Thursday, 5 March 2009
JAMES MCKERROW. THE FIRST RECONNAISANCE SURVEY 1861
Yesterday, at the request of Terry Thomsen, I am posting three more chapters on James McKerrow's three remarkable Reconnaissance Surveys conducted in the years 1861-63. This was probably the most land surveyed by a single survey team in such a short period of time.
I have to edit them further as mistakes have crept in when changing formats.
I would like to dedicate this posting. and the next two, to my Auntie, Francis McKerrow, who got a copy of James Herron's thesis way back in 1969 and sent to me when I was working in Antarctica. I spent the winter of 1970 at Vanda Station, Wright Valley, Antarctica, and one of my hobbies was retyping his wonderful thesis.
A map of James McKerrow's survey expeditions 1861-63. This map shows the enormous area he covered
Between the time of McKerrow’s arrival in Dunedin and the completion of his work in rural section survey, the search for pastoral land had been going on space. The disinclination of pastoral explorers to wait for survey before occupation led them far beyond the boundaries of the 1857 and 1858 Reconnaissance Surveys.
As early as 1856 John Chubbin, the Morrison brothers, and M. McFerlane, following directions given them by Reko, a Maori at Tuturau, left McKeller’s station on the Waimea Plains and forced their way through spear grass and matagouri to the south end of Lake Wakatipu.
There they were obliged to 1 immerse themselves in the lake, for a lighted match had fired the parched vegetation.
From that time on squatters advanced2up the Mataura Valley in a steady stream.
In 1859, W. Saunders and N. Bates led the rush to Wakatipu by this route, and the former hastened back to Dunedin to lease a block of land.
In the same year D.A. and W. Cameron 3and A.A.McDonald induced a Maori from Riverton to guide them up to the south-eastern side of the lake. J.T. Thomson appreciated all the information on this region that this party could give him when they arrived in Dunedin to apply for runs.4 A more comprehensive exploration of the lake was made in the latter part of 1859 by Donald Hay, a hardy Australian sheep farmer, who was introduced to the Wakatipu district by D.A. Cameron. Hay found an abandoned moki on the lake and used it to establish the fact of the existence of the great north arm of the lake. 5
A lone piper, facing Lake Manapouri and the mountains of Fiordland, plays a tribute to the hardy Scottish explorer and surveyor, James McKerrow, who surveyed this lake. Photo: Bob McKerrow
Soon after, the Canterbury surveyors Jollie and Young spotted the lake from near the Motatapu river whilst engaged in plotting the boundary between Otago and Canterbury.
They were not able to visit the head of Waneka since they had no boat, and it was left to H.S. Thomson and G.M. Hassing 6 to explore this region. These two went twenty miles up the Makarora and set fire to the wilderness of ax, fern and cabbage trees. 7
Upper Makarora from Scrubby Pass
An extensive area of land between Wanaka and Wakatipu still remained unexplored. In 1860 W.G. Rees and Nicholas von Tunzelman pushed their way down the Cardrona Valley
over the Crown Range and on to Lake Wakatipu. Their four more faint-hearted companions had turned back at what was seemingly impenetrable scrub. Following some exploration on 8 the lake itself, Rees supplied the Lands Office with a sketch map, and secured a pastoral license for land on the east side of the lake. Von Tunzelman took up land on the west side, near the mouth of the Von river. 9
The mountainous district between Lakes Wakatipu and Te Anau remained unexplored until 1861 when D. McKellar and G. Gunn went up the Mararoa River, over the Greenstone Saddle, and eventually sighted the coast. 10
The pastoralists were playing an increasingly important part in the a airs and prosperity of the Province. Between 1855 and 1861 the number of sheep in Otago increased from 59,000 to 694,000, and cattle numbered 44,000 as compared with 6,500. Pastoralists began to penetrate into every corner 11 of the province, and the survey staff found it impossible to keep up with them. The basis of most surveying systems is triangulation. If one side and three angles of a triangle can be measured, then the other two sides can be calculated. Any one of these sides may form the base of an adjoining triangle, and a network of triangles varying in size and shape may be extended throughout the country. As the three established stations of a triangulation may be too few from which to cover an area for topographic detail, triangulation is supplemented by traverse lines. A traverse is a local survey, complete and accurate in itself, but tied to a triangulation before its true position can be calculated. Baselines may be measured along a stream or a road, and o sets referred to bends or nearby objects. Ultimately bearings are referred back to the initial starting point and the traverse should close. It remains then to refer the end points of the traverse to the trig station of a triangulation. When the traverse has been linked to a triangulation, the true position of all its points can be calculated. The ideal arrangement for a survey is a general triangulation interlaced by traverse lines.
