At sea the stars assume perhaps a greater importance than on land, because from them, together with the sun, is obtained latitude and longitude, and thus by their aid the mariner determines his bearings upon the ocean. Forty or fifty centuries ago the Chaldean shepherds were accustomed to gaze upon these shining orbs in worshipful admiration, but with no idea of their vast system. They were to them "the words of God, the scriptures of the skies." It has been left to our period to formulate the methods of their constant and endless procession. All of the principal stars are now well known, and their limits clearly defined upon charts, so that we can easily acquire a knowledge of them. The inhabitants of North America have the constellation of Ursa Major, or the Great Bear, and the North Star always with them; they never wholly disappear below the horizon. When the mariner sailing north of the equator has determined the position of the "Great Bear," two of whose stars, known as "the pointers," indicate the North Star, he can designate all points of the compass unerringly. But in the far South Sea they are not visible; other constellations, however, whose relative positions are as fixed in the Southern Hemisphere, become equally sure guides to the watchful navigator.
Having landed in Australia, before proceeding to visit the several cities of this great island-continent which possesses an area of nearly three millions of square miles, let us review some general facts and characteristics of the country. So far as we can learn, it was a land unknown to the ancients, though it is more than probable that the Chinese knew of the existence of Northern Australia at a very early period; but until about a century ago, it presented only a picture of primeval desolation. The hard work of the pioneer has been accomplished, and civilization has rapidly changed the aspect of a large portion of the great south land. To-day this continent is bordered by thrifty seaports connected by railroads, coasting-steamers, turnpikes, and electric telegraphs. It is occupied by an intelligent European population numbering between three and four millions, possessing such elements of political and social prosperity as place them in an honorable position in the line of progressive nations. So favorable is the climate that nearly the whole country might be turned into a botanical garden. Indeed, Australia would seem to be better entitled to the name of Eldorado (a mythical country abounding in gold), so talked of in the sixteenth century, than was the imaginary land of untold wealth so confidently believed by the adventurous Spaniards, to exist somewhere between the Orinoco and the Amazon.
This new home of the British race in the South Pacific, surrounded by accessible seas and inviting harbors, inspires us with vivid interest. We say "new," and yet, geologically speaking, it is one of the oldest portions of the earth's surface. While a great part of Europe has been submerged and elevated, crumpled up as it were into mountain chains, Australia seems to have been undisturbed. It is remarkable that in a division of the globe of such colossal proportions there was found no larger quadruped than the kangaroo, and that man was the only animal that destroyed his kind. He, alas! was more ferocious than the lynx, the leopard, or the hyena; for these animals do not prey upon each other, while the aborigines of Australia devoured one another.
What America was to Spain in the proud days of that nation's glory Australia has been to England, and that too, without the crime of wholesale murder, and the spilling of rivers of blood, as was the case in the days of Cortez and Pizarro. The wealth poured into the lap of England by these far-away colonies belittles all the riches which the Spaniards realized by the conquests of Mexico and Peru. Here is an empire won without war, a new world called into existence, as it were, by moral forces, an Eldorado captured without the sword. Here, Nature has spread her generous favors over a land only one-fifth smaller than the whole continent of Europe, granting every needed resource wherewith to form a great, independent, and prosperous nation; where labor is already more liberally rewarded, and life more easily sustained, than in any other civilized country except America. It is difficult to believe while observing the present population, wealth, power, and prosperity of the country at large, characterized by such grand and conspicuous elements of empire, that it has been settled for so brief a period, and that its pioneers were from English prisons. The authentic record of life in the colonies of Australia and Tasmania during the first few years of their existence, is mainly the account of the control of lawless men by the strong and cruel arm of military despotism.
Up to the present writing Australia has realized from her soil over three hundred and thirty millions of pounds sterling, or $1,650,000,000. Her territory gives grazing at the present time to over seventy-five million sheep, which is probably double the number in the United States. When it is remembered that the population of this country is sixty millions, and that Australia has not quite four millions, the force of this comparison becomes obvious. The aggregate amount of wool exported to the mother country is twenty-eight times as much as England has received in the same period from the continent of Europe. The combined exports and imports of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland are a little over one hundred dollars per annum for each one of the population. In Australia the aggregate is a trifle over two hundred dollars per head. The four principal capitals of Australia contain over eight hundred thousand inhabitants. The railroads of the country have already cost over two hundred million dollars, and are being extended annually. New South Wales has in proportion to its population a greater length of railways than any other country in the world, while there are some thirty thousand miles of telegraph lines within the length and breadth of the land.
