Thursday, 5 March 2009


Chapter IV

In his report on the first Reconnaissance Survey McKerrow wrote – “I will now proceed to the Wakatip(u) Lake, and direct my attention to the survey of the country between it and the Wanaka Lake. How much I may accomplish before the end of the season, I cannot estimate, as the country there seems to be almost inaccessible and the work is new to me: I shall push forward as much as I possibly can.”
Despite his 1 own misgivings as to the accuracy of the initial observations, 2 McKerrow evidently satisfied Thomson that the work had been competently carried out, and he was instructed to carr y on with a more detailed Reconnaissance Survey.
James McKerrow

On Monday, February 17th , 1862, only six days after the completion of their first journey, Goldie and Bryce loaded up two packhorses and set out for Lake Wakatipu. Two days later McKerrow over took them in the Shag Valley. The route from there to Lindis Pass was practically identical with that used on the previous trip. On this occasion however, they managed to find a much easier path over the Dunstan Range and were able to make Lindis Peak in good time. They made use of this peak to fix points towards Wanaka and Hawea, then crossed the Clutha in Wilkins’ boat and pushed on to Roy’s. The manager of the latter station agreed to supply them with provisions, although he did so with extreme reluctance and only after McKerrow as leader of the party had made personal representations. 3

The Second Reconnaissance Survey had not yet opened up fresh regions to the party, but when they turned westward (45)and began coasting round the shores of Lake Wanaka, new and impressive vistas were constantly being revealed.

They turned westward and began coasting round the shores of Lake Wanaka, new and impressive vistas were constantly being revealed.

Unfortunately fog tended to disrupt the work, to limit the visibility, and to mar the view. At the outlet of the Motatapu, McKerrow decided to follow this river to its source. He forced his way up the rugged valley, fixed the position of the river, then turned up the Matukituki. The latter was low at the time, and no di cultywas experience in fording it although it was found necessary to eep a keen look out for quicksands.Ascents of the mountains overlooking the river were interrupted again and again by drizzling rains and thick blankets of fog. On one occasion McKerrow and Goldie discovered that one of the tethered horses was missing, and its more faithful companion subsequently shied, chucking its double burden to the ground and bolted. Even a successful ascent was often accompanied by unpleasantconditions. Goldie described one in detail. “For the first two hundreds yards or so, we had to creep on our hands and knees if not serpent like on our bellies, from the bank of the river till we gained the foot of the mountain through among thick growing high overtopping scrub, then we had to scramble up a pile of steep rugged rocks, clinging to some jutting piece of rock, the roots of some scrubby bush or anything that would favour us with assistance, halting now and again in an eerie swither, whether to proceed or return. Then again we would be weltering amongstthick scrub . . . Again you will find us pulling ourselves up some almost perpendicular rock, thus alternately we proceeded from scrub to rock, till we gained the more open ground, where we were able to walk half bent to the top . . . Mr. McKerrow fell from a rock several feet high . . . fortunately after a little faintness he felt himself little hurt.” As compensation for this effort, Goldie and McKerrow were rewarded with a magnificent view of rugged ranges studied with lofty snow capped peaks.

As the party pushed up the Matukituki to the point where its two branches sidle round the foothills of Mt. Aspiring, it became apparent to them that it would be certainly unprofitable and most likely impossible to find a path to the west over the frozen slopes of 10,000 foot Aspiring and her satellite peaks.

Through the telescope they could discern glaciers hanging precariously to the flanks of these glistening mountain giants. As the party pushed up the Matukituki to the point where its two branches sidle round the foothills of Mt. Aspiring, it became apparent to them that it would be certainly unprofitable and most likely impossible to find a path to the west over the frozen slopes of 10,000 foot Aspiring and her satellite peaks. Instead, it was decided to follow each branch of the river in turn; the south-west first. “At some places,” wrote McKerrow, “the water forces its way through a narrow gorge between two opposing precipices, at others and especially at the many rapids on the course it dashes impetuously through amidst the huge boulders that oppose its progress.” The scenery up the branch rising north of Aspiring was also strikingly picturesque, but it was restricted by perpendicular cliffs rising almost sheer from either side of the river bed. These formidable varriers dissuaded the explorers from probing further afield. They were en foot now, for under the circumstances ahorse would merely have been an encumbrance.