The steps in general survey adopted by Otago surveyors were as follows : After marking the block boundaries, the surveyor laid out the roads, connected the traverses to the sides of a triangulation, and designed the shape and arrangement of sections. These were generally quadrilateral in shape and varied from forty to three hundred acres depending on the course of the road, the topography of the country, and fertility of the soil. The details were plotted on a black plan of eight inches to the mile. About one tenth of the plans were examined in the field; the remainder was completed in the o ce. When the plans had been passed and the press notified, lithographed copies were made available to the public as an index for selecting land. 12
This system was admirable in every respect, save one. T was too slow; it was creeping westward with tantalizing deliberation.
Squatters sought accurate fixations of boundaries, but could get little assistance from the Survey O ce. At least one third of the best map available was a virtual blank although often decorated with caricatures of the great lake and river systems.
These represented an ingenious but unavailing attempt to interpret and reconcile an accumulation of Maori tradition and squatters’ reports. Thus Te Anau, the largest lake in the South Island, was shown by a mere dot, while Wakatipu had been
represented in so many ways that many believed there were two lakes in the region.
It was left to Hay and Rees to explode 13that myth.
The land office had no option but to delineate applications for runs in squares and oblongs on a blank map. These were to be systematically assorted after survey. Confusion arose almost immediately. Mountains, lakes and snow-fields were tentatively
granted to speculators as runs, and “spotting” surveys, 14.15
related neither to one another nor to a common point, proved a fruitful sources of dispute, claim and counter claim.
Edward Gibbon Wakefield had foreseen this very di culty and in his “Art of Colonization” devoted a few lines of warning to the avils of exploration before survey. The explorer, having chosen his spot, could not describe its boundaries to
the government; in most cases, he could not even tell the government where the spot was; for without a map, he could not say it is here or there. Without a map, all he could say is, it is somewhere where I have been, but whereabouts the spot is I cannot tell, except that it is near a river, and not far fromsome hills . . . A good map, the result of a careful survey, is indispensable . . . The sur veys should extend over the whole colony; and at any rate, for all colonies, a very large extent of the waste adjoining every settlement should at all times be keptsurveyed, in order that so wide a liberty of choice should at all times exist.”16
In his diary Goldie painted a picture of confusion which bore out Wakefield’s views. “One gentleman (goes) in search of a run for himself, finds a suitable places, fixes his marks from a certain mountain or stream giving the name of these points or streams himself, then . . . applies to the Westland (sic-waste land) Board for a run and gets it by paying his license. In course of time another . . . does the same, fixing on his point from a certain point eastward to a certain point westward, perhaps one of his points are (sic – is) from the centre or part of the first applicants’ run, thus they have become all locked and intermixed with each other, and I would not be surprised although some by the end will (be) . . . without runs altogether.”17 Infiltration by pastoralists into the country between the di erent lakes and north of the Takitimo mountains made the need for a further Reconnaissance Sur vey urgent. The Provincial Government sympathized with the feelings of the squatters since it had itself felt the need of a map of the country as far as the Southern Alps for purposes of administration. Accordingly it issued an order to the Dunedin Survey Office sanctioning the dispatch of a party to the interior.
J.T. Thomson was nothing18loath to comply with these instructions.
As early as May 1860 he had intimated his intention of carrying out a project of this sort,and in his report for the 19 1860-61 season, provision for a surveyor to carry out this work had been listed as a first priority.
Major Richardson 20the Superintendent of Otago readily gave his consent. “In accordance with the suggestion of the Chief Survey,” he said, “I am desirous that he should in the ensuing season devote the attention of the department to firstly a Reconnaissance Survey of the Waiau and Lake Districts, and if possible of the West Coast.”
Thomson was eager to undertake the task21 and complete the survey he had unfinished in 1856, but multifarious duties and failing health compelled him to entrust it to a subordinate.
All the other members of the staff were 22therefore invited to submit their qualifications for the task. 23
To his surprise James McKerrow was chosen. His satisfaction at receiving the appointment was tempered with di dence as to his ability to overcome the inherent di culties of the assignment.
