Old Marlborough. or The Story of a Province.
Chapter I. — Divine Architecture
Of't have I thought on Nature's power,
Whose changes we can trace.
How seas are dried, and lakes are lowered,
And high land takes their place.
During the course of the evolutionary process through which the human mind passes in its progress towards maturity, it must become abundantly evident to the majority of people that the delusions of their younger days have been both many in number, and great in magnitude. The writer, at least, is free to confess that one of the fixed convictions of his youth was that New Zealand, the land of his birth, was one of the very last countries made, and there were occasions when its apparent imperfections seemed to justify him in concluding that it must have been finished up late on a Saturday night at that. But be this as it may, the broadening influence of maturer years has dissipated these childish ideas, and furnished us with proofs which now convince us that so far from New Zealand page 2being a comparatively modern addition to the globe, it is one of the oldest geological monuments the student has presented to him for his admiration and edification. As a component part of this hoary pile, the province whose history is now under review can justly claim an honourable place; for everywhere amidst the reaches of her sounds, the wildness of her gorges, and the magnificence of her valleys, the voice of nature seems to proclaim that Old Marlborough is no misnomer, but a stern and tangible fact. Though the rocks of which her northern hills are composed stand grimly mute, the history of their beginning is deeply graven upon their stony slopes, and that history tells of a time not far removed from the genesis of the world, when its foundations were laid in fire.
It would, therefore, appear that, through all the countless ages which have passed since the cooling influence of the atmosphere first solidified the land, and through all the long drawn years which have rolled away since the Spirit first "moved upon the face of the waters," the rocks which are lifted up in the mountains of Marlborough, from Stokes to Patriarch, have witnessed almost every one of the mighty evolutions upon which our scientists speculate, and have played their part in the marvellous drama of the globe's development, the beginning whereof is the page 3savant's puzzle, and the end whereof is beyond the power of the human mind to conceive.
So far as scientific research has yet proceeded, there has not been found any trace within Marlborough's boundaries of the granites which are generally recognised as the primary, or fire-born rocks, from which all others derive their origin. But, although the first rung of the ladder of life, geologically speaking, is missing, the oldest rocks in the province are but a period removed from the time when, in its infant condition, the world consisted of a bare but gigantic crust, containing vast seas and profound oceans.
The first chapter in Marlborough's book of stone opens with the second in the world's history, for we find a triangular belt of rocks which have been assigned to the Silurian age, running from the north-west bank of the Wairau River, through the Grove, to Cape Koamaru, and forming the narrow ridge that divides the Pelorus from Queen Charlotte Sound. These are stratified rocks, and are the first product of the disintegration which commenced when the granites began to be worn away by the action of the atmosphere above and the erosion of the sea beneath. The substance of which they are composed was thus deposited in the bed of the ancient ocean, and there, by the agglomeration of page 4different materials and the excessive pressure to which they were subjected, a new kind of rock was formed, which subsequently was elevated above the level of the sea, and has never since been submerged.
During the period this process was in operation, life in its lowest form was present, the waters of the deep teeming with sea-plants and sea-worms of the humblest order, but although this is known to have been a characteristic of the Silurian age, no fossils have yet been found in this wedge of Silurian rock, which tapers from the Waitohi Valley and Bartlett's Creek down to the extreme point of Arapawa Island. This may be due to the fact that they were formed very early in the period, or that the extreme heat to which they have since been subjected has destroyed all trace of the fragile specimens entombed within their folds.
Next in period of time, but still on the north-west side of the Wairau River, we have the Devonian series of rocks, the older of which forms a narrow strip a few miles wide, bounded partly on the west by the Wakamarina River, whose banks clearly disclose the difference between the older and newer formations. From here to the extreme limit of the province, covering the whole of the Pelorus watershed, the younger Devonian rocks prevail, and we also find a con-page 5siderable area of country stretching from Cloudy Bay, past Tory Channel, composed of the same generation of stone. It was in the Devonian age that the corals, which are such a source of beauty to the eye and danger to the mariner, were first developed. Fishes, too, began to make their appearance; but probably for the reasons already given, none of their remains have so far been discovered in the Devonian rocks of the Pelorus or Port Underwood districts. But the peculiar formation of the rocks themselves and the absence of all evidence of life within their beds, are not the only proofs we have of the extreme age which crowns the hill-tops that are thrown up all over the mountainous region to the north-west of the Wairau River; for the practised eye of the observer has only to glance at their sharply-mitred peaks as they loom against the evening sky, or to gaze upon their scarred and furrowed slopes, to know that centuries of summer suns and winter snows must have come and gone before the hand of time could mould the rude uneven forms in which they first appeared into such symmetrical cones, the full effect of this denuding force being equally apparent in the plains which form the floors of all the valleys.