The country is divided into five provincial governments: New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, and West Australia. The island of Tasmania forms another province, and is separated from Victoria by Bass's Strait, the two being within half a day's sail of each other. Sydney is the capital of New South Wales; Melbourne, of Victoria; Adelaide, of South Australia; Brisbane, of Queensland; Perth, of West Australia; and Hobart, of Tasmania. It may be remarked incidentally that South Australia would more properly be designated by some other title, as it is not South Australia at all. Victoria lies south of it, and so does a portion of West Australia. The government of these several divisions is modelled upon that of New South Wales, which is in fact the parent colony of them all.
New South Wales is governed under a constitution, having two houses of Parliament. The first, a legislative council, is composed of a limited number of members nominated by the Crown, and who hold office for life; the second, or legislative assembly, is composed of members elected by the people and chosen by ballot. All acts, before becoming law, must receive the approval of the Queen of England, though this is nothing more than a mere form. There is a resident governor in each colony, also appointed by the Queen.
As compared with our own land, we find this to be one of strange contradictions. Here, the eagles are white and the swans are black; the emu, a bird almost as large as an ostrich, cannot fly, but runs like a horse. The principal quadruped, the kangaroo, is elsewhere unknown; and though he has four legs, he runs upon two. When the days are longest with us in America, they are shortest here. To reach the tropics, Australians go due-north, while we go due-south. With us the seed, or stone, of the cherry forms the centre of the fruit; in Australia, the stone grows on the outside. The foliage of the trees in America spreads out horizontally; in this south-land the leaves hang vertically. When it is day with us it is night with them. There, Christmas comes in mid-summer; with us in mid-winter. Bituminous and anthracite coal are with us only one color,—black; but they have white bituminous coal,—white as chalk. The majority of trees with us shed their leaves in the fall of the year; with them they are evergreen, shedding their bark and not their leaves.
Adelaide is situated about seven miles from the sea, and is surrounded by an amphitheatre of hills rearing their abrupt forms not far away from the town. The capital is so perfectly level that to be seen to advantage it must be looked upon from some favorable elevation. The colony should be known as Central Australia, on account of its geographical position. It is destined in the near future to merit the name of the granary of the country, being already largely and successfully devoted to agriculture. This pursuit is followed in no circumscribed manner, but in a large and liberal style, like that of our best Western farmers in the United States. Immense tracts of land are also devoted to stock-raising for the purpose of furnishing beef for shipment to England in fresh condition. This province contains nearly a million square miles, and is therefore ten times larger than Victoria, and fifteen times larger than England. It extends northward from the temperate zone, so that nearly one-half of its area lies within the tropics, while it has a coast-line of five hundred miles along the great Southern Ocean. A vast portion of its interior is uninhabited, and indeed unexplored. The total population of the whole colony is about four hundred thousand. Wheat, wool, wine, copper, and meat are at present the chief exports. Over four million acres of land are under the plough. Though gold is found here, it is not so abundant as in other sections of the country. Good wages equalling those realized by the average miners are earned by a dozen easier and more legitimate occupations than that of gold-digging. "Let us cherish no delusions," said a San Francisco preacher on a certain occasion; "no society has ever been able to organize itself in a satisfactory manner on gold-bearing soil. Even Nature herself is deceitful; she corrupts, seduces, and betrays man; she laughs at his labor, she turns his toil into gambling, and his word into a lie!" The preacher's deductions have proved true as regards bodies of miners in California, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia. And yet the finding of gold mines has stimulated labor, immigration, and manly activity in many directions, and has thus been the agent of undoubted good in other fields than its own.
Adelaide, with a population of a hundred and fifty thousand, has a noble university, quite equal in standing to that of any city in the country. When we remember how youthful she is, it becomes a matter of surprise that such a condition has been achieved in all the appointments which go to make up a great city in modern times. The same remark applies to all of the Australian capitals, none of which are deficient in hospitals, libraries, schools, asylums, art galleries, and charitable institutions generally. Few European cities of twice the size of these in Australia can boast a more complete organization in all that goes to promote true civilization.
