Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute/Volume 15/Wellington Philosophical Society


First Meeting. 26th April, 1882.

Dr. Hector in the chair.

New Members.—Rev. H. V. White, Rev. A. Dasent, Dr. Dakers, Dr. Cole, Emil Senn, F. V. Waters, J. P. McAlister.

1. "Does Morality depend on Free Will?" by the Rev. H. Vere White, M.A.

2. "Notes on the Katipo, a Venomous Spider of New Zealand," by C. H. Robson, lighthouse-keeper on Portland Island.

Mr. Robson was of opinion that there is a variety on the island with only faint red markings on the abdomen, having all the habits of the known variety.

No full description or specimen was forwarded, and Dr. Hector thought it would be premature, under the circumstances, to take it for granted that there are two distinct species.

3. "On the Search for concealed Coal in New Zealand," by J. C. Crawford.


The writer suggested that search should be made with the diamond drill for concealed coal measures, which were overlaid by tertiary formations, in the valleys of the Wanganui, Wangaehu, Turakina, and Rangitikei rivers, at spots which the Geological Department might point out; also that the eastern side of the dividing range might also be examined, though the borings at Poverty Bay should give an indication of the strata.

Dr. Hector did not think that the suggestion was of much use without indications of the best localities, as it would not be a very wise proceeding to bore at random where there was perhaps 2,000 or 3,000 feet to bore through.

Mr. J. C. Harris suggested that Mr. Crawford might have thrown out the idea for the benefit of future generations. The surface deposits on the West Coast and in Auckland were known to be so extensive that the colony would be amply supplied from them for at least five or six hundred years. These must be nearly exhausted before any boring operations for concealed deposits could be undertaken with profit.

Second Meeting. 8th July, 1882.

W. T. L. Travers, F.L.S., President, in the chair.

New Members.—A. S. Atkinson, J. B. Byrne, J. L. D'Arcy Irvine, C.E., H. B. Kirk, B.A.

1. The President apologized for not being able on this occasion to deliver the usual opening address, owing to pressure of professional business. He trusted, however, at subsequent meeting to make a few remarks.

2. Several interesting communications from Mr. J. C. Crawford, now in England, accompanied by pamphlets and printed notices bearing on the subjects, were read, the most important being on the "Manufacture of Granolithic Cement," the material for which, he considered, was abundant in New Zealand.

Dr. Hector considered this a question of great importance, and the information was most valuable. We had ample material in accessible positions, and he had no doubt that in time we could ourselves manufacture all the cement and concrete we required in the colony and of the very best kind. He instanced the blocks now largely used here, and known as O'Neill's patent flagging, as showing the excellent quality of this production, which was so highly thought of at the Sydney and Melbourne Exhibitions.

The President endorsed these views, and remarked that he hoped in time also to see the splendid granites we had largely used in constructive works.

Dr. Newman mentioned the newly-erected cement works in Nelson, which would prove of great importance, and entirely supersede the imported article.

3. "On Suitable Hedge Plants for New Zealand," by J. C. Crawford.

4. "On Harvesting Crops independent of Weather," by J. C. Crawford.

5. "On Ensilage," by J. C. Crawford, F.G.S.

6. Archdeacon Stock submitted to the Society a circular sent to him by Mr. Tebbutt, of Windsor Observatory, New South Wales, inviting assistance from New Zealand observers in systematic "comet-seeking."

Dr. Hector explained that Mr. Tebbutt was a most zealous worker in this branch of astronomy, and had been foremost in discovering the southern comets. He had been requested by the Astronomical Society at Boston, who had established a corps of comet-seekers, to endeavour to get information from southern latitudes, and hence this appeal to New Zealand. He (Dr. Hector) knew that there were many amateur observers in possession of good instruments who might do valuable service in this direction. It was a pity that we had not in New Zealand a properly-equipped astronomical observatory placed in a suitable position; and he believed, if the societies combined in an appeal to Government, something might be done in this matter. He would suggest that a copy of this circular be sent to the other societies inviting co-operation in this special matter of comet-seeking, and in an endeavour to bring about the establishment of a permanent observatory.

The President concurred, and said he thought such an appeal would be successful.

7. "On Weather, Health, and Forests in Mauritius," by Dr. Meldrum.

The President pointed out that this bore immediately on the question of forest conservation in New Zealand. He gave a short description of the damage done by the destruction of our forests, which brought about floods of a most disastrous kind.

