THE THIRD RECONNAISSANCE SURVEY
This map shows the enormous area surveyed by James McKerrow and his survey expeditions 1861-63. He named more than 300 features in Otago and Southland.
Introduction: I was brought up in the shadow of James McKerrow, Explorer, Surveyor amateur geologist, astronomer, F.R.G.S. and Surveyor General of New Zealand. He was talked about in hushed tones in my home and the homes of my Uncles, as if he were supernatural. Naturally I visited a large percentage of places he explored in my youth but I could travel most of the way by road and had modern equipment, and his detailed maps. I could get to a peak which took him 3 months to reach from Dunedin, within 36 hours from my home in Dunedin. I followed his footsteps 103 years later and many generations later.
The more I read his diaries, James Herron's thesis (which I reproduce Chapter 3 here) and accounts of other modern historians and surveyors, the more I realise my Great-Grandfather was certainly New Zealand's greatest surveyor and an extraordinary explorer. Below is one of the extensive trips James McKerrow did. His third in as many years in 1853. If you want to read other information on James McKerrow, go to another blog of mine http://jamesmckerrowsurveyor.blogspot.com :Bob McKerrow
Mr. J.T. Thomson was evidently quite satisfied with the scope and accuracy of the first detailed Reconnaissance Survey, for in his annual report covering the period 1961-2 he recommended that McKerrow be employed in surveying an area extending from the mouth of the Waiau River up to Lakes Manapouri and Te Anau, and north of the Takitimo mountains as far as the Crown Range. At this point bearings should close with those determined on the previous Reconnaissance Survey.
If possible and practicable an attempt should also be made to reach the West Coast. On the 29th July 1862,Goldie and Bryce entered the Survey Service at a wage of Rs.1/-per day, and two days later started south on the first stage of a circuitous sweep through Invercargill, the Waiau District, and the mountainous region surrounding Wakatipu. This route was preferable to the northern one in that horses could be used for the major part of the trip. The use of the Shag Valley route meant leaving the horses at Rees’ station. They followed the newly metalled south road as far as the Taieri ferry, where it degenerated into a muddy dray track. Then they pushed across the Tokomariro Plains to the Clutha River, and crossed this mighty waterway in a punt designed and constructed by Mr. J.T. Thomson. The Mataura River was also safely negotiated, and before them stretched a low level plain which provided an easy passage to the thriving little town of Invercargill. 2
Although McKerrow had left Dunedin four days after Goldie and Bryce, he arrived at Invercargill on the same day, the (59)9th of August. Before setting out for Blue Hill in the company of Mr. J.H. Baker of the Southland Survey staff, he made a careful study of those field books in the Invercargill Survey Office which dealt with the Reconnaissance Surveys of 1857-8. On the way to Bluff it became necessary to wade along the side of the harbour but ultimately he and Baker reached Bluff Hill and pitched camp on its summit. They spent a fortnight here, but the weather was so boisterous that the vital obser vations to Stewart Island and inland mountains could be secured only on rare occasions. Mr. Baker later paid a tribute to McKerrow’s ability on this occasion. “This work”, he maintained, “and my conversations with Mr. McKerrow were of great use to me, as they gave me an insight into the higher branch of my profession which I had not had before.” 3 On his return to Invercargill McKerrow determined to his own satisfaction the position of Mt. Anglem on Stewart Island. Later on he used this peak as a point of reference from the mouth of the Waiau River.
Mt. Anglem on Stewart Island was an importrant reference point for future surveying on his 3rd expedition.
All preliminary observations were at last complete. As soon as Goldie and Bryce found the flooded track from Bluff passable, they joined McKerrow in Invercargill and made final preparations for their long sojourn in the interior. Finally stores were procured, and the party set out for Riverton. At Riverton, a picturesque little settlement situated at the mouth of the Aparima or Jacob’s River, and important since the decline of whaling operations as the port of the Western runholders, useful information was collected. Mr. Howell, who owned a run on the west bank of the Waiau, informed McKerrow that there was no bush from the south of his run to within five miles of the coast. In his opinion it would not be necessary for the surveying party to follow their projected course along the coast. Howell also maintained that Solander Island could be seen from Twinlaw Peak. This meant that its position could be determined by means of bearings from Bluff and Twinlaw Peak, and that the position of the mouth of the Waiau could then be calculated from the positions of Solander Island and Mt. Anglem. He volunteered the additional information that the Lillburn River emerged from a lake which could be seen from the vicinity of one of his runs. This fact was substantiated by Solomon, a well known Riverton Maori. According to the latter there were two lakes named Howlako and Monowai lying in the bush west of the Waiau. He had seen neither, but the former had been visited by an old woman of his Kaika, and the latter figured in the traditions of the tribe. Solomon was able to make a rough sketch showing the approximate positions of the lakes, and this he gave to McKerrow. 4
Bearings were taken to Mt. Anglem from a nearby trig station; then the party turned their backs on civilization and set out on their journey to Twinlaw Peak, some forty miles to the north east. The route led through the Aparima valley with theLongswood forest range visible on the left, and, on the right, a broad plain extending as far as Invercargill and the Mataura.
Showery weather and swampy roads made traveling conditions miserable, but eventually they arrived at Twinlaw Peak and secured the necessary observations to the Takitimos and other westerly ranges. The Waiau, just sixteen miles westward, was the next objective. A succession of low barren ridges led to a beautiful little valley, the Wairaki. Through it a limpid stream owed on its way to join the Waiau some thirty miles from the sea; and here was that broad and turbulent torrent, the Waiau itself.
Howell’s station was only two miles beyond the river, and a signal fire lighted on the bank of the river soon attracted the attention of the manager who came down to the river and rowed the party across.
Howell’s manager spent nearly a week in guiding McKerrow round the run; one of the only three west of the Waiau. A base line was measured on gravelly soil, and from it the positions of the Deanburn River and of various swamps and bush terraces were determined. During the week McKerrow noticed some tree trunks stripped of bark. They had obviously been scarred with blunt axes at various times in the past. On one occasion McKerrow, accompanied by the station manager and a Maori boy, went a day’s journey on horseback towards the Lillburn River. Thick scrub continually scratched both men and horses, and it was found necessary to fire it to facilitate progress.
On returning to Howell’s, McKerrow set the men to widening the track he had passed over so that the pack horses could push their way through the scrub. While they were engaged on this work he himself spent some time determining the positions of some of the tributaries of the Deanburn, and in fixing the position of Howell’s house. The following day the journey to the Lillburn commenced. A track was slowly hacked through the brushwood and rank native grasses on the north bank of the river. Fog stopped observations on several occasions, so the surveyors spent some time in an abortive attempt to find gold in the mica and fireclay In the bed of the river.
Lake Howloki, was thought to be somewhere at the head 5 of the LIllburn, and McKerrow was anxious to visit it. Leaving their horses at the edge of the scrub and snow grass, he and Goldie plunged into the bush on what was to prove a fruitless search. The going was hard and seven hours were occupied in covering fifteen miles. “We sank to our knees in fogg (moss),” wrote Goldie; “and what with rotten branches or huge fallen trees our traveling was both tedious and toilsome. Upon each side of the Lillburn, there is a great extent of bush, mile after mile, hill and vale appear robed in . . . dark green foliage.”
As they advanced up the river, Mt. Hindley came into view, standing like a sentinel at the bend of the gorge. By that time the Lillburn had degenerated into a small mountain torrent obviously incapable of draining a lake of any size, and after taking a few observations from a spur, the surveyors pitched camp in the bush for the night. The following day they returned to the base camp thoroughly drenched by pouring rain.
