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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 15, Issue 3 (June 1, 1940)

“The Exploration Of New Zealand” (By W. G. McClymont)

page 55

“The Exploration Of New Zealand” (By W. G. McClymont)

In this, the most recent addition to the New Zealand Centennial Surveys, we are presented with a continuation of the story commenced by Dr. J. C. Beaglehole in “The Discovery of New Zealand.” Whereas Dr. Beaglehole, however, was concerned mainly with discoveries relating to our coastline, Mr. McClymont's task was to reveal the stages by which the interior became known and to relate the parts played by all those who had a share in the great work. That the assignment has involved any amount of research is obvious from the most casual perusal of any chapter in the book but especially so in regard to those concerning the exploration of the southern half of the South Island. This conclusion is amply confirmed on reading the appended “Notes on the Sources” where we see how old newspaper files and the letters and notebooks of missionaries and others have been drawn upon for facts relating to the survey, besides the published works accessible to the general reader.

The part played by the missionaries in exploring the interior of the North Island in the course of their long and arduous journeys from one mission station to another provides an absorbing topic for much of the first few chapters, the treatment here given adequately disposing of the earlier criticism that there was a gap in the planning of the Centennial series. Many of these early journeys were carried out, it must be remembered, at times when inter-tribal warfare was at its bitterest and most ruthless and when to the hazards incidental to difficult and little-known terrain there was added the risk of sudden death at the whim of some bloodthirsty cannibal. Bidwill's life hangine in the balance after his ascent of Ngauruhoe, and hazardously redeemed by a gift of tobacco to old Te Heu Heu, is an excellent example and provides, moreover, a reminder that traders, sealers, whalers and an occasional scientist worked the same field as the missionaries and contributed each his quota of knowledge.

One of the most interesting aspects of “Exploration in New Zealand” is, in fact, the revelation of the widely different motives which prompted some of the great feats of exploration during the past 120 years—the dissemination of Christianity among the natives, the pursuit of trade, the desire to add to scientific knowledge, the lure of gold, and always, but especially so in the South Island, the quest of suitable land for settlement and hence of routes by which such land could be readily approached. In the index, for example, there are listed nearly thirty mountain passes, and in reading of how they were first discovered one is speechless at the tenacity of purpose which sustained the efforts of their discoverers. Brunner, Heaphy, Barrington and the Dobsons are only a few of the names from what would make an inspiring roll-call.

Such, indeed, is the amount of material relating to Mr. McClymont's subject that there is a certain danger of the later chapters losing in interest owing to the deliberate choice of a bold style of narration; the facts are to speak for themselves. Seldom does he relax the formality of his account to voice sympathy or appreciation and even when he does it is for only a few lines.

(Photo., E. J. McClare). An excursion train hauled by a “K” class locomotive leaving Auckland for Hamilton.

(Photo., E. J. McClare).
An excursion train hauled by a “K” class locomotive leaving Auckland for Hamilton.

In spite of this, however, an intensely moving story develops. In reading and marvelling at the hard-ships endured and obstacles overcome, at death braved not once but many times, and, when at last narrowly evaded, challenged yet again, even if we are prompted to reflect that these men were of a tougher, sturdier breed than most of us who have come into the Promised Land they discovered, we shall not fail to agree that no more opportune time than this critical period of our nationhood could have been chosen for the appearance of a book designed in treatment and scope to afford us inspiration and example for the difficult days that lie ahead.

How did briar pipes originate? The story goes that a manufacturer of meerschaums who visited Corsica in 1844 chanced to drop—and break—the meerschaum he was smoking. By way of a temporary substitute he carved himself a pipe from Corsican brpyere (briar) root. That was the first briar! And the experiment proved so successful that the manufacture of these pipes soon developed into a flourishing industry. To-day briars are produced by the million! The finest briar-root, by the way, still comes from Corsica, and the best briars cost money. But your “dyed-in-the-wool” smoker cares little for the expensive pipes. With him it's the tobacco that counts! Some folks can smoke anything; the tolacco-lover wants the best. Tastes differ but the constantly growing demand for the toasted tobacco, so pure, fragrant and free from nicotine, is proof positive that New Zealanders are not slow to appreciate a really good thing. All five brands: Navy Cut No. 3 (Bulldog), Cavendisch, Riverhead Gold, Desert Gold, and Cut Plug No. 10 (Bullshead). are an everyday request all over the Dominion.