flowing to the east coast. A few rather important tributaries also come from the mountain chain situated to the north. As soon as we had reached the broad river valley the bridlepath ended, and in spite of the rain which still continued to fall heavily, we went on much more quickly between the bright green Veronica and Olearia bushes, a pleasing contrast to the darker forest on both sides. These shrubs intermixed with species of Coriaria (Tutu) and Coprosma, cover the islands in the river, which lie beyond the reach of ordinary inundations. Eight miles from the saddle we camped, while the rain continued to pour down in torrents. The rain lasted two days, only clearing up towards noon on 13th April. The clouds dispersed and the grand mountain landscape lay before us in all its beauty. The mountains lying opposite to us, about 7000 feet high, were covered for 2000 feet with thick forest, above which sub-alpine shrubs and grass appeared, replaced after another 1000 feet by wild bare rocks. The contrast of shapes and colours formed an indescribably beautiful picture, to the animation of which numbers of waterfalls, often falling several hundred feet, and increased bv the rain, added not a little. A few hours after the rain had ceased the river began to fall, and the next morning had almost returned to its natural bed. When we consider that the mountains are very steep, and that the waters have only a proportionally short course, it is easily conceivable that these mountain streams must fall again just as quickly as they rise. The saddle we had crossed a few days before could be distinctly seen, but it appeared higher than when seen from the eastern side. The view to the west was rather extensive, the valley widened out considerably, and seemed to be closed in by a wooded range (the Hohonu range), through which the river, deviating a little to the south, had forced its way. We were now able to set out again, although the page 81river, through which we had to pass several times, was still rather high. After four miles we came to a place where we found a great many travellers, who had not the courage to cross a dangerous looking ford. Most of them had already used up all their provisions, and begged me to leave them flour enough for at least one day, which I did, the more willingly, as I had been assured repeatedly that I should be able to obtain new provisions at the so-called Pakihi, a large forest meadow near Lake Brunner. After I had tried the ford and found it passable, we took the pack-horses over, and the other people soon followed. Towards noon we reached the mouth of the Otira, an important tributary; at its source a pass, like that of the Hurunui saddle, leads to the Waimakariri river, over which the high road to connect the east and west coast was being made. On the mountains to the south side of the river and west from the Otira valley, which have very wild forms, we could now observe some snowfields with small glaciers of the second order. The vegetation had changed very much since we left our last camp. We had long since left Metrosideros lucida and similar trees growing near the pass, behind. Along the rather wet track appeared, besides the Totara pine, white pines (Kahikatea, Podocarpus dacrydioides), and black pines (Rimu or Dacrydium cupressinum), which with their regularly-formed tops generally towered high above the other forest foliage; although here and there black beeches (Fagus fusca), 100 feet high, and 7 to 8 feet in diameter, were also to be seen. Delicate tree-ferns appeared in great abundance, especially in the gorge-like side valleys, among which Cyathea Smithii and Diclcsonia squarrosa were especially noticeable for their height and circumference. Between this superb vegetation, the black stemmed creeper Rhipogonum scandens (the Supplejack of the Colonists) often forms an impenetrable net, while the ground, as well as the stems of the trees, is covered most luxuriantly with mosses, lichens, and ferns. The whole enlivened by numbers of feathered songsters, forms a scene of indescribable beauty. We had still to cross the river several times before we arrived at the opening, two miles broad, which leads to Lake Brunner. We now left the bed of the Teramakau, which deviates a little from the westerly direction it has had hitherto, and breaks through the coast chain, but the valley, downwards, continues broad, and never assumes the character of a gorge. Half a mile from the river the flat is covered with the shrubs generally growing in the open valley, such as Leptospermum Coriaria, Olearia, Coprosma, &c. Then the path ascends a little terrace, a few feet high, and enters a magnificent forest with gigantic trees, between which are to be seen page 82tree-ferns, often as much as 30 feet high. After a mile and a half we came out of the high forest and the pakihi or paddock lay before us. This is the name given by the diggers to a grass-covered plain between one and two miles broad, bordered on both sides by thickly wooded mountains. This place, generally so desolate, was now highly animated. Cattle and horses were grazing peacefully in all directions. Numbers of tents were put up near the forest for the accommodation of gold-diggers, cattle-drivers, and storekeepers. It was used by those coming and going as a resting place, before resuming their tedious journey. Besides this, they let the cattle, for which there is very little food in the Teramakau valley, recruit here, since it is the last grassy place, near the coast and neighbourhood of Hokitika where feed grows. When the cattle are however once accustomed to the leaves of the trees and shrubs, some of which they like very much, they soon get into good condition again. In spite of the rainy weather there was active life and bustle here; no flour was however to be had, and people who had money to buy provisions were obliged to content themselves with fresh beef. The alluring grog shanty, as usual, was not missing. On a nearer examination of this interesting flat, I came to the surprising conclusion that even in the latest geological time, the Teramakau river must have flowed here. I could easily follow the old river-bed, divided into many branches, one part towards Lake Brunner, the other part towards Lake Poerua, situated to the north-east, the outlet of which falls into the first named lake.
The isolated mountain group which lies between the Pakihi and Lake Brunner and the Poerua Lake and its outlet into the first, is about 2500 feet high, thickly wooded, and is named by the natives Kaimonga. A few hundred feet from the northern bank of the Teramakau, where the Brunner lake opening begins, the ground is in some places swampy, and immediately little water-courses unite and form a stream which flows into the southern end of Lake Brunner. There is no doubt that these springs, rising near the river, are only river water filtered through the debris, and that consequently the surface of the water lies only a few feet under the northern bank of debris which confines the river towards the west. Should an elevation take place, which is very possible, in the shingle bed of the Teramakau river, it is easy to imagine that the river would again occupy its former course. I heard afterwards from the natives, that when the Teramakau had been very high they had taken canoes from it to Lake Brunner and to the Grey river, page 83and indeed, in running water the whole way. The mountains on both sides show glacier polishings and remains of lateral moraines. The difference in height of all the glaciers on the east and west sides of the Southern Alps struck me of course at once, as Lake Brunner which formed the end of the Teramakau glacier lies only 227 feet above the sea level, while Lake Summer, lying opposite, the end of the Hurunui glacier in the same period, has a height of 1735 feet above the sea and lies therefore 1508 feet higher. The cause of this difference which the present glaciers show in the same way, lies in the greater dampness of the climate on the western slopes, since six times as much rain falls on the west coast as on the east. I remained several days at the "paddock" in order to give my men and horses a little rest. During my stay, several parties of diggers arrived, who had travelled along by Lake Brunner and the western and southern slopes of the Hohonu chain, as it is not possible to follow the Teramakau river from here to the coast on foot, and the horses have generally to swim at the crossing places. These men were literally covered with mud, and gave such a description of the road that I thought it must be exaggerated; but I found afterwards, the so-called bush-track was so horribly bad, that no description could give any idea of it.