Perhaps no stage of the earth's construction has been pregnant with such important re-page 6sults, or fraught with such an amount of interest to the scientists, as that which has been designated the Carboniferous age, wherein we get our first proof of land-walking animals, and during which the great coal-beds of the world were deposited. Although, in this latter direction, it has not been particularly generous to Marlborough, the coal area being extremely restricted, and even that being practically destroyed by a force which has played an important part in giving the province its present configuration. But in other respects this period was an important one, inasmuch as the extensive elevations which then took place contributed more than one-half the present territorial area of the province. By striking a line from the saddle of the Redwood Pass to Top House, and thence down the western and southern boundaries of the province, and along the central line of the Kaikoura range, some approximate idea may be formed of the valuable additions made to the lands of Marlborough by the upheavals of the Carboniferous age, a period which was generally remarkable for the activity of the earth's crust. This activity is freely attributed to volcanic action, and here we find the local experience not to differ greatly from that of other parts of the world, indisputable proofs of volcanic force having page 7first been discovered* in the Awatere Valley by Sir Frederick Weld, in 1850, when on an overland tour from Lyttelton to Blenheim. Since then much more extensive surveys have been made by the officers of the Geological Department, with the result that traces of spent volcanos have been found in many different localities. There are indications that the country around Top House was not always the green and placid region that it now is, for, from Patriarch upwards to the Dun Mountain, the ancient fire founts have left vestiges of the time when they were forging rocks which still withstand the ravages of age.
* A great sensation was created throughout New Zealand in March, 1855, by the reported discovery of an active volcano in Marlborough. It appears that while the Lady Grey, a steamer trading between the Colony and the Chatham Islands, was nearing the coast, those on board noticed what was afterwards described as "wreaths of white vapour rising in a thin and unsteady column," from a high and conical shaped mountain in the Kaikoura range, culminating in "a canopy of smoke." The spectators of this phenomenon at once concluded that a new volcano had burst into activity, and although their report was not sustained by the passengers of the steamer Nelson, which arrived in Wellington shortly after the Lady Grey, they still maintained their ground. While the discussion was at its height Old Jack Guard came over from Port Underwood, and on being questioned he laughed at the idea of a volcano being in full swing on his side of the water and he not knowing anything about it, so to set the matter at rest a party went across the Strait in his whale boat, and proceeding to Flaxbourne, found that the cause of all the excitement was an old shepherd who had set fire to the fern on Ben More, and the flames ascending the mountain slopes had ignited a clump of white birch trees which then grew on the summit, hence the "wreaths of white vapour," and the "canopy of smoke," in which Marlborough's active volcano terminated.
* Called after an American negro who used to accompany Mr. William McRae in his explorations when out looking for pastoral country.
† The origin of this name is somewhat doubtful, as no authentic tradition concerning it seems to have been preserved, but its most feasible translation is that which gives the meaning as "Footsteps afar off," doubtless a reference to the great height of the mountain.
But before entering upon this interesting phase of our subject, it will be necessary to refer, however briefly, to a series of rocks which one day may become a rich mine of wealth-to the farmers of the Wairau, and to the settlers who in future years will plough the fields of Flaxbourne. The travellers who journey southward through the pastoral district of the province cannot but observe the huge white masses of limestone formation which first embolden the view in the vicinity of Cape Campbell, assume lofty proportions on Christmas Hill, and descending into the bed of the Ure River, again mount high on the slopes of Ben More, the northern terminus of the Lookers On. Still further down the coast, the traveller finds in almost unbroken succession the same white beds, sometimes rivalling the snowcloud of the Kaikouras in the purity of their hue, until our interest in them terminates in that pile of geological curiosity, the Amuri Bluff.
