Geology of the Provinces of Canterbury and Westland, New Zealand : a report comprising the results of official explorations
Journey to the Waitaki, Lake Wanaka, and the West Coast, 1862-3
Journey to the Waitaki, Lake Wanaka, and the West Coast, 1862-3.
Starting in the beginning of December, 1862, instead of going again through Burke's Pass and the Mackenzie Country, I selected this time another road, which would make me acquainted with a considerable portion of the boundary line between the two provinces. My first station was Timaru, where I made an examination of the coast line of this interesting locality, and its neighbourhood, and then proceeding to the Waitaki, I crossed this river at the lower ferry, and passed along its southern banks for a considerable distance, examining the geological features as I went along. They were, as I could observe, identical with those on the Northern or Canterbury side, the valley running across the different formations, which were striking nearly south-west and north-east. On December the 7th we reached the Ahuriri plains, evidently an old lake bed, after the retreat of the huge glacier into the Mackenzie Country, and now filled with alluvium. From here a magnificent view was obtained of the Southern Alps and their out-running spurs still deeply covered with snow. After crossing the Ahuriri river, we passed over the downs, mostly morainic accumulations, to Lake Ohau, and keeping on its western shores, we reached Mr. McKuen's station, from which we started on December 15th for the Hopkins. That river, when visiting it in the previous late autumn, was very different from what I now found it. Winter was then coming on, the snow of the preceding season had already, in the lower regions, disappeared before the powerful sun of the summer months, and consequently the water in the river was near its lowest level, as during the nights hard frosts had usually set in, and even the freshets in the river during the rainy weather, experienced when returning to Lake Ohau, were insignificant when compared with the usual size of the river in the spring season. Now in the middle of December large masses of snow still filled most of the depressions in the ranges. The river itself was high even during fine weather, and owing to the almost continuous rain in the higher ranges near its sources, was so swollen that it was often impassable even on horseback. The smaller tributaries too, which in winter were scarcely knee deep, were now rapid, angry-looking torrents, which often offered great difficulties in crossing. The fall of avalanches, endangering the lives of travellers, was still going on in the higher portions of the valley, which was now ornamented by a rich and varied vegetation in full blossom. The aroma of many of the flowering shrubs was really esquisite, and sometimes almost over page 45powering, whilst amongst others the magnificent Ranunculus Lyallii was growing in such a striking profusion, and was so crowded with its large white flowers, that it appeared as if the lower mountain slopes were still sprinkled with snow. Water was coming down everywhere from the mountain sides, and many a small rill, which in winter had only appeared like a silken thread, now poured down as a splendid cascade.
Instead of four or five days which I proposed for this prospecting tour up the river, it took me about a fortnight before I could accomplish the work. We examined first one of the principal western tributaries joining the main river, about twelve miles above the lake, but without results; the rocks, although having been subjected to considerable alteration in their structure, neither showing well defined quartz reefs, nor having furnished material for the formation of alluvial deposits, even should the gold have been disseminated throughout the rock. Continuing our journey towards the sources, the fall of the avalanches, broke the stillness of nature, and warned me to be careful, not only in selecting the road, but also in choosing a camping ground. Although most of the avalanches which now fell were comparatively small, the season being already far advanced, at several localities the enormous devastation they had caused was proof enough that some of them had been of colossal dimensions. At some spots, the whole forest, reaching about 1,000 feet above the valley, was thrown down, the stems of the trees, often of large size, lying over each other like so many reeds scattered over the ground; at others, the trees were only broken off above the roots, and carried down the mountain side, the remaining portion resembling a gigantic stubble field; whilst in some instances the whole forest, with the soil on which it had grown, had disappeared altogether, and only the rocky surface was visible from above the upper line of forest vegetation to the foot of the valley. Often at the base of these localities large mounds were formed, consisting of debris, vegetable soil, and trees—the latter generally broken up in small fragments, the whole mixed with large blocks of rock. It was evident that the unusually heavy falls of snow of the last winter had been the principal cause of the devastation, which was on a much more enormous scale than I had ever seen in the European Alps. Gradually but under great difficulties we reached the upper portion of the valley, and arrived at last, on December 19th, at our old camping ground., During the night an avalanche, apparently of more than ordinary dimensions, fell in the neighbourhood of our camp. The page 46sound accompanying it was in the first instance like the firing of a great many guns of heavy calibre, or like a very loud peel of thunder, followed by rattling sounds lasting for several minutes, resembling the platoon firing of an army. The first crash was without doubt produced by the main fall of the avalanche, whilst the latter was the effect of smaller masses of snow and rocks being brought down in its trail.