A few travelling parties had tried, in order to avoid the deep rapid ford in the gorge of the Teramakau, to take their horses with them along this path, but had either lost them or been obliged to return when half way. I therefore sent my pack-horses and my riding horse with one of my men down the river, to wait for me at the mouth of the Greenstone Creek, and went myself, accompanied by my two other men, along the dreaded bush track, because it afforded so much opportunity to study the geology of the country more closely, and at the same time, to visit Lake Brunner and the Greenstone Creek goldfields. We had therefore to take with us provisions for several days, together with tents and blankets, and started at noon on 18th April. For two miles we followed a well-trodden path over grassland, keeping on the western side of the valley. After we had waded through a broad swamp, we entered a forest and ascended a terrace, on which we soon had a foretaste of what we had to expect during the next few days. We sank to our middle in the half-liquid marsh, or had to climb over colossal tree stems which lay half rotten in it, or stumbled over blocks of stones and roots of trees. I do not think the best walker could possibly make more than a mile an hour here. Towards evening we arrived at Lake Brunner, on the shore of which we made our camp. This page 84broad peaceful expanse of water, surrounded by the most luxuriant forest and animated by numbers of water birds, is surrounded at the north by the end moraine of a gigantic post-pliocene glacier, while at the southern end, on both sides of the opening, entering from the Teramakau, high mountains descend steeply towards it. The next morning we continued our journey, and as the rocky shore descends at most places steeply into the lake, the path could not be continued along it, and we had often to ascend cliffs, forming beautiful rocks covered with primeval forest. Although I was well acquainted with the luxuriance of the New Zealand forest in the lower regions on the western side of the Southern Alps, I could not resist, now and then, stopping to admire some particularly beautiful part, in which majestic pines and beeches, their straight stems generally covered with bright green mosses and parasitic ferns, were especially conspicuous. Beneath this leafy roof, scarcely admitting the daylight, grew smaller trees and shrubs, above which rose numerous charming arborescent ferns with their delicate fronds. Some of these (Cyathea and Dicksonia) were often 40 to 50 feet high. Here and there, where a little valley led towards the lake, we had a view of the deep blue water beneath us. The path was often very rocky, and even for New Zealand horses, accustomed as they are to such paths, presented insurmountable obstacles, as was shown by the skeletons of different animals, lying on or near the road at particularly dangerous places. These skeletons also showed that rats existed here in great numbers, for though the animals had not long fallen, the bones were gnawed perfectly clean. It rained during the whole day, and towards evening we camped at the Big Hohonu Creek, which flows into Lake Brunner. We had therefore, in spite of our efforts, only made seven miles. In this beautiful clear mountain stream, and its banks I instructed my men to dig for gold; we found, to use a technical expression, "the colour everywhere." They were generally thin, small scales, often only slightly rolled, and could not, therefore, have been brought any distance. The rain did not cease during the night, and as we were making ready next morning to continue our journey, we were wet to the skin before we had taken the tent down. We now entered upon a terraced table land, which stretches from the western foot of the Hohonu chain towards the coast, and from which a few low hills rise here and there. The district is covered with the most luxuriant forest, and cut through by a great many little water-courses, which are generally closed in on both sides by banks, often perpendicular, from 40 to 50 feet high. The ground page 85on this plateau is swampy and difficult to travel over, and when one considers that the people who go through it have to carry swags of 30 to 50lbs., it is easily conceivable that this piece of the road has rightly become notorious. Tipeni, a Native of herculean strength, and one of my former travelling companions in my first great West Coast journey, would not let me carry anything, and had therefore to carry a swag of more than 70lbs. weight, which he did with ease.
As soon as we arrived in the valley of the Greenstone Creek, we came to a broader road, which led to the gold-diggings situated higher up; it was, however, in no better condition than the part we had already passed. "We soon met a great many people, mostly packers, who drove laden horses before them. I could not suppress my astonishment, as I observed the way in which these poor animals with their heavy loads worked themselves through these morass canals full of stems and roots, and it was wonderful to see them go up or down indescribably steep places, where we had to climb on our hands and feet and hold on to boughs. Certainly, accidents often occur; however, the gold-diggers must have provisions, and as the packers receive £2 to £3 per l00lbs. weight for a carriage of eight to ten miles, it is not an unprofitable business, if they are not too unfortunate with their horses. This explains also the enormous price of provisions on the goldfields, as the diggers working here use not less than £3 worth a week, of bread, bacon, and tea. Everywhere, in the river-bed, and on the terraces, often several hundred feet broad and only a little raised above the present surface of the water, diggers were occupied obtaining gold. The wash gold is fine, scaly, and very much rolled, so that there is no doubt it has come some distance in the great river-bed. The nearer we approach the confluence of the Greenstone Creek into the Teramakau, the greater grew the life in the valley; we found everywhere tents and canvas stores, often comfortably fitted up, and the people hard at work. Here I met my horses, which my man had brought in good condition. He had joined a large travelling party, and had been obliged to swim the river swollen by the rain, several times, in doing which a man and horse had unfortunately been drowned. Here, at the junction, the ground was covered only with forest and shrubs, and as my stock of oats had in the meantime come to an end, I had to buy a bushel, for which I had to pay £4 sterling. I only quote this to show what extravagant prices the traveller has often to pay in newly discovered goldfields, where the carriage causes page 86such great expenses. At the mouth of the Greenstone Creek a little settlement had sprung up—numbers of tents and wooden shops, occupied by storekeepers, bakers, butchers, and publicans.