This much may be observed from the beaten track of travel, but shut out from casual observation there are behind the Kaikoura Mountains considerable stretches of the same limestone formation lying in the bed of the Clarence Valley, through which the old river has cut its way and left precipitous cliffs behind. The considerable area over which these limestone rocks are spread, and the page 11fact that they are intersected by a chain of mountains rising in jagged peaks to a height of 8000 feet, has caused them to be the subject of considerable scientific attention, and the result of these investigations seem to indicate that the beautiful and fertile country from Cape Campbell to the Conway River has had a somewhat chequered and varied history. The primary facts of scientific importance concerning these widely separated chalk rocks of the Clarence Valley and the sea coast, is that they are identical in composition, and of marine origin, two circumstances which point to the conclusion that during the Cretaceous period, when the chalk and lime deposits of Dover, of Northern France, and of the Mississippi Valley, were laid down, this lime-covered region of Marlborough was lying beneath the sea; indeed, there is reason to believe that the convulsions to which the earth's crust was before, and at that time subjected, had the effect of causing more than one elevation, and more than one submergence.
So bold a theory is supported by the fact that in parts of the province we find volcanic strata lying between deep and extensive beds of marine formation. Thus upon the greensands, which were formed when the world, although green with a luxuriant vegetation, was ruled by the tyrant Saurians, are seen page 12rocks of an entirely different character, and for whose origin we must look in an exactly opposite direction. These rocks are of terrestial formation, and therefore must have been laid down on dry land; nay, the presence of igneous substance so profusely distributed through the overlying mass indicates that towards the end of the period when the greensands were deposited in the bosom of the ocean, and the Saurian age was passing away, an elevation of the land must have taken place, which stretched out the sea-bed in broad expanse to receive its mantle of volcanic matter.
For just how long Neptune was robbed ot his estate it is useless to speculate, but judging by the thickness of the beds which interpose between the greensand and limestone formations, either the igneous forces worked with frightful vigor, or the period of time which elapsed between this elevation and the following submergence was longer than the mind can comprehend. Be this as it may, the day came when all the country now distinguished by its calcareous formation was again consigned to the deep, and it was during this period, known in geological science as the Cretacio-tertiary age, that it received its present characteristic coat, which bestows upon it such a striking individuality.
It must not, however, be supposed that, at page 13the time this deluge took place, or in the subsequent period, when the land was again restored to the world, it assumed anything like its present physical aspect. There were in those days no Kaikoura Mountains to inspire within us a feeling of admiration when we gaze upon their lofty towers, decked in their winter beauty; what rivers were then flowing through the valleys were probably not the present ones, and where the high terraces, deep ravines, and rolling downs are now the constant companion of the traveller, a plain extending far to the eastward was the dominating feature of the landscape. On this plain the limestone deposits had been laid 1000 feet thick by the myriads of tiny shell-fish which peopled the waters of the ancient seas, but how these deposits came to be divided by the Seaward Kaikouras, upon whose higher slopes no trace of limestone is found, remains yet to be told.
Strangely enough no rocks representing the next, or Eocene geological period, are found north of the Conway River, which is a clear indication that, when these beds were being laid down in other parts of the world, the whole of Marlborough was still elevated above the sea, and it is doubtful if it has at any time since been entirely submerged.
Scarcely more fortunate is the succeeding series, which is represented only by a tapering page 14block of country commencing at Cribb Creek, and following a straight line down what is popularly known as the "earthquake crack" on the one side of the Awatere Valley, and a somewhat serpentine course to Lake Grassmere on the other. This gives us the major portion of the Miocene's modest contribution to the lands of Marlborough. But though comparatively small in area, the land in question is amongst the richest in the colony, comprising as it does the verdant pastures of Weld's Hill, Upton Downs, Richmond Brook, Starborough, and a large portion of the Flaxbourne runs. The age of this field of interest is determined by the abundance of its fossils, and its comparative youth is discovered by the presence of so many species that are to-day amongst the living inhabitants of the sea. In many places these can be observed protruding from the road-side cuttings, while lower down in the gorges of the river, the beds of papa* which form the base of the series, are thickly studded with slightly older forms.
* Recent boring operations in the neighbourhood of Lake Grassmere have proved these beds to be over 500 feet in thickness.
The next distinctive strata that we find contributing to the configuration of the province, but more particularly to the Wairau, is a belt of gravel conglomerates running from the White Bluff* as far up the valley as Want-wood station. It is of this material that the Bluff itself is composed, the gravels having evidently been derived from the older rocks of the Upper Awatere, and this is the source from which the immense quantities of shingle are brought by the tide and south-east storms to build the Boulder Bank and fill up the northern corner of Cloudy Bay.
These conglomerates are clearly seen in the cuttings of the Dashwood Pass, from which they continue along the Vernon Hills, and after crossing the Waihopai river, spread out in wide reaches over the Bank House run, where their peculiarly rippled appearance is quite a unique feature in the landscape.