“I happened to be the junior member of the survey staff at the time,” he wrote many years later, “and was therefore not a little surprised when the Chief of the Department called me into his room one day and said, `You see the blank on the map? I wish you to fill it up. Make ready and proceed as soon as possible. You have `carte blanche’ as to all your arrangements.’”
Thomson24had doubtless been impressed by the initiative, trustworthiness and hardiness already displayed by the young surveyor and it
was these qualities in addition to the essential knowledge of practical astronomy
which McKerrow possessed, that won 25 him this distinction in competition with his more experienced colleagues.
As the blank referred to on the map extended more than 8000 square miles and was known to be characterized by high snow-clad peaks, stormy lakes, dense forests, and uctuating snow-fed mountain torrents, McKerrow’s fears were no mere flights of fancy. Early explorers and squatters had left reliable reports of the conditions which could be expected. A general idea of what he might encounter could be gained from a perusal of the New Zealand Pilot. “A view of the surrounding country
from the summit of one of the mountains bordering on the cost, of from 4000 to 5000 feet elevation, is perhaps one of the most grand and magnificent spectacles it is possible to imagine,” it maintained, “and standing on such an elevation, rising over
the south side of Caswell’s Sound, Cook’s description of the region was forcibly called to mind.
He says - `a prospect more 26 rude and craggy is rarely to be met with, for inland appeared to nothing but the summits of mountains of a stupendous height and consisting of rock that are totally barren and naked, except
where they are covered with snow.’” 27 In addition to the thought of having to scale cheerless and uninviting peaks, knowledge of the depressing numbers of pioneers who yearly met death by drowning, and speculation
on the mysterious fate of Dr. Schmidt must have given 28each explorer food for serious thought. Exploration in Otago was indeed no sinecure. Obstacles of a nature rarely encountered either in Eastern Otago or in the North Island had to be conquered almost daily. Dr. J.R. Elder describes these difficulties thus: “The high alpine chain, that forms the backbone of the island presented a formidable barrier to his who sought to cross from east to west. The search for low passes over which a roadline might be carried, involved long journeys into di cult country, where the bed of the mountain torrent usually presented the only practicable route. The ever present danger was that the creek which presented no obstacle and was easily forded today, might tomorrow owing to sudden rains on the melting of snow on the great divide, become a deep rushing torrent impassable by man or beast. Cut off from supplies amid the desolate mountains the surveyors were often called on the face starvation. Death by drowning was the fate of many who risked the danger of swollen rivers in the endeavour to return to the base for supplies.” 29
A further potential menace, if prevalent and persistent rumours could be believed, was the presence in the remote recesses of fiordland of a truculent renegade Maori tribe, the so called “Lost Tribe” of the Ngatimamoe people.
In deference 30 to the pleas of friends that he should arm himself, McKerrow purchased a gun from Mr. Mills, the well known gunsmith in Stafford Street. Before the sale was legal, the purchased was required to sign a form declaring that his weapon would notreach the hands of natives engaged in the Maori Wars. While
the form authorizing the sale was still in the post, events in Dunedin made the completion of the transaction impossible. “I found the shopkeeper standing at his door with a very long face,” wrote McKerrow recalling the incident, “I said, showing him the authority. `I have come for my gun.’” “He said, `have you not heard what has happened?’” “No, what?” “Some of these rascals from Victoria have cleaned out my place and taken your gun also.” 31 The “rascals from Victoria” were some of the rougher lement among the so called “New Iniquities” who were pouring into the recently discovered goldfields in numbers hat soon reduced the “Old Identities” to the position of a inority group. From this time on Otago gradually lost some of its distinctive pecularities. Locks and keys became necessary,
the former pervading atmosphere of trust became somewhat modified, and imperial troops and an e cient police force replaced, as the guardians of law and order, the two plain-clothes government servants who had found time to engage in sundry duties besides that of keeping the peace. The threat previously used to intimidate runaway seamen, namely that they would be excluded from the jail and a night’s lodging if they overstayed their leave, became no longer practicable. Roads improved, and with this improvement the bullock, slow, independent and invaluable under bad conditions, began to give way to themore active horse. Even the thatched fern tree or clay houses, which had been hastily constructed in the early days when remunerative labour was of primary importance, were being replaced by more stately and pretentious structures. 32
This sudden influx of immigrants on an unprecedented scale threw an even heavier load onto the shoulders of Mr.Thomson and his already overworked staff. “The work of
a surveyor in a new country is very onerous, as he has first to survey lands suitable for immediate settlement of the immigrants and colonists, and then to permanently secure their titles, the former task requiring rapidity of execution, and
the latter practical correctness.”33
“The Surveyor may leisurely proceed with his 36-inch theodolite to measure the various angles of his great triangulation, and may occupy his time in solving . . . interesting geographical problems . . . without a single person feeling the want of his services or being possibly aware of his existence.”