The weather at last cleared up, a deep blue cloudless sky arched over the majestic primeval forest; the effect was, as usual, magical; all the troubles we had endured were forgotten, and I gazed enraptured on the luxuriant forest landscape which surrounded me. I sent my horses down the river to the mouth of the Teramakau, six miles distant from here, while I went down in an hour in one of the numerous canoes which bring provisions here. The possessors of these canoes received £1 per l00lbs. weight, and as their little vessels can often bring up a ton of goods, and can go and come back in a day, it is very profitable, although terribly hard labour. The banks of the river consist mostly of tertiary clay marls, forming cliffs often 100 feet high, and covered with alluvium for 20 or 30 feet. An indescribably luxuriant vegetation covers the romantic shore on both sides, which, with the steep banks and the broad river, produce a lovely picture. A mile from the mouth of the river the valley opened out, and the deep blue sea lay before us. A little town had already sprung up at the mouth of the Teramakau, consisting of tents and tent houses, and active life and commotion prevailed everywhere, as, besides storekeepers and publicans, a number of artisans had estab ished themselves here. At the seashore, what a remarkable sight offered itself to the spectator! Towards the south the beach resembled an animated high road—pedestrians, waggons, pack-horses, and riders, forming an animated group. Two large steamers were just passing-by bound for Hokitika, while on the distant horizon a whole fleet of ships lay at anchor in the Hokitika roadstead.
I thought with sadness of poor Whitcombe, who two years before, after he had crossed the central chain, had stood famishing on the then desolate shore, and longed to be at the Grey River, the only place on the coast where he could hope to find provisions. At the same time I could not repress a feeling of pardonable pleasure, on recalling the time when, six years ago, I had wandered for months on this desolate coast, and on the discovery of the treasures of coal and gold in the district of the Buller and Grey rivers, had thought of the consequences which this journey of mine might have on the future and well-being of New Zealand. The words written in my Nelson report of 1860, in which I prophesied a great and brilliant future for page 87this district, had already been partly fulfilled, and if only the still untouched treasures of coal are raised,* this may be still more brilliant, and a much more lasting industry secured to the country than by goldmining.
* This was written in 1866.
* Report on tie Geological. Exploration of the West Coast. By Julius Haast, PhD., F.G.S., Provincial Geologist.
Five years ago I bad camped at this spot in solitude, with no European excepting three companions near me for a hundred miles and only a few Maori whares in my neighbourhood and now rows of large houses were built, and a busy life gave signs of healthy progress all round. Several days were devoted to a visit to the Grey Coal Measures, where I found a hearty reception from the manager of the coal mine on the Nelson side. This Company then sold as much coal as it could bring down in its flat barges, carrying seven tons, taken down in one hour and twenty minutes, whilst it took four men four hours to bring them up again. The Canterbury portion of the coalfields was re-examined, and the fact ascertained, that the Coal Measures were there also of considerable extent, and would thus be one day of great value to the Colony. Returning to Hokitika on the 9th of May, I examined, on my way, several claims on the sea beach, which appeared remunerative, and which would thus offer additional ground for a great number of diggers, without any additional outlay. Intending to ascend the Hokitika river and its tributary, the Kanieri, I obtained, not without trouble, a canoe from the Maoris for which I had to pay two pounds sterling a week (they had soon fallen into the European way of charging goldfield prices). Leaving the town of Hokitika next day, and ascending the river, we had to several shingle reaches, where the water formed rapids, before we arrived at the small township Kanieri, at the junction of the Kanieri and where I remained a day studying the interesting and instructive ocurrence of gold. The numerous shafts sunk in the township itself and all around it, gave me a clear insight into the manner which the auriferous beds had been formed.
On the following morning we had, for a few miles, a delightful paddle up the still and deep brown water of the Kanieri Creek, dammed back by the shingle bant the Hokitika has thrown across it at its junction; this passed, its course became very winding, rapid succeeded rapid, which to ascend gave us considerable trouble, whilst page 90a number of large trees fallen across the water obstructed our passage considerably. We reached at last a spot about five miles above the junction, where further ascent was impossible, and where considerable mining operations—the so-called five mile diggings— were in progress. Here, as at the Kanieri township, the wash-dirt had very often been protected by younger morainic accumulations covering it, and having thus been preserved from destruction. At this place, again, I was detained by continuous rain for about a week, but our camping ground was so well sheltered that we never felt any wind, whilst as I heard afterwards, a fearful storm had been raging along the coast, houses having been blown away at Hokitika and other settlements, and several vessels, amongst them the steamer Waipara, having been wrecked not far from the mouth of the Hokitika river.
