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The New Zealand Survey

Canto IV

“New Zealand Survey”: Page 74.

Canto IV.

Note 1, Page 35.

“Or upheaving still
The floor above their level.”

In the earthquake of 1854, we had a good illustration of the upheaving of the land. Previous to that time the river Hutt was somewhat navigable for large boats, coming up for cargoes of sawn timber, with the rising of the tide to some distance—say a quarter of a mile above the bridge which spans the river. Since the time of the earthquake, the tide does not come, by the course of the stream, to within a mile of where it used to flow. Formerly a great deal of land had Yankee water frontage, being then generally overflowed even at low tide, especially near the mouth of the river; but now the same land is high and dry. being raised above the water’s level even at high tide, and is made available as grazing runs for cattle and sheep. By the same causes as above alluded to, large swamps full of N. Z. flax, which luxuriate amid water and mire, stretching across the valley and could not be drained to any advantage, as every tide proved an obstacle to such work; but now all such obstacles are removed, and drainage can easily be effected, such lands are now ready for the improvements of cultivation, and much has already undergone a cheering change from what such formerly was. The above remarks are applicable to other places I have seen. The bay of Pahautanui for instance, the waters of which formerly washed up to the side of the road, but now even at high tide, some hundreds of acres may be said to be reclaimed land without the interference of human skill or labour. Such page 75“New Zealand Survey”: Page 75. instances of the land’s upheaving as above, and which have taken place from time to time in former periods are easily discernible in several places of the different valleys opening out towards the sea, by the ridges of beach shingle left as the waters were obliged to retire. In the Wai-nui-o-mata for instance, where a drain was made alongside the formation of a road, I could see among the shingle stones the remains of cockle shells, showing that here the sea waves once have washed. As this place was considerably more elevated than the Hutt at the time when the upheaving of the land caused the waters of the Wai-nui-o-mata inland lake to retire, leaving the drainings of the hills in possession of the deeper hollows to form a swamp in other times, a considerable portion of the Hutt valley must have been covered with the briny waters of the sea; the sea beach then being somewhere about the Taita or the Gorges.*

Note 2, Page 37.

“By surging tides
They have ashore been cast and anchored there
In sand and gravel, thus embedded deep
Their roots and branches useful have become
To form receptacles, and means to stay
The deposit of sediment till formed
The basis of a superincumbent soil.”

As an illustration of the above lines, I may mention that at two different places in the Hutt valley, I had occasion to dig wells for water. After digging down through different strata of clay and sand, and then clay again to the depth of about 12 feet from the surface, at each place I happened to strike upon a log, apparently about the place where a limb of the tree had been broken off a small piece from the body; for it was in the fork among some splinters, somewhat decayed, I got my spade, and wrenched up some of them. Finding at length that the body of the log seemed to cover the breadth of the well, and had not yet got to water, with no small trouble I managed to dig down in the fork of the log about eighteen inches, when the water page 76“New Zealand Survey”: Page 76. began to rise, and very soon the well was filled to a few feet from the top. The incidents relating to the bottom of each well being the same, could not fail to impress my mind with coincidences not easily forgot. But it is to the circumstance of finding the logs at the depth referred to above that I allude, to shew what was once a mere mud flat similar to what now may be seen at the mouth of the river at low water, is thus so many feet buried beneath the present surface of the land. Besides the above instances others may be seen along the banks of the river, where not only large logs or bodies of trees of no small dimensions may be seen, but also a quantity of the smaller kind of brushwood, with their roots and branches entire, are obtruding themselves to view, as if to declare something regarding their former history seeing the land has risen over them from six to ten feet in height. On examining the nature of the wreck, I could see that such was of a kind that is now found growing on the face of the hill along the western side of the valley.

Note 3, Page 45.

“A double distance is the fate of this
Compared to that ere reaching to the sea.”