Dr. Hutchinson, who had recently arrived from the Sandwich Islands, stated that there, in consequence of the wholesale destruction of the forests, floods had occurred doing great injury. The water rushed down the bare hills and through the valleys, and then followed a long drought and the ground became baked, as there was no vegetation left to hold the moisture of the previous rain. He was glad to say that the settlers had at last seen the necessity of forest conservation and great improvement was taking place.

8. Mr. Chapman described a brilliant triple meteor seen by him on Wednesday last. It was travelling from the south.

9. Several recent additions to the Museum were laid on the table for inspection, among them being a case of gold and silver medals awarded to New Zealand at the Wool Exhibition at the Crystal Palace, Sydenham.

Third Meeting. 29th July, 1882.

W. T. L. Travers, F.L.S., President, in the chair.

New Members.—Dr. Hutchinson, Dr. Keyworth.

1. "On the Thames Gold Field and the Laws which govern the Distribution of the Gold," by S. H. Cox, F.G.S. (See Geol. Surv. Reports, 1882.)

2. "On the Waterspout which occurred in the Neighbourhood of Cook Straits on the 15th July, 1882," (with illustrations,) by J. W. A. Marchant.


The waterspout was first seen from Lyall Bay, about 1.30 p.m., and continued in sight about a quarter of an hour. A squall, accompanied by heavy rain, was passing from the westward through Cook Straits towards Cape Palliser. It was whilst engaged watching the progress of the storm from the western shore of the bay that I observed the waterspout clear of the south head, bearing about S.E., and distant, perhaps, two miles on the northern verge of the storm area. It presented the appearance of a cylinder of a blue-grey colour, several hundred feet in height, and of uniform diameter. It conveyed the impression that it was suspended from a mass of lowering clouds, the extremity near the surface of the sea being distinctly pointed, like a crayon, resting upon a zone of elevated water in an intense state of agitation, but the gyratory motion was not perceptible in the upper part. The column was slightly curved, being bent over towards the west, and it travelled in the opposite direction towards Fitzroy Bay, and as the movement was quickest at the base the inclination from the perpendicular increased; the clouds seemed to descend and assume the form usual in such cases, that of an inverted cone, whilst the vapours over the sea were drawn upward, when the waterspout appeared to fade away, the last appearance of the column being that of a light grey streak, contrasting remarkably with the gloomy background. No unusual sound accompanied the phenomenon; there were indications that it was not the only one formed, but the mist was too dense to enable this to be clearly ascertained. The storm did not break over Lyall Bay till 3 o'clock, when there was a great downpour of hail and rain, accompanied by lightning and thunder. The points which impressed me most were the immense height, the symmetry, and the distinctness of the column, and the absence of agitation and convolution in the first stage, save at the surface of the sea.

3. At the close of the meeting the Chairman drew attention to a fine collection of potteryware, manufactured by Messrs. Austin and Kirk, of Christchurch, being a portion of their exhibit at the recent exhibition, and which they had presented to the Museum. They comprised vases and flowers, fern-stands, corner pieces for buildings, and a variety of useful articles for domestic use. A collection of glassware from an Auckland firm was also exhibited; the whole of which were greatly admired by those present, and the President said that it was most gratifying to find important industries like these carried on so successfully in so young a colony. He understood that these articles could be obtained at prices quite as low as those imported.

Fourth Meeting. 26th August, 1882.

W. T. L. Travers, F.L.S., President, in the chair.

New Members.—W. C. Chatfield, G. S. Evans, J. Walker, T. B. Arnold, B.A.

1. "On Hawaii-nei and the Hawaiians," by Dr. Hutchinson. (Transactions, p. 467.)

Fifth Meeting. 2nd September, 1882.

W. T. L. Travers, F.L.S., President, in the chair.

1. "On the Decline of the Hawaiian Eace and the peculiar Forms of Disease prevalent among them," by Dr. Hutchinson.

Sixth Meeting. 30th September, 1882.

W. T. L. Travers, F.L.S., President, in the chair.

New Member.—G. V. Shannon.

Seventh Meeting. 21st October, 1882.

W. T. L. Travers, F.L.S., President, in the chair.

New Member.—T. Turnbull.

1. The society nominated for election an honorary member of the New Zealand Institute.

2. "Remarks upon the Distribution within the New Zealand Zoological Sub-region of the Birds of the Orders Accipitres, Paessres, Scansores, Columbæ, Gallinæ, Struthiones, and Grallle," by W. T. L. Travers. (Transactions, p. 178.)