On December 21, we attempted to reach the glacier at the head of the valley, in which we succeeded at last, but not without great difficulty, as the small torrents falling here into the main river were so swollen that they were exceedingly difficult to cross. Also, another impediment presented itself in the form of an enormous avalanche which lay across the whole valley, and through which the turbid water of the river had already eaten a subterranean passage, forming a cave over which the snow formed an arch. We climbed up about 80 feet to the surface of this remarkable avalanche, which was nearly a quarter of a mile long, and found on it good travelling ground. There were numerous fragments of rock lying amongst the snow, and remains of vegetation of the higher alpine localities torn away from their lofty abode. The descent into the river-bed was more difficult, the avalanche being here greatly destroyed and undermined by the waters of the river, which without doubt had been dammed up for some time; so that we could not descend directly into the valley, but had to take to the rocky mountain side which was separated from the snow wall by a yawning crevice, across which we had to jump. Having made the necessary examinations, the results of which, however, were not very satisfactory, as to the auriferous nature of the rocks, I retraced my steps to Lake Ohau, but my return, owing to the flooded state of the river, was not accomplished without great loss of time.
After having reported to the Provincial Government as to the unauriferous nature of the district, I started again on January 3, 1863, and crossing the Ahuriri, wended my way by the Lindis Pass to the valley of the Molyneux, which I ascended to the junction of the two outlets from Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka, establishing my head quarters at Mr. E. Wilkin's station. A number of provision stores were erected close by on both sides of the river, and active life reigned here in consequence of the gold diggings in the neighbourhood, and the arrival and departure of prospecting parties in all directions. An examination of the shores of Lake Wanaka showed that, like the three lakes in the Mackenzie Country previously visited, it was encircled by enormous moraine walls, to the presence of which it doubtless owed page 47its existence. The view from a small hill, consisting of micaschist—a true roche moutonnée rising above the alluvium near the station—is very extensive and grand in all its details. Beyond the foreground, consisting of well-grassed downs, appears the deep blue surface of LakeWanaka, surrounded by high mountains of wild serrated forms, often a mass of barren crags, one rising grimly above the other; but above them all stands conspicuously the high and steep pyramid of Mount Aspiring, glistening brightly in its snowy white garment. The lake with many arms enters far between the spurs of the precipitous ranges, walls of rocks rising abruptly from deep water. In its contours it closely resembles the Lake of Luzern (Vierwaldstätter See), and it is, without doubt, one of the finest spots in New Zealand. Looking south, the aspect of the broad terraced valley, with the large river meandering through it, bounded by high rocky mountains on both sides, is also very striking and characteristic of New Zealand alpine scenery.
As I intended to reach, if posible, the West Coast by the head waters of the Makarora, the principal affluent of Lake Wanaka, Mr. William Young, Assistant-Surveyor, joined me here as topographical assistant, that gentleman having, at my request, been attached to me for this expedition by the Chief Surveyor of the Province, in order that I might have some help in the arduous task before me. On January 13th, 1863, I started for the head of the lake, following its western shores, and after crossing the broad delta of the Matukituki river, which advances far into the lake, we arrived on the afternoon of the next day at the station of Messrs. Stuart, Kinross, and Company. Having here ascertained that it would be impossible to continue my journey overland to the head of the lake with my horses, owing to the precipitous rocky nature of its shores, I availed myself of the kindness of Mr. H. S. Thompson, partner of that firm, who placed a boat at my disposal during my stay in this part of the country, and we started, therefore, on January the 19th, reaching the mouth of the river Makarora the same evening, and camping the next day at the Makarora bush, where a number of sawyers were at work—the goldfields on the Molyneux and its tributaries, which are mostly devoid of timber, offering them a splendid market for the products of their industry. This forest is of considerable extent, and contains a great number of fine pines such as Kahikatea, Totara and Matai, which grow here to large dimensions. Altogether the vegetation on the shores of Lake Wanaka with its neighbourhood, showed that its climate is very propitious. page 48Only very few plants of a sub-alpine character were here growing, the rest belonging to the vegetation found generally only nearer to both coasts.
