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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 67

The Assistant Surveyor-General to the Surveyor-General

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The Assistant Surveyor-General to the Surveyor-General.


Survey Office, Auckland, 30th November, 1886.

In compliance with the instructions contained in your telegram of the 10th June last, to the effect that the Hon. Mr. Ballance desired that I should proceed to Rotorua for the purpose of observing and reporting on the eruption of Tarawera, I have the honour to transmit herewith my final report, together with maps and drawings explanatory of the same.

In order to a clear understanding of the basis on which the report is founded, I will briefly narrate the steps that were taken to carry out your instructions.

Leaving Auckland by train on the morning of the 11th of June, I reached Oxford that afternoon, and the following morning went by coach to Rotorua, arriving at that place at 2.30 p.m. Having completed arrangements for forming a flying camp, I left Rotorua, accompanied by Mr. J. C. Blythe and Mr. C. Alma Baker, on the morning of the 13th, and formed a camp at Pakaraka, the only place where water could be found, and from there during the next three days explored as much of the country round the southern group of craters and south and west sides of Rotomahana as the thick covering of ashes and sand would allow of. Another day was devoted to the mud-covered country near the Wairoa village, and two more to visiting the hot springs around Rotorua, in order to note the changes which had occurred in them. Finding that the country near the scat of eruption was so impassable, owing to the depth of ashes, &c., as to make a visit to Mount Tarawera impossible, I returned to Auckland [unclear: in] the 18th June, and from there sent in my preliminary report to you. (See Appendix to Journals, House of Representatives, H.—26, 1886.)

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Finer weather having set in, I again left Auckland on the 23rd July, accompanied by Assistant Surveyor E. F. Adams, and proceeded by sea to Tauranga, where we were joined by District Surveyor E. C. Gold-Smith, who went with us to Rotorua, whence, after completing arrangements for camping out, we moved on to Pareheru, a clump of wood on the edge of the ash-field, near its south-eastern side. From this camp we made daily explorations and surveys from the 27th July to the 12th August, minutely examining the whole length of the great fissure from Wahanga to Maungaongaonga, and mapping the features of the surrounding country—a work that had hitherto never been completely done. Two ascents of Tarawera and Ruawahia Mountains were made—the first on the 28th July, the second on the 6th August—when we discovered the great fissure on top, as reported to you on the 30th July by telegram. The fine weather that prevailed the greater part of the time enabled us to get quickly through the work, especially as travelling over the mud-and ash-covered hills became very good. Part of the time however, especially towards the last, it was rainy, with some snow, and a cold greater than I had hitherto experienced in this country, the thermometer going down to 19½°. The wet converted the ashes and sand into mud of exceeding tenacity, rendering travelling a work of extreme slowness and fatigue. I finally returned to Auckland on the 16th August.

The character of the survey is that of the ordinary topographical work performed by the department, but with more attention to detail. The points are fixed by theodolite observations from bases derived from the major triangulation, and the heights are deduced from the same source and by the same method, with the addition of a large number of aneroid levels, which were subject to constant cheek from the trig stations.

It has been my endeavour in this report to describe the actual changes which have taken place, and to give as full and complete an account of the formation of the fissure as possible; for I am well aware that an opportunity is here presented of studying phenomena which are rarely witnessed—at any rate, in the stage in which it now is, or was, soon after the eruption. In carrying this out, I fear that the interest of the general reader has been sacrificed, and that the report will be considered as "very dry reading;" but, at the same time, I trust that the amount of detail given will throw light on some of the more obscure questions of the science of vulcanicity. I have to apologize for many shortcomings in the report, and my excuse page 5 must be that it has been written, as you, Sir, are aware, in intervals snatched from the duties of carrying on the business of a large department, and therefore falls far short of what I could have wished

I feel that I am greatly indebted to Mr. C. Spencer for the permission to use his photographic views in the drawings, and also to Messrs. Valentine, Martin, and J. C. Blythe for the same.

I have, &c.,

S. Percy Smith,

Assistant Surveyor-General.

Jas. McKerrow,

Esq., F.R.A.S., Surveyor-General, Wellington.