On May 21st we were at last able to continue our journey, and reached in the evening the shores of Lake Kanieri, having travelled the greater part of the day over terraces, mostly swampy, the ground covered with Sphagnum, on which the principal vegetation consisted of kahikatea, totara, and manuka, mixed with Phyllocladus alpinus and kawaka (Libocedrus donianus), but all the trees were small and had a rather stunted appearance; but in the gorges of the tributary streams or along the banks of the river-bed, the forest vegetation was very luxuriant and maguificent, the presence of large arborescent ferns adding considerably to the beauty of the scenery. Lake Kanieri, although small, being about five miles long by two miles broad, is a very picturesque sheet of water, as it is surrounded on three sides by high mountains with bold outlines, the lower portions being covered with luxuriant forest. It owes its origin to a large semicircular terminal moraine which crosses the valley from side to side, and through which its outlet has cut a passage. A low saddle is conspicuous near its upper end, leading into the upper Hokitika plains, where several roches moutonnées on both sides show distinctly that a portion of the Kanieri glacier had here joined the extensive Hokitika glacier during our Great Grlacier period. Returning to Hokitika for a fresh stock of provisions, we started again on May 25th to ascend, this time, the main river, visiting first the Woodstock diggings on the left bank, where I observed a geological structure of the gold-bearing beds similar to that of the Kanieri township deposits. The river presented a very animated scene, a number of boats and canoes ascending and descending; tent houses or small settlements peeped in many spots page 91from amongst the fine forest vegetation which clothed the banks on both sides, whilst in still more numerous localities, the smoke curling above the tree-tops betrayed the existence of human habitations. The weather was now very fine, and the view up the river upon the high mountain chains, rising abruptly at the end of the plains, exceedingly beautiful—the dark green vegetation ascending for several thousand feet, and contrasting strikingly with the pure white garment of snow with which the higher portions of the ranges were uniformly covered. Near the junction of the Kokotahi the Hokitika turns abruptly to the south-west and changes its character, becoming for more than a mile a deep slow flowing river, the shingle deposits of its smaller but more rapid tributary having dammed the waters of the main river back to a considerable extent. Its left bank consists of large morainic accumulations covered with forest vegetation, the right bank being low and covered with shrubs and ferns. The landscape has now undergone considerable change, a wide plain, mostly covered with Veronica, Olearia, Coprosma, Leptospermum; and Coriaria bushes, stretching to the high mountains. In the midst rises an isolated range, called Te Koi-ita-rangi, about 800 feet high, which has a roche moutonnée-like appearance. Some others, of which one has the form of a regular cone, stand at the foot of the outrunning spurs of the high ranges which bound the horizon.
We now left the busy abode of the mining population, and entered the solitude, although many trial shafts along the river-bed, and afterwards along the high banks near the gorge, proved that numerous prospecting parties had tried their fortune in many localities, without obtaining the desired result. An attack of fever, without doubt caused by being continually in wet clothes, kept me here for several days in the same camp; however, owing to the use of some strong doses of quinine, I soon felt much better, and was able, on May 30th, to reach the foot of the ranges, where the river enters the plain in a deep gorge, the vertical or overhanging walls on both sides of which consist of gneiss-granite. The water in this gorge was so deep, that we could nowhere find bottom with the large pole we had in the canoe, and there was no perceptible flow.
Passing through this really fine gorge, about half a mile long, we found the river-bed above it so rough and full of large blocks of stone, and the water so rapid, that we could not take the canoe any higher. We therefore continued our journey on foot, for some distance, to enable me to examine the geological structure of the page 92district. In every prospect we obtained gold, but it occurred in such small quantities, that it would not pay for its extraction by the mining processes now in use. A wild mountain landscape surrounded us here, and as the river was flowing in a nearly straight valley for a considerable distance, the eye could follow the outlines of the spurs which appeared behind each other—those most distant getting generally higher and more rugged. Heavy rain set in again, which, however, did not prevent me from returning to Hokitika, and we reached it, owing to the swollen state of the river, in about three hours-and-a-half, having been three days ascending to the same camp. My two Maori companions had here ample opportunity to show their skill in guiding the canoe through all the obstacles in our way, of which drift trees were the most dangerous, but which they accomplished most successfully.
I have not yet alluded to the fine and extensive panoramic view visible from the beach at Hokitika, and which stretches from the mountains in the north, to the Hooker range in the south. A chain of wooded mountains situated between the Totara and Wanganui rivers, their outrunning spurs nearly reaching the sea, are prominent in the south. They are about 2000 or 3000 feet high, wooded to the summit and form a very interesting feature in the landscape. Above them rise, conspicuously, the highest summits of the Southern Alps—Mount Beaumont, Mount de la Beche, Mount Haidinger, Mount Tasman, Mount Cook, Mount Stokes, and the Moorhouse range. In very clear weather, other snowy mountains show above the horizon of the sea, but often so faintly that they very often may easily be mistaken for white clouds.
I now prepared everything to go down the coast, taking with me two Maoris and one European, and started with them on June 3. Having ascertained that, as far as the Wanganui river, provisions could easily be obtained, we took only tents, blankets, powder and shot, and my instruments, with us. The road leads, for the first five miles, along a fine sandy beach, where, two miles from Hokitika, the wrecks of the schooner Glasgow and another small cutter were being broken up. Another mile further and the steamer Waipara was lying on the beach. After six miles we left the sea beach, and, crossing the dunes we travelled along a lagoon, stretching from here without interruption to the Totara river. Its tranquil water, in which the beautiful forest vegetation reflected its rich foliage, formed a pleasing contrast to the page 93heavy surf breaking incessantly on the sandy shores. At the mouth of the Totara we found two stores, of which one was kept [unclear: b] a ferryman. Already here, I would observe, that great changes are continually taking place in the position of the mouth of the rivers south of the Hokitika. The Totara, which, when surveyed only two years ago, had a straight entrance, runs now nearly two miles along the coast towards north before it falls into the sea; and it was then so deep at its mouth and along that channel parallel to the sea coast, that even on horseback it was difficult to cross. We therefore availed ourselves of the boat to reach the other bank, and continued our road to the Mikonui, the beach continuing to be of the some low, sandy character. The Mikonui is easily crossed on foot in three branches, reaching only to the knees when it is low, as it is generally the case in winter; but with the least fresh it is a matter of great difficulty, and can only be accomplished with a good horse. On the northern side of this river a store was established, whence many parties working in its branches obtained their provisions. On the southern side of the Mikonui, the features of the country soon change, and instead of a low, sandy beach, Boldhead appeared before us, which was reached after a walk of three miles. This interesting bluff, the first one of a great many succeeding each rother towards south, rises about 150 feet above the sea-level, and forms very often an almost vertical wall, against which, at high water, the waves of the sea break furiously, whilst, at low water, it is possible to travel along it, even on horseback, on the boulders of which the littoral zone is here composed, or on small sandy beaches between them. This and all similar headlands, a hundred miles south, were formed by the retreat of former huge glaciers, which, in the era immediately preceding the present one, reached here the sea. When retreating, they heaped up in their former channel the debris which had, in the alpine ranges, fallen upon them, consisting of angular blocks, often of enormous dimensions, and silt. If anything will give to the geologist an insight into the power which glaciers have of destroying gigantic mountains, and of carrying their debris away into lower regions, a journey to that part of the West Coast will easily effect this object. At the same time the mineralogical character of the rocks themselves, of which these large cliffs are partly composed, shows clearly that by far the greater part has been derived from the very summits of the central chain— they being identical with those composing the moraines of the large glaciers on the eastern sides, without any sign of plutonic or typical metamorphic rocks amongst them, which appear only at the western base of the Southern Alps. And that the sea had already destroyed a page 94great deal of these bluffs is well exhibited by the enormous blocks which were lying in the surf, often far from the shore; whilst others are ready to tumble from the loose matrix in which, they lie imbedded, and of which these cliffs are mostly composed. One of these erratic blocks, consisting of folded clay slates, with innumerable quartz layers between the folds, is about thirty to forty feet in diameter, covered on its summit with a rich vegetation, and may justly be compared to the celebrated Pierre à bot, in the Jura.