For four days the rain continued, and during that time the Lillburn was found to be impassable. Until the swollen waters subsided, McKerrow occupied himself by taking observations around the camp. Eventually the river returned to normal and enabled him and Goldie to reach their next objective, a high wooded peak twelve miles up a tributary of the Lillburn. From the top of one of the tallest trees on this peak, which was named Double Bush hill, Goldie and McKerrow enjoyed a magnificent view extending north up the Waiau Valley to Dean Hill and the Hindley Mountains, south to Stewart Island, and west to the snow clad mountains. “Around us on every side the country was under one dense forest, stretching in some directions as far as the eye could reach while far in the west, the lofty snow-clad mountain peaks stood high and bold, dazzling in the sun.” No break in the beach forest revealed the elusive Lake Howloko however. 6
Supplies were running low, and they stayed only long enough for McKerrow to secure a few observations from an opening hacked in the trees at the brink of a precipice. They soon discovered that their enthusiasm had led to indiscretion; they had advanced too far on meager rations. Bryce was therefore sent ahead to push through brushwood and swamp in an attempt to reach Howell’s without resort to crossing one of the Lillburn’s tributaries for within a few hours the rain had changed from a mere trickle to a surging torrent. McKerrow tried to cross one stream and very nearly paid for the attempt with his life. A second attempt was unnecessary however, for Bryce soon arrived back safely from Howell’s with the precious supplies. He had been unable to discover the whereabouts of the packhorse which had broken away some time previously however, and although he and McKerrow subsequently spent a day combing the valleys and ridges between Howell’s and the Lillburn, no trace of the animal was seen. Not even the lure of the other two horses was suffcient to rout him out, and it was concluded that he must either be wandering in the scrub, or have swam over to the east bank of the Waiau. No more time was wasted in the search. Instead a passage was cut through the scrub bordering the Lillburn. Occasionally the banks of the intervening tributaries were so steep that the packs had to be removed from the horses backs and carried over, or the horses allowed to swim along until a gently sloping bank provided them with an easy passage from the water. Traveling in this manner became both slow and tedious,especially as frequent halts were necessary for obser vations to determine the course of the Lillburn and the Waiau.
At a point just south of the Limestone Gorge and not far below the junction of the Lillburn and the Waiau Rivers, they struck Mr. Aitken’s station. His run, a beautiful level piece of land extending over some 10,000 or 12,000 acres, stretched to within six miles of the mouth of the Waiau, “a distance though short, never known to have been traveled by a white man,” claimed Goldie. They found some diffculty in making this journey through the forest of giant totaras to the coast and wet scrub, muddy creeks, and a lagoon, made traveling conditions far from pleasant.
Once more McKerrow noted tangible signs of former native occupation – stripped trees, and typically constructed huts containing such articles as a pipe, a piece of iron, a piece of wollen stocking, the remains of a axe basket, and heaps of shells presumably for use as axe scrapers. From the mouth of the Waiau which was obviously unsuitable for navigation, bearings were taken to Mt. Anglem, Solander Island, and the western mountains.
Once more the party turned their thoughts to Howloko, and decided to search for a possible outlet along the coast. They walked fifteen miles east along Muscle Bench,
but saw no river 7 of any size and abandoned the search when a few miles further past Sandhill Point would have seen the party rewarded. They turned north once more, and spent a full day pushing through bush so thick and overhanging that constant reference to the compass became necessary even after a detour of only a yard or two. The six miles to open country took eight and a quarter hours to cover. Next day the party caught their horses, which had bolted in their absence, and turned north to Aitken’s. Mr. Aitken himself was away from home, but one of his employees named Jones and two other men, whalers by occupation, proved very obliging.
When McKerrow and Goldie expressed their desire to cross the Waiau, these three, who had had experience of the crossing, volunteered to make the first trip with a horse. McKerrow and Goldie evacuated the boat and stood on the bank. While the boat was in midstream, it seemed to McKerrow that the horse was being held too tightly, and was dragging the boat downstream towards a rope stretched across the river. The boat drifted closer and closer to the rope, touched it, capsized and flung the men into the current. Mrs. Jons, who was on the bank, gave vent to a series of frantic screams which soon subsided when her husband was seen to be safe, saved by the quick witted action of those on the bank. They had sighted him hanging grimly to the rope in midstream, and severed the taut rope and seen him swung into calm water on the other side of the river. Meanwhile one of the whalers had managed to climb on to the upturned boat, and waiting for an opportune moment leaped to the shore. His companion was not so fortunate however, and was swept out of sight. McKerrow and Goldie spent two days searching for his body, but saw no sign of it and abandoned the search. Meantime Bryce made his way up to Howell’s station, crossed the Waiau, and made down the east bank of the river to a point opposite Aitken’s run. There he met Jones and Mr.Aitken, secured the horse, which had swum out on the east side of the river, and accompanied the two men on their circuitous journey for home. Bryce alone reached the station immediately however, for in showing Aitken and Jones a suitable place at which to ford the Lillburn, he was swept away, and only saved himself by grasping at an overhanging ax bush on the south bank. His horse made for the nor th bank, and Bryce was left, drenched and shivering amidst snow and hail, to make his way to Aitken’s on foot. Aitken and Jones then retraced their steps to the point opposite the former’s station, and shouted across the river that they would meet the surveying party at the Lillburn. Several wet days followed and were used in cutting a track to the Lillburn, but ultimately the weather cleared, the river subsided and Aitken and his unfortunate companion, who was weak, bruised but safe, reached the station. Jones maintained that the accident was not due to the horse’s behaviour, but to a gust of wind which had blown the boat on to the lowstrung and over stretched rope. Aitken, who had been on the east bank of the river at the time of the mishap, admitted that the rope should have been replaced and maintained it had
been his intention to do so. He also said that his instructions had been that no one was to cross in his absence.8
On the 27th of October the party left the scene of the tragedy, and headed via Howell’s for the Wairaki valley. Here they spent some time in mending badly scratched bags and saddles before setting out south for the journey to Cuthbertson’s station. At Cuthbertson’s they picked up the missing packhorse whose whereabouts Jones and Aitken had reported, then turned back past the Limestone Gorge and retraced their steps to the Wairaki River. A few days were spent here in fixing the course of the Wairaki, but on one occasion McKerrow spent the day writing letters while Goldie and Bryce chased the runaway horses over the spurs of the Tokitimu Mountains. Camp was eventually shifted to the base of this ranges over a succession of low lying ridges and grassy plains which auguredwell for the pastoral and agricultural future of the Waiau Valley.
The Surveyors were entranced by the view from the southcorner of the Takitimus, Lakes Te Anau and Manapouri, the serpentine meanderings of the Waiau on its sixty mile journey to the sea, great forests and mountains, and at long last, Lake
Howloki, “shining like a great mirror from the depths of the bush at the base of the Princess Mountains.” (9) Several short journeys were made up the valley to creeks and ridges, and from one of these McKerrow caught a glimpse of Lake Monowai.
He considered that Howloko and Monowai would probably be seen to better advantage from the Hindley Mountains, and with this end in view signaled to Rogers’ station on the west bank of the Waiau. If any confirmation for the existence of a large lake in the west was needed, it was found in the large tream which owed into the Waiau to the North of Rogers’ tation. Eagerly they toiled through bush and over fallen timber,
struggled above the bush line, slipped past frowning cliffs and climbed up on to the top ridge of the Hindley Range.
Only two or three points of Howloko could be seen,but that was enough to indicate that it was a lake of fairly large dimensions and relatively inaccessible without a boat. It appeared probable that the outlet of the lake was west of Sandhill point. Beyond the lake was a vast sea of undulating 10 forest clad ridges separated from the party by deep precipitous gorges and snow covered peaks. McKerrow considered that this area might be more easily explored from Preservation Inlet. Somewhat reluctantly he abandoned Howloko, and peered through the fog concealing Monowai from view. He succeeded in identifying the shoreline of the north west corner of the lake, but the north east corner stretched west beyond his field of vision.
“The Monowai lake,” wrote McKerrow, “is regular in its form and beautiful in its appearance, surrounded by high mountains all closely wooded around the lake . . . while the placid waters reflect, as from a mirror the dark green shade of the mountain birch.” Provisions were once more low, so they pushed on down the Monowai River, crossed the Waiau at Rogers’ station and headed north to Ligar’s station, where they secured supplies by voucher. Once more they headed nor thwards, passing over the extensive plain which stretched right up to the junction of the Mararoa and the Waiau Rivers. This point was only a few miles distant from Mt. York, the third meridian established during the first Reconnaissance Survey, but the link was not closed immediately. Instead, McKerrow shifted camp east to the rich pastureland north of the Takitimu Mountains, and ascended one of these rugged and shingly peaks to take observations to Lakes Manapouri, Te Anau and surrounding mountains. Progress was being constantly interrupted by the continued proclivity of the horses to vanish during the night, although they were always followed and recaptured. A brief trip was also made to Mt. Prospect, which by reason of its isolated position proved admirable for observation purposes.
Upper Mararoa River Area - Overlooking the Pond Burn Area and into the Greenstone Valley from above the Upper Mararoa Hut.