* The old Maori name for this Bluff was Pari-nui-o-witi, meaning "The Great Shining Cliff,"
Perhaps the most curious of these Post Miocene rocks is a bed 200 feet thick, resting upon the summit of the Chalk range, near Cape Campbell, 850 feet above the level of the sea. How this mass of vari-formed rocks came to enjoy such a unique and unlikely position would be interesting to know; but so far as the realm of speculation can supply an explanation, it is probable that at one time they were a composite part of a much larger field of the same material, deriving its origin from what was then the higher country away towards the head of the Conway River. At that time the Chalk range, as a physical feature did not exist; and on the lower levels the conglomerate deposit was spread by the aqueous forces, whose energies were spent in tearing down the mountains. Then at some later period, as the result of the folding of the earth's crust, the Chalk range rose to it's present height, carrying in its arms this child of a former age, which it still holds upon its breast. All traces of the other beds that were not affected by the upheaval have since disappeared, doubtless finding their effacement in the continuation of the process that called them into existence, and so this small bed of slates and saurian, of crystaline and page 18conglomerate, rough and round stones, has been left a lonely relic enthroned in splendid isolation.
The detached and apparently inconsistent position of this particular section of the Post Miocene formation is not, however, the only key to considerable movements of the earth's surface since the conglomerates were first deposited, for in many places they are found driven against, and wedged between the older rocks in such a way as to preclude the possibility of any other explanation than that they have been thrown into their present position by surface movements of considerable magnitude, within comparatively modern times. This peculiar juxtaposition of the old and new rocks is particularly noticeable in sections of the Clarence Valley, the Kekerangu Gorge, on Deadman's Hill, near the Shades Creek, on Green Hills Station, and in many other places equally well known, in some of which they display evidences of rude stratification, while elsewhere they are huddled together in such supreme inconsistency as to be inseparable and indescribable; but the conclusion we are entitled to draw from their wide diffusion over so many districts, and the variety of their composition, is that at one time high country existed in the south-west, compared with which the mountains of to-day are insignificant, and that upon these giant page 19mounds the floods and storms of old waged incessant war until they wasted the hills and themselves in the struggle, for with the lowering of the higher lands climatic conditions changed, paving the way for milder seasons, and allowed nature to work on a less gigantic scale.
We now enter upon the last epoch of the geological formation which brings us up to what is scientifically described as "recent" times. These beds are represented by the shingle fans and alluvial deposits of the rivers which are now, and have been flowing in their courses for many hundred years, and are of special interest to us because we are in a position to watch the process of deposition going on around us every day.
Beginning at the southern end of the province, the first important feature of this kind that we notice is the flat upon which the farms of Kaikoura nestle. It is at once apparent to the eye that the white-faced cliffs which form the breast-work of the road round to the wharf belong to the familiar limestones which skirt the entire length of the coast, and are of an entirely different nature to the gravels which everywhere abound in the neighbourhood of the town, or to the deep loamy soils which comprise the rich and fertile lands of "the swamp." It will be noticed, too, that the gravels extend from the Hapuka page 20River to beyond the course of the Kowhai, and in gently circling bays unite the high headland with the higher range behind. How this union came about is not difficult to understand when the character of the plain is investigated. Under that examination we see the result of untiring industry, and we can measure the capacity of a small stream to repel the waters of the sea, and transform its depths into dry land.
Before what is technically known as "recent" times, the highland of the Kaikoura Peninsula constituted an island standing to the eastward, as the sole survivor of a serious submergence—
With the sea cast round it like a mantle,
The sea-cloud like a crown.
