Travels of Hochstetter

Author(s): Mike Johnston

NZ Non Fiction

The bright glare of our blazing fire illuminated the gigantic trunks of the majestic rimu and rata trees, the moonlight with magic splendour poured through their lofty crowns, and the blustering wind moaned in the tree-tops. I do not recollect a more romantic scene of a night in the bush, during all my rambles in New Zealand.                                                               Hochstetter’s ‘New Zealand’ (1867)

            A new country brings new experiences and Dr Ferdinand Hochstetter’s New Zealand travels proved central to his life and fame. He arrived in December 1858 as geologist on the Austrian Novara Expedition, at a time when much of the British colony was little known to science. Hochstetter was soon asked to investigate the vast hinterland of Auckland province and, after that, Nelson’s too. Thus he unexpectedly came to spend nine months journeying to far corners, where his enthusiasm and expertise were to earn him the title of Father of New Zealand Geology.

            In early 1859, Hochstetter, with his countryman Julius Haast, travelled by foot, horseback and canoe deep into the North Island’s interior to the volcanic zone. Hochstetter recorded a dramatic account of all he saw, including the remarkable Pink and White Terraces. He also vividly documented his encounters with many Maori along the way, from high chief to mailman. Whether describing his mediating between warring clans or arguments over Sunday observance and wedding feast protocols, he delivered an engaging account of Maori life in the Waikato in the last years of peace.

            As well as ground-breaking work around Auckland and the Coromandel, Hochstetter looked at minerals wherever he went, be they gold, copper, chromite or coal. Through his outstanding ability to see the whole picture, he arrived at a clear understanding of New Zealand’s structure, which he set out in a brilliant series of geological maps.

            Hochstetter also documented the country’s unusual flora and fauna. Some of the many new species he collected were named after him, including a giant land snail and a primitive frog. In Nelson he obtained the first complete skeletons of the giant extinct moa, as well as a rock new to science from Dun Mountain, which he named dunite. His collaboration with Haast proved even more fruitful, and on Hochstetter’s endorsement his friend was appointed leader of an arduous expedition to the West Coast in 1860, an eight-month adventure which was to launch Haast’s own distinguished career in science.

            A beautifully illustrated book, this is the first to do justice to two accomplished and energetic men of science, so far reaching and full of incident. The authors’ assiduous scholarship is matched by their eye for colour and texture of the era. In addition, the lively narrative draws on previously unpublished material from New Zealand and European archives, including sketches drawn for Hochstetter by Charles Heaphy.

 Here indeed is a welcome and substantial contribution to the history of New Zealand science and exploration.




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Dr Mike Johnston (Nelson)graduated from Victoria University in 1972 and is a geologist living in Nelson. Much of his professional career has been spent documenting the northern part of the South Island for the New Zealand Geological Survey and its successor, GNS Science.
            He has also a longstanding interest in history, in particular how geological resources have influenced the settlements of Maori and European. He has written the standard history of the Marlborough goldfields (in two volumes) and the history of the Nelson Mineral Belt, along with two shorter works on Nelson’s Dun Mountain Railway (one of New Zealand’s earliest) and the life of colonial geologist Edward H. Davis. Over the past decade Dr Johnston has been researching the Nelson goldfields. 

Dr Sascha Nolden (Auckland) was born in Pinneberg, Germany, in 1975 and has lived in New Zealand since 1982. A five-time graduate of the University of Auckland, his doctoral thesis was on Hochstetter and his letters to Julius Haast. He has presented numerous papers and lectures on Hochstetter and the Germanic connection with New Zealand.
            Dr Nolden was a major force behind the Hochstetter Symposium held at the University of Auckland in 2008; he also curated the anniversary exhibition Ferdinand von Hochstetter: Father of New Zealand Geology, held at the Auckland City Library and Nelson Provincial Museum.

Foreword - Preface -- Hochstetter and the Novara Expedition -- Obliging the Governor -- Craters, cones and volcanic bombs -- "Haere mai" to the Waikato -- Geysers, hot springs and boiling mud -- Completing the circle -- Coromandel and the golden question -- Nelson's great mineral wealth -- Coal and gold in Nelson Bays -- Far horizons and sound foundations -- Controversy and diplomacy -- Pleasant days and easy country -- On horseback in Marlborough -- The Wangapeka and the Lake -- "Gluck Auf" - Good luck -- Haast's West Coast adventure -- An enduring friendship -- Father of New Zealand Geology -- References and Notes - Bibliography -- Index.

General Fields

  • : 9780958289832
  • : Nikau Press
  • : Nikau Press
  • : June 2011
  • : 248mm X 175mm
  • : New Zealand
  • : March 2012
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Mike Johnston
  • : Hardback
  • : 551.0922
  • : 336
  • : colour illustrations, maps