This particular journey involved swimming the Mararoa river twice. Eventually the party arrived back at Gillows’ eager to turn their attention to the survey of Lake Te Anau. One of the Gillows brothers had promised McKerrow the loan of a boat when the two had met previously in Invercargill, but when approached on the spot both brothers showed a decided reluctance to co-operate in any way. The boat was only used twice a year to cross the Waiau; it was unsafe in rough weather and needed careful handling in calm weather; it would be available for use on Manapouri only, as the current was too strong to row to Te Anau. Furthermore their dray was out of repair, their bullocks intractable, their time valuable, and even if they had the equipment and were substantially recompensed they would still be unprepared to assist. McKerrow reminded the younger brother of his promise. The latter temporized and evaded the issue. Finally the truth emerged. It was all very well for the Otago Provincial Council to use his boat when it suited them, but they were not prepared to accept his returns as to the size of his flocks. McKerrow appealed to him not to transfer his grudge to an innocent surveying party endeavouring to open up the country, but the plea was in vain.
Further discussion could obviously serve no useful purpose, and McKerow determined to proceed to Hankinson’s and seek help there. This course proved unnecessary however, for on the north side of the Mararoa river the younger brother Gillow overtook the surveying party and ordered them the boat. His conditions were that in return for the loan of the boat McKerrow would sign a paper to the effect that the Otago Provincial Council took full responsibility if the boat capsized and the party was lost, and under such circumstances would compensate the owners of the boat for their loss. Before he returned home Gillow told McKerrow that he was a fool and would probably never survive his expeditions. 11
McKerrow carried on as far as Mt. York, measured a baseline, and extended operations as far as the Whitestone valley. On one occasion from the summit of Mt. York he was able to see the valley of the Waiau, the Takitimos, the Mararoa valley, and, in the north-east, a series of high mountains still retaining, “in tattered strips, the remnants of their winter robe.”
Manapouri,studded with many small and diversely 12.13 shaped islands, shimmered in the distance, and the protractionof bearings to peaks near the head of the Lake made it evident that the West Coast sounds were not far distant. From Mt.York McKerrow and Goldie followed the course of the WaiauRiver as far as Te Anau “This part of the river,” wrote Goldie, “looks beautiful all along its crooked course. The boughs of the birch trees that adorn its banks yield to take a parting kiss from its limpid waters as they calmly and silently roll along on the tortuous course.”
It was quite evident that it was impossible to row from Manapouri to Te Anau against the strong current, but no difficulty was anticipated in making the trip from Gillows’ to Manapouri. To the concentration of McKerrow, after he had covered a third of a mile all his e orts to make fur ther progress were frustrated by the strong current. When twenty minutes strenuous pulling at the cars produced no better result, he realized that there was only one alternative. The boat must be carried. It was only a one man, at bottomed boat, apparently a puny craft, but that six mile por tage over rough country was punctuated with many a rest, and the day was far spent before aching shoulders deposited their burden on the waters of the Manopouri. The position of the rowlocks was immediately altered to make room for two rowers, and waiting only long enough for the surface of the lake to assume the placid appearance of millpond, Goldie and McKerrow stepped into their unseaworthy craft, took o their boots as a precaution against foundering, supplied themselves with a stock of damper, and set off to explore the ramifications of the lake.
From various peaks around the lake bearings were taken to the waters edge, the angle of depression determined, and distances calculated. The lake proved to be much larger than was anticipated, and a return for supplies became necessary.
Eventually all the arms of the lake were explored and McKerrow was able to turn his attention to the possibility of finding a route to the West Coast. One glance at the insuperable barriers presented by the sheer 1000 foot granite pecipices at the
western end of the lake persuaded him that he must forgo the attempt.
Both men were enchanted with the scenery. “The 14 lake,” maintained McKerrow “with its magnificence of outline, its many and varied forms of wooded peninsulas and islands dotted over its surface, here revealing and there hiding in its shining surface the precipitous mountains that hem them in, with their jagged and snowy peaks mingling with the clouds, make up a scene . . . which it would be difficult to find an equal.”
“Beautiful water falls are seen teeming their waters rainbowlike over rocks several hundred feet in height, and the more noisy and angry cascades were here seen and there hid among the foliage upon the mountains side churning their waters into foam long before they reached the bosom of the lake,” wrote Goldie in enthusiasm. The lake was not always seen in such a pacific mood however, and as the boat was totally unfitted to contend with the tumultuous seas which arose from time to time, Goldie and McKerrow were often faced with the choice of remaining ashore, or of taking a chance that the slight swell would not break into crested waves at a pu of wind. In the latter case a hasty retreat to shelter was indicated.
The survey of Lake Te Anau was the next objective, and one of the most challenging feats of exploration and surveying in New Zealand.
The survey of Lake Te Anau was the next objective but at one stage it appeared that this would have to be abandoned. The problem was one of supplies. Gold had been discovered in the Lake Wakatipu region, and the yearly supplies for the Te Anau district had been diverted to this new goldfield. Mr. Jackson, one of the Te Anau runholders, rose to the occasion however, and supplied the survey party with provisions from his own scanty stock. 15
The next task was to move the boat the fifteen miles from Manapouri to Te Anau. It was out of the question to row against the strong current, and after their previous experience they did not take kindly to the prospect of carrying it. Ultimately Bryce
was sent for help to Hankinson’s station which was situated some miles north. Although no bullock dray had ever been over the proposed route, Harkinson agreed to make the attempt. The dray arrived in due course, and the boat was carted up to
Te Anau without much trouble.
On occasions Te Anau is as calm as the proverbial millpond, mirroring in its glassy surface the outlines of the surrounding mountains. On other occasions and without warning it can become a raging sea, threatening to swamp all but the most seaworthy craft or to dash unwary rowers against rocky precipices. McKerrow and Goldie impatiently kicked their heels on the shore of the lake waiting until the seas should calm down. Provisions were low and time valuable, and eventually they were tantalized into making a premature move during a temporary lull in the wind. They soon regretted their action. A sudden squall and a rising wind caught them in the south fiord, unable either to make shore or to continue. A sheltered cove two miles distant offered temporary refuge for two hours.
Then a lull in the storm persuaded them that the worst was over, for four miles they rowed over a calm surface. Suddenly without warning a gust of wind swept down the lake, and within five minutes whipped placid waters into a tumultuous sea of white crested breakers. Desperately McKerrow and Goldie rowed to the protecting shelter of a small cove.
Night drew on and still the storm raged unabated, so it was determined to make an attempt to land. Goldie seized an overhanging branch, scrambled up a rocky incline, and in the absence of any at piece of rock, constructed a platform of branches on which to place the small tent. Standing on it, he seized the provisions from other gear which McKerrow handed up, and finally helped his companion to pull the boat
out of the w ater by its painter and to secure it between two trees. For two nights and a day Goldie and McKerrow perched in their tent on the side of the cli face, while round about them every peak echoed and re-echoed with a roar of thunder, and every storm cloud belched forth deluges of torrential and incessant rain. In this manner they spent Christmas Day and Boxing Day of 1862; doubtless one of the most memorable festive seasons in their lives. 16
Undaunted by this experience the two men rowed further up the south fiord. They had hoped that from the watershed of the small stream at the head of this arm of the lake they would be able to see the West Coast, but once again precipitous mountains barred the way, leaving McKerrow with his high hopes unrealized. Thwarted here, he turned to the middle fiord, similarly enclosed by lofty mountains and rockbound sides, and studded at its entrance with wooded islands and peninsulas. Triangulation by horizontal angles was obviously impracticable here. Instead, altitudes of peaks ahead were determined for use as bases from which to determine ver tical angles. By protracting a few bearings on a blank map used for plotting progress roughly, it became apparent that the West Coast fiords were only ten tofifteen miles distant from the head of the fiord. 17
One of the avowed aims of the trip had been to reach the West Coast, and McKerrow, unsuccessful at Wanaka,Manapouri and at the south arm of Te Anau, was anxious to
find a pass connecting east and west. Apart altogether from its practical value, the discovery of a mountain pass carries with it a certain measure of allure. “Around most of them,” writes James Park, “have grown a halo of romance. Even in these days
who of us can read of the crossing of the Alps by Hannibal, or the forcing of the passing by Napoleon without a thrill of pride for the genius that made such events possible?” 18
In New Zealand the discovery of passes preserved this romantic flavour, but it was not McKerrow’s lot to find the first in Otago. His only serious attempt to reach the coast failed. Progress up the Doon valley was reasonably easy at the outset but bush, granite rocks, dead timber and finally an unfiordable river impeded and ultimately halted progress, and a shortage of damper forced a return to the camp at the head of the fiord. 19 He then decided to attempt to secure a sight of Caswell Sound, and to fix on any route to the coast which might be cut through with probability of success. It was decided that an attempt should be made on the only accessible peak handy. Goldie and McKerrow blazed a trail through the bush, and zigzagged their way up on to a spur leading to the summit. A disappointment was in store. On all sides was a dismal and confused array of peaks. Shrouded in fog, but of Caswell Sound there was no sign. Drenched with rain, and smeared with wet moss, they slithered down the mountain side and spent a miserable night without a fire, and su ering from the unwelcome attention of swarms of sandflies.