Between its western shore and the base of Mount Fyffe, the Pacific rolled in heaving billows and dashed its spray against the foot of the mountain range, down whose sides trickled innumerable streams, each bearing its own burden, until they joined the Kowhai, the largest of them all. To the indefatigable labour of this stream the existence of the plain is due, for fed by the almost perpetual snow and the rain storms that circled round the mountain heights, the river became a torrent flowing with enormous velocity, sweeping in its current great masses of the soft drossy rock which crumbled from the steep page 21slopes under the alternating influences of heat and cold, or was hewn from the deep gorges and ravines as nature's industrious sculptors cut them out of the mountain pile. The formation of the Seaward Kaikouras is particularly favourable to the wasting influence of water, therefore the carrying capacity of the Kowhai was always fully supplied, and as it drained a district over 8000 feet high, and only a few miles from the sea, it can well be imagined that the quantity of debris poured into the bay was something enormous. This in the lapse of time had its visible effect, as gradually a great shingle fan was formed, which slowly extended as far as the limestone island, originally four miles away from the shore. For many years the river laboured at its work of reclamation on the northern side of the new peninsula, spreading its torrent-borne freight far and wide, until it had built up a barrier so formidable that it was forced to seek a course for itself that offered less resistance. Then it found a line of escape to the southward, where it is now building up a delta which may one day become rich pastures and green fields. But in changing its direction the river at the same time lengthened its course, and this fact is likely in the near future to be pregnant with important results, for the longer range at once checked the water's velocity, and, as a consequence, its page 22carrying capacity was so reduced that much of the washings from the hills, which formerly were shot precipitately into the sea, are now arrested mid-way, building up the river-bed in its higher reaches to such an extent that there is imminent danger before long of the water again being driven from its channel by the force of its own accumulations, and making for itself a new path towards the ocean, which it may enter again on the northern side of the peninsula. The effect of all such former changes upon the valley, before civilisation took possession of it, counted for nothing, but upon the valley of to-day, with its highly-cultivated farms and pleasant homesteads, it would be disastrous, and to avert this calamity the settlers have resorted to a number of expedients, but pitted against the forces of nature their efforts are comparatively futile, and although they may hold the waters in check for an indefinite period of time, the odds are all in favour of the Kowhai one day choosing to change its course, and when it does so, no one will be able to say it nay.
Precisely the same process is going on in connection with the Taylor River, on the outskirts of Blenheim, although the danger is not so imminent, for the reason that the drainage area is more limited, and the floods are more intermittent; but here we have afforded page 23us probably the best instance of how rivers build up their enormous fans, the merit of the example being that it is sufficiently large to impress us with its magnitude, and small enough for the eye to comprehend it. Let the reader stand on the rise of the road at St. Clair and look up into the river gorge, then down into the lower valley, and the extent of the material carried out on to the plain by this small and erratic mountain torrent at once becomes apparent; yet it is much greater than it seems, for stretching from Blythfield on the west, to the confines of Redwoodtown on the east, its expanding spoil covers an area of many hundreds of acres. Some years ago heated arguments were conducted, both on the platform and in the press, as to whether the old course of this river was not at the foot of the Vernon Hills, and those who, like Mr. William Douslin, supported this view, urged that to turn it back again was the true preventive against its waters seriously inundating the town. As to the accuracy of this contention there can be no doubt, but it would be equally safe to argue that it once flowed on the opposite side of the fan, for at one time and another it has radiated backwards and forwards like a liquid pendulum swinging through the years of time. And now it has reached a stage when it seems disposed to make another change, owing to page 24the river bed becoming clogged with shingle washed out from the pile of Miocene gravels of which its watershed is composed. Here also artificial works are being set up to check the inclinations of nature, but the permanency of these remedies is very dubious, for since the cause of the water's waywardness is the filling up of its channel, owing to an overplus of debris, the natural direction from which relief must come is the arresting of that spoil for which no convenient repository can be found. The bare and treeless condition of the sources from whence the waters of the Taylor issue offers no resistance to the denuding influence of the elements, and the supplying of this want, by making extensive and suitable plantations, is the most effective antidote which can be provided against that public scourge, known to older and newer Marlborough as a "Taylor flood."
Apart from these important shingle fans, the work of the Kowhai and Taylor Rivers, almost every stream of any magnitude in the province has built up an alluvial platform of greater or less extent. The Conway, the Hapuka, and the Clarence each have their deltas, but considering what an enormous volume of water the latter discharges, it is rather remarkable that it has not spread its fan further seaward, a fact which can only be accounted for by the velocity of the tide, page 25which sweeping past destroys the handiwork of the river ere it has had time to make its foundations sure. The higher terraces, above the boulder-covered fiat by which the Clarence bridge is approached, are not the creation of the river, but are ancient beaches lifted in one of the many elevations which have from time to time taken place, and it was these old sea shores which, on the memorable night of April 11th, 1886, when the ill-fated Taiaroa * was driven like a beaten warrior upon the sands, loomed dark against the angry sky, and deceived the shipwrecked people into the belief that they were upon a rock-bound coast.
Along the banks of the Upper Awatere there are also extensive flats formed by the river, between the Molesworth and Langridge homesteads, sometimes almost abreast of the water, and again ascending in terraces from fifty to one hundred feet high.