The city proper is separated from its suburbs by a belt of park-lands, and the approaches are lined with thrifty ornamental trees. Great liberality and good judgment presided over the laying out of Adelaide. All the streets are broad and regular, running north and south, east and west. There are no mysterious labyrinths, dark lanes, or blind alleys in the city; the avenues are all uniform in width. It is believed that the interior of the continent, which is largely embraced within this province, was at a comparatively recent period covered by a great inland sea. Here are still found mammoth bones of animals, now extinct, which have become an object of careful study to scientists. Africa's interior is scarcely less explored than is Central Australia. There are thousands of square miles upon which the foot of a white man has never trod. Tartary has its steppes, America its prairies, Egypt its deserts, and Australia its "scrub." The plains, so called, are covered by a low-growing bush, compact and almost impenetrable in places, composed of a dwarf eucalyptus. The appearance of a large reach of this "scrub" is desolate indeed, the underlying soil being a sort of yellow sand which one would surely think could produce nothing else; yet, wherever this land has been cleared and properly irrigated it has proved to be remarkably fertile.
All of these colonial cities have botanical gardens, in the cultivation and arrangement of which much skill and scientific knowledge is displayed. In that of Adelaide we see the Australian bottle-tree, which is a native of this country only. It receives its name from its resemblance in shape to a junk-bottle. This tree has the property of storing water in its hollow trunk,—a well-known fact, which has often proved a providential supply for thirsty travellers in a country so liable to severe drought. Here, also, we see the correa, with its stiff stem and prickly leaves, bearing a curious string of delicate, pendulous flowers, red, orange, and white, not unlike the fuchsia in form. The South Sea myrtle is especially attractive, appearing when in flower with round clustering bunches of bloom, spangled with white stars. The styphelia, a heath-like plant, surprises us with its green flowers. We are shown a specimen of the sandrach-tree, brought from Africa, which is almost imperishable, and from which the Mohammedans invariably make the ceilings of their mosques. The Indian cotton-tree looms up beside the South American aloe—this last, with its thick, bayonet-like leaves, is ornamented in wavy lines like the surface of a Toledo blade. The grouping of these exotics, natives of regions so far apart on the earth's surface, yet quite domesticated here, forms an incongruous though pleasing picture.
West Australia, of which Perth is the capital, is eight hundred miles in width and thirteen hundred long from north to south, actually covering about one-third of the continent. It embraces all that portion lying to the westward of the one hundred and twenty-ninth meridian of east longitude, and has an area of about a million square miles. It has few towns and is very sparsely settled, Perth having scarcely eleven thousand inhabitants, and the whole province a population of not over forty-two thousand. Pearl oysters abound upon its coast and form the principal export, being most freely gathered near Torres's Strait, which separates Australia from New Guinea. The latter is the largest island in the world, being three hundred and sixty miles in width by thirteen hundred in length. Its natives are considered the most barbarous of any savages of the nineteenth century.
From Adelaide to Melbourne is about six hundred miles, a distance accomplished by railway. The first sight of Melbourne will surprise the stranger, though he may be fairly well-informed about this capital of Victoria. No one anticipates beholding so grand a capital in this far-away region of the Pacific. Where there was only a swamp and uncleared woods a few years ago, there has risen a city containing to-day a population of four hundred and twenty thousand, embracing the immediate suburbs. This capital is unsurpassed by any of the British colonies in the elegancies and luxuries of modern civilization, such as broad avenues, palatial dwellings, churches, colossal warehouses, banks, theatres, public buildings, and pleasure grounds. It is pleasant to record the fact that one-fifth of the revenue raised by taxation is expended for educational purposes. Of few cities in the new or the old world can this be truthfully said. Universities, libraries, public art-galleries, and museums do not lack for the liberal and fostering care of the government. No city, if we except Chicago and San Francisco, ever attained to such size and importance in so short a period as has Melbourne.
The river Yarra-Yarra runs through the town, and is navigable for large vessels to the main wharves, where it is crossed by a broad and substantial bridge. Above the bridge the river is handsomely ornamented with trees upon its borders; here the great boat-races take place, one of the most popular of all local athletic amusements, and Melbourne is famous for out-door sports of every form, especially ball-playing.