When starting from Hokitika I was not able to ascertain exactly if it were possible to take horses down the coast with me, as the bluffs were described as being impassable for them; but during the first days of my journey, I heard from some returning diggers, that, at least, as far as the Wanganui river, horses had been taken.
The view from the mouth of the Wanganui towards the east is very extensive, although the highest parts of the Southern Alps are here still hidden by moraine beds, and in the foreground of which a very interesting sugarloaf-like headland, Mount One-one, on the southern side of the river, at its mouth, is most conspicuous. Such an occurrence shows clearly to what an enormous extent the glacier accumulations have already been destroyed by the action of the present rivers and the encroaching sea.
Owing to the unfavourable tides, we had again to stay till the afternoon at the Wanganui before we could continue our journey, as we had to cross another bluff before reaching the Poerua river. We also crossed the Wanganui in a boat. The bluff between the two rivers is not at all difficult to pass, as a good sandy beach, from which only at intervals large erratic blocks rise, stretches to the Poerua river; and only the last piece, leading for a short distance along that river page 96near its mouth, consists of waterworn flattened boulders, offering a very bad footing to a horse. The river is easily to be crossed on foot, reaching scarcely to the middle. An extensive view, taking in Mount Cook, and the other stately ice-clad summits near it, is obtainable when we round the next bluff, separating the bed of the last-mentioned river from Lake Poerua, a lagoon of a length of three miles, surrounded on three sides by glacier accumulations. A low-sandbank, thrown up by the Pacific Ocean, forms its boundary to the west. Its northern arm, on which we camped, is nearly dry at low tide, and contained then drinkable fresh water. Great quantities of waterfowl are living here, giving animation to the quiet foreground, over which the giants of the Southern Alps show their magnificent forms in all their grave splendour. Round the lagoon itself, which gradually becomes silted up, a rich vegetation has sprung up, consisting, near the shore, of fine grass. It was really a treat to see the poor horses which, for the last three days, had been on short commons, enjoy a run and have a feed of succulent grass ad libitum. Here, again, we met a party of Italians and Greeks who were returning from the South, having prospected several rivers near Mount Cook; and although they were able to trace almost everywhere the existence of gold, they could not find ground rich enough to recompense them for bringing provisions so far. Arriving at the outlet of the Poerua, we found that the mokihi, or craft, made of flax-sticks, put together by a large party of diggers, was on the other side, and as we thought it impossible to cross on horseback without swimming, one of my Maoris swam across to bring the mokihi over, whilst we occupied ourselves to make another flax rope, so as to be able to direct it from both sides. It was just high water when Tipeni brought the clumsy concern over; but before we had made our preparations, the tide was running out so fast that one of the flax ropes broke repeatedly when it came in mid-channel, and we had the greatest difficulty in bringing everything over. In fact, once the mokihi was close to the surf, and the man whom we pulled across made himself ready for a swim, but at last we landed him safely. As we heard afterwards, a poor fellow was drowned here shortly before, his mokihi having been taken down by the current into the surf. We camped the same night on the southern side of the lagoon, in an old Maori whare, and started before daybreak to pass the most dreaded portion of the coast, Abut Head, which, when my companion had passed before, owing to favourable circumstances, was, with the exception of the southern end, or Abut Head proper, mostly sanded up. It page 97seems that without being able to account for it, one heavy gale very often brings such an amount of sand with it, that nearly all the rocks between high and low water mark are covered with it. During one, or several gales, it remains in that condition, till at last another washes it all out again. Thus it happens that after nearly every heavy gale such great changes take place, that one cannot count with certainty on bringing horses round without very great trouble. For the first mile or so we had very fair travelling ground, but soon became aware that we had started too late, as the tide began to rise, covering the lower part of the beach, which consisted mostly of small boulders and sand, and we were obliged to take a higher line, where, from the nature of the huge blocks, we were often obliged to round them by waiting for the retreat of the waves, and then rushing through the water. So we toiled on, now and then caught by a great wave; the feet of the horses slipped between the boulders, and were sometimes only extricated with the loss of a shoe; and although the poor animals were bleeding and exhausted, we could not lose a moment, as the tide was rising. So we unpacked them with all haste, and brought them near high water line, where on examining the ground, I had discovered a better track, made by a party of diggers who had preceded us with horses. By filling up the interstices between the large boulders, and cutting through smaller cliffs of silt, they had made it possible to get round the last point before reaching the Whataroa river. It is here that Abut Head is situated, which rises almost perpendicularly several hundred feet from the sea. For a great distance enormous blocks of rock lie scattered in the surf, over which the waves dash with the utmost violence. Thus I again had an opportunity of observing that the digger, when once bent upon exploring a country, will not be beaten by any obstacle in his way, and that being often made an engineer by necessity, he will find at last his way to the proposed goal without flinching from his self-imposed task. Having at last brought the horses safely round the point, we returned to fetch their loads, and as the high tide would not allow us to cross the Whataroa (which, immediately south of Abut Head, reaches the sea), we had to wait till nearly evening in a cold fouth-wester, accompanied by occasional showers. About four o'clock, the river had fallen sufficiently to allow us to cross, which had to be done in two branches; and, although the water, owing to the cold weather, was exceedingly low, it reached in the first branch nearly to the armpits; whilst in the second branch, being the largest, it was not so high, owing to its wide expanse. On the southern side we had to traverse page 98a belt of forest, through which parties passing before us had cut a track, and it was already dark when we camped in an abandoned Maori pah, where the dense vegetation afforded us welcome shelter against the heavy south-wester continuing to blow during the first part of the night.