* It is generally believed that had the passengers and crew remained on board no lives would have been lost, as next morning, when the ship was visited by the men working at the Clarence bridge, they found a monkey and a cat alive, and perfectly contented. The boats were, however, launched, and most of them upset in the surf; some twenty persons in all being drowned. One of the passengers, Gunner Grant, made a most heroic swim for life, and the boats in which Captain Thompson and the mate got away arrived safely at the Wairau Bar next day. A peculiar feature about the wreck was that although a number of women were amongst the lost, not one of their bodies was ever recovered. A few of the bodies of the male passengers were washed ashore, and lie buried in the little cemeteries at the Kekerangu, Woodbank, and Flaxbourne stations.
So far the deltas treated of are comparatively insignificant in extent, but when we come to the Wairau Valley we see nature's operations on a more gigantic scale, for here a plain of 65,000 acres in area has been built up almost entirely by river deposit. An observer standing upon the Vernon Hills and looking first away towards the upper valley, and then out upon Cloudy Bay, cannot but recognise the strong probability that the plain before him, on which some thousands of industrious people find a home, must at one time have been a huge arm of the sea, with its tributary sounds in what are now the Kaituna and Waitohi valleys.
* The English equivalent for the Maori name Awatere, is "Swift-running stream."
* One of the most remarkable evidences of the way in which this plain is being built up was the finding, some five years ago, of an old farm fence buried beneath ten feet of soil, in the neighbourhood of Foster's Channel. In this connection, it is also worthy of note that many years ago, while some workmen were engaged in sinking a well in the Fairhall district, they came upon the partially decayed relics of an ancient raupo swamp, which at one time had flourished above the surface, like an oasis in the desert.
* This mountain is part of the household furniture dedicated by people in all parts of the world to His Satanic Majesty, as it is familiarly known as "The Devil's Arm-chair." The neighbouring hill in the range, Mount Fishtail, derives its name from a huge slip on the Wairau Valley side, which, by a freak of nature, is exactly the shape of a fish's tail, Mount Strachan is called after a former settler in the province, and a member of the Provincial Council.
These matters having been disposed of, a word yet remains to be said descriptive of a cause which has at least been an important factor in stamping upon the face of the province many of its present bold and picturesque physical features. As nothing in nature is due to chance, but everything has its basis in some well defined cause, it must not, for instance, be supposed that the formation of those magnificent reaches of water embraced by Queen Charlotte and Pelorus Sounds was due entirely to accident, nor is it permissible to imagine that where a mountain range lifts its lordly head, it does so simply because Dame Nature had more material than she knew what to do with. Similarly valleys and plains originate because corresponding changes are taking place elsewhere, and not because it was their "luck" to be brought into existence. And so when we take a bird's-eye view of the province and see the mountain ranges, rivers, valleys, and sounds, it is but natural that we page 32should speculate upon the power that conferred on them their being. At one time it was freely accepted as an established fact that the igneous forces were responsible for the mountain chains and the aqueous forces for the valleys, and in a general way this is probably still correct, but of recent years geologists have begun to give some attention to another force which doubtless is but the offspring of the former, and which is technically known as "faulting." These "faults" are simply huge fractures in the earth's crust, and being the lines of greatest weakness are deeply affected during periods of subterranean activity, and therefore in the districts where they have been observed they are popularly known as "earthquake cracks."
Marlborough is the first part of the colony where a systematic and scientific observation of this particular class of geological feature has been made, but these faults are known to affect many other portions of New Zealand, and more especially the whole of the Middle Island. Indeed there is every reason for supposing that far beyond the coast lines of our country the influence of these faults have been most forcibly marked.