This paper discussed the distribution of certain birds in relation to the question of the former connection of New Zealand with other islands of the Pacific.

Dr. Hector considered this a most important contribution to the statistical branch of natural history and that it would form a valuable supplement to Dr. Buller's recently published manual. He thought that the distribution of birds was very much controlled by the abundance of their favourite food at periods when they were not engrossed in the business of nesting.

3. "Remarks on some Bones lately discovered by Mr. H. T. Wharton in Oaves at Highfield, Canterbury," by Dr. Hector.

This was a description of a valuable collection of the bones of Aptornis and Dinornis found by Mr. Wharton and presented by that gentleman to the Museum. The point of interest was the association of these bones with those of the rat, kiwi, kaka and weka, suggesting that no great period had elapsed since the deposit took place.

The President stated that he had some years ago found bones in the Collingwood district under similar circumstances and had sent them to England, but unfortunately they had been lost.

4. "On a new Mineral belonging to the Serpentine Group," by S. H. Cox, F.C.S., F.G.S. (Transactions, p 409.)

5. "On the Non-metallic Minerals of New Zealand," by S. H. Cox. (Transactions, p. 361.)

This is a continuation of the paper read and published last year on the metallic minerals by the same author.

6. Dr. Hector exhibited some views of the comet and a diagram of its orbit, and by the aid of a model gave a most lucid and interesting explanation of the phases through which it has passed since the 7th September, when it was first observed. He mentioned, as a remarkable feature in regard to this comet, that it had approached more closely to the sun than any comet on record, except perhaps that of 1843, and that astronomers were of opinion that it was following very closely the orbit of that comet, if not identical with it.

7. Among the objects exhibited to the meeting were two salt-water fishes, Dajus forsteri (green mullet), and Retropinna osmeroides (New Zealand smelt), taken with the fly in the Hutt River, about three miles from the mouth, by Mr. Howard.

Eighth Meeting. 9th December, 1882.

W. T. L. Travers, F.L.S., President, in the chair.

New Member.—J. R. Blair.

1. "Additions to the Flora of New Zealand," by J. Buchanan, F.L.S. (Transactions, p. 339.)

The three plants described were collected by Mr. H. H. Travers in the Collingwood district.

2. "On Ancient Science," by the Rev. T. Le Menant des Chesnais.


The object of this paper was to show the origin and progress of science from the earliest times. Science was largely cultivated, and civilization much advanced before the flood. Antediluvian men were acquainted with agriculture, astronomy, mineralogy, and poetry. Chaldea was the cradle of scientific investigation. Astronomy, mechanics, architecture, and navigation flourished there. The discoveries lately made and so well described by Botta and Layard show how, from the most remote period, Assyrians cultivated science. The Jews cultivated natural science, poetry, music, agriculture; but their knowledge of exact science was limited. Greece was always a scientific nation. The ancient Greek philosophers treated admirably many questions on the nature of man and animals, and explained accurately several important phenomena. Sculpture, painting, music, architecture, astronomy, etc., were at all times highly esteemed by the Greeks. Among the men who most contributed to scientific progress at Greece, we must not forget Aristotle and the great men of the school of Alexandria. The Romans adopted the ways and manners of the nations they had conquered. They encouraged foreign arts and scientific men, but produced none. Even the works of Pliny cannot be styled truly scientific; they are a compilation without order or taste, an imperfect encyclopaedia.

The President complimented the author on the manner in which he had dealt with the subject, which he felt sure was highly interesting to those present.

After the paper was read M. des Chesnais exhibited a beautiful series of photographs illustrative of the subjects on which he had treated.

3. "Description of a new Species of Æolis," by T. W. Kirk. (Transactions, p. 217.)

4. "Description of a new Dipterous Insect," by G. Vernon Hudson; communicated by T. W. Kirk. (Transactions, p. 218.)

Ninth Meeting. 3rd February, 1883.

W. T. L. Travers, F.L.S., President, in the chair.

New Member.—W. A. Gardner.

1. The President stated that Mr. Martin Chapman, who had been chosen by the Society to vote in the election of Governors of the New Zealand Institute for this year, had been duly elected, with the Hon. Mr. Rolleston and Mr. J. McKerrow.

2. "Remarks upon Mr. Travers' Paper on Sandfixing," by J. C. Crawford, F.G.S.