On three consecutive days they ascended this same peak,but each time a climb of four hours had for its reward nothing but the tantalizing sight of snow and black rocks looming through the mist. Damper was again low, the meat had “come to life” once more, and the sand ies were keeping up a persistent attack. They decided on a final attempt. To their delight the fog gradually lifted during the ascent, and there, lying to the west, was Caswell Sound, with the island at its mouth and the surf beating on the rocks fringing it clearly visible through the telescope. George Sound was not in view, as a mountain peakobscured it from sight. “We wave our caps, give three cheers, and down we hurry to the boat, glad to have verified our position
and glad to get away from our blood-thirsty tormentors the sandflies,” wrote McKerrow. 20“There was a good deal of public interest at the time as to who should be the first to sight the West Coast from the interior of Otago. I am not aware that anyone did before the third day of Jan. 1863 the date of the fifth and last ascent. 21
I named the mountain `Pisgah’ in recollection of a mountain of that name in another and distant country from which a 22 long expected and promised land was seen on a much more important occasion.” 23
Mount Pisgah, Southwest Arm, Middle Fiord, Lake Te Anau. McKerrow climbed Mt.Pisgah five times, and on the fifth ascent he got a treasured view of the West Coast.
From the summit of Mt. Pisgah it appeared that the wooded saddle separating Caswell Sound from Te Anau might yield to determined bushwhackers, but the paucity of his supplies, and the realization that a permanent route could only be carved out at a prohibitive initial cost and yearly maintenance, dissuaded McKerrow from making the attempt.
1. Milford Sound road end
2. Bligh Sound
3. George Sound
4. Caswell Sound
5. Charles Sound
6. Nancy Sound
7. Dagg Sound
8. Breaksea Sound
9. Dusky Sound
10. Chalky Inlet
11. Preservation Inlet
12. Doubtful Sound Deep Cove
13. Lake Te Anau
14. Lake Manapouri
15. Lake Monowai
16. Lake Hauroko
17. Lake Poteriteri
“Rain, rain, rain the whole day, and these horrid sand ies,” he complained next day in his diary. The following day broke fine however, and he and Goldie made for the Eglinton river. There they erected a small shelter for their food, beached the boat, and headed across country to Hodge’s station for fresh stores. They spent the
next two days determining the outline of the bush encircling this run, then collected the precious foodstu and swagged their way back over swamps and through bush to the Eglinton river. Mt. Eglinton, six miles north of the camp, was the next peak to beclimbed, and when observations were completed here the journey up to the north end of the lake was commenced. They pulled up the lake to the north eastern corner, thenrowed up the Clinton River for about one and a half miles. 24
Goldie likened this upper end of the lake to the fiords. “The upper end is very much akin in its appearance to each of theother three arms stretching away far and narrowly closing amid the high mountains, while here and there, their bold
perpendicular rocks rise from the brink of its waters to a great height, while here and there upon the more gently elevated par ts of the mountain and from amid the somewhat stunted growing birch trees that grow to a considerable breadth up the
mountain sides all round the west side of the Lake were to be seen the jagged prows of overhanging rocks, dark and grim looking with age.”
From the north-eastern corner of the lake, they made for the north-western corner, they turned south and rowed up the north fiord. It provided no surprises, so they retraced their 25way to the mouth of the fiord, and headed back to the Eglinton River.
From there the east shoreline of the lake was followed without incident as far as the mouth of the Waiau. Here they halted to wipe the sweat from their brows and to consider the practicability of running the rapids. Goldie was quite willing to take the risk, and a hazardous journey commenced. Downstream the dinghyraced, careering merrily along. Just an occasional stroke of the oars was necessary to keep a course past bends, or through the eddies and whirlpools which persisted in turning the boat about. Suddenly they came on a rocky gorge with banks so precipitous that escape was out of the question, and to their consternation the boat literally danced on the strong current towards protruding rocks, broken water, and a mass of foam-rapids!
“What side of 26 that rock in the centre of the river shall we pass? If we go to the right side we are in danger of the snags sticking out of the sideof the bank, if to the left we may be dashed against the centre rock for the current breaks off from the rock above on to it, let us try the latter plan and see if we cannot go partly through it, pull hard, it is done, we are into the rapid, the centre rock appears just over my right shoulder. Thank God we have just cleared it, touch gently with your oar, let us keep end on with the current, or else these waves will swamp us, spread your feet well and keep your seat firmly; look out, more rocks are ahead.
Keep into the smooth water, that is that one passed, just another and then I see we have smooth water, we are now into it; never more thankful for anything in all our lives before.” Later on 27 several less dangerous whirlpools and accumulations of sand or trees were safely negotiated, although the boat grated once or twice on the bottom. “When in my mind I look back over it, I conclude that it amounts almost to a miracle that we escaped,” wrote Goldie.
Camp was pitched on the shores of Lake Manapouri three hours after leaving Te Anau. Both men were eager to satisfy their ravenous hunger after such strenuous activity, but the nervous strain had a ected them more than they realized, and the damper and cup of tea were wasted. (28) It occurred to McKerrow that the worst stretches of the river had been hidden from sight when he had made the survey of its course; otherwise he would never have considered making the trip by boat. He therefore decided to warn anyone against following his example, and to disclaim any responsibility if they attempted unsuccessfully to emulate his unintentional feat.
Strenuous rowing carried the two men down to the Mararoa River and on to the last lap in the little dinghy. Six weeks after its removal, a journey of three hundred miles behind it and none the worse for the experience, the little dinghy was replaced in its scrub boathouse. 29
Upper Mararoa River Area - Overlooking the Pond Burn Area and into the Greenstone Valley from above the Upper Mararoa Hut.
From Gillows’ boathouse McKerrow and Goldie made for Jackson’s station where they picked up Bryce. He had been resting there with the horses since the sur vey of Te Anau had commenced. They pushed on over the Whitestone and Upukerora rivers and as far as Hankinson’s Station. Here they were delighted to receive a batch of letters, and to take the opportunity of writing replies to be posted at Riverton.
McKerrow took some observations from Mt. Prospect to the Upukerora and Whitestone rivers, then the whole party made tracks for Gillows’ station to report the delivery of the boat. For a time they followed that same route up the Mararoa valley which they had used a year previously to the very day, but after a while they branched o towards Oreti river. In time they came up to the Eyre mountains and on ascending a dark, rough spur picked out Mt. Hamilon, the Takitimo Mountains and the Oreti and Mararoa rivers.
At Printz’s station nearby, McKerrow had a yarn with Thos. Brown, an old whaler. He was able to give McKerrow particulars of anchorage at Milford Sound and the Awarua
riverand stated that in his opinion the Maoris had been in 30 the habit of following this river and one of its tributaries until they could pass over a saddle and down the rivers leading to Lake Wakatipu. Brown himself had been part of the way up the river in a Maori canoe.
From Printz’s the surveyors proceeded up the Oreti valley, crossed over to the Mararoa valley and eventually reached Bald Hill from its summit they were treated to an impressive sight. Rugged peaks towards above valleys wrapped in evergreen
beeches or containing detached clumps of bush; to the north stretched the valley leading to Wakatipu. During their stay in this district, the party was fortunate enough to have access to Hamilton’s house, which, although unoccupied at the time,
had been left open for travelers.
McKerrow was anxious to proceed next to the Mavora lakes. He pushed up through a dark wooded valley, skirted the two lakes, and advanced as far as the junction of the contributing branches of the Mararoa. From a nearby peak he caught sight
of the Mararoa, Van and Greenstone rivers. They appeared to rise very close to one another. Supplies were low again, and on the second of February a route was followed which led down to the Oreti Valley and thence to one of White’s outstations about ten miles east. Next day McKerrow took some observations to the watershed of the Eyre Mountains in a wind so gusty that he was forced to steady the base of the tripod with stones.
