Under the Southern Cross
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The present view from Mount Eden, however, is indeed charming, and should not be missed by any one capable of appreciating such a pleasure. On the seaward side the whole of the volcanic isthmus lies at the visitor's feet; the portion sloping to the shore, known as the village of Remuera, is covered with handsome villas, cottages, luxurious groves and gardens, beyond which lies the city of Auckland, with its suburbs stretching away on either side. To the southward the volcanic hills called the Three Kings are conspicuous; and underlying them are many curious caves, where large numbers of human bones are still seen, testifying to the former orgies of the Maoris. Beyond the city lies the harbor, its clear waters sharply reflecting the sun's rays. A couple of miles away on the other side of the bay is Mount Victoria, once also an active volcano, but now only a signal station. The irregular north shore of the Hauraki Gulf, marked by promontories, inlets, green bays, and fertile meadows, spreads seaward on that side. Away to the right loom the triple peaks of Rangi-Toto, its well-wooded sides rising gracefully from the waters of the gulf toward Tiri-tiri and the open ocean. Looking inland, one sees a rolling country dotted here and there with smiling homesteads, wooded clumps, and volcanic knolls innumerable, – all together forming quite an incomparable picture. At the suggestion of a friend our second visit to Mount Eden was made by moonlight. The luminary in her last quarter was yet quite sufficient to lend a bewildering loveliness and light, which brought out the isle-dotted Hauraki Gulf and Manakoo Harbor clear in every outline, beautifying the dimpled waters with a silvery sheen. On the summit of Mount Eden there is to be seen an abundance of small shells embedded in the earth and mixed with the d?bris, showing clearly enough that the soil upon which one is standing, nearly a thousand feet above the level of the harbor of Auckland, must once have been the bottom of the neighboring sea.
Though we were told that the city was suffering from business depression, we saw some tangible evidences of growth and prosperity, – such as the erection of large and substantial buildings for business purposes, for offices and dwellings. A mammoth flour-mill, among other structures, was nearly completed; it was located very near to the wharves, between them and the railroad station. This mill was built upon the American plan, and all the machinery, as the proprietor informed us, was imported from the United States. This establishment is seven stories in height, substantially built of brick, and covers with its immediate outbuildings an acre of land. The business depression referred to had arisen almost entirely from the arbitrary acts of Labor Unions, scores of whose members were seen idling away their time about the bar-rooms of Queen Street, or being assisted to the police-station in a drunken condition. Many workmen who were doing well had lost their situations, and were now eking out a precarious living by resorting to the gum-fields, where with pick and shovel they could at least keep from starving.Even the noisy drones who had incited industrious men to bring about this state of affairs, were now themselves compelled to work or starve. Some few men have shown sufficient intelligence and independence to think for themselves and have cut loose from organizations which cost them so much to support, and which are only successful in involving in trouble all concerned.
We were a little startled when informed of the magnitude of the public debt of New Zealand, which aggregates nearly thirty-three million pounds sterling. This sum, large as it is, represents only the national debt, to which must be added an equally large sum representing the aggregate indebtedness of the several cities. The English creditors may be sure, however, that so long as they are prepared to lend money, New Zealand will be ready to borrow it. It has now become necessary to borrow large sums annually to pay the interest upon this growing debt. One is reminded of Falstaff's sentiments: "I can get no remedy against this consumption of the purse; borrowing only lingers it out, but the disease is incurable." A citizen of Auckland said to us, "The necessity for a fresh, additional loan is aggravatingly obvious; but we have no security to offer, for we are nearly beggared." The country may and doubtless will come out of this financial embarrassment all right, for it is rich in animal, vegetable, and mineral products beyond nearly every other country, excepting perhaps the sister colonies of Australia. The exports of 1886 are represented to have exceeded eight million pounds sterling, over one million of which was in gold. The export of meat is annually increasing, and the mutton, from its greater size and fatness, is preferred to that which is produced in Australia. The country is believed to be almost fabulously rich in auriferous deposits, besides which coal of excellent quality is abundant and easily mined; while in the north the kauri-forests yield immense quantities of shipping timber. All that is needed to promote and confirm the prosperity of this naturally favored country is population, – a good class of immigrants to open up the fertile lands, and to produce grain for food and export. But the Labor Unions are jealous of immigration, and strive to prevent it in all possible ways lest it should tend to lower wages. Neither the leaders nor their followers have brains enough to look at the matter in any other light than a thoroughly selfish one. As they outnumber the rest of the community and can therefore outvote them, they are likely for a while to enact laws which will favor their narrow purposes. The principles and system of Democracy were never so challenged before as in this case at Auckland. What is wanted there is one-man power – a despotism, if you will – until affairs can be put into proper course, and people who are too ignorant to know what is best for them are taught a little common-sense. Auckland will be set back ten years at least in the matter of progress by the crisis through which she is now passing. Labor organizations have chosen as usual the very worst time to enforce their arbitrary rule, and must suffer accordingly.