Having ascertained, in former years, from the West Coast Maoris, that a pass existed at the head of Lake Wanaka, by which former generations had travelled across the island, but not being able to gather anything positive about this road from them, I went on my journey up to the Waitemate bush to consult an aged Maori on the subject, with which I was informed he was well acquainted. From him I heard that the track lay by the Wilkin, a main branch of the Makarora, joining it some miles above the lake, and that it would bring me in two days to the mouth of the Awarua river, on the West Coast; but when on the spot, and examining the physical features of the country, I was led to the conclusion that there must be some error in his description. Observing at the same time that the main chain at the head of the Makarora appeared singularly broken, I thought that possibly a pass might be found in that direction, and I determined, therefore, to try to cross the central chain there, and as the result has shown, my anticipations have been fully verified. After the preliminaries had been settled, we started on January 22nd, my companions being Mr. William Young, as Assistant Surveyor, and R. L. Holmes, F. Warner, and Charles Häring, taking four weeks provisions with us, so that we all had very heavy loads to carry. For the first sixteen miles our road led us along the broad valley, over flats covered with grass, or through forest vegetation growing to the banks of the river. Having travelled so far, we found that the base of the mountains on both sides approached nearer and nearer, till after a distance of a mile and a half, they formed a gorge, the river rushing between immense blocks of rocks, which lie scattered in its channel and on the mountain sides. Twenty miles above its mouth the Makarora comes from the east, through a deep chasm of vertical cliffs, showing its glacier origin by its semi-opaque colour; but the [unclear: ma] valley still continues in the same north-north-west direction—a tributary, which I have called the Fish stream, flowing through it, joining here the Makarora. After travelling half a mile, we found it impossible to proceed up the bed of this stream, vertical cliffs rising abruptly from the edge of the water, which falls down over immense blocks of rock. We were therefore obliged to ascend to a considerable altitude on its eastern bank, and to continue our journey through dense forest along the steep mountain sides. After travelling for page 49about three miles, partly over very rugged ground, we again met the Fish stream coming from the west, and still flowing in a deep and rocky channel; but observing still the opening in the high ranges before us, we crossed, and went again forward in the same direction, and soon arrived on the banks of a small watercourse, which we followed for nearly a mile. Observing that its banks, about fifteen feet high, consisted of debris, sloping as it seemed to me, on their upper surface to the north, I ascended, and found to my great satisfaction that the level of the swampy open forest had really a slight fall in that direction. Soon the small waterholes between the sphagnum (swamp moss) increased, a watercourse was formed, which was running in a northerly direction, and thus a most remarkable pass was discovered, which in a chain of such magnitude as the Southern Alps of New Zealand, has no equal.
From three observations on this pass, I found that its altitude was only 1,716 feet above the sea level, or 724 feet above Lake Wanaka (992 feet). At this point, the mountains on both sides reach their highest elevation, being covered with perpetual snow, and glaciers of considerable size. On the evening of January the 24th we reached a large stream coming from the west, being soon joined by several tributaries from the east. For three miles we followed this stream, flowing in a north-north-east direction, through a comparatively open valley, with occasional patches of grass on its sides, and arrived then at its junction with a large stream of glacier origin, and of the size of the Makarora, which came from the eastern central chain, and to which, according to the direction of His Honor the Superintendent, I gave my name. This river forms, before it reaches the valley, a magnificent waterfall, several hundred feet in height.
Next day, accompanied by Mr. W. Young, I ascended the mountain above our camp, which I named Mount Brewster, in order to use it as a central topographical station, and for geological examination, the glaciers of which give rise to the Haast, Makarora, and Hunter rivers. From the slopes of this grand mountain, from an altitude of about 6,500 feet, we had a most magnificent view over the Alps. Lake Wanaka appeared far in the south, its blue mirror-like surface set amongst wild rugged mountains. All around us rose peak above peak, their rocky pinnacles towering in grand majesty above the snow and ice upon their flanks, whilst deep below us, in narrow gorges, we could look upon the foaming waters of the torrents almost at our feet. The whole formed a picture of such wild beauty that it can never be effaced page 50from my memory. The sea horizon to the west was not risible, but there was an indication that there was an opening in the huge chain by which the river would reach the coast.