He then pushed on alone to White’s main station nearer Lake Wakatipu, but as no one was there retraced his steps as far as a hut belonging to Von Tunzelman. There he found Goldie, Bryce and Von Tunzelman himself. The latter maintained that it was possible to take packhorses up the North branch of the Von River as far as the head of the Mararoa river, which rose close to the Greenstone. He led the surveying party as far as the swampy valley leading to the Greenstone, but McKerrow could ill afford to spend a fortnight so late in the season in making a close study of the region, and turned back up the Von river to Tunzelman’s station at the edge of Lake Wakatipu.
After taking a few observations to bays and peninsulas from Mt. Nicholas, Goldie and McKerrow took Von Tunzelman’s boat, which the latter readily made available, and rowed up the lake, taking obser vations from points all along the western shore.
From the end of the lake they pushed six miles up the Ress Valley as far as Mt. Alfred, a small and easily accessible conical hill. Digger fashion, with bedding, food and instruments packed in a swag, they then tramped up alongside the Rees until
the grassy valley narrowed into a rocky and bushlined gorge.
Throughout the valley diggers were constantly encountered. All were prospecting with some success in the gullies opening on to the main valley. Provisions were again very nearly exhausted, but with the splendid weather showing every indication of continuing. McKerrow decided to push ahead with all speed. They retraced their steps down the Rees, skirted Diamond Lake, and made for the Dart. Walking along the shingle of the river bed or struggling through the bush which covered every spur and bluff, they toiled up the valley as far as the gorge beneath the brow of Mt. Macintosh. Prospectors in this valley were enjoying only moderate success, but were hoping for more substantial returnsin the winter. Somewhere in the Dart Valley McKerrow came into conversation with P.Q. Caples who told him of an unknown river flowing into a lake close to the Tasman Sea. McKerrow could not accept the invitation to see for himself, but gave 31 all the help he could to Caples. He presented the miner with a small pocket compass and a tracking of a map showing the true relative positions to scale of Lakes Wakatipu and Te Anau, also the line of the coast from Milford Sound north to about Jackson’s Bay. This tracing was taken from McKerrow’s own camp map which he kept up to date from week to week. 32
Caples eventually reached Martin’s Bay and returned to Dunedin some two or three months later. He gave Mr. J.T. Thomson an accurately drawn sketch of the country which contained some of his own place names, and this, on McKerrow’s advice, was 33 accepted as an addition to the map of Otago then under course of preparation. 34
On the return journey to Wakatipu a rainy spell set in. this was spent in a hut on the shores of the lake. Eventually theweather cleared, and a course shaped for Von Tunzelman’s via Pigeon Island. A halt was called at Von Tunzelman’s to enable
McKerrow to sign some vouchers and to set Bryce off on the first lap of a circuitous hundred mile journey with the horses to Kingston.
Immediately this was done, Goldie and he set 35 out for Queenstown. That night they reached a point opposite the town before a rising sea and win compelled them to seek shelter.
The following day, the third of March 1863, Goldie secured stores from Queenstown, and rejoined McKerrow; then they rowed down to the small settlement of tents which
went by the name of Frankton. They had been greatly surprised to see a small steamer and many other boats plying a busy trade between groups of tents snugly placed in every sheltered nook, but they were astounded at the changes wrought at Rees’ station. Six months previously the homestead had stood isolated. Since then, large stores, hotels, a canvas town, and a seething population had sprung from nowhere. Toiling up the rugged slopes of Ben Lomond, diggers could be seen leading packhorses or bending under swags as they made eagerly for their claims.
At the mouth of the Kawarau, while engaged in taking observations, McKerrow met Mr. Shanks of the Dunedin survey office. He had come down from Frankton to deliver a
verbal message from Mr. J.T. Thomas to the effect that every effort should be made to reach the West Coast. “I am very sorry that time will not permit the attempt . . . or I should be most happy to make the coast if possible,” wrote McKerrow.
He immediately proceeded to measure a baseline at Frankton, completed a triangle by observations from Morven Hill, and gave the series of results and the boat to Mr. Shanks. McKerrow and Goldie then packed their swags, crossed the Shotover by ferry and made for a ridge at the head of Hayes Lake. “Last year,” narrages Goldie, “on our first journey, while we crossed and recrossed these streams and traveled over these beautiful ats through which they ow are they join the Kawarau river, there were no living things to attract our attention and not a sound, no, not even the ba-ba of a grazing sheep to disturb or even cheer our ears. Now the hundreds who daily traverse them and some of the adjoining mountains show how soon the once impenetrable and unknown mountains and wilds of a country can be tamed and traveled over by man, when found to possess the richest of the golden ore.”
From the creek at the head of Hayes Lake, they pushed on to a spur at the head of the Arrow river overlooking Fox’s town, and continued from there down to the main branch of the river where this mushroom canvas town had made its appearance.
Up the Arrow river, clusters of tents were encountered at every bend, for the gullies were still yielding forth fabulous riches in uneven but decreasing amounts. The main force of the rush had been spent however, and the valley was full of abandoned claims.
From a similar spot to this McKerrow wrote "“Standing on the Harris Mountains and looking over to the Upper Shotover, a wild hacked, precipitous scene presents itself, to which it would be difficult to find a parallel,”.
At the head of the Arrow river McKerrow ascended a mountain ridge, and from the summit was able to pick out the course of the Shotover from its source until it was joined by Skippers and Stoney creeks. “Standing on the Harris Mountains and looking over to the Upper Shotover, a wild hacked, precipitous scene presents itself, to which it would be difficult to find a parallel,”, he wrote.
He made some observations 36 to the mountains encircling the head of the Shotover, then moved to the Coronet Peaks, made for Hayes Lake, crossed the Shotover and approached Queenstown.
When they saw the bustle and activity in the town, Goldie and McKerrow sought the privacy of the scrub until sundown should serve to conceal their tattered clothes. Then they crept down to the town. At the Union Bank McKerrow made himself known to Mr. Bradshaw the gold buyer, and borrowed enough money to buy new outfits of clothes. Any lingering doubts that Mr. Bradshaw may have had as to the identity of this rather unkempt individual were dispelled when the two met later in the evening at Rees’ homestead. 37
The following day was spent in the ascent of Ben Lomond. When Goldie and McKerrow set out later for Mr. Shank’s camp, Queenstown was thronged with a crowd of rowdy miners bent on celebrating the St. Patrick’s day sports. McKerrow soon secured the boat from Mr. Shanks, returned immediately to Queenstown, filled in his fieldbooks and wrote a report to Mr. Thomson as well as letters to his wife and friends.
On Wednesday the 18th of March, Goldie and he set off by boat for Kingston. They stopped a number of times to ascend several peaks on the east side of the lake and a single one to the east of the south branch of the Lochy river. At Kingston Bryce
was waiting with the horses. McKerrow measured a baseline there and made the ascent of a nearby peak to pick out the creeks which ran off the Eyre Mountains into the Mataura river. After some little delay in completing business transactions the party, united once more, moved o down to the Mataura River. Behind them they left Wakatipu, a lake which in Goldie’s opinion could not stand comparison with the picturesque and unsurpassed grandeurs of Te Anau or Manapouri. Down the fertile Mataura valley the party travelled, crossing and recrossing the Mataura River from Southland to Otago, and bound for the Waikia Valley, although by a circuitous route made necessary by a formidable barrier – the Garvie Mountains they crossed over the east side of the Five Rivers Plain, touched a point on the Oreti River, and finally headed north-east towards the plain lying between the Waikaia and Mataura Rivers. On the way McKerrow called in at McKellar’s station on the Waimea Plains, and heard Mr. David McKeller recount the story of his explorations in the Greenstone Valley.
McKeller stated that he had followed the Greenstone River as far as the saddle from which he had seen Milford Sound. He 38 considered that a tack might be cut from Milford Sound to the west branch of the Greenstone. Such a project McKerrow considered impracticable. To his way of thinking such a track would be of use only in driving stock to the Mararoa Valley, for the Greenstone followed through a tortuous narrow and rocky gorge on its way to Wakatipu, and to ford it in floodtime would be a hazardous undertaking. “Now that I have seen and partly examined all the possible approaches to the West Coast from the Otago Province”, wrote McKerrow, “I cannot but conclude that there is no practical route for heavy traffic – thatat the very most and only after much labour and expense a bridle track may be formed – that if any metals or minerals be discovered in paying quantities on the west side of the dividing range, all tra c to and from must be by the sound and inlets of the West Coast, that the means of communication to and from the east side of the dividing range must continue to be as at present by following up the valleys of rivers”.