New Zealand as a colony has gone ahead too rapidly, and without counting the cost. It has built railroads too fast; that is, before they are absolutely required, – railroads running straight into the "bush," without any raison d'?tre; and the present reaction is but a natural sequence arising from extravagance. Undoubtedly these "bush" railroads, as they are now called, will help to open up the country through which they run; but even this may be done at too great a cost. Experience has demonstrated the wisdom of a rule the reverse of that which has been adopted here; namely, first to wait for a certain amount of population and business before furnishing the expensive railroad facilities required for their accommodation.
The kauri-tree, though a conifer, – the pine of this country, – is not at all like our North American pine; instead of needles, its foliage consists of leaves of sombre green. The botanists call it Dammara Australis. It produces a timber, however, which for some uses is unequalled. It is very slow of growth, is remarkably durable, easily worked, of fine grain, and does not split or warp by atmospheric exposure. We were told that the kauri-tree requires eight hundred years to arrive at maturity. One of the first objects to attract our attention upon landing at Auckland was a number of kauri tree trunks brought to the wharf for shipment. Some of these logs measured seven feet in diameter, and were from eighty to ninety feet in length. To visit the kauri-forests of the Auckland district one takes cars from the city to Helensville, a distance of forty or fifty miles, where the Kaipara River is reached, upon which small steamers ply, taking one directly to the desired spot. Here the busy saw-mills, which are gradually consuming these valuable trees, are so located that vessels of two thousand tons can load at their yards, and with their cargoes pass directly out to sea. It is singular that while this district is the only place in New Zealand where the kauri-trees are found, nearly every other species of tree indigenous to the country is also found here, – among them the rimu, the matai, the white and silver pines, the tooth-leaved beech, and the totara, all in close proximity to the kauri, and together forming a most remarkable conglomeration of species.
It was our good fortune to travel in the kauri-forests with Professor Kirk, Conservator of State Forests, and from him many interesting facts were learned. Here over seven millions of acres are forest-covered. The mills give permanent occupation to five or six thousand men, and the gum-digging carried on close at hand is pursued as a regular occupation by at least two thousand more. The saw-mills, as regards their machinery and capacity, are among the most complete we have ever seen, employing the best modern inventions to facilitate their operations and output, which averages six or seven million feet of dimension-timber annually. There are six of these mills in this immediate locality, each of which has in its own right many thousand acres of land bearing a sufficiency of good timber to supply them for twelve years to come. It is believed that by that time all the kauri-forests of New Zealand will be worked out or exhausted. In anticipation of the failure of this supply for ship's masts and spars, iron is being very generally adopted, and will eventually take the place of wood altogether.
The commercial prosperity of Auckland and its vicinity is largely due to the harvest reaped from these forests. The kauri-tree grows to an average height of a hundred feet, with a diameter of fifteen feet and over. It is a clannish tree, so to speak; when found near to those of other species, it groups itself in clumps apart from them. One often sees, however, large forests where the kauri reigns supreme, quite unmixed with other trees; and beneath the shadow of its limbs there is no undergrowth save the verdant ferns, – Nature's universal carpet for the woodlands here. There are thus created dim perspectives and forest vistas of marvellous beauty.