When returning from our mountain ascent in the evening, heavy rain set in, which continued almost without intermission till February 13th, and during which time, under many difficulties, we were able to advance only eleven miles down the river, watching a favourable opportunity when the water went somewhat down, to cross from one side to the other, where necessary for our purpose. This part of the journey occurred unfortunately at the same time when we had the most inaccessible part of our route to traverse, being, in fact, one of the most rugged pieces of New Zealand ground over which, during my long wanderings, I ever passed. From the junction of the Leading stream with the Haast, the valley of the latter is still so broad, and the fall of the water comparatively so slight, that we could follow the riverbed from side to side; but after a few miles, the ranges on both sides approached nearer, presenting exceedingly steep slopes, whilst the river at the same time continues for several miles to form a succession of falls and cataracts. On both sides of the river the rocks rise perpendicularly, and the small channel through which it forces its way, is still encumbered by enormous rocks, often several hundred tons in weight, amongst and over which the river falls roaring and foaming. Moreover, the mountain sides, which we were continually obliged to ascend and descend for many hundred feet, were often covered with blocks of rocks of equal magnitude. The large fissures between, these are generally overgrown with moss and roots, the latter sometimes so rotten that a hasty step throws the unwary wanderer, toiling under a heavy load, between the fissures, giving him great trouble to extricate himself. No level place of sufficient size to pitch our tent was here to be found, either on the mountain sides or in the river-bed, except in places liable to be flooded, as to our discomfiture we found out, on two occasions during the night. Amongst other curious places, we were camped for several days under an enormous overhanging rock, with a vertical precipice of 150 feet near us, and the thundering and deafening roar of the swollen main river, forming here a large waterfall as its companion.
At last we could observe that we came to lower regions, Totara, Rimu and Matai, often of considerable size, became mixed with the Fagus forest which, since we left the Makarora, had, without intermission, clothed the mountain sides. Fern trees soon made their appearance, page 51forming small groves in the deep moist valleys, and which, considering we were still in the heart of the Alps, gave a strange aspect to the scenery around us. At last we left this region of rocks, precipices, and cascades behind us, and a fine river entered the main valley from the south-west, which I named the Burke. We reached the confluence of it on the evening of February 12th. Fine weather set in at last, and the barometer shewed us that we were only about 300 feet above the sea level. From this spot a most magnificent view over the southern termination of the distant Ritter range, and over the snow-clad Hooker range was obtained,—the more beautiful, as the ranges on both sides of the valley were covered to an altitude of nearly 4,500 feet with forest, and the foreground consisted of fine groves of large pine trees which, lower down the valley, grew on the very banks of the main river. It was only on the morning of February 14th that we were able to continue our journey. The Burke, although only slightly flooded, was impassable, and the main river above its junction, after several trials, we found too high to be crossed. We had just finished making a catamaran of dead trees to get across the Burke, no flax sticks being obtainable to make a mokihi, when a falling of the main river allowed us at last to proceed on our way to the West Coast.
After the junction of the Burke, the course changes again, the river running for seven miles in a north-east direction, the valley opens more, the fall of the water is much less, offering good fords, so as to allow us to use the shingle banks to travel on. Now and then small grass patches of a few acres in extent appear. It was towards the middle of the day when we observed that the river, before its junction with another large river, viz. the Clarke, set against its left bank, keeping close under vertical cliffs to this junction. I determined, therefore, to cross this important river above the junction; but when we came to its shingle bed, which is here about one and a half miles broad, we found the water of the first branch much discoloured. The day being hot and the sky cloudless, I mistook this occurrence for the usual discolouring of a glacier near its source, from the effects of a hot day. We therefore proceeded, and, after some difficulty, found a ford over this first branch; but branch after branch succeeded, each one larger than the former, and it was near evening when we tried to cross the last branch, which proved to be the most important. Several times we failed, but at last succeeded. Although we crossed in the Maori fashion, with a long pole between us, two of my party were washed away when near the opposite bank, and had to swim to shore with their page 52loads on their backs. Had I not taken the precaution to have none but experienced swimmers in my party, a sad accident might have happened. As I afterwards discovered, the river at our first crossing had been still in a state of fresh, and although on returning from the West Coast we found the water low and clear, the river, according to marks set, having fallen considerably, we had still to cross it in five branches, some of them very deep, broad, and swift. The size of this important river, which drains the Southern Alps, from opposite the Mueller glacier to the north-west slopes of Mount Ward, is at least equal to that of the Rakaia in the plains. Its valley is about two miles broad, which, six miles above the junction, is divided into two main branches. On its western bank a fine grass flat occurs, about one thousand acres in extent, where we camped, and which is a real oasis in this constant wilderness of forest. This is, without doubt, the open grass country of which some old Maori spoke to me as existing in the interior, judging its value not by its extent but by the great number of Wekas (Wood hens) and Kakapos (Ground parrots) which, up to the time of our arrival, had here enjoyed an undisturbed existence and which constitutes this spot a true Maori elysium.