“I can assure you that the scenery here in its native grandeur was beyond anything I have ever seen for beauty,” wrote Goldie.“Each side was clothed with deep green waving birch trees, . . . here and there were to be seen splendid waterfalls, teeming
their water rainbow-like over some rocks . . . of several hundred feet in height high up on the mountain side, while many others were to be seen whose waters tumbled from one high rock to another dashing themselves into foam and mist-like spray . .. I myself regretted not a little at not being able to handle a pencil.” McKerrow was similarly enchanted. “The thunder of the avalanche is frequently heard and its over whelming forcedisplayed in its ruthless track left through the forest where remains of great trees lie torn and snapped into matchwood! Glacier Dome and Mount Aspiring enthroned amid perpetual snow and ice, bid defiance to the sun and forbid the approach of the beholder, who is spellbound, impressed with awe and
veneration at the stupendous forces of nature.”
“The Glaciers 4 pour down from the precipices that support them, every form and variety of cataract and cascade. The eye at one view may
see the waters bounding in sportive mood from crag to crag, as if eager to anticipate the more genial clime that awaits it, at another curling up like smoke as if appalled at the awful abyss that yawns below.” 5
They trudged past the last known cutpost of European exploration and found themselves further up the river and further west than any of their venturesome predecessors. As the ountry ahead appeared to be useless for cultivation and in any
case was within the borders of Canterbury, McKerrow decided ot to follow the river to its source. Itwas a comparatively easy task to make tracks back to the lake, and to push round the shore as far as Stuart Kinrees and Co's Station, but from that point onwards the waters of the lake lapped on to heavily weeded and irregular peninsulas, and numerous mountain spurs terminated abruptly in dangerous,
precipitous ridges. A beat was essential. McKerrow had been promised one sometime previously by the manager of the station, but it had not yet arrived from the head of the lake. In the meantime he occupied himself by determining the position
of the lake, and in comparing his findings with these secured two years previously by the Canterbury sur veyors Jollie and Young. It appeared to McKerrow, (and a comparison of the two maps confirms his belief ) that Jollie and Young had sadly
distorted the outline of the lake.

Only a limited amount of work could be carried out without a boat, and it was a profound relief to McKerrow when it arrived and enabled him to continue with his observations further north. He pursued a zigzag course up the lake, and from
the peaks which rose high above either shore, took observations to other mountains, to bays, or to various landmarks in the Hawea and north-west regions. From the isthmus separating Lakes Hawea and Wanaka he finally determined the position
of the latter lake, then extended bearings to Hawea from the same point. From the upper end of Lake Wanaka and for many miles northward, there extended a long, narrow alley, fringed by rough scr ub and dominated by birth-covered hills and snow-
topped ranges. Through the valley the Makarora River flowed down to Lake Wanaka.

Through the valley the Makarora River flowed down to Lake Wanaka.

It had been McKerrow’s fer vent desire to spend a few days searching for the Maori track which was reputed to lead from Wanaka to the West Coast; a track of mystery and romantic allure to the pakeha, one of imper fectly recalled historical associations to the Maori. The discovery of such a route was one of the objectives of the expedition.

“The West Coast still remains a terra incognita,” Thomson had written. “It would be well to have the mysteries of the locality cleared up and its resources made known.”
The long valley and 6 broken ranges suggested a track, but the eye could pick out no opening in the confusion of forest, snow, and rock, stretching
thirty miles into the distance.

It was the 20th of April and snowstorms could be expected before the survey was finished. Rather reluctantly McKerrow turned his back on the Makarora valley, leaving the elusive pass for others to conquer.
His interest in the pass did not ag 7 however, and at several of the nearby stations he set enquiries on foot. When the sur vey was completed McKerrow received a letter from Mr. Hopwood, the manager of the station of the
station of Lake Hawea. In it some light was thrown on the Maori use of the track. It appeared that a Maori from Noeraki had been paying a visit to Hawea to show a youthful companion the traditional route used in procuring eels and woodhens from
the West Coast. For Hopwod’s benefit the native described theroute from the lower end of Hawea over the range to the head of Wanaka, and from there ten miles up the Makarora to a place where a large Totara grew. Here the party had split. The
narrator had remained there catching eels until his companions returned eight days later. Hopwood had some faith in the tale, for the native was evidently well acquainted with the lake and the tracks around it. 8