A glorious morning succeeded the bad weather; not a cloud was visible on the azure vault of heaven; and having crossed the Waitaki, a large river joining the Whataroa near its mouth, which, owing to its soft bed, was troublesome to horses and men, the latter having to carry the loads over in order not to risk the animals in the quicksands, we arrived at the Maori pah, lying on a small sand-spit. I use the habitual expression Maori pah, but a description of this settlement would give a very poor idea of such a Maori village, consisting as it did of three miserable low huts, in which a very old couple, and the widow of the late Chief Taitahi, with her children, were living. Owing to so many diggers having passed here, the greatest portion of their staple food—potatoes—was already gone, of which, of course [unclear: the] Maori diggers got the lion's share, they would have to suffer a great deal of privation before they could expect a new crop. Evidence of a lamentable state of things was very visible, principally among the children, who were covered with sores and ulcers; living, as they did, upon any thing they could obtain, and greedily sucking the fat of the woodhens they were able to catch. And so what had given to the active population of the West Coast a golden harvest, had made these poor people still more wretched than they had formerly been. About a mile south of the Maori huts, and two miles from the mouth of the Whataroa, another headland had to be passed, but owing to the circumstance that high water was still towards noon, we were compelled to remain here the greater part of the day before we could continue our journey. But as the weather was really glorious— no cloud in the deep blue sky—I had plenty of work to do in sketching the magnificent scenery before me, and taking the necessary bearings of a great many of the principal peaks and valleys of that part of the Southern Alps. The view towards the sources of the Whataroa was exquisitely grand; but I shall not give a description of it till I speak of the view from Lake Okarita, which, for diversity of scenery and greatness, cannot be surpassed by any other landscape on the globe.
At three o'clock we could start, and rounding two smaller headlands, which were the former terminal moraines of the Waitaki page 99glacier, we stood at last before that glorious panorama. The contrast between the ever restless sea—the gigantic waves coming and going without intermission—and the quiet watershed of Lake Okarita, with its numerons islands, surrounded by luxuriant forest, was most striking. Above the forest plains rose low hillocks, also clothed with the same intensely green West Coast vegetation, over which the Southern Alps appeared a mass of snow, ice, rock, and forest. As far as the eye could reach, mountain appeared behind mountain, all clad in their white garments, with which they are covered during the whole year almost entirely, becoming apparently lower until they appeared only as small points over the sea horizon—half cloud, half ghost, as a modern philosopher has said so well. But what struck me more than anything was the low position reached by an enormous glacier, descending north of Mount Cook from the ranges, and appearing between the wooded hillocks at the foot of the Alps; forming with its pure unsullied ice, broken in numberless seracs, a most remarkable and striking contrast to the surrounding landscape. The sun being near his setting, new changes were every moment effected; the shades grew longer and darker, and whilst the lower portion already lay in a deep purple shade, the summits were still shining with an intense rosy hue. Turning towards the sea, the same contrast of colours was exhibited, the sea being deep blue, whilst the sky was of such a deep crimson and orange colour, that if we could see it faithfully rendered by an artist, we should consider it highly exaggerated. But the beauty of the magnificent scene did not fade away even after the glorious orb of day had disappeared, because, as the night advanced, the full moon threw her soft silver light over the whole picture, and lake and sea, forest and snowy giants still were visible, but assuming, apparently, other dimensions, shapes, and colours. It was late at night before I could leave this glorious view, and my heart swelled with such a pure delight as only the contemplation of nature can offer to her admirers.
After a beautiful calm night, we found the whole country covered by hoar-frost, the minimum thermometer marking 29 ° 20', or nearly 3 ° below freezing point; but a cloudless sunny day followed, and I never got tired of admiring the wonderful landscape before me, the solitude of which appeared less severe when observing numerous horses feeding peacefully among the high grass in the foreground, a strange sight at the West Coast, where the uniform forest vegetation is totally unfit to preserve the life of that useful animal. The presence of so many horses indicated that a great number of diggers had their head-quarters page 100here, from whence they prospected the country in the neighbourhood. The traces of the night's frost soon disappeared before the powerful sun, and we followed for more than three miles a well-beaten track along the banks of the lake, through high flax and small groves, consisting of Coprosma, Veronica, and dwarf totara bushes, intersected with grassy flats. Owing to the variety of means of human subsistence presented on the one hand by the sea, on the other by the lake and the open ground around it, it is easily understood that such a favourable locality would not escape the attention of the native inhabitants of this island; and this well-beaten track, the numerous remains of whata's (provision stores), palisadings around graves and huts, show that formerly a much larger population than that at present existing, had peopled these interesting shores. The sleek and spirited appearance of the horses, when compared with their usual miserable condition on the Coast, testified that the grass growing here alongside the lake was both abundant and nutritious.
About a mile from the outlet of the Okarita lake, which, like that of Poerua, is situated at its southern extremity, we fell in with an encampment, consisting of several tents and provision stores, mostly occupied by one man, the only representative of a prospecting party, who had left one of their mates behind to look after the provisions and horses during their absence. Being told that the headlands between the Okarita and the Waiau were impassable for horses, we left ours and part of our provisions behind, and proceeded at once to the outlet of the lake, which is so broad and deep that it can only be crossed with a mokihi. Some of the diggers had hollowed out from a drift tree a kind of canoe, about eight feet long—the stern, originally open, being closed with some sods, through which the water found its way during the passage. In this frail bark, kindly lent us by the diggers, and which we strengthened by a bundle of fiax-sticks on both sides, we crossed two at a time, and camped that evening on the southern side, under the shelter of a manuka grove, and in a commodious whare, built a few weeks before by a large party of Natives who had gone south prospecting.