From McKeller’s the party made up the Waikaia valley. Here two or three hundred miners were prospecting, with some success. The weather was cold and equally, and at Cox and Shand’s station they met a party of miners who had been driven from profitable claims at the head of the Nevis by snowstorms. Observations were taken from a high neighbouring peak, then they crossed the Waikaia, ascended a ridge of the Umbrella Mountains, crossed Gow’s Creek and climbed on to the high tableland close to the Remarkable Gap and Rocky Mountain and in sight of the upper tributaries of the Waikaia.
No further observations were necessary to the north, so the par ty was able to return down the valley. On the way they encountered prospectors at a stream draining the north side of the Umbrella Mountains. Some were successful enough to be tempted to spend a winter in the valley. Every other gully harboured its complement of diggers engaged either in sluicing or in cradling.
At the south end of the valley the party crossed the Mataura and later recrossed it by the ford of the new track. This ford was situated close to the Pyramid and contained only three feet of water, but the horses’ hooves sank in the gravel and mud, an indication it would be unsuitable for use by drays in the ood season. At the Pyramid McKerrow made what might be called his farewell observation. Then the whole party turned for home.
Their route led over the Dunedin-Wakatipu track until near Popotuno it joined the Dunedin-Invercargill road. Snow and rain fell and hurricane winds roared over the countryside during the final stage of the journey, and it was with profound feelings
of relief and joy that the three weary travelers entered Dunedin on the 6th of May, 1863.
The computation, mapping and reports occupied several months more, and it was not till October 1863 that the final map and report were forwarded to Mr. J.T. Thomson. The report was a lengthy summary of the geography of western 39 districts, compiled with McKerrows visual painstaking care.
From the appended tables it appeared that of the 4883.3 square miles surveyed, 4579.8were within the boundaries of Otago. Included in this total were 1372.8 square miles of pasture land, 954.7 of forest, 325.3 of lake, 1924 of barren land, and three of swamp. A brief report on the points used for reference during the survey preceded a descriptive account of the actual methods employed.
“The distances throughout the survey were determined from bases measured twice by a common chain; artificial marks were set up till a length of three or more miles was obtained in the sides of the triangles, after that natural marks, such as mountain peaks, edge of landslips etc were used as points for triangulating; where this was impracticable then the method of converging angles was had recourse to. Up the fiords of the Te Anau and Manapouri Lakes, where on account of the inaccessible nature of the mountains and the shore line being shaded over by foliage, neither a triangulation could be carried on nor bases measured, di erences of level between the lake and one or more of the commanding peaks were used as a base for determining distances. This method, from the rapidity it gave to the execution of the work, was found to be of great value in the circumstances. It was generally not di cult to find a suitable mountain peak a mile or so in vertical height above the level of the lake. The angle of elevation to which, after the necessary corrections had been applied, gave an excellent means of determining distances up to seven or eight miles. The bearings were (from the same reason as rendered a vertical triangulation necessary) magnetic. Care was always taken on returning to 40 the stations of the true meridian to obser ve if there was any local deviation in the variation of the compass. In every other part of the survey, the work was done on the true meridian. The difference of bearing between the meridians of Mount York and Mount Nicholas and Lindis Peak 44’, the difference to be added to the meridian of Lindis Peak. These differences are not to be taken as precise, seeing that the instrument had to be set several times to natural objects in taking on the bearing from meridian to meridian; but they may be taken as showing ageneral agreement throughout the survey as to bearing, for the apparent discrepancies are very nearly such as are accounted for by the conveyance of the meridians to the Pole The difference 41between the meridians of the Blu and Mount York obtained in a similar manner to the other difference is 29’; to be added to the meridian of the Blu . In plotting the survey, the latitudes of the prime stations were found to close one with the other, as also with the latitude of Mount Hamilton as determined by the Reconnaissance Survey of Southland. A discrepancy of rather more than a minute of longitude, or nearly five seconds by chronometer exists between the longitudinal positions of Mount Hamilton as determined from the two surveys; as the discrepancy is one of absolute distance, it does not a ect the value of either survey. The desirability of having a check on the chronometrical determination of the longitudes of meridians was kept in view during the survey by carrying on, with as much care as possible in the circumstances, a triangulation based on short lines. After plotting the work to the scale of one half inch to the mile, it is satisfactory to state, considering the rugged mature of the country that the difference between the chain and chronometrical measurements of the distance
between Lindis Peak and Mount York was not appreciable, the meridian of Mount Nicholas when brought to the same test shows a difference of 2 ½ seconds of the Chronometer”. “To check the altitudes, several peaks were determined, both from the data of Mount Pisa and from the data of the Bluff . The nearest agreement of the two determinations was that of Earnslaw, the diffeence being only two feet. The greatest
disparity was in the two determinations of Mount Nicholas, the difference being 107 ft. The angular measurements of the survey were all made (with the exception of the astronomical observations), by a four-inch Everest theodolite.
Throughout the survey, an equal attention was given to the details of each district; so that unnecessary minuteness was not obtained in one part at the expense of vagueness in another.” The next section of the report dealt with physical geography. “The most marked and striking feature in the configuration of the country under consideration is the great and sudden differences of elevation that diversify its surface; the elevations take the form of mountain ridges, and the depression that of gorges, valleys and deep rocky basins, the latter filled by lakes”. It seemed to McKerrow that these mountain ridges, many of them glacier clad, had great in uence on the Province’s climate, both in condensing into showers vapours that might have escaped, and in periodically ooding the rivers with snow waters. The lakes on the other hand tended to act as huge reservoirs in restraining the flow of flood waters. These lakes could be supposed to have once extended over the large
areas on which they had left traces before being mutated by an earthquake, and the depth of their clear waters, impenetrable to the eye, made it appear possible that precipices extended as are below the water as they did above.
“The recent development of inland navigation has directed attention to the fickle and uncertain winds that prevail on the lakes”, wrote McKerrow. This he attributed both to the principle of pneumatics (by which cold air shows a tendency to
enter into a warmer and more rarified atmosphere) and to the unequal radiating powers of land and water making for land and sea breezes.
A description of the character and course of the main rivers followed. Among those mentioned were the Waiau, the Mararao, the Monowai, the Dean, the Lillburn, the Wairaki, the Kawarau, the Shotover, the Arrow, the Clutha, the Dart, the Rees, the Greenstone, the Von, the Lochy, the Oreti and the Waikaia.
The section on pastures occupied a very prominent place in the report. It had been found that 778.5 square miles of pastoral country were drained by the Waiau and upper Oreti Rivers, 305 by the Wakaia and 552.3 by the Kawarau. There followed a precise delineation of the location of pastoral patches in the Waiau district with reference to such features as the quality and quantity of grass, the condition of stock, the amount of scrub clearance necessary, the extent to which natural boundaries fenced o runs and thereby lightened the duties of the shepherd, the facilities for wintering stock in sheltered paddocks the freedom from snow of elevated blocks of land, and the areas of forest in the district. In discussing the pastoral potentialities of the district drained by the Kawarau River, McKerrow described in turn the valleys from the head of Wakatipu to the foot; first on the
west side, then on the east. The twenty thousand acre block extending from Queenstown to the Crown Range was, in his opinion, equal to the best pastoral land in the province.
As regards agricultural farming, he considered that despite its low elevation, the Waiau Valley was not as suitable for this purpose as the areas around Mt. York, at the head of Lake Wakatipu, east of Frankton and in the Waikaia Valley.
The forests, he reported, were mostly around the Waiau River and its tributaries, and included red and black pines, red, black and white beeches, and totaras, but at times Tutu, Fuchsia and numerous shrubs were found to flourish, “and by the variety of their foliage and brilliance of blossom, contribute very considerably to the charms of the Lake scenery”. After considering the habitats of the various species, McKerrow went on the point out that the beech was in a numerical preponderance of five to one over the remainder, and grew up to 3400 feet. Few of the other species were found at above 1000 feet. He continued: “Seeing that so large a portion of the Province is covered with this tree, it is interesting to know, that so far as applied to economic purposes, it is found to answer well; the stock owners use the black birch extensively for fencing, stockyards, etc. As for the red birch, it has been found to answer well for building and for furniture, and for implement purposes. At Printz’ station the erection of a handsome mansion-house made of it was nearly completed while the survey was being conducted there. At Gillow’s station
all the buildings have been formed of it and what is of more importance in judging the qualities of this timber, a wool press was seen there in successful operation that was made entirely of red birch; there were no straps or bands of iron to withstand the strain, every detail being of the timber. The Messrs. Gillow have had considerable experience of it and they compare it to the elm of Britain”.