The activity of the streets is remarkable. English cabs rattle about or stand in long rows awaiting patrons; four-wheeled vehicles of an awkward style, also for hire, abound; messenger-boys with yellow leather pouches strapped over their shoulders hurry hither and thither; high-hung omnibuses with three horses abreast, like those of Paris and Naples, dash rapidly along, well filled with passengers; men gallop through the crowd on horseback, carrying big baskets of provisions on their arms; dog-carts, driven by smart young fellows with a servant behind them in gaudy livery, cut in and out among the vehicles; powerful draught-horses stamp along the way, drawing heavily-laden drays; milk-carts with big letters on their canvas sides make themselves conspicuous, and so do the bakers' carts; while light and neat American wagonettes glide rapidly along among less attractive vehicles. Now and then a Chinaman passes, with his peculiar shambling gait, with a pole across his shoulders balancing his baskets of "truck"; women with oranges and bananas for a penny apiece meet one at every corner, and still the sidewalks are so broad, and the streets so wide, that no one seems to be in the least incommoded. The fruit stores present a remarkable array of tempting fruits, among which are the mandarin and seedless oranges, apricots, green figs, grapes, passion-fruit, pineapples, bananas, and many others, all in fine condition. With the exception of the cities of California, nowhere else can fruit of such choice varieties and so cheap be found as at Melbourne.
Victoria is one of the youngest of the colonies, and was, until the discovery of gold fields within her borders,—that is, in 1851,—a portion of New South Wales; but to-day it is the metropolis of Australia. It has not the many natural beauties of Sydney, but it has numerous compensating advantages, and is the real centre of colonial enterprise upon the continent. The admirable system of street-cars in Melbourne is worthy of all praise, use being made of the underground cable and stationary engine as a motor, a mode which is cheap, cleanly, and popular. Collins Street is the fashionable boulevard of the city, though Burke Street nearly rivals it in gay promenaders and elegant shops. But in broad contrast to these bright and cheerful centres, there are in the northeastern section of the town dirty alleys and by-ways that one would think must prove hot-beds of disease and pestilence, especially as Melbourne suffers from want of a good and thorough system of domestic drainage.
The public library of the city is a large and impressive building, standing by itself, a hundred feet back from the street, on rising ground, and would be creditable to any European or American city. It already contains about a hundred and thirty thousand volumes, and is being constantly added to by public and private bequests. The interior arrangements of the library are excellent, affording ample room for books and all needed accommodation for the public. In these respects it is superior to both the Boston and Astor libraries. Under the same roof is a museum containing an extensive collection, especially of geological specimens, mostly of native product.
Melbourne has its Chinese quarter, like Sydney and San Francisco; it is situated in Little Burke Street, just back of the Theatre Royal, and forms a veritable Chinatown, with its idol temples, opium dens, lottery cellars, cafes, low hovels, and kindred establishments. Here, one requires an experienced guide to enable him to make his way safely and understandingly. The peculiar notices posted upon the buildings in Chinese characters are a puzzle to the uninitiated. The signs over the shops are especially original and peculiar; they do not denote the name of the owner, or particularize the business which is carried on within, but are assumed titles of a flowery character, designed to attract the fancy of the customers. Thus: Kong, Meng & Co. means "Bright Light Firm"; Sun Kum Lee & Co. is in English "New Golden Firm"; Kwong Hop signifies "New Agreement Company"; Hi Cheong, "Peace and Prosperity Firm"; Kwong Tu Tye, "Flourishing and Peaceful Company"; and so on.
It is, as a rule, the worst type of the Chinese who leave their native land to make a new home elsewhere, and it is not to be expected that they will be much improved by intercourse with the Australian "larrikins," who are composed of the lowest and most criminal orders. This refuse of humanity is largely made up of the rabble of London and Liverpool, many of whom have had their passages paid by relatives and interested persons at home solely to get rid of them, while others have worked their passage hither to avoid merited punishment for crimes committed in England.