The next morning, June 14th, we continued on foot with heavy loads, so as to be prepared for a spell of bad weather, which might possibly overtake us when near the head waters of the Waiau. Lake Okarita is bounded on its southern side by a headland, formed by a lateral moraine, without doubt belonging to the Waiau system, and page 101exhibiting by its rough anticlinal arrangement, that it formed the northern lateral moraine of that large postpliocene glacier. This accumulation, first only 40 feet high, rises as we advance towards the south, to at least 250 feet, indicating more than anything else the enormous denudation which must have taken place before the present glaciers would form the channels they now occupy. And if we consider that the accumulations come mostly from the highest portion of the central chain, the lower portion having been generally ground down by the ice, or become removed by the rivers issuing from below these huge glaciers, the philosopher is filled with admiration and wonder, when the great truth once more is revealed to him, that Nature, to obtain great results, uses gigantic but simple means, of which we have scarcely any true conception. Between the Okarita lake and the Waiau comparatively little water reaches the sea, which may easily be accounted for by assuming that a large spur runs in a south-westerly direction, from Mount Elie de Beaumont to the valley of the Waiau, so that only the water collecting on the western side of that spur could form small channels through those moraines.
There are two smaller rivers which we had to pass before we reached the Waiau, both being called the Totara, but generally easily crossable if they flow at all, their mouths being often closed by shifting sands of the sea-shore, behind which they then form lagoons; but when breaking through, for a few days often present an impassable barrier to the traveller. When we passed the first time, the northern Totara was running, but could be easily crossed, whilst the southern one was closed; and on our return, owing to the continuance of the fair weather and light south-west winds, we found them both closed, so that we could travel dry footed for eight miles along that well irrigated coast. At eleven o'clock we arrived at the mouth of the Waiau, where two diggers, who had been our travelling companions, left us; they were bound for a creek between the Waiau and Waikukupa, where some payable finds, according to rumour, had just been made by some prospecting party.
The view from the month of that river is most magnificent, as the valley, being straight and nearly two miles broad, allows us to gaze at the Southern Alps from foot to summit, having in the foreground the enormous ice masses of the Francis Joseph glacier appearing between the rich forest vegetation. The Waiau is a true shingle river, flowing in several branches through its wide valley, the semi-opaque bluish colour of its waters at once revealing its glacier origin. Owing to the page 102cold nights it was very low, so that we could easily cross, it being scarcely above our knees when running in several branches. Numerous deep channels, now empty, and the enormous amount of drift-wood lying everywhere upon the shingle flats and spits, were indications enough to show that, with the least freshet, it would be impassable for travellers on foot; and I can easily understand that, during spring and summer, it is almost impossible to wade through it. Even in this season, the least rain mates it very dangerous to cross. A week before our arrival, when there had been a freshet in the river, a prospector, a capital swimmer, was washed from his feet, and drowned, before his mates could offer him any assistance. The river having a general tendency, at present, to keep principally on the northern side of its broad bed, we crossed it at once in three branches, and kept on the southern side, travelling partly in dry channels, over grass-flats, or sometimes, through dense bush, where a branch of the river sets close against banks covered with forest vegetation. This forest consisted either of pines intermingled with arborescent ferns, the whole interlaced by climbing plants, or—and what was still worse—of shrubs, the branches of which were not only grown to dense masses and towards the ground, but were still more closely united by Bushlawyers (Rubus australis) and Supple-jacks (Rhipogonum scandens). It was a herculean task to pass through bush of the last description when only a few hundred yards long; and we seldom reached the river-bed without having left part of our garments or skin in our battle with that unpleasant West Coast vegetation.
About three-quarters of a mile from the glacier we camped, and, after a hasty meal, started for its examination. The same vegetation still continued, and it was in vain that I looked for any alpine, or even sub-alpine plants. From both sides numerous water-courses come down over large blocks of rocks, mostly forming nice falls. Before we reached the glacier, the valley expanded again, the left side having hitherto been formed by an ancient moraine, more than a hundred feet high, the river flowing in two channels, with a wooded island, from which huge blocks of rock rose between the trees; but, owing to the very low state of the river, the southern channel was nearly dry, and only received, on that side, the contents of numerous small waterfalls from the outrunning spurs of the main chain. Before we reached the glacier itself we had to cross a moraine, mostly consisting of small detritus, denoting, by its mineralogical character, that it came from the very summit of the snowy giants before us. My whole party had never seen a glacier, and some of the Maoris had never seen ice; thus, the nearer we came, the greater was their curiosity, and whilst I stopped a few hundred yards from the terminal face to take some bearings, the whole range, owing to the clear sky, being well visible, they all ran on, and I saw them soon ascend the ice, which, with the exception of a few small pieces of debris in the centre, was perfectly spotless, and presented a most magnificent sight. Having finished my work, I followed them, and soon stood under the glacial cave at the southern extremity, forming an azure roof of indescribable beauty, and which one of my European companions could only compare to the magnificent scenery of some London Christmas pantomime. The glacier not only fills the valley, the sides of which are formed of perpendicular walls of mica schist, but even from the ice, large hillocks rise, consisting of the same rock on which, better than anywhere I had ever observed, the planing and furrowing action of the ice can easily be studied. And no one page 104having done so will afterwards feel surprised at the facility with which that wonderful and powerful plough of nature will furrow deep valleys and model roches moutonnées.
On both sides of that glacier, for a good distance, the mountains were covered with a luxuriant vegetation, amongst which beautiful rata trees, and in one locality Fuchsia bushes, then without leaves, covered a large extent of the mountain side, and were most conspicuous. It was in vain that even here, close to the glacier, where the large ice masses must, in some degree, refrigerate the surrounding atmosphere, I looked for characteristic alpine plants. There were neither spear grasses nor Celmesias, those gigantic New Zealand daisies, which are such an ornament to our higher vegetation, nor even any of the sub-alpine bushes and shrubs. One may easily imagine how extremely striking is the contrast between the stupendous ice masses, enclosed by that tremendous mountain chain, and the arborescent ferns, pines and other luxuriant vegetation which are in general only found in more genial parts of the coast.