What is called the Mungaroa river comes from another valley, now called Whiteman’s valley, from the name of a person who made its discovery, and took up his abode in it, and afterwards made it known to the Government, which time was considerably after when the poem was written; which valley was but lately (about 1863) surveyed in forty acre lots and sold by the Government. The stream referred to, coming from this valley, issues out from a gorge in the hills with a rapid current, and runs along the Mungaroa Valley northwards, for about three miles from the place of its outlet, when it unites with the river Hutt, taking a southward course.

Note 4, Page 46.

“Its outlet was the sea,
As it existed once in that deep vale
The Upper Hutt—deep when compared to this!”

That the Mungaroa swamp was at one time a kind of lake or loch there can be no manner of doubt, into which the stream of Whiteman’s Valley emptied itself. Traces of sea may be seen in the quantity of boulders, but partially buried, found at a page 77“New Zealand Survey”: Page 77. considerable elevation above the present level of the Hutt River, farther up the valley. Taking the comparative levels of the swamp and the Upper Hutt road, opposite the present Criterion Hotel, into consideration, and supposing the depth of water in the old loch to be about 22 feet, which is the present depth of the swamp in the centre, known by driving a pole down till it reaches the hard bottom, the depth of water in the Upper Hutt Valley, where the road now is, would be about 322 feet, but where the course of the river is the depth would have been considerably more. When examining both sides of the hill we find that, on the swamp side, descending with a gradual slope to the margin, and so on the other side till coming down to about the level of the swamp, when the descent of the hill on the Hutt side becomes more steep, and in some parts nearly perpendicular, as showing how the action of the surging of the waves have worn down the hill side, and so have spread the mud as residium over the face of that part of the valley on the top of a deep bed of boulders.

Note 5, Page 47.

“Save such small vestiges remaining, which
Reminds one of the softest whisper made
When a great secret’s told, and scarcely heard!”

On the eastern side of the Mungaroa swamp, about a mile farther south from where the stream from Whiteman’s Valley issues into that of Mungaroa, the shores slope from the margin gently upward, which places were covered with ferns on a black surface mould. When here looking around there may be seen here and there small quartz pebbles lying on the surface of the ground. How such pebbles have come there is a problem hard to be solved, (as to all appearance they are not natural to such a place) unless we take into account the probability of their being brought hither from a distance by the birds which frequented the scene, as it then was, as their place of resort at certain seasons, perhaps for incubation, and so have been dropped; or may have been the remains of such who have here ended days in their old age, or have fallen a prey to others of a ravenous nature; so the pebbles have remained, as monuments of the past history of the place, like the whispered secret scarcely heard! New Zealand Flora and FaunaIn corroboration of the above may be mentioned that one of my neighbors, after having burned off some bush, which he had felled on the top of a hill on his lot of land, he discovered some remains of an extinct species of bird, called the page 78“New Zealand Survey”: Page 78. Moa, such as part of legs and thigh bones of the bird, and over which the roots of a large rata tree had extended in their growth along the surface of the ground. After such a discovery, when searching about the place for more of the remains of the bird, from pieces of charred bones which he picked up he could trace to a nearness the direction and manner in which the skeleton lay, so as to ascertain the probable size, which was reckoned to stand about sixteen feet high, and about the place where the craw or crop of the bird appeared to have been he picked up some pebbles or round smooth stones, which were supposed to have belonged to the bird, as they were in their natures unlike any other of the stones found about the place as natives of the soil. So in like manner, reverting to the vestiges accounted for above, such pebbles found on the shores of the swamp referred to above must be indicative of the feathered frequenters of the ancient loch.

* Since the above was written I have visited Manawatu. Travelling up the coast I could not but observe that from Paikakariki, and as far as I have been northward, the sea waves have washed up against the mountain ranges at no distant date—at the same time when the sea beach of the Hutt was about the Gorges. And since then, by the action of the N.W. gales on the waves of the sea, throwing up the sand, the country chiefly has been formed upon the extensive shallow mud flats which were left when they were raised above the level of the tides.