After travelling about two miles over this open grass flat, we again arrived on the banks of the river, below the junction, being here divided into two branches. Although the mountains on both sides continued to be very high, and covered with snow, from which numerous waterfalls descended, the river had now a much slower course, being when flowing in one stream, three hundred to four hundred feet broad, and of the size of the Molyneux. Here all the signs of the great floods were visible which had occurred lately, detaining us so long in the gorges. Not only were all the rapids and shingle islands covered with masses of drift trees, many of them having still their green foliage, but also along the sides of the river quicksands were prevalent, which sometimes gave us no little trouble. At many places, on emerging from the forest on a shingle reach, we were greatly disappointed to find that after travelling a quarter of the distance over which it extended, we met deep backwaters, with quicksands reaching so far upwards from the next point, as to oblige us to return to the forest along the mountain sides, where travelling is very difficult. The river, after the junction of the Clarke, runs for about nine miles in a west-north-west direction, when it is joined by a large mountain torrent, coming down in a cataract from the western chain. The banks of the river, sometimes extending level for half a mile to the foot of the page 53mountains, are generally covered with dense forest, in which the Rimu rivals in magnitude the still prevailing Black Birch. But small patches of open scrub occur also, which offer, occasionally, better travelling ground; the soil on many spots is very good, and the river, from the junction of the Clarke to its mouth, favourable for rafting. Now and then a rocky point, the outrunning spurs of the mountains, reaches the river, against which the water sets, and which we had to climb over, but generally a level travelling ground was prevalent. Having passed an important mountain torrent, which in the smallest fresh would be uncrossable, the river again changes its direction, and runs for six and a half miles south-south-west. The forest still continuing to be open, we pursued our way, in splendid weather, till we arrived at a point where the river changes its course to the north-west. We had some trouble to cross this point, rising almost vertically from the water's edge to a great altitude; but having conquered this difficulty, we were gratified to observe that the mountains gradually decreased in altitude, and that we were not far from the sea. For six miles we continued in this north-west direction, meeting with the usual travelling ground, shingle reaches, with backwaters and quicksands; the forest now beginning to be encumbered with Supplejack (Rhipogonum scandens), and the mountain sides sometimes covered with large blocks of rock, which, as they were very steep, and the whole vegetation interlaced with Supplejacks, gave us, at times, hard work. We reached, at last, a spot where the river-bed extended in width, and where a large tributary, which I named the Thomas, entered from the north-east, the valley of which divided the Coast range from the higher mountains inland.
On February the 18th, while crossing the last spur which extended from the Coast range into the river, we were at last rejoiced to observe the sea horizon over a large plain covered with dense forest, in which small conical hills, only a few hundred feet high, rose; and with renewed: ardour we continued our journey; but we did not anticipate that a very arduous task still lay before us. From this point we were about six miles distant from the sea; the distance from the junction of the River Thomas with the main river being ten and a half miles, with a northwest by north course. The river-bed, which up to the crossing of this last spur, had offered us, between the mountains, occasional shingle reaches, dry water-courses, open scrub, and comparatively good forest travelling, set now against its northern bank, continuing so to its very mouth. As it was impossible to travel along its banks, we had to keep entirely to the forest, which now became almost impracticable. At many page 54spots large Kahi-katea (Podocarpus dacrydioides) swamps occurred with the usual accompaniment of Kiekie (Freycinetia Bankcsii), high fern, and a network of Supplejack. At other places the forest consisted of fine trees of Rimu (Dacrydium laxifolium), but without losing its character of West Coast density, which defies description. It occupied us nearly two days to toil and cut our way through this region, till we arrived at a point where the river divided into two branches, of which one running in the above named direction, after a course of one mile, falls into the sea; whilst the other, the northern one, the right bank, which was still clothed with forest of the same description, found its exit one and a half miles north of the former. Observing here a good ford of about two hundred yards in width over the northern branch, we crossed to the island, and soon stood in the surf, giving three hearty cheers. This was on the evening of February 20th, and it thus had taken us thirty days to reach the sea-shore at the West Coast from Lake Wanaka, a journey which, on a good road, could otherwise be accomplished in four days.