It was too risky to venture a oat in a cockleshell boat during the prevailing story weather, and for two days the surveying party kicked their heels at the top of the lake. Then the wind dropped and they rowed down to Kinross’s station in
a at calm. Here they left the boat, took in supplies, recovered their horses, and set out for Roys. At Roys they borrowed fresh horses, but the additional beasts often proved more of a liability than an asset, and their nightly habit of breaking their tethers and bolting kept Goldie busy tramping in pursuit for half a day
at a time. The party next turned southwards, crossed the Cardrona
and followed down the right bank of the Clutha. McKerrow sent the men on to the junction of the Clutha and the Lindis while he continued with his work, but when later the same night be attempted to find their camp, he by-passed it in the
dark and was forced to spend a chilly night in the open with a free as his only shelter. In the morning he heard shouts and was able to rejoin his companions. Downstream they went, taking bearings to Lindis Peak and Trig Hill from all the
Clutha’s tributaries up to and including the Kawarau. When McKerrow had determined the course of the Clutha to his own satisfaction, tracks were made for the outlet of the Cardrona and Wilkins’ station.
At Wilkins’ they left a batch of mail for delivery to Dunedin, then crossed over the Wanaka branch of the Clutha to the fertile run lying between Wanaka and Hawea. From Mt. Brown which lay nearby, McKerrow took observations to the bends of the Hawea River and to the east side of the Wanaka Peninsula.

Later he climbed Mt. Moude and took a set of observations to Hawea and its encircling mountains, and to Quartz Creek. At this latter spot McKerrow met an experienced miner who had been fortunate enough to strike gold. After he had dug thirteen feet, water seeping in had stopped him, but in the spring he
intended to exploit the claim with suitable equipment. This discovery was duly reported to Mr. Thomson. 9

On the 9th of May the survey of Lake Hawea began. After fording the Hawea branch of the Clutha, McKerrow determined its course, then extended bearings from Mt. Maude forward to other land marks. From the south side of the lake campwas shifted round the shore of the lake as far as Jones’ lower station. The place was deserted; even worse, there was no boat. McKerrow and Goldie decided to scramble along the side of the lake as far as Jones’ upper station, and set out prepared to spend several nights in the open. They had covered only four miles however, when they sighted four sawyers rowing down the lake. Both McKerrow and Goldie shouted at the top of their voices, and noted with satisfaction that the sawyers had seen them and were drawing in to the bank. It was the sur veyors’ lucky day, for two miles further on impassable precipices rose perpendicularly from the lake-side. After some discussion the sawyers agreed to row Goldie and McKerrow round the precipices and to set them ashore near a hut occupied by a contractor engaged in blasting out a bridle-track for stock. From that point it would be possible to reach their destination on foot. This course was adopted and eventually the surveyors reached Jones’ upper station. Mr. Hopwood the manager of the station at once lent them a boat, and for two days they rowed up and down the lake taking observations. It was not found necessary to proceed far up the Hunter River since for the most part it lay in Canterbury, and on the 17th May Hopwood rowed Goldie and McKerrow down to the bottom of the lake.

Dunedin was the next objective.
McKerrow had a high regard for those enterprising runholders who were prepared to risk their capital and spend their time on country which would not pay its way for many years. Sheep and shepherds were exposed to the dangers of 10
mountains and gorge, a full muster for shearing was merely a pipe-dream, communications and the shipping of stock were of necessity by water till a bridle-track could be blasted through, valuable cattle land could not be utilized; and in spite of it all hardy pioneers took up runs and, what is more, overcame all di culties with indomitable courage and astonishingingenuity.

The travelers had turned for home none too soon. Warm sunshine prevailed as far as the Dunstan Range, and as there was no vestige of snow on its slopes, the sur veyors elected to camp for a couple of days on the western side. This decision was instantly reversed in the morning when the dawn revealed the countryside thickly mantled with snow. The snow was still falling thickly and continuously, and if the Dunstan Range was to be crossed before conditions deteriorated too far, there was no
time to be lost. The horses were packed, camp was struck, and then began the long weary trudge up one of the valleys leading to the summit. That night, the horses, hungry and without anything to chew, stood hobbled outside the tent in biting frost
and falling snow. Inside, three surveyors lay and shivered on six inches of snow. Before the horses could be saddled next day, frozen snow was scraped from their backs, and they were led up and down until body heat and sweat melted the foot-long circles which hung from their bellies. Shivering in the chill wind the miserable little procession plunged in Indian file through knee-deep snow. Each man took his turn at leading; then returned exhausted to the rear. At times, great balls of snow formed on the horses’ feet and caused them to stumble and fall. Each one of the party had the private fear that their tracks had led up apromising spur only to peter out in an impassable ridge, and it was a welcome relief when the curtain of snow lefted and the Maniototo and Manuherikia Plains burst into view. 11
That night camp was pitched in scrub which provided fuel for a miserable fire and some slight nourishment for the ravenous pack-horses. The following morning McKerrow took a horse and pushed on alone. The unexpected depth of the snow on the plains impeded his progress more than he had anticipated, and at dusk there was no sign of the shepherd’s hut in which he had intended to spend the night. Just when he was pondering on the unpleasant prospect of a night in the open, he saw the smoke of a chimney, and a figure silhouetted against the doorway of a hut. The down-and-out miner who greeted McKerrow invited him in for the night and supplied him with a sheepskin to cut hobbles for the horse, since it was unlikely that the animal would prefer the bleak environment of the hut to shelter and the company of his companions. At daybreak McKerrow set out on another lap of his journey to Dunedin. Two days later, amidst the convenient shades of a winter evening, a very weary and ragged horseman rode into Dunedin and on to his cosy little home in Forth Street Pelichet Bay.