“It is, however, quite another matter where the surveyor is required to deal with naked portions of the earth’s sur face and, with the least possible delay, divide the some into suitable portions for the occupation of the colonists.”34
It was the latter situation which faced the Otago survey staff . Their activities were of such general interest and importance, that they enjoyed a greater amount of limelight than do members of their profession today. Their work was often spectacular and exciting but the chief surveyor was frequently called on at a
moment’s notice to accomplish accurately, simply, and speedily, tasks which were beyond his resources.
Such was the position which Mr. Thomson faced in late 1861. He was expected to arrange for the survey of a huge block of virgin country in such a manner that the subsequent map would be useful in giving the heights of mountains, passes, and of lakes for use in later survey work. It had also to act as a guide for the distribution of pastoral runs and leases, and for the subdivision of the province into districts within natural boundaries for various registration purposes. It had to
be of some assistance in promoting village settlement and road construction, and should also serve as a general and intelligible geographical guide to Government Authorities. Every day’s delay meant that more miners were surging towards unsurveyed
lands.35 The system of survey Thomson finally adopted was almost
identical with that use in 1856-7. In his 1859 report he had written “Requirements . . . numerous and urgent . . . could not be met in a limited period by conforming to the most approved and tardy systems adopted in Land Survey, viz., triangulation and traverse. Considering the above circumstances and the
nature of the country to be submitted for survey, which possessed in every direction prominent features or natural survey stations in the numerous peaks . . . considering also that the requirements of the Board did not demand absolute
minuteness as a foundation to their measures . . . it appeared to me that the system so much had recourse to in Nautical Survey, viz., the ascertaining of di erences of latitude for the basis, and the observation of converging angles for the details, was
admirably suited to compass the objects in view, by its rapidity of execution and correctness of principle.”
From the summit 36 of an initial station, the true position of which was known, the surveyor took bearing with a theodolite to some prominent
objects in the area to be surveyed. The position of these latter could be fixed by plane trigonometry as soon as bearings had been directed from it both back to the initial station and to other points seen previously from the initial station.
Observations of angles were taken at every two to four miles to three or more of the stations in view, and the position of such topographical features as rivers, ridges, and bushes fixed by cross transit and tangent bearings and by rough sketches.
The beauty of this system, employed by McKerrow with only minor variations, lay in the fact that no artifically constructed stations were necessary. In addition, since for its basis the system depended on the distance between objects at the extremities of the operations, any incidental errors decreased as operations contracted from the extensive to the minute.37 Since the survey was being conducted inland, the most immediate and fundamental requirement was the establishment astronomically of the true position of the three initial meridians on which all subsequent observations were to be built.
At 38 each point observations for latitude, longitude, true meridian
and altitude would be necessary. Sextant observations of the circummeridianal altitudes of the sun would readily determine latitudes but the determination oflongitudes presented 39 more di culty. It was decided to calculate them through a comparison of the di erences in time of two chronometers set
to the time of observation Point Port Chalmers, the focal point of the Otago Coast Survey. The method was relatively simple in theory, but in practice it proved difficult. The longitude of a first station is known; also the time at which the sun is at high noon over it. In addition the rate of the sun’s progress East to West is known. If the di erence in the times of high noon at the first station and a second can be measured accurately, it is possible to calculate the distance between the two stations and hence determine the longitude of the second did not fulfil expectations for after a severe jolting from a packhorse picking its way over tortuous mountain track, the chronometers were found to be inaccurate. 40
By December 1861, McKerrow and his three assistants, John Goldie, James Bryce, and Malcolm McLean were ready for their preliminary trip. The region they hoped to explore extended 170 miles from the head of Lake Wanaka in the north to Sandhill Point in the South and varied in width between the outposts of former surveys in the East and the watershed of the est Coast. In all, it embraced over 4,000,000 acres. 41
On the 11th of the month the party packed their baggageand turned to the north. Three packhorses swayed under bulky loads made up of provisions, a tent, oilskins, blankets, clothes, a barometer, a thermometer, an ar tificial horizon, a
prismatic compass and a theodolite. Everything except the 42 indispensable necessities for the trip were pruned from the load. The only cooking utensils carried consisted of two billycans and a frying pan. Even the o er of a six-barrelled revolver for defence purposes was refused, and it was decided to rely on
improvised means rather than firearms for stocking the larder with game.