The province of Victoria is the special gold-field of Australia, and has produced two-thirds of all the precious metal which statistics credit to the country at large. One of the localities which has proved to be the most prolific in gold is Ballarat, now a charming and populous city, next to Melbourne in importance. It lies nearly a hundred miles north of the capital, at an elevation of fifteen hundred feet above sea-level, and is accessible by railway. This is thought to be the centre of the richest gold-producing district in the world. Beechworth, one hundred and seventy miles northeast of Melbourne, at an elevation higher than that of Ballarat, is nearly as populous, and as prolific in the precious metal. The diggings of Maryborough district, situated a hundred and fifty miles northwest of Melbourne, are famous, and give occupation to some eight thousand miners. Castlemaine, seventy-five miles north of the capital, has proved very profitable in its yield of gold. Nearly forty square miles of gold-bearing lands are being worked by Europeans and Chinese in the district of Ararat, a hundred and fifty miles north of Melbourne. From these several sources of mineral wealth there flows constantly towards the capital a stream of riches, making it probably the greatest gold-producing centre on the globe. There are about fifty thousand people, in all, engaged in gold-mining in the several parts of Victoria, at least ten thousand of whom are Chinese. Still, reliable statistics show that in the aggregate, the corn and wool of this province are alone of more monetary value than is the result from all the gold produced by her mines.
The kangaroos are found in various parts of Victoria, in their wild state. They are usually discovered in the thick woods, sitting upright in circles of a dozen or more, as grave as though engaged in holding a formal council. On such occasions their short forepaws hang limp before them, while their restless heads and delicate ears turn hither and thither in watchful care against surprise. Notwithstanding their huge paunches, big hindquarters, and immense tails, there is something graceful and attractive about these creatures. When they are young they are as playful as kittens. Even when running away from pursuit,—a process performed by enormous leaps, often covering a rod at a flying jump,—there is a certain airy grace and harmony of movement attending their motions. Dogs and horses have more power of endurance than the kangaroo, and are thus enabled to run it down; but neither horse nor dog can achieve the same degree of speed for moderate distances. If the chase occurs in a wood where there are numerous obstacles, like heavy fallen logs, the kangaroo is safe, since he can jump all such impediments without diminishing his speed.
To get a view of the big gum-trees, one visits the Fernshaw Mountain district. We are told of one fallen monarch, which was measured by a government surveyor, having a length upon the ground of four hundred and seventy-four feet. The Pyramid of Cheops is hardly as high as was this tree when it stood erect. The average height of these marvels is from three hundred to four hundred feet. They are situated in a valley protected from winds, and are favorably located to promote their growth, as well as to protect them from sudden gales or tornadoes such as have prostrated large trees in our Yosemite.
The subject of large trees is one of more than ordinary interest; the largest one known in the world is situated in Mascoli, near the base of Mount Etna, on the island of Sicily. It measures one hundred and ninety feet in circumference. It is a chestnut-tree, and still bears fruit in abundance. The oldest tree is believed to be a famous cypress still growing in Oaxaca, Mexico. Humboldt saw it in 1855, when he recorded the measurement as being one hundred and twenty-six feet in circumference and three hundred and eighty-two feet between the out-spread branches. In Nevada, United States, stands what is well known as the "Dead Giant Redwood Tree," which measures one hundred and nineteen feet in circumference, and which is believed to have been growing in the days of Julius Caesar. Near this mammoth are a dozen other trees, varying in size from seventy-five to one hundred feet in circumference. The "Grizzly Giant," monarch of the Mariposa Grove in California, measures ninety-two feet in circumference. The largest tree in the United States stands near Bear Creek, California, measuring one hundred and forty feet in circumference. It is only by comparison with familiar objects that we can realize these extraordinary dimensions.
We shall be pretty sure to see in the woods of Victoria a most curious example of bird-life and bird-instinct, in the instance of what is known as the bower-bird. This peculiar little creature builds a cunning play-house, a tiny shady bower which it ornaments with vines and highly colored feathers of other birds, besides the yellow blossoms of the wattle-tree and many light-green ferns. In this ingeniously contrived sylvan retreat the feathered architect runs about and holds a sort of carnival, to which others of his tribe gather. Here the little party chirp vigorously, and strut about in a most ludicrous manner.
The glamour of gold-seeking has too much weight in inducing emigration to this region of the South Seas. An industrious and worthy person is sure to make a good living here, and indeed so one might say he would do almost anywhere. He may make a fortune in Australia, but he cannot pick it up,—he must work it up. The gold nuggets which are occasionally found, never amount to much as regards the benefit of the finder. It is upon the whole a fortunate day for the respectable immigrant who has any degree of ability, when he decides to turn his back upon gold-digging, and adopt some more legitimate business. The great elements of success are the same in Australia as in California, Africa, or Massachusetts; namely, steadiness of purpose, application, and temperance.