The river, the mouth of which we had at last reached, was the Awarua, discharging itself into Wide Bay, about twenty miles northeast of Jackson's Bay. Nowhere could we observe any signs of Native inhabitants, who, as I heard afterwards from the Maoris, had not been living there for some time past. The view from this spot is very extensive. For a considerable distance, both north and south, a plain several miles broad stretches from the sea to the foot of the Coast ranges—the whole, as far as I could judge, covered with dense forest, in which the two fine species of pine, Eimu and Kahi-katea, were the prevailing trees. As far as the eye could reach, all the mountains to an altitude of more than 4000 feet were covered with dense forest, and no peaks visible above six to seven thousand feet, except one single conical mountain, partly covered with snow, which in a south-west direction rose prominently above the Coast ranges. A number of conical hills which, judging from an examination of two of them, consisted partly of granite, stood on the alluvial plains, and were conspicuous in the foreground, whilst a rocky islet, Taumaki, broke the horizon line of the ocean before us.
Being now very short of provisions, we had to start next day on our return journey, and were fortunately still favoured with fine weather, till we were a long day's journey from the Clarke, when the weather became again unsettled; so we travelled on with all speed, crossed the Clarke just in time, found our small provision depôt in good order, page 55and arrived at the junction of the Burke on the evening of February the 25th. Showery weather had set in, but fortunately the rivers only rose slightly, so that, although their fording was not without difficulty, and we had to travel continually through the rain, we arrived at our starting point, the Makarora bush, on the evening of March 2nd, having been nearly six weeks absent. Being all in rags, nearly shoeless, and without any provisions, we returned next day to Mr. Thompson's station on Lake Wanaka, where we remained for a week to recruit our strength. During this time, I sent to Mr. Wilkin's station for fresh supplies, and wrote a report* on the successful issue of my journey to the Provincial Government, which was published in the Canterbury newspapers of April 1st.
On March 12th we started again to the head of the lake, and ascending the Makarora for about ten miles, I devoted several days to an examination of the geological structure of the ranges on both sides of the valley, and to ascertain what its prospects as a payable goldfield would be in the future. Gold was traced in this as well as in the valley of the Wilkin, which I explored next; but in such inconsiderable quantities, that its extraction could not well pay the miners—a conclusion which practical trials in the next few years have fully confirmed. The Wilkin is a large stream, the glacier sources of which are situated on the northern flanks of the Glacier dome. For the first ten miles the river-bed is broad, with small grassy flats on its banks. The view up the river is very grand, as two remarkable peaks, Mount Kakapo and Mount Kuri form the background of this glorious panorama. Frowning cliffs and steep snowslopes constitute their abrupt sides, and small glaciers radiate from them towards the valley. Gradually the banks approach nearer to each other, and the mountain slopes show conspicuously how deeply the rocks have been cut into by the huge glaciers during the Great Glacier period of New Zealand. The river-bed now assuming sometimes the character of a rocky gorge, we had to wend our way through dense forest, still clothing the steep terraced mountain sides, where we found snug camping ground, unabated rain keeping us twice for two days from continuing our journey. The last of these rainfalls, occurring on the 21st and 22nd of March, was one of the heaviest downpours I ever experienced. The river at our feet was an angry roaring torrent, and page 56we could distinctly hear how big boulders and blocks of rock were carried along, together with large trees, by the muddy rushing waters. Every small water-rill hanging on the steep mountain sides was now changed into a broad foaming waterfall. How enormous this rainfall was, may best be judged from the fact that the level of Lake Wanaka was raised over four feet in less than twenty-four hours.