On Monday, the 19th of June, we began to retrace our steps from the Okarita lake, and found great difficulties in passing some of the rivers, the entrances of which had been nearly choked up by the sands travelling with the current, so that they formed large watersheds. The weather, which hitherto had been so fine, began to be very boisterous; and from Lake Poerua to the Waitaha, we had mostly heavy rain, whilst the last day from the Waitaha to Hokitika, was one of those bright days which makes the remembrance of that journey a very pleasant one. I reached Hokitika on June the 23rd, and had to wait till July the 4th before I could proceed to Christchurch, the weather being so stormy that no steamer would venture out. At last the Maid of the Yarra crossed the bar to tender the Omeo, in which I returned, via Nelson and Wellington to Christchurch, where I arrived after a protracted passage, on the 15th of July. On July the 24th, I presented a Progress Report to the Secretary for Public Works on the main results of my examination during that journey, which was printed with the reports written during my residence on the West Coast, by order of the Provincial Government, and of which I have given the title on page 88.
From this report I may be allowed to quote here the concluding passage concerning my views on the extent of the West Coast gold-page 105fields, and which their further development during the last two years, has confirmed in every respect:—"To sum up the results obtained, the examination of the country under consideration has shown us that there is one large area belonging chiefly to the pliocene or great gold-drift formation, bounded in this province by the rivers Arnold and Grey to the north, and the Hohonu ranges, whence the eastern boundary line runs towards Abut Head, crossing the Arahura, Hokitika, Totara, and Mikonui, gradually nearer to their mouth, whilst the seashore forms the western boundary. In this triangle all the richest goldfields are situated. East and south of these lines younger or pleistocene strata have mainly been deposited, consisting of glacial beds, either moraines or glacier mud, fluviatile boulders, shingle, sand, or loess, amongst which in a lesser degree gold may be discovered, although from the great scarcity of auriferous assorted drift there is, in my opinion, very little hope of a goldfield of any extent. Again, east of these glacial deposits the western base of the central chain is reached, consisting of the rocks which have formed the original matrix of the gold. Here we may expect either to find quartz reefs, or, under favourable circumstances, in the smaller creeks and gullies, auriferous ground of older age, or formed during or since the pleistocene epoch, with coarser gold than near the coast, although experience has already clearly demonstrated in New Zealand, as well as in other parts of the earth, that we can only expect rich ground when, after denudations on an enormous scale, aqueous agency, has repeatedly re-assorted the material derived from such sources, and concentrated the gold contained in it during numberless ages into much narrower limits." Not only are the principal goldfields here still being worked in the Province of Westland, where also the newly discovered Kumara diggings are situated, but I have no doubt that still other and equally extensive beds will be discovered, all belonging to the same pliocene fluviatile beds, running in a north-east and south-west direction, and gradually thinning out before Bold Head, south of the Mikonui river, is reached.
The track cut across the Hurunui saddle by the late Mr. Howitt, in the year 1862, and improved in the beginning of 1865, under the direction of Messrs. Edwin and Walter Blake, had become almost impassable, principally on its western side, from the enormous traffic. Moreover, its line along the northern boundary of the Province, was formed too far north for the inhabitants of the middle and southern portion of Canterbury. The Provincial Government therefore sent out several expeditions to the headwaters of the Waimakariri and page 106Rakaia, with instructions to examine them for available passes more to the south, across the central chain. Of course it was known that a pass near the headwaters of the main branch of the Rakaia existed, Whitcombe Pass, so named in memory of the late Mr. Whitcombe, an eminent engineer, who lost his life by being drowned near the mouth of the Teramakau, after having successfully accomplished the journey from coast to coast, and of which the survivor, Jacob Louper, has given a graphic and ample description. However, this Pass, then known only from this account, appeared to be surrounded by so many difficulties from an engineering point of view, that a further examination was thought useless. Haast's Pass on the other hand, at the head of Lake Wanaka, was too far south, and could only be made available for the most southerly portion of the Province, and principally for Otago. Of the expeditions exploring the headwaters of the northern rivers, that of the late George Dobson, C.E., was the most successful, he amongst others discovering Arthur's Pass, a deep depression in the central chain, leading from the sources of the Bealey, one of the upper tributaries of the Waimakariri, into the Otira, a large branch of the Teramakau. After this important discovery had been reported, the Provincial Government lost no time, and sent up Mr. E. Dobson, C.E., formerly Provincial Engineer, and at that time Resident Engineer of the Christchurch and Lyttelton Railway, to examine this and some other passes found about that time, with full authority to place the necessary work at once in the hands of the contractor. Mr. Dobson, after inspecting two passes at the head of the northern main branch of the Waimakariri, Harman Pass and the so-called Browning's Saddle, and another saddle at the head of the Hawdon stream, selected Arthur's Pass, as affording the most favourable physical conditions for a road between both coasts, and the work was at once taken in hand, and pushed on with great energy. The headwaters of the Waimakariri were explored by Messrs. Harman, Browning, Cahill, and Armstrong; whilst the two first-named gentlemen, together with Mr. E. Griffiths, examined the Wilberforce, the northern main branch of the Rakaia, and discovered a pass leading, as the explorers thought, to the sources of the Taipo, a branch of the Teramakau.
In the south of the Province great efforts were also made to look for a passage across the Southern Alps by the headwaters of the Waitaki, to the exploration of which I had devoted considerable, time, and the results of which had conclusively shown that no passage existed there anywhere, except over glaciers and nevé page 107saddles, only to be crossed by experienced mountaineers. At the request of the Provincial Government, therefore, I prepared a report on the possibility of finding a road to the West Coast across the Mackenzie Country, in which I gave copious extracts from my journals, bearing upon the subject, and by which, so far, the question at issue was settled.*
* Report on the Head Waters of the River Waitaki: Fol. Christchurch, 1865. By Julius Haast, Ph.D., Provincial Geologist.