Mr. Crawford took exception to Mr. Travers' proposal for planting the Pinus maritima for this purpose, chiefly on account of the risk of fire, the cost of labour, and the fact that it would not stand the sea breezes. He recommended, as more suitable, Cupressus macrocarpa and other hardy pines, and the olive also might thrive.

Dr. Hector thought the Australian wattle would be a suitable tree for such a purpose, and the Government, he stated, had purchased large quantities of the seed for distribution. It was found to be profitable in Victoria, on account of its bark, for tanning purposes, and no doubt it would be so here.

Dr. Hutchinson stated that the Algarobia tree had proved useful for the purpose stated in Honolulu.

3. "Is New Zealand a healthy Country?" by Alfred K. Newman, M.B., M.R.C.P.; with Statistics, by F. W. Frankland. (Transactions, p. 493.)

Mr. Holland regretted the evils arising from the introduction of manufactures and hoped that some of them might be provided against.

Dr. Hutchinson drew attention to the waste of human life in the colony due to preventible diseases, arising from the culpable neglect of all sanitary precautions. The waste of life from such preventible ills as scarlet and typhoid fevers was scandalous. He thought diseases among women arising from overwork in domestic life was very large.

Dr. Cole maintained that malaria did exist in the colony and that a true ague was not uncommon.

Dr. Hector strongly urged that, in place of dull wearisome figures, authors should exhibit statistical results by means of diagrams. Graphic representations more deeply impressed and were more explanatory. He said that in the gold mining towns of New Zealand, where the population had once been dense and careless of sanitary precautions, the soil had become so polluted that now, years afterwards, the remnants of the population are attacked by epidemics, which are severe and frequent, owing to the accumulation of old filth.

4. Communications by Messrs. Field and Drew were read, giving a description of a fish caught by the natives at Wanganui and thought at first to be the Californian salmon, but which proved to be the brown trout. A photograph of the fish was exhibited.

5. A fine specimen of cork, grown by Mr. Mason of the Hutt, was shown. It was taken from a tree fifteen years old. A drawing of the tree was shown, and Dr. Hector gave some interesting information regarding cork trees in other countries and of the progress of the bark growth; and stated that, from the specimen before them, it was clear that cork of excellent quality could be produced in this country and that the growth would probably be more rapid than elsewhere.

6. Dr. Hector laid on the table copies of the Alpine Journal, which contained papers by the Rev. Mr. Green, with an account of his ascent of Mt. Cook; and at the same time drew attention to some remarks which had appeared in the Press and might lead to the idea that he had doubted the accuracy of Mr. Green's calculations regarding the altitude reached. He had no wish whatever to dispute Mr. Green's statements.

Annual Meeting. 28th February, 1883.

Dr. Newman in the Chair.

New Members.—Joseph Mackay, M.A., L. S. Reid.

Abstract of Report for 1882.

There have been nine general meetings of the Society held during the year, at which twenty-seven papers have been read on the following subjects:—Geology, 5; Zoology, 5; Botany, 5; Miscellaneous, 12. Twenty-two additional members have been elected during the year, and six names taken off the roll, leaving a total of 319 now on the books. Thirty-seven volumes have been added to the library besides the usual pamphlets and periodicals. Mr. Martin Chapman, the member nominated by the society to vote in the election of governors of the New Zealand Institute, was duly elected. The statement of accounts shows the balance at present to the credit of the society to be £105 14s. 7d. while among the items of expenditure are £53 2s. 1d. for books, and £28 17s. 6d. paid to the New Zealand Institute in accordance with the Act.

The report and balance sheet were adopted.

Election of Officers for 1883:—President—The Hon. G. R. Johnson, M.L.C.; Vice-Presidents—Dr. Buller, C.M.G., F.R.S., A. K. Newman, M.B., M.R.C.P.; Council—R. Govett, M. Chapman, James Hector, M.D., C.M.G., F.R.S., S. H. Cox, F.G.S., F.C.S., T. King, W. T. L. Travers, F.L.S., F. B. Hutchinson, M.R.C.S.; Secretary and Treasurer—R. B. Gore; Auditor—H. F. Logan.

The Hon. Mr. Johnson, the new President, then took the chair, and the following papers were read.

1. "On the Lichenographia of New Zealand," by Charles Knight, F.R.C.S. (Transactions, p. 346.)

2. "Description of a new Species of Senecio," by T. Kirk, F.L.S. (Transactions, p. 359.)