Sydney is connected with Melbourne by a railway some six hundred miles in length; but the pleasantest way to reach it, either from the north or the south, is by water. We enter the harbor through an opening which is called Sydney Heads, formed by two frowning cliffs on either side of the entrance. Having left the Heads behind, we pass Botany Bay, seven miles below the city, once a penal colony for English convicts, but now a lovely, rural retreat, which retains nothing of its ill-repute but its name. The aspect of the famous harbor, with its lake-like expanse, its many green islands with handsome residences scattered over them, its graceful promontories, and the abundance of semi-tropical vegetation, all together form the loveliest picture imaginable. It may well be the pride of the citizens of Sydney.
Upon landing, we find great irregularity prevailing in the street architecture. George Street is the main thoroughfare, and is two miles in length, containing many stores furnished as well as the average of those in Vienna or Paris. There are fine business edifices, having massive French plate glass windows which are admirably appointed. The peculiar conformation of the town makes the side streets precipitous, so that a large portion of the city is composed of hilly avenues. Like the old streets of Boston, those of Sydney were the growth of chance, and were not originally laid out, like those of Melbourne and Adelaide. Our Washington Street, Boston, was once a cow-path, while the present site of George Street in Sydney was a meandering bullock-track.
This capital, like the two we have already visited in Australia, has a superb botanical garden covering some forty acres of land. The grounds extend on a gradual incline to the shores of the beautiful bay, forming a semicircle round what is known as Farm Cove, a picturesque indentation of the harbor, close to Government House. One special charm of these delightful grounds is the fact that they are accessible by a walk of about five minutes from the centre of the city. It is not necessary to make an excursion in order to reach them, as is the case with many similar resorts, such as Sydenham in London, Central Park, New York, or the Bois de Boulogne, Paris. Here semi-arctic and semi-tropical plants and trees are found growing together, and all parts of the world seem to be liberally represented. The hardy Scotch fir and delicate palm crowd each other; the india-rubber-tree and the laurel are close friends; the California pine and the Florida orange thrive side by side; so with the silvery fern-tree of New Zealand, and the guava of Cuba. China, Japan, India, Africa, Egypt, and South America have all furnished representative trees and shrubs for the beautifying of these comprehensive gardens.
There is here a fine specimen of the Australian musk-tree, which attains a height of nearly twenty feet, and exhales from leaf and bark a peculiar sweet odor, though not at all like what its name indicates. Here we see also the she-oak-tree, which is said to emit a curious wailing sound during the quietest state of the atmosphere, when there is not a breath of wind to move the branches or the leaves. This tree is found growing near the sea in Australia, and is said to have borrowed the murmur of the conch-shell. It has proved to be the inspiring theme of many a local poet. The flowers in this garden are as attractive as the trees; fuchsias, roses, and camellias are in great perfection and variety, flanked by a species of double pansies and a whole army of brilliant tulips. Flowers bloom in every month of the year in this region, out of doors, and are rarely troubled by the frost.
The excellent university of Sydney is admirably situated, and is the first that was founded in the Southern Hemisphere. The city has also its art-gallery, and free public library, with over a hundred thousand volumes. It has also hospitals, churches, and many charitable institutions, with various schools. Sydney holds high rank as a British colonial city, and deservedly so, having special reason for pride in the complete system of her charitable and educational organizations, her noble public buildings, and the general character of her leading citizens. Land in the city and immediate suburbs is held at prices averaging as high as in Boston and New York, and the wealth of the people is represented to be very great in the aggregate.
Australia in its extreme breadth, between Shark's Bay on the west and Sandy Cape on the eastern shore, measures twenty-four hundred miles; and from north to south,—that is, from Cape York to Cape Atway,—it is probably over seventeen, hundred miles in extent. The occupied and improved portions of the country skirt the seacoast on the southern and eastern sides, which are covered with cities, towns, villages, and hamlets. The country occupied for sheep-runs and cattle-ranches is very sparsely inhabited. The reason for this is obvious, since the owner of a hundred thousand sheep requires between two and three hundred thousand acres to feed them properly. The relative proportion as to sheep and land is to allow two and a third acres to each animal.