For James McKerrow the second Reconnaissance Survey 12 was at an end. Goldie and Bryce spent three days camped on snow and a further two delayed by rain before they were able to slog their way through mud tracks to Dunedin. They arrive there on the 30th of May, 1862, after an absence of nearly four months. 13
McKerrow set to work immediately to compile a report and to produce a map of the area he had covered. A preliminary report was handed to Mr. Thomson before the end of June. 14 In it McKerrow gave a brief account of the method of survey he had adopted. “A base of three miles was . . . measured on the terrace between the Wanaka Lake and the Cardrona River; from the ends of his base, and with the true bearings brought forward from Lindis Peak, several triangles with sides of from three to six miles were forced – these again, when completed, served in their turn as new bases for triangles, greater or less according to the position of the mountain peaks. In this manner about 1000 square miles of countr y have been gone over . . .
The three angles of each triangle in the middle of the survey were observed; in case where it was only possible to observe the two angles of a triangle a bearing from a third position ser ved as a check.” 15
The report then went on to describe the physical features of the area surveyed and in particular the character and surroundings of the streams and rivers. For example, the Matukituki’s uctuations were ascribed to its glacial origin, the volume of melted show in the river depending on the heat of the day. Of Wanaka he stated that “with its many peninsulas and sinuosities, it yields to the passing gaze panoramic views unsurpassed . . . by the far famed Loch Lomond of Scotland.”
A brief note on the reputed Maori track followed. The report then went on to discuss the evidence suggesting that Hawea, Wanaka and the terraces of the Clutha had at one time all been under one large lake until an earthquake had cut a passage for the Clutha through the Dunstan Range. Another possibility, it pointed out, was that a swift current had worn away the river bed in the rock. The investigation of such a problem could well be left to the Geological Survey.

The complete report,written by the 9th of July 1862, was 16 lengthy without being in any way verbose or irrelevant. It gave a precise summary of the physical characteristics of the country the party had covered. Of the 1829 square miles surveyed, 940 square miles were considered suitable for pastoral purposes.
The balance of the land in Otago consisted of 40 square miles of forest, 180 of lake and 326 of barren ground. The part of Canterbury surveyed was practically all barren.
The permanent snowline, based on frequent observations of 7838 foot Mt. Alta was estimated at about 8000 feet, but observations to glaciers on Mt. Alta and Mt. Aspiring indicated that the permanent glacier level was considerably lower. The source, course and characteristics of the main snow fed rivers such as the Matukituki, the Makarora, the Hunger,the Motatapu, the Dingle and the Timaru were described in appropriate detail, and the contention that their waters varied with the melting of the snow was substantiated by reports of flood marks around the lakes. The lakes McKerrow suggested appeared to act as reservoirs in conserving ood waters and in controlling the ow of the Clutha. Without the lakes, the mighty Clutha might well have been an intermittent torrent.
Some space was devoted to a discussion of the agricultural and pastoral potentialities of the various districts, and a concise and illuminating summary of the details was set out. Another valuable section dealt with di culties which could be anticipated in gaining access to these areas. In McKerrow’s opinion part of
the Clutha Valley would grow cereals and vegetables, although the absence of suitable timber for fence-posts might prove a drawback for farm purposes. The last section of general interest discussed the all important question of communications. McKerrow pointed out that the only overland route to the interior suitable for dray was through the Lindis Pass, but that this track, like the bridle tracks over the Dunstan Range and Crown Ridge, was generally impassable for a few weeks every winter. Even at the best of times drays could be taken no further than the junction of the Wanaka and Hawea Rivers. There their contents had to be transferred to ferries. It was possible to cross the Clutha on horseback at certain times of the year, but in the meantime the upper reaches of Wanaka and Hawea were accessible only by boat.
Short paragraphs on nomenclature and gold discovery concluded the narrative section of the report, but appended to it was a list of the heights of the mountains, a summary of the different classes of land and a day to day record of the 17.18 weather conditions, together with barometer and thermometer readings.
The report was published in the Otago Provincial Gazette.
Its importance can scarcely be overemphasized. For the first time squatters had a reliable and comprehensive description of the upper Clutha Valley. They could venture forth secure in the knowledge that no hostile natives would molest them and
that the land they had bought in Dunedin would be clearly delineated on an o cial map. No land piracy was possible. McKerrow was not feted in any way for his work, but J.T. Thomson, a taciturn Northumbrian inclined to be frugal in his praise, realized that his trust in McKerrow’s ability had not been misplaced. “The service was one of the great delicacy and diffculty” he maintained, “and having being satisfactorily accomplished by that officer, (i.e. McKerrow) much credit is due to him.” 19
For the year of these operations was £805.3.2, and the price per acre of the Reconnaissance Survey worked out at a penny to a penny halfpenny per acre. For a service which fixed the 20 positions of pastoral runs, district boundaries, tracks and routes acquainted the public with the fertility of Central and north-Western Otago and brought large sums rolling into the coffers of the Provincial Council, it was money well spent.