The report then entered into a description of the barren mountains. All country west of Te Anau and Manapouri and not forest clad was included in this category. McKerrow
anticipated that quantities of mineral and metallic ores would be found in fractures of the mountains, and mica, he pointed out, had already been found in streams although no auriferous deposits had yet been discovered. The country between Te Anau and Wakatipu had not been prospected previous to the Reconnaissance Survey, but McKerrow considered that even if gold were found there it was unlikely that it would be extracted as readily as from the narrower valleys of the Arrow or Shotover.
The question of communications occupied a place of importance in the report. In the open country of the Waiau district, pack horses and drays had recourse to any number of possible routes, and could readily open communications with other districts. In the Wakatipu district on the other hand, impassable barriers cut o one valley from the next, and all travel was of necessity carried out by water. The sole dray track
leaving the district was from Kingston at the south end of the Lake, but bridle tracks could be taken to the Te Anau downs, or over the Crown Range to the Cardrona Valley. Thus Kingston controlled supplies for the district, and the magnitude of
the trade made the consideration of communication with it one of importance. Southland, McKerrow indicated, held an advantage in that communications between Invercargill and Kingston could readily be established over the inter vening
plains, and unless the Otago Provincial Council was prepared to push a road through the precipitous Kawarau Gorge they could not hope to compete with their southern rivals. It seemed quite obvious to McKrrow that the eastern side of the province
would always contain the porte commanding the interior, since the height and abruptness of the ridges parallel to the West Coast would rule out the possibility of road construction other than through river valleys subject to frequent ooding. “I will conclude this report”, wrote McKerrow, “by stating my belief that the extent of the Pastoral and Agricultural portion of the Province has now been determined. The distance between the most westerly points of this sur vey and the coast line is only a few miles; the great altitude of these points – the altitudes by Captain Stockes near the coast line – the life of the country and its appearance as actually seen leave little doubt in my mind as to the utter barrenness of the region extending between the forests of the Wanaka, Wakatipu, Te Anau and Manapouri Lakes on one side, and the forests on the West Coast on the other.”
Along with the report went a summary of the various types of land surveyed, a list of the heights of all hills and peaks, a day-to-day record of the weather, and the new map. This latter was a great advance on anything issued previously. Formerly, the country West of Lake Wakitipu and Eyre and Takitima Mountains had been shown as blank, but in this map the general physical features of the lake district were clearly indicated. To Anau’s position had been marked only very approximately; In McKerrow’s map its broad outlines were laid down with certainty and its size established. The same could be said of the northern portion of Lake Wakatipu. “The map may be said to be complete as exhibiting information hitherto unobtained respecting the natural features of the country.”42
As the survey was completed in such quick time, its accurate detail was remarkable, and shows no major deviation from the standard maps of today. Numbers of minor errors were of course inevitable, but the only really major error discernible is the shape of Lake Mawioko which was seen at a distance, 43 from a single point and on a foggy day.
The value of the report and map to the public was considerable. Settlers had feared the presence of a hostile tribeof Maoris lurking in the unexplored west; McKerrow reported nothing more ominous than chipped trees and deserted huts.
They had been chary of coming to gripe with the gigantic mao; McKerrow told them that only once did he sight anything even resembling the Moa. It had bounded along in desultoryfashion in the dust of the evening, but on closer inspection proved to be neither a nor a kangaroo, but merely a lady’s crinoline. They had feared to venture into land unsurveyed44 and of unknown potentialities; they could now turn to an excellent map and a comprehensive report for guidance.
The remaining agricultural and pastoral lands were soon snapped up, and between 1860 and 1974 the number of horses in the province increased from 2541 to 30,840, the number of cattle from 28,999 to 136,921, the number of sheep from 378,180 to 4,326,938. 45
The credit for promoting these highly e cient and remarkably rapid surveys must be attributed to Mr.J.T.Thomson, but his system was dependent on the capabilities of his field workers. That McKerrow enjoyed the full confidence of his superior is amply borne out by the latter’s remarks in his 1863 report. “I may state that although I have not received the map of the Renaissance Survey from Mr. McKerrow yet, I have no doubt that it will be a full and complete survey and in every way well worthy of the expense to the Government”.46
The expense incurred was £914/5/6 or 1/6.d. per acre, apart from the £93 required for the boat accident on the Waiau, and the £42 for the hire of the boat at Lake Wakatipu.
Later historians have been generous in their estimates of McKerrow’s work. Mr. R. O. Carrick for example describes him as “Mr. James McKerrow, one of the earliest and most enterprising of our Southern explorers . . . whose early explorations and considering the state of the country in t hose days astonishingly correct observations did far more towards settling the country and developing its resources than those of any other man”.
The Royal Astronomical Society’s tribute, paid on McKerrow’s death in 1919, indicates that his worth was recognized by leading scientific bodies. “Years of arduous work . . . in the early days demonstrate to the full the loyalty, grit, and solid determination that he possessed and displayed in the carrying out of expert and scientific work at a time when means of communications were of the most primitive description, and when the surveying of the mountainous forest lands in
the south necessitated the finest qualities that man can possess. But, intent on doing his duty, he carried out his responsible work unappalled by dangers which rarely cross the path of a professional man”. 48
McKerrow’s intimate knowledge of the interior was fully utilized by those requiring information on the region. “Select Committee for Roads and their Construction” appointed by the Otago Provincial Council asked him his opinion about the
possibility of running a road through to Queenstown via the Kawarau Gorge. McKerrow pointed out the inherent di culties of making such a road, and the immense expenditure of time and money required. In response to a series of questions he
also gave his opinion on the most profitable and speedy way of getting supplies through immediately to the Wakatipu goldfield, and the measures he considered necessar y to compete with Invercargill for the trade. 49
In a more specialized field, that of geology, McKerrow’s observations were of particular significance. In a paper read before the Otage Institute on July 19, 1870, and later printed in the Transactions of the New Zealand Institute, he discussed
the “Physical Geography of the Lake Districts of Otago. After 50 referring brie y to the areas, dimensions, altitudes and positions of the lakes, he pointed out that they were long and thin, lay lengthwise in their valleys had precipitous sides, surfaces not differing greatly in altitude, and terminated at the point where the valleys broadened out into plains. On each side and at the southern ends there invariably lay vast areas of shingle and large blocks of rock. It appeared that some great natural cause had had a uniform action in producing these lakes. McKerrow contended that the glaciers lying on the side of the mountains were puny descendants of glaciers which had formerly filled valley and lake bed, and had slid slowly but irresistibly forward, carrying with them the spoil of the mountain, gradually working a bed deeper and deeper, and finally depositing their spoil as lateral and terminal moraines. Soundings taken of the depth of Lake Wakatipu supported certain corollaries of this theory, and McKerrow drew further support for his contentions by
explaining why New Zealand was at one time cold enough to contain such large glaciers. The present condition of lake and river, he maintained, must however have been in existence for a long time if the conclusions he drew from the slow silting up at the heads of the lakes were valid. He pointed out that the rivers were gradually eroding their courses to a lower level, with the result that several small lakes had been transformed into valleys. Rivers then ran through them and dashed over the moraine as rapids. From these observations and taking into consideration the great disintegrating power of frost, it could be readily understood to what an extent the mountains were denuded every year. “Speaking on the Lake Districts in a general manner”, he concluded “It may be observed that, considering the extent of agricultural, pastoral and forest land that abounds in them, their mineral products, their delightful climate, and extent of inland navigation, they have within their own borders all the man elements that render communities prosperous and ourishing.”
McKerrow’s paper was of great interest to geologists throughout New Zealand since by attributing the formation of Wakatipu to glacial erosion he rejected the theory of differential subsidence propounded in 1869 by no less an authority than Sir James Hector 51
In 18762, F.W. Hutton, in a paper read before the Wellington Philosophical Society said, “I need scarcely say that I agree with Mr. McKerrow . . . In his paper McKerrow points out, I believe for the first time, the very important fact that the
constrained exure of a solid body like ice, when passing from
one angle of inclination to another, would greatly increase the friction at this particular point”. 52
McKerrow’s theory in later years received support from such men as Sir Archibala Geikie, Professor Hein, Professor Penck and Tyndall the Physicist.
More recently the view has 53 been than these two theories both contain elements of truth.