The great dividing mountain-chain of Australia is near the coast-line in the south and east, averaging perhaps a hundred miles or more from the sea. Nearly all the gold which the land has produced has come from the valleys and hillsides of this range. The gold-diggings of New South Wales have proved to be very rich in some sections; but unlike those of Queensland and Victoria, the precious metal is here found mostly in alluvial deposits.
Many nationalities are represented in Australia and New Zealand, but the majority are English, Scotch, and Irish. The officials of New South Wales especially, look to England for favors which a political separation would cut them off from; among these are honorary titles and crown appointments of a paying nature. The constitution under which the colonies are living is such as to entitle them to be called democracies. In many respects the local government is more liberal and advanced than in England. Church and State, for instance, are here kept quite distinct from each other. As to the legislative power of the colonies, it is seldom interfered with by the home government.
A journey of about five hundred miles northward, either along the coast by steamer, or by railway inland, will take us to Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, which has a population of about fifty thousand. Until 1860 it was an appendage of New South Wales, but was in that year formed into an independent colony. The site of the city is a diversified surface, with the river whose name it bears winding gracefully through it, about twenty-four miles from its mouth; though in a direct line it would be but half that distance to where it empties into Moreton Bay, one of the largest on the coast of Australia. It was discovered by Captain Cook in 1770, and is formed by two long sandy islands running north and south, named respectively Standbroke and Moreton Islands, enclosing between them and the mainland a spacious sheet of water more than thirty miles long and six or eight wide, beautified by fertile islands.
On approaching Brisbane by sea one is puzzled at first to find where the mouth of the river can be, so completely is it hidden by the mangrove swamps which skirt the coast. A pleasant little watering-place is situated close at hand, named Sandgate, which is connected by hourly stages with the city. Several small rivers, all of which, however, are more or less navigable, empty into Moreton Bay, showing that the district inland hereabouts must be well watered. It is less than fifty years since Brisbane was opened to free settlers, having been previously only a penal station for English criminals; but of this taint resting upon the locality, the same may be said as of Sydney, or Hobart, in Tasmania,—scarcely a trace remains.
Queen Street is the principal thoroughfare, and is lined with handsome stores and fine edifices, there being no lack of architectural excellence in either public or private buildings. Like its sister cities, it has a botanical garden, the climate here favoring even a more extensive out-door display of tropical and delicate vegetation than at Melbourne or Sydney. An intelligent spirit of enterprise is evinced by the citizens of Brisbane, and everything goes to show that it is destined to become a populous and prosperous business centre. Its climate, especially, is considered almost perfect. Queensland is very rich in gold-producing mines, but it has also almost endless rolling plains covered with herbage suitable for the support of great herds and flocks, where some fourteen millions of sheep are now yielding meat and wool for export, and where some three millions of cattle are herded. The real greatness of the country is to be found in its agricultural capacity, which is yet to be developed. A very pleasant trip may be enjoyed up the Brisbane River and Bremer Creek, on which latter stream Ipswich is situated. It is twice as far by water as by land, but the sail is delightful, often affording charming views of the city from the river, while at the same time passing suburban residences, flourishing farms, banana-groves, cotton-fields, sugar-plantations, and orange-orchards.
Queensland is more than five times as large as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and it possesses an immense amount of undeveloped resources of the most promising character. The sun shines here with much more tropical ardor than in New South Wales or Victoria. The palm takes the place of the eucalyptus to a certain extent. The tulip-tree, rosewood, sandalwood, and satin-wood, which are not observed further south, greet us here. The aborigines are oftener met than elsewhere, as they prefer to live in a more temperate climate than is found southward, and to be where they can have the country more to themselves. They probably do not number over thirty thousand in all, and are slowly but surely decreasing before the advance of the whites. Even when first discovered they were but a handful of people, so to speak, scattered over an immense territory. They have still no distinct notion of the building of houses in which to live, or at least they adopt none, though they have the example of the whites constantly before them. They are very ugly, having black skins, flat noses, wide nostrils, and deep-sunken eyes wide apart. A bark covering, much ruder than anything which would content an American Indian, forms their only shelter, and they often burrow contentedly under the lee of an overhanging rock or hillside.