The kauri gum forms a large figure in the table of exports from Auckland, and the digging and preparation of it for market, as we have shown, gives employment to many persons. The natives have a theory that the gum descends from the trunks of the growing trees, and through the roots becomes deposited in the ground. But this is not reasonable. The gum is a semi-fossilized composition, showing that it has gone through a process which only a long period of time could accomplish. It is usually found at a depth of five or six feet from the surface. It is undoubtedly the fact that the northern part of New Zealand was once covered with immense forests of this gum-producing tree, which have matured and been destroyed by fire and by decay, century after century; and the deposit which is now so marketable is from the dead trees, not the living. Experiments have been tried which prove that the gum exuded by the growing trees has no commercial value. The only evidence to give color to the Maori theory is the fact that the gum is found near the roots of young trees; but it is also found far away from any present kauri growth. It is very similar to amber, for which article it is often sold to unskilled purchasers; but its principal use is in the manufacture of varnish. Amber, it will be remembered, is the product of a now extinct tree of the pine family, whole forests of which are supposed to have been sunken in the Baltic Sea, whence our present supply of the article is mostly derived, and where these forests have been submerged for perhaps twice ten thousand years. The deposits of the kauri gum in the Auckland district seem to be inexhaustible.
On returning to the city we found quite sufficient in and about Auckland to interest and occupy us for a week and more. We made almost daily excursions, sometimes on foot and sometimes on horseback; and when mounted, our day's journey often covered a distance of many miles inland, each time in a new direction.
In our trips afield, after passing through the immediate suburbs of the city, we found outlying cottages where the garden-plats are adorned with English plants in full bloom, succeeded by thrifty farms, well-fenced fields, and highly cultivated meadows. These last were dotted here and there with choice breeds of cattle and picturesque groups of sheep. Some very fine horses were observed in this region; and there are some breeding-farms here solely devoted to the raising of fine animals for the market, – many of which, as the proprietors told us, are sent twelve hundred miles by ship to Sydney, and even still farther, to Melbourne and Adelaide. Notwithstanding this district is the oldest in its settlement by the whites of any in New Zealand, the scenery struck us as being singularly primitive, bold, and beautiful, while the bright, breezy, light, and shadow-casting atmosphere brought out every native grace of form and color. Along the roads one is delighted by the abundance of the marsh-mallow, sweet clover, wild mint, and trefoil, and only sighs for time to gather of them and leisure to enjoy their sweets. Many trees and flowers were noted which were quite new to us, and which the intelligence of our half-breed guide rendered doubly interesting. The natives had distinctive and expressive names for every fowl, tree, and flower before the white man came. There is a lovely little native daisy called tupapa, and a blue lily known by the aborigines as rengarenga; also a green and yellow passion-flower named by the Indians, kowhaia. A glutinous, golden buttercup is known as anata, which is nearly as abundant as its namesake in America. A small white fragrant flower which attracted our attention is called the potolara. All these species are wild. One morning the guide brought us a dew-spangled bunch of them all together, wound about with a delicate sweet-smelling native grass known as karetu, – the Torresia redolens of botany.
The immediate neighborhood of Auckland has been almost denuded of the original native trees, and shade is very much needed both for beauty and comfort. Fires and the woodman's axe have swept away the grand old forest and the "bush" which once covered every rod of land in this vicinity. A few English oaks and other imported trees planted by the immigrants are to be seen, besides some California pines, which are universal favorites in this country. At a short distance inland, and especially bordering salt-water inlets, the traveller is surprised and charmed by groups of the pohutukawa, a tree thus named by the Maoris. Like many other blossoming trees of the Southern Pacific, its flowers when gathered have very little individual beauty or attractiveness, its brilliant color-effect being derived from the clusters of bright scarlet stamens, which when seen in mass upon the tree appear strikingly beautiful.