The start was inauspicious and provided the party with a foretaste of the trials they could expect. Three weeks had been spent waiting for a glimpse of the sun in order to set the chronometers, but before more than a few miles had been covered
one of the instruments was found to have stopped, and it was 44 necessary to return to Dunedin in order to regulate it. 45
After this experience particular care was taken in carr ying the chronometers. They were carried by hand for five hundred miles, but the attempt to keep them steady while traversing 46 rugged country was doomed to failure. The daily comparison of the two instruments showed that not only was there a discrepancy in time, but that this discrepancy varied a second or two from day to day.47 Conditions at the outset were wretched.
Two of the horses 48 shed shoes on the first day, a pack saddle broke on the second, and drizzling or torrential rain soaked the party all the way to
Waikouaiti. From there, provisioned and with the horses re-shod, they made their way up the Shag Valley to the parched and rocky hills at the head of Taieri Lake. Here they pitched camp for a night before tackling the scattered low-lying ridges
and muddy creeks of the Strath Taieri Plain. The Ida Valley plain was still before them. They crossed it the same day and pitched camp on the bank of the Manuherikia River. The nearby plain was interlaced by a number of streams issuing from the rugged
sides of the nearby Dunstan Range, and Christmas Day being foggy, it was decided to utilize it in shifting camp nearer thebase of this formidable mountain barrier. On Boxing Day they scaled the double range successfully although not without a
great deal of di culty. The task of leading the packhorses down through the loose shingle on the steep western side was one requiring great care and resourcefulness. That night camp was made at the Lindis Burn. In the morning McKerrow went in seach of a suitable hill for his first meridian. He considered Lindis Peak, a high peaked
knoll situated about one mile north-west of the junction of the Clutha and the Lindis, but came to the conclusion that it would be too di cult to climb while carrying a chronometer. Further search revealed no more prominent landmarks however, and he fixed on Lindis Peak for his purposes. While McKerrow himself was engaged in taking observations for time and latitude, and in referring bearings for tr ue meridian to the highest peaks towards Wanaka and the Southwest, John Goldie went up the Lindis River to secure stores and a shovel from McLean and Gibson’s store. The Lindis district had been the first Otago Goldfield, although by this time its glory had faded and all its inhabitants save the storekeeper had abandoned it to seeking
the red metal in the more recently discovered Tirapeka fields.
It was decided to spend a day prospecting. Pieces of quartz indicated the presence of the precious metal but the party was composed of sur veyors, not miners, and they were without the tools necessary to prevent water fro ooding the holes they had sunk in the river bank. Thus all e orts were fruitless.
The last day of 1861 was spent constructing a large and conspicuous mound over the spot from which the observations had been taken.
On New Year’s day 1862 and with the position of the first of three meridians satisfactorily determined, tracks were made for the Clutha River. Dwarfed by Mt. Dunstan to the rear, seven or eight snow-clad mountains in front, and a high peak
towering on either side, the party crept humbly westward along the river valley, its members awed by the majesty of the scene and fully conscious of their own insignificance. The same night they reached a point opposite Wilkins’ station and took the opportunity to cross the Clutha in a punt. At this point the river was swift and turbulent ood as it surged from nearby lakes, and fording it was out of the question. From Wilkins’ station they forged up the bed of the Cardrona River. Near its source the river became so narrow that tracks had to be dug so that the horses could edge their bulky loads between the rocks and scramble up on to the Crown
Ridge. They struggled along the ridge, heartened by the sight of Lake Wakatipu in the distance, and turn down to the terraces while still a mile short of the Crown.
Tracks had to be dug so that the horses could edge their bulky loads between the rocks and scramble up on to the Crown Ridge. They struggled along the ridge, heartened by the sight of Lake Wakatipu in the distance, and turn down to the terraces while still a mile short of the Crown.