It says much for McKerrow’s keen and analytical powers of observation and for his wide scientific knowledge that he, an amateur geologist, was able to contest points of geological theory with the geological authorities of the day. Such was the high regard in which McKerrow was held in geographical and geological circles that Sir Roderick Impey Murchison, the President of the Royal Geographical Society and a geologist of world wide reputation, saw fit to link the young surveyor’s name with those of Hector and Haast. These three men had all had papers read in 1864 before the Society, McKerrow’s being his report to Mr. Thomson on the lake district previously published in the Otago Provincial Gazette. In his address to the society at an anniversar y meeting on the 23rd May, 1864, the President said: “Three papers of great interest have been communicated to the Society, which throw additional light
upon the physical geography of the hitherto unsur veyed districts of the great middle island of New Zealand, and certain new facts illustrative of glacial action. I consider it, indeed, to be a fortunate circumstance for our science, that these regions should have been visited by such men as Dr. Hector, McKerrow and
Dr. Haast”. McKerrow’s subsequent election as an F.R.G.S. 54 can perhaps be attributed to Sir Roderick’s remarks. Practically and scientifically McKerrow’s journeys were of value to his fellow men, but they also a ected him personally n such a way that for the rest of his life he had a nostalgia for the wide open spaces, the lakes and the bush-clad hills. Professor James Park, an explorer of a later day describes some of the diffculties of such journeys, and then goes on “But the gains were great. The man has not yet been born who will ever
forget the blazing campfire and itting shadows that chase one another from tree to tree, the blue sky overhead, the vitalizing whiff of the mountain air, the scents of the forest, the murmur of the nearby stream, the boom of the bittern, the shrill cry
of the kakape, or the clear call of the kiwi. When to these we add the quest of adventure and the joy of discovery we have a combination of in uence that make a powerful appeal to the primitive instincts of man”.
“For the time being the party forms a little self-governing, self-contained community. For the common weal every man must exercise patience and self-restraint, and in none are these qualities more required than in the leader. It is his duty to allot each man his particular task, to call the time of starting and of camping. The daily round, the close association, and perhaps more than all, the community of ideals which brings together kindred souls for a common and tends to foster a spirit of comradeship that often ripens into lifelong friendship.” 55
James McKerrow was an ideal leader for such a small self- contained community. Daring without being foolhardy, never expecting more of his companions than of himself, quick to take a lead in apparently trivial matters such as changing wet
clothes promptly or drinking sparingly of cold water on a hot day, he contributed an impressive quality of leadership towards the success of the expedition. One incident typifies McKerrow the man. On one part of a return journey something went
wrong with the compass, and McKerrow was forced to take bearings from the stars. Goldie was not satisfied with the results, and declared they were heading in the wrong direction.
He refused to proceed further, and after signing a paper to the effcct that he was taking such a course of his own free will, he struck out by himself. Three days later he returned and to his astonishment found McKerrow still at the same place.
Goldie expressed his surprise. McKerrow replied “I know you would come back, John, so I waited.” No reference to Goldie’s obstinacy ever escaped McKerrow’s lips, but in John Goldie he had made a lifelong friend.
1. Otago Prov. Gaz., Vol. Vi, 26th Nove, 1862, M.S.S. in hands of Mr. J.A.D. Ritchie
2. Unless otherwise stated the description of this journey is drawn from Goldie’s and McKerrow’s diaries
3. Baker, J.H., A Surveyor in New Zealand, P. 62
4. McKerrow’s diary: also O.D.T. 8th May 1863: also Roberts, W.H.S., Maori Nomenclature, P. 19. See Appendix C.
5. The present day spelling is Hauroko, See Appendix C.
6. No Double Bush Hill is marked on McKerrow’s map, but Goldie Hill marked on the map, appears to be the same hill. On P. 84 of H. Beattie’s “The Pioneers Explore Otago” a letter from McKerrow to Goldie written in 1907 gives an account of the search for Howloko. “You will . . . remember our ascent of a high bush clad hill, which I named Mount Goldie, on the South side of the Lillburn valley, and our
climbing the highest trees to have a good look westward for the lake which we thought must be at the base of the Princess Mountains. We saw a haze, which we thought must be over a lake, but we could not say that the lake was there or under it.”
7. The correct spelling is Mussel
8. The loss of the boat cost the Otago Provincial Council 95. V. & P. Otago Prov. Council, Departmental Reports, Session XVII 8163, P.14
9. Beattie, H., The Pioneers Explore Otago, P. 84, Letter from McKerrow to Goldie.
10. Lake Hauroko is actually drained by the Wairaurahiri River which flows into the sea less than ten miles west of Sandhill Point.
11. McKerrow J., Letter to Hocken, MSS
13. McKerrow’s spelling was the earlier form Manipori
14. It may have been that McKerrow did not penetrate right to the end of each fiord, for from one of them a track was eventually pushed through to the West Coast.
15. O.D.T. 5th May, 1863 (McKerrow, J., Reminiscences, MSS, P.21)
16. McKerrow, J., Reminiscences, P. 21, MSS. In the hands of Mr. J.A.D. Ritchie, Wellington
17. McKerrow, J., Letter to Hocken, MSS Hocken Library, Dunedin
18. Park, J., Maori and Early European Explorations in Western Otago, P. 3, Pamphlet, Hocken Library
19. McKerrow, J., Diary, MSS, McKerrow, J, Letter to Hocken MSS
20. McKerrow, J., Reminiscences, P. 22, MSS
21. See Appendix D.
22. Deuteronomy 34:1.
23. McKerrow, J., Letter to Hocken, MSS
24. “We were the first to go up the Clinton River.” Goldie in letter to McKerrow. See P. 83, H. Beattie’s “The Pioneers Explore Otago”
25. Goldie’s diary records that the exploration of the north fiord preceded that of the upper end of the lake. I have followed McKerrow’s version.
26. McKerrow, J., Reminiscences, P. 23, MSS
27. McKerrow, J., Diary, MSS
28. McKerrow, J., Reminiscences, P. 23, MSS
30. The Awarua is a small stream owing into Awarua or Big Bay, but it is not like that it was used by the Maoris. The Haast River was known to some Maoris as the Awarua and it is probable that this was the river to which Brown was referring.
31. McClymont, op cit., P. 136.
32. Roberts, W.H.S., Maori Nomenclature, P. 62, Letter to author from McKerrow. No account of the meeting with Caples is found in either diary.
33. See Appendix B.
34. Roberts, Maori Nomenclature, P. 62, Letter from McKerrow
35. Also referred to as St. John’s.
36. Otago Prov. Gaz., Vol. VI, 14th Oct. 1863, P. 390
37. McKerrow, Letter to Hocken, M.S.S.
38. See Appendix O.
39. Otago Prov. Gaz.Vol. VI, 14th October 1863, Pp.381-98
40. Since the peaks enclosing the fiords were inaccessible, it was impossible to refer bearings back to the true meridians, as none of the stations could be seen from the lake level. Thus true meridian could not be found, but, with the use of the compass, magnetic bearings could be observed.
41. All meridional lines within a circuit are held to be parallel to the meridian of the initial station of the circuit. This is done for the sake of convenience for it is not feasible to take a whole series of observations for true meridian. As the lines are not parallel, but converge due to the shape of the earth, discrepancies often arise at the place where adjoining circuits meet. This discrepancy is usually adjusted in reference to mountain ranges, lakes or unproductive land.
42. Otago Witness, 28th Feb. 1863
43. Compare Map in back pocket with a standard map.
44. McKerrow, Reminiscences, M.S.S. P. 18
45. Thomson, J.T., Exposition of Processes and Results, P9.
46. Report, V. & P. Otago Provincial Council, Session XVII, 1863. Departmental Report, P. 12
48. Monthly notices of Royal Astronomical Society, Vol. LXXX, 13th February, 1920, No. 4. Pp. 348-49.
49. App. V. & P. Otago Prov. Council, Session XVIII, 1863. App. To Reports of select Committees, Pp. 2-3
50. Trans. N. Z. Inst. Vol. III, 1870, Pp. 254-63. The MSS copy is in the hands of Mr. J.A.D. Ritchie, Wellington.
51. Park, J., Geological Survey No. 7, Queenstown, P. 15.
52. Trans. N.Z. Inst. Vol V, 1872, P. 394.
53. Park, J., Geological Survey, P. 7
54. Murchison, Sir Roderick. Journal of Royal Geographical Society, 1864, Pp. C/1-C/11.
55. Park, J. Maori and Early European Exploration in Western Otago. P 1. Pamphlet, Hocken Library.
56. Letter to author from Miss McKerrow of Hampdon. The incident is not mentioned in either diary or in any of the reports. Miss McKerrow heard it from John Goldie himself.
A photo of James McKerrow later in life.