We do not remember to have seen the English lark in any island south of the Equator, but they abound here, and must have been introduced by the early settlers from Great Britain.
Another fact about Auckland struck us as curious. Here we find a rich greensward carpeting hill and dale, field and lawn, which is the growth of imported seed, and which has proved so tenacious as to root out all original and opposing vegetation, and establish itself permanently. Here also may be seen the European thistle, the veritable Scotch article greatly improved by transplanting. The farmers declare that it enriches the ground, – a sentiment which we also heard expressed at Dunedin, – and every one can see for himself that it feeds the bees. New Zealand seems to be adapted for receiving into its bosom the vegetation of any land, and of imparting to it renewed life and added beauty. Its foster-mother capacity has been fully tested, and for years no ship left England for this part of the world without bringing more or less of a contribution in plants and trees to be propagated in the new home of the colonists. The consequence is that we find pines and cypresses, oaks and willows, elms and birches, besides fruit-trees of all sorts grown in Europe, thriving here in abundance, and so thoroughly acclimated as to seem indigenous.
The climate of this region appeared to us very nearly perfect, favoring human life as well as that of the vegetable kingdom. It may be compared as a whole to the climate of the best portions of Europe. It has the soft, genial atmosphere of the south of France and Italy (which is best enjoyed at Nice and Mentone), but none of the chill caused by the piercing mistral of the mountains, nor the scorching blasts of the African and Egyptian siroccos. In seeking to recall a climate which most nearly approaches it, Madeira alone suggests itself. Its range of temperature is more limited than any other place we have visited north or south of the Equator, or in either hemisphere. Summer and winter are here only the dry and the rainy seasons; flowers, vegetables, grapes, in short all plants grow bright and thrifty the whole year round in the open air. Tropical and hardy plants are here equally at home; Scottish firs and Indian palms, oranges, lemons, india-rubber trees, and limes thrive side by side. As we were told in Japan one could do there, so here one can gather a pretty bouquet in the open air any day in the year.
We must not forget to speak of the mineral resources of this Province of Auckland, which were in the early days of its settlement quite unsuspected, but which have turned out to be both extensive and profitable. A gold-bearing range of lofty hills runs northward along the banks of the Thames River, ending on the Coromandel Peninsula. Here several quartz mines are being successfully worked for gold, though the process of disintegration does not seem to be satisfactorily understood. It is well known that not more than half the precious metal which the rock contains is realized by the means now employed for its extraction. In order to obtain the best and latest improvements in machinery designed for this purpose, a representative agent and proprietor of these Thames River mines came to the United States in the same ship with the author, to visit our principal mining centres in the States of Idaho, Colorado, California, and so forth. Coal of excellent quality crops out in various parts of the Province, particularly at the Bay of Islands, and several coal mines are regularly worked. Copper is found here also, and a valuable article of manganese, besides iron, nickel, bismuth, asphaltum, and other minerals. In Poverty Bay petroleum has been discovered in great abundance, and though it is made no special use of at present, it is sure in the near future to be profitably utilized.
The district to which we have just referred as being rich in gold-bearing quartz and other minerals, and which is situated along the banks of the Thames and Waikato rivers, is also productive as a pastoral and agricultural country. A large portion of the land is laid down to grass and other crops, and is well stocked with sheep and cattle. Government has done much to encourage agricultural enterprise among the people of the province, realizing its great importance over all other industries. The remarkable fertility of the soil seconds this purpose, and there are hundreds of square miles of it as level as our Western prairies. We were told of a company called the Waikato Land Association, which was formed not alone for pecuniary profit to its stockholders, but also to advance the pastoral and agricultural interests of the Province. This association owns a hundred thousand acres of rich land which is being drained and brought into the most available condition. We saw the operation going on in the form of extensive and systematic drainage, tree-planting, and other means of improvement upon the company's lands, through the centre of which the railroad runs southward from Auckland.
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