A shepherd living in a hut beside Lake Hayes gave McKerrow detailed directions how to
ford the Shotover, and enabled the party to press on without delay over a well grassed plain to Mr. W.G. Rees’ station. There McKerrow took the opportunity to dispatch a batch of letters and reports to Dunedin.
On Monday the 6th January the horses were turned loose, and the survey party rowed fifteen miles over the lake to Von Tunzelman’s station. The station was deserted, so while McKerrow, Bryce and McLean established the second meridian on Mt. Nicholas, a peak to the south-west commanding an extensive view, Goldie pushed on to White’s station to borrow a packhorse. There he drew another blank – there was not
even a horse in sight; but on his return journey he succeeded in driving before him two horses which were subsequently identified as belonging to Von Tunzelman. Hardly had the horses been secured when they snapped their others and made for the hills. Meanwhile Van Tunzelman had returned home in time to join Goldie and Bryce in an unsuccessful hide-and-seek with the horses. McKerrow and Goldie soon completed their observations and were ready to move on to White’s. The search for the horses
was therefore abandoned, and swags containing blankets and provisions made up. Conditions were wretched and swags heavy, but the trampers still found time to admire the never-ending sea of deep green waving birch trees growing in gravel beyond the Oreti River. Mr. White offered McKerrow the loan of a mare as far as Hamilton’s, and subsequently Mr. Hamilton agreed to lend the party a horse for the journey to Hankinson’s. The latter beast proved to be particularly intractable and
not till she had broken a bullock hide bridle, attempted to rid herself of her pack, and rolled McKerrow on the ground, did she submit to some timely attery and the inevitable tether rope. The route now led up the Mararoa Valley, and the realization
of his proximity to Lake Te Anau, already sighted from Bald Hill near Hamilton’s, prompted McKerrow to veer northward to Mt. Prospect, the only peak near the lake at all suitable for a meridian. The peak proved admirable in many respects, but as
it was too near to Mt. Nicholas, it was resolved to carry on to Hankinson’s station. Hankinson had no boat, and could not suggest how one might be procured, but he gave McKerrow a pen and ink sketch of the district drawn by his brother. He suggested that Mt. York, picturesquely situated on the right bank of the Mararoa near its junction to the Whitestone Creek, might be a suitable meridian. If it was then it would not be necessary to use a boat in looking for a peak. The following day McKerrow walked as far as Mt. York, viewed it without making the ascent, and
arrived back at the camp wet, weary and ragged after the thir ty mile journey, through charred scrub. He had found that Mt.York, although small in comparison with neighbouring peaks, commanded an extensive panorama of rugged and barren
mountains as far as snow capped “Whitehead” on the West side of Lake Te Anau. Next day the whole party moved immediately to Mt. York, and spent three days there securing observations and building a cairn.
On January 21, 1862, provisions were secured from the st Gillow brothers’ station, and the little party headed back up the fertile Mararoa Valley. They spent a night in one of Von Tunzelman’s huts eleven miles from Lake Wakatipu, and those eleven miles to Von Tunzelman’s station were covered in such torrential rain that any halt for obser vations at Mt. Nicholas was clearly out of the question.
At Von Tunzelman’s a fortuitous meeting with Rees’ boatman obviated the necessity for lighting the beacon fire, the signal to Rees that transport was required. McKerrow had no intention of crossing the lake immediately however, always a
stickler for precision he was perturbed at the daily variation of the chronometers, and had decided to check the instruments t the two meridians he would pass on the homeward journey.
It became apparent that one chronometer was fast but losing ime and the other was slow but gaining. The former varied to more limited extent, however, and it alone was considered eliable enough for use in determining the differences in ongitude between meridians. 49
The heavy rain of the previous day had resulted in creeks nd rivers being swollen with oodwaters, and it was found o be impossible to reach Mt. Nicholas on foot. The di culty as overcome by Rees’s boatman rowing McKerrow cross the on River and giving him an opportunity to complete his bservations on Mt. Nicholas in brilliant sunshine. The party hen bade farewell to Von Tunzelman and made for Rees Station.