It cannot for a moment be assumed that the many little outlying islands which dot the waters at the entrance of the Sounds, and which extend in an irregular chain to Stephen's Island, are but the result of a whim of nature. They are undoubtedly the relics of the vanished land which once joined the North and Middle Islands, and being possibly the highest of the hill-tops, have alone survived the great submergence which took place when the Strait was formed. This indicates a continuance of the land away to the northward, and following the same line of reasoning the presence of the Chathams to the eastward, and the Auckland, Bounty, and other islands to the southward, would lead us to conclude that by the submergence of the land the sea has, with these exceptions, been left master of the situation. To the westward, however, the evidences of a lost continent are of a page 34different character, to which, nevertheless, the physical features of the province conform with even more perfect harmony. Anyone looking critically at the map of the Middle Island will at once notice the peculiar direction in which its rivers and valleys run. In every instance those flowing eastward radiate with more or less regularity from a point slightly to the westward of Hokitika, and with this system of radiation the chief rivers and valleys of Marlborough are in perfect concert, and the deduction one is entitled to make from a circumstance so clearly the result of a natural law, is that at some former time much higher land than we now know of loomed up in the distant west, and by its dominating influence gave the rivers of the east their peculiar direction. Many theories have been advanced to explain why this vast country, which might have become an empire, sunk beneath the waves, but from the traces left on the New Zealand coast, the sliding down of one side of a great fault was immediately responsible for the disappearance of the land adjacent to our present shores. From the fragmentary evidence bequeathed to us, it is concluded that this subsidence took place towards the close of the Miocene, or beginning of the Pliocene period, and it is from this time that the physical features of Marlborough began to assume their present form, page 35for so great a catastrophe as the drowning of a continent could scarcely fail to deeply affect the surviving land.
Whether the ascertained lines of fault which run through Marlborough were created by the shock which the country received when the whole, or portions of the surrounding territory were submerged, or whether they were simply intensified by the strain, cannot easily be determined, but we have now the clearest evidence that at least four main lines of fracture intersect the province, and, as will be presently shown, have operated in no small degree to make the landscape what it is.
The first and most easterly of these faults appears on the coastline at the mouth of the Flags River, and runs along the seaward base of the Lookers On range, where its vertical displacements are estimated to reach a height of 13,000 feet. From this point it turns in a more westerly direction, and soon passes beyond the limits of the province near the source of the Conway River. The eastward continuation of the line is probably under Cook Strait, re-appearing again in the Wairarapa Valley, where, since settlement began, it has been subject to considerable movement. The second fracture, known as the Great Clarence fault, has been traced the entire length of the Clarence Valley, where its dislocations, in modern times, are clearly discernible over a page 36distance of fifty-miles, terminating on the coast at Lake Grassmere. To speak of the Awatere line of fault may not convey much to the average reader, but to mention the Awatere "earthquake crack" must sound strikingly familiar to every old resident of the province. This is by far the most important line of fracture, in the sense that owing to its being more frequently in activity during historical times, its course has been the most clearly observed. Between the Taylor Pass road and the coast it is not easily traced through the Dumgree paddocks, but the presence of the pond which has been dignified by the euphonious name of Lake Jasper, at once leads us on to the line on the other side, and from here it is never lost sight of until it intersects with the Flags fault at Glenwye. Finally we come to the line running from end to end of the Wairau Valley, which, in "the early days" was very energetic, as, for instance, during the year of 1855, a year of excessive earthquake activity. The land, which is now covered by the Vernon lagoons, was lowered at least twenty-four inches, and on the Benhopai Station the oscillations of the shocks were so acutely felt that a shepherd at once picked up his swag and left, alleging as his page 37reason for doing so that "it was time to go when his whare was first on one side of the gully then on the other."
No systematic effort has been made to trace these lines of fault in the neighbourhood of the Sounds, but the finding of a block of coal near Picton thirty-six years ago directed the attention of the geological officers of the colony to this picturesque locality, and during their investigations a fracture was discovered running along the shore of Shakespere Bay, which doubtless has its continuation along Queen Charlotte Sound.
* Note.—A writer describing the effect of the 1855 earthquakes upon the Upper Awatere, says: "On the Fairfield Downs, a fissure was opened as far as the eye could reach, and perfectly straight."
These movements seem to consistently take two forms, that of creating an elevation of the land on the one hand, and a corresponding depression on the other, the former being usually on the north western side of the fault line. If this be not the result of mere coincidence, we can attribute the elevation of the once green, but now bare and ungenerous looking Vernon Hills, to the convulsions of the Awatere fault, and the rearing of the majestic Kaikouras to the titanic activity and giant power of the Flags and Clarence fractures. The acceptance of such a theory necessitates the belief that the Kaikoura Ranges are, geologically speaking, comparatively modern additions to the provincial scenery, and while such a thesis may be in contravention to many pre-conceived ideas, it is nevertheless the simplest answer to two problems which otherwise are inexplicable.