As soon as the river had fallen sufficiently, we continued our journey towards its sources. Instead of being a broad shingle-bed with here and there a rocky gorge, and where travelling had been comparatively easy, the Wilkin now consisted of a series of rapids and waterfalls, often filled with enormous blocks of rock, and the valley rose so rapidly that within a few miles we had ascended to a region which was clothed with sub-alpine vegetation, having all the characteristics of a truly alpine country. Following the river for another day, we found its bed repeatedly obstructed by old moraines, often of enormous dimensions, and after observing that its main sources issue from two small glaciers descending from the central range, we retraced our steps to Lake Wanaka. At the end of March we returned to Mr. Wilkin's station, and after a few days' preparation, started for Lake Hawea, to which Mr. Robert Wilkin had kindly sent a boat, on a bullock dray, for my use, over from the Molyneux. Lake Hawea is like Lake Wanaka, surrounded on its lower side by morainic accumulations, encased one in another, and which have a higher level than those of the latter lake. The view up the lake is beautiful in the extreme, high rocky mountains appearing one above the other, forming a magnificent background; whilst a wild craggy peak, its perpendicular walls washed by the deep blue waters of the lake, forms a conspicuous object in the foreground. For several days we were detained here by bad weather, but managed, on April 5th, to reach the Hunter, the main affluent of Lake Hawea, after having first visited, on our road, the rocky islets rising from it. We followed the Hunter for a few miles, flowing sluggishly along through the swampy delta at the head of the lake, until its bed assumed the character of a true shingle river, where the shallowness of the reaches would not allow us to proceed any longer with the boat. Shouldering our swags again, we began our toilsome march, mostly through dense vegetation, towards the sources of the river, which have a glacier origin. The scenery is really splendid, the view up the straight valley, where a succession of craggy snow-covered peaks appear for many miles one behind the other, and the lower mountain sides mostly covered with luxuriant Fagus forest, is one of the most characteristic of our New Zealand alpine landscapes.page 57
On April 15th we readied at last our highest camp in tlie valley, from which we ascended to the bifurcation of the two main branches, flowing in deep rocky gorges, and forming several fine waterfalls. Here we had to battle for several days with heavy rains, mists, and fogs, before we could accomplish our task, and then retraced our steps, ascending several high peaks on our return march, in order to complete my topographical and geological observations. On April 23rd, we were back at our old quarters at Mr. Wilkin's station at the junction of the outlets of both lakes, and left this beautiful spot shortly afterwards, returning by the Lindis Pass to the upper course of the Ahuriri, the fourth and least important main branch of the Waitaki river system. For several miles above the junction of the Lindis Pass stream, the Ahuriri flows in a deep rocky channel, whilst the broad valley on both sides consists of alluvial deposits; after which we found morainic accumulations of considerable breadth, crossing the valley from side to side. After travelling about two miles, we reached the upper edge of these old frontal moraines, but instead of finding, as usual, a lake formed by them, the whole broad valley for several miles upwards consisted of a huge swamp, through which the river wound its sluggish course, thus showing clearly in what manner all the lakes formed by the deposition of huge moraines across the valleys will gradually be filled up. After a distance of eight miles, another moraine crossing the valley was reached. Five miles higher up, the valley narrowed considerably, the channel of the river became rocky, and broken up in a number of rapids, the Fagus forest ceasing at an altitude of about 3500 feet. We had now entered into a season in which, amongst the alpine ranges, the winter soon sets in; and, in fact, the weather became now worse than we had hitherto experienced it. Having reached our highest camp on April 29th, we were unable to move for several days, owing to heavy snowfalls setting in. We were surrounded by a fine winter landscape; all the flats were covered deeply with snow, the river winding its course like a broad blue ribbon through them, the branches of the dark green beech forest being weighed down by their heavy snow load. The rocky projections of the mountains around us had all disappeared under the white garment, whilst a dull leaden sky hung heavily above all. However, as soon as the weather cleared up, both the topographical and geological surveys of the valley to its sources were, but not without considerable difficulties, accomplished.
At last we were able to return to lower regions, reaching the page 58 Mackenzie Country on May 5th. The weather had now cleared up again, and fine cloudless days and cold bright nights followed the succession of wet stormy days experienced in the Ahuriri valley. Mr. W. Young, my topographical assistant, left me here, to continue his surveys in the lower Waitaki country. With great regret I parted with this gentleman, who had not only been a very cheerful, but also a very useful companion, having been accustomed for years to New Zealand bush travelling, and possessing at the same time a quick eye for discerning readily the topographical features of the country. After making some geological explorations in the Mackenzie Country, which detained me a few days, I returned to Christchurch, where I arrived on May 12th.
Besides the results of the geological and topographical work done during this journey, large collections were also obtained in zoology, and botany, so that considerable additions were made to the material brought from former explorations, which formed the foundation for a public Museum in Christchurch. After having arranged this new material in a large room allotted to me for the purpose in the Government Buildings, I presented, on May 16th, a preliminary report on the main results of this journey to his Honor the Superintendent.