Lingering there only long enough to secure the packhorses nd to procure stores, they set out for the base of the Crown ange. They crossed the Range in the almost unendurable heat of a Central Otago day, and the sun continued to beat
down mercilessly while the weary travelers retraced their steps down the Cardrona, down the Clutha, and on to Lindis Peak. Everyone was anxious to secure the necessary observations at Lindis Peak and to pursue a rapid course homewards, but the
sun was perversity itself and refused for two days to oblige with its presence. Goldie took advantage of the delay to secure provisions from the Lindis, its population now increased to five by the addition of four goldminers. He and Bryce then took the horses to the junction of the Clutha and Lindis Rivers and awaited the arrival of McKerrow and McLean. All the observations on the meridians were completed and the party pushed on with all possible haste. They followed the Clutha for four miles, then turned eastward on to one of the ridges of Mt. Dunstan. Under a broiling sun which fatigued both man and beast to the point of exhaustion they crossed the rugged Dunstan Range and set out over the upper Strath Taieri plain. The Shang Valley, Waikouaiti and Blueskin village were swiftly left behind as the men hurried over the last lap of their 500-mile journey. From Blueskin, Goldie pushed on over the bushtrack to Dunedin with the packhorses and a batch of letters, but the other members of the party had to spend two days taking observations at Port Chalmers before they could look for ward to obser vations for time on Bell Hill Dunedin,
and the completion of the first Reconnaissance Sur vey. That date was February 1, 1862.
In the report presented six days later for the scrutiny of Mr. Thomson, a strictly objective account of observations was set out.
“Although the chronometers were carried with the 50 utmost care, all the observations obtained with a clear sky, and the rates frequently verified,” wrote McKerrow, “I would not claim any higher value for the longitudinal determinations
than a near approximation; for the chronometers were always a ected more or less when carried over high elevations. This may be attributed to the zig-zag course one has to take at some places and also to the change of temperature. The uniformity of
rate for di erent intervals, and the comparatively small change of rate when it did take place, show that compensation of errors takes place to some extent, but still there will be some error remaining which cannot be eliminated until the chronometers
can be got to act independently of such in uences . . . The observations for latitude and true meridian were taken undergood circumstances. To obtain a clear sky I had to wait several days at each meridian – the weather being broken and clouded
throughout.” 51 The three meridians which were to form the foundations of the survey system, had been determined; the more laborious
task of filling in the details lay ahead. This preliminary survey was valuable experience for Goldie, Bryce and McKerrow. During its course they not only
gained valuable geographical information but learned to adapt
themselves to the life of the wide open spaces. They learned to bake dough, in a hollow in the ground beneath the hot ashes of a scrub fire. “The result called damper was not very sightly, but it passed for good bread when there was nothing better. A baking of damper would sometimes last three weeks, so that in
such a case one’s digestion was not impaired by eating newly baked bread.”52 They also learned to trap the inquisitive and pugnacious“weka” by persuading him that a red rag bobbing on the end of a stick and accompanied by a chirping noise was a challenge to combat; a foolhardy misconception which led him immediately into a noose and ultimately into a stew. The weka was soon discovered to be an astute pilferer, although not soon enough to prevent the disappearance of the camp cutlery. Despite this universal tendency, the species held a warm place in McKerrow’s heart, and he considered it a matter for regret that poisoning and ferrets were gradually leading to their extermination.
Thirty years after his Reconnaissance Surveys he stated that “Even now when I hear their well known cry as they go home in the gloaming, it carries my thoughts back with gratitude to savoury stews, that did not require any sauce to make them
Prolonged absence from their homes and the accepted amenities of town life had accustomed the surveyors to a simpler scheme of things, and on their return home they were forcibly struck by the contrast.
I was just as well that they had 54 no nostalgia for comfort; ten months of the next fifteen were destined to be spent under canvas.