1. Report. Otago Prov. Gaz., Vol. IV, 23 July 1862, Pp. 11-12.
2. Ibid
3. Unless stated to the contrary, the description of this journey is taken from the diaries of Goldie and McKerrow. Fixing the position of the Cardrona river and its tributaries. From the Pisa Range bearings were carried west to the Kawarau River. “It is a river worthy of no small admiration,” wrote Goldie . . . Its principal attraction consists in this that it passes through so many narrow and rocky gorges churning its waters into foam, places that at a short distance from them, one would think you could step over them . . . if its equal was in the old
country many a pleasure party would be witnessed on its banks.” From the Kawarau they retraced their steps up the Cardrona valley to the fertile strip of land at the outlet of the Cardrona River. On the way the observations were taken during winds of gale force, and it was found necessary to improvise additional supports for the theodolite.
4. McKerrow’s letter to Hocken
5. McKerrow’s diary
6. Report by J.T. Thomson, Otago Prov Gaz. Vol. V, 26th Nov. 1862 P.206
7. Report by McKerrow, O.D.T., 28th June, 1862
8. M.S.S. Letter from Hopwood to McKerrow – in back of field book No. 127, Dunedin Survey O ce.
9. Report Otago Prov. Gaz. Vol. V, 23rd July, 1862, P. 16.
10. Report, Otago Prov. Gaz., Vol. V, 23rd July, 1862, P. 15. McKerrow’s diary for this trip breaks o on the 15th of May on which date he was still engaged in surveying Lake Hawea. Goldie’s diary is complete however, and part of the journey back to Dunedin is described in McKerrow’s “Reminiscences.”
11. McKerrow’s Reminiscences
12. Ibid. – I have it on the authority of the Misses Todd that Mrs. McKerrow lived at “Burnside” in Halfway Bush during the surveys.
The Todds lived next door. I cannot explain McKerrow’s reference to his home being in Pelichet Bay
13. Goldie’s Diary
14. Report, O.D.T., 28th June, 1862.
15. Ibid
16. Report, Otago Prov. Gaz. Vol. V, 28th July, 1862, Pp. 12-16
17. See Appendix E
18. See Appendix F
19. Report, V. & P. Otago Prov. Council, Departmental Reports, Session
XIX 186 Z, P. 2
20. Otago Prov. Gaz. Vol.V, 26th November, 1862, P. 208


Eli_The_Moose said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Danilo Hegg said...

Hi Bob,

Great blog that you've put together here! I've recently been doing much research on place names in the Matukituki Valley; many of them were bestowed by James McKerrow during his second reconnaissance survey. I'm wondering if you have any info aout the following names:

- Mount Avalanche. First mention I could find is in a map to illustrate McKerrow's, Hector's and Haast's articles in the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London, 1864. Was Avalanche named by J.McKerrow? I could find no other evidence of this.

- Mount Bevan. Was named by McKerrow according to Herries Beattie (Place Names of Otago), but I haven't been able to find out who Bevan was. The mountain isn't shown on any of McKerrow's maps, and I'm starting to wonder if Beattie was wrong and the peak was actually named from the west...

- Mount Barff. I'm clueless on this one. Trying to figure out if it was named by McKerrow from the Matukituki, or by Douglas or Mueller from the Waipara side...

If you happened to know the answer to any of this, that would be great!

Regards, Danilo

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