If the Kaikoura Mountains had existed in what is known as the Cretaceo-tertiary times, page 39we would not find, as we do to-day, that the great limestone deposits of that period are absolutely cut in twain by this giant battlement of hills, upon whose crests no trace of cretaceous rocks can be found. Neither would we find the younger rocks driven under the older ones, as they are in many cases, thus completely reversing the natural order of the strata. Presuming also that the Kaikoura Ranges were non-existent in the Miocene times, it is easy to understand how triasic rocks, which alone could be derived from the head of the Conway, should be found amongst the conglomerates high up on the crown of the Chalk Range, one hundred miles away from the parent beds, but which could then be carried over the plain by a huge river or giant glacier.
Finally, it is self-evident that if these mountains had lifted their heads in glory during the great Ice age, their sides and base would have been deeply engraved with the markings of the glaciers. But no such tracery is found upon them., and therefore from this marshalling of facts we are entitled to conclude that even as late as Miocene times the provincial scenery was very different from what it is to-day. The southern portion of the province, at least, was low in level, and the general contour of the country was flat and uninteresting. Of hills there were few, page 40and mountains there were none; but in the Pliocene period, after the volcanic era had passed away, changes, upon a stupendous scale, commenced to take place. Then the subterranean power began to galvanise the lines of weakness into activity, and in a series of great earthquakes, manifesting enormous pressure, thrust the Kaikoura Mountains up in the midst of the lime-covered plain, leaving portions of the white rock in the Clarence Valley, and the other on the sea coast; at the same time altering the courses of the rivers, the inclinations of the valleys, and the general configuration of the country in a way that one can scarcely conceive.
No portion of Marlborough is so interesting as the County of the Sounds, both for its quiet beauty and historical associations, while in a geological sense it is not less entertaining, for no one could sail up its beautiful fiords without being lost in admiration and impressed with the marvellous power which gave them their form and structure. Various theories have been evolved to account for this network of land and water, but the most plausible seems to be that the Sounds of to-day were once valleys shut in by high hills, and that in the general subsidence which took place when Cook Strait was formed, the whole of the northern part of Marlborough was deeply affected, and, although not entirely submerged, page 41was so reduced in level as to make deep-sea channels of what might previously have been compared to Scottish glens.
The dislocated nature of the strata throughout the Sounds County shows clearly that at some time it has been subjected to considerable movement, while the appearance of the Kaituna Valley, with its low even level from mouth to mouth, at once suggests an old sea channel dried up by an elevation of its bed, and smoothed over by the washings from the hills. Even now, with a phenomenally high tide in the Pelorus, there is scarcely saddle enough to prevent the waves rolling through to the Wairau, and again meeting with those of Cloudy Bay. Much the same thing applies to the Waitohi Valley, which, as far as Mount Pleasant, gives every indication of having, in olden times, been an arm of the deep bay that ran as far inland as Onamalutu, though exactly how far the opposite power to that which created the larger sounds is responsible for destroying these smaller ones it is difficult to say, but it is not unreasonable to believe that they are very closely associated.
Ever since, the process of change has been going on uninterruptedly, but nature has never again put forth such stupendous efforts, being content to work on a much more humble scale. The rivers have gradually reclaimed the land from the sea, the waste places have page 42been clothed in a sward of green, while the forests have been growing in the Pelorus * for many thousands of years, furnishing a home for the giant moa, the diminutive weka, and a habitation for man, whose history we shall now endeavour to trace.
* Note.—Whether the district of the Awatere, aud further south, was ever heavily timbered with forest trees is a matter of doubt, but the writer has been frequently told by those who have mustered over the country in the early days, that on the tops of the highest hills large totara logs were to be seen, and the following extract from a letter written by Lieut-Governor Eyre, who ascended within fifty feet of the summit of Mount Tapaenuku, in November, 1849, and had one of his Maori servants killed in the ascent, confirms the statement—"There is little vegetation on the hills but mosses, lichens, and some coarse grasses, besides prickly plants, of which the Taramea is the chief, but the singular fact was that on so steep and high a hill, where nothing but moss and lichens grow, were the charred remains of large totara trees, evidently showing that the ground had once been low and covered with forest, and that it has been pushed up within a comparatively recent geological period." The fact that these remains of trees are generally described as being charred, suggests the idea that the forests, after the advent of man, were destroyed by fire, but it is peculiar that no tradition of such a forest has been preserved, or that the remains of trees are not found anywhere but on the tops of the hills. In opposition to the theory that the trees grew on the hill sides, it has been remarked that the trunks are generally laid in lines, giving them the appearance of drift timber deposited on the mountain side by water.