1. Beattie, H., Pioneer Recollections, Vol. I, P. 13
2. Gilkison, R., Early Days in Central Otago, P. 25
3. McClymont, P. 125. Beattie, H., op cit., Pp. 195-6.
4. Beattie, H. Pioneer Recollections, Vol. II, P. 47.
5. Ibid, Pp. 155-159 being letters of D. Hay to D.A. Cameron
6. Beattie, H., op cit. Pp. 187-190 – letters from Mr. Young
7. Hassing, G.M., Pages from the Memory Log of G.M. Hassing, P. 32.
8. Von Tunzelman, N., Struggles of a pioneer in the Lake Wakatipu
District, MSS., Hocken Library, Dunedin
9. McClymont, W.G. op cit. Pp. 127-9.
10. McKerrow, J., Diary, Account of talk with D. McKellar in 1863, see
11. Hocken, op cit, P. 168.
12. Palmer, Major, State of Surveys in New Zealand, App. H. of R., 1875,
13. McKerrow, J., Letter to Hocken, 20th May, 1907, Hocken Library
15. Mr. J.T. Thomson condemned “spotting” surveys in practically every
16. Wakefield, E.G., “A Letter from Sydney and other Writings.” (Everyman
Edition) P. 245
17. Goldie, J., Diary of First Tour in New Zealand. M.S.S. in Hocken
18. McKerrow, J., Reminiscences, P. 15
19. Otago Witness, 26 May, 1860
20. Otago Prov. Gaz. Vol. IV, 11 Nov. 1861, P 262
21. Otago Prov. Gaz. Vol. IV, 26 June 1861, P. 222
22. McKerrow’s letter to Hocken
23. Kilmarnock Standard, 22 Aug. 1903
24. Reminiscences, P. 15
25. Kilmarnock Standard, 22 Aug. 1903
26. Otago Prov. Gaz. Vol. III, 22 Sept. 1859, P. 282
27. Cook, Captain James, A Voyage towards the South Pole, Vol. I, P. 96.
28. App. V. & P. Otago Prov. Council, Vol. I, Session II, 1855, Pp. 96-100.
Dr. Schmidt set out in 1855 to carry out a lengthy exploratory trip in
Otago, but disappeared somewhere in the Catlins Bush. His fate is
unknown to this day.
29. Elder, J.R., The Pioneer Explorers of New Zealand, Pp. 33-4.
30. The belief in the existence of a renegade tribe persisted as late as 1930.
Beattie, H., The Southern Maori, O.D.T. 20/9/30, 15/11/30, 7/4/31.
Southland Times, 21/10/30, 23/20/30, 29/10/30, 30/10/30
31. McKerrow, J., Reminiscences, P. 16, M.S.S. (Punctuation slightly altered)
32. McKerrow, J., Reminiscences, M.S.S. Pp. 11-13.
33. Jourdain, W.R., History of Land Legislation and Settlement in New
Zealand, P. 200
34. Connell, J.S., On New Zealand Surveys, App. Trans., N.Z. Institute,
1875, P. XXVIII.
35. Palmer, Major. State of Surveys in New Zealand. App., H. of R. H1.
1875, P. 22
36. Thomson, J.T., Report, Otago Prov. Gaz. Vol. III. Sept. 22, 1859, Pp.
38. McKerrow J., Reminiscences, M.S.S. and McKerrow, J., Letter to Dr.
39. If at noon on a particular day, an observer measures by sextant the
distance in degrees of the sun above the horizon, he can immediately
ascertain his latitude by consulting the appropriate table in the Nautical
40. McKerrow J., Survey Report, Otago Prov. Gaz. Vol. V July 23, 1862
41. McKerrow, J., Letter to Hocken
42. Goldie, J., Diary of Town in N.Z., M.S.S. Hocken Library, Dunedin.
Artificial Horizon. At sea level the altitude of a celestial body is
determined by measuring the vertical angle between it and the visible
horizon. In hilly country this is impossible and an artificial horizon is
employed. It consists of a trough of mercury protected by two glass
plates inclined at 45o. The surface of the liquid adjusts itself so as to
form a minor. Re ection is the basis of the method
43. McKerrow, J., Reminiscences, M.S.S.
44. Goldie, J., Ibid.
45. McKerrow, J., Diary of Explorations in N.Z., M.S.S. – the property of
Mr. J.A.D. Ritchie, Wellington
46. McKerrow, J., Reminiscences
47. Report, Otago Prov. Gaz., Vol. V, 23 July, 1862, Pp. 11-12.
48. Unless expressly stated otherwise, information on this first
Reconnaissance Survey is drawn from two parallel sources, the first
being McKerrow’s own diary, and the second the diary of Goldie his
49. Report, Otago Prov. Gaz., Vol. V. 23rd July, 1862, Pp. 11-12
50. Report, Otago Prov. Gaz. Vol. V, 23 July, 1862, Pp. 11-12.
51. Report, Otago Prov. Gaz. Vol. V, 23 July, 1862, Pp. 11-12
52. McKerrow, Reminiscences
53. McKerrow, Reminiscences