The Australian blacks have plenty of legends of the most barbaric character, but by no means void of poetical features. They believe that the earth was created by a being of supreme attributes, whom they call Nourelle, and who lives in the sky. They entertain the idea that because the sun gives heat it needs fuel, and that when it descends below the horizon it procures a fresh supply for its fires. The stars are supposed to be the dwellings of departed chiefs. The serpent is believed to contain the spirit of a real devil. To eat the kidney of an enemy, it is thought by them, imparts to the one who swallows it the strength of the dead man. Any number above five, these blacks express by saying, "it is as the leaves," not to be counted. The white man's locomotive is an imprisoned fire-devil, kept under control by water. The lightning is the angry expression of some enraged god.
The most peculiar weapon possessed by these aborigines is one which originated with them, and is known as the boomerang,—of which every one has heard, but which few have seen. It is a weapon whose characteristics have caused its name to pass into a synonym for anything which turns upon the person who uses it. It seems at first sight to be only a flat, crooked, or curved piece of polished wood, about twenty-eight inches long and three-quarters of an inch in thickness. There is nothing remarkable about this weapon until we see a native throw one. In doing this he carefully poises himself, makes a nice calculation as to distance, raises his arm above his head, and brings it down with a sort of swoop, swiftly launching the curved wood from his hand. At first the boomerang skims along near the ground, then rises four or five feet, but only to sink again, and again to rise. As we carefully watch its course, and suppose it just about to stop in its erratic career, and drop, spent, to the ground, it suddenly ceases its forward flight, and rapidly returns to the thrower. It is thought that no white man can exactly learn the trick of throwing this strange weapon, and certainly few ever care to attempt it a second time.
Ethnologists tell us that these blacks belong to the Ethiopian race,—they are the lowest probably of all the human family. The conviction forces itself upon us that they must be the remnant of some ancient people of whom we have no historic record. When Australia was first taken possession of by the whites, it seems to have been, if the term is in any instance admissible, a God-forsaken land; certainly it was the most destitute of natural productions of any portion of the globe. We can well believe that before these blacks came hither,—perhaps a thousand years ago,—this land was untrodden by human beings.
No species of grain was known to these natives; not a single fruit worthy of notice grew wild, and not an edible root of value was produced. The only game of any size was the kangaroo and a few species of birds. Now, the trees, fruits, vegetables, and game of all regions have become domesticated here, proving to be highly productive, whether transplanted from tropical or from semi-tropical regions.
Queensland measures thirteen hundred miles from north to south, and is about eight hundred miles in width, containing a population at the present time of three hundred and forty thousand. The climate may be compared to that of Madeira, and it is entirely free from the hot winds which sometimes render Sydney and Melbourne so uncomfortable. Leaving out West Australia, which is yet so little developed, the country may be divided thus: Queensland is the best and most extensive grazing section; in this respect New South Wales comes next. South Australia is characterized by its prolific grain-fields, and Victoria is richest in auriferous deposits; but there is gold enough in all of these colonies to afford constant stimulus to mining enterprise, fresh discoveries in this line being made every month. It is proposed to separate the north of Queensland from the south, at the twenty-second parallel of latitude, and to form the northern portion into a separate colony. As Queensland is larger than England, France, and Belgium with Holland and Denmark combined, there can be no want of territory for such a political division: population, however, is needed.
We will now turn our steps southward, by the way of Sydney and Melbourne, to Tasmania. At the last-named city we take a coasting steamer passing down the river Yarra-Yarra, the muddiest of water-ways, until Bass's Strait is reached, across which the course is due-south for a hundred and twenty miles. This is a reach of ocean travel which for boisterousness and discomfort can be said to rival the English Channel, between Calais and Dover. As the coast of Tasmania is approached, a tall lighthouse, one hundred and forty feet above sea-level, first attracts the attention, designating the mouth of the Tamar River. While crossing the Strait we are surrounded by a great variety of sea-birds, among which are the cape-pigeon, the stormy petrel, and the gannet, which last is the largest of ocean birds next to the albatross.
On drawing still nearer to the shore, flocks of pelicans are observed upon the rocks, and that most awkward of birds, the penguin, is seen in idle groups. He is a good swimmer, but his apologetic wings are not intended for flying.
We pass up the Tamar River, through a narrow, winding channel for a distance of forty miles before coming to the harbor and town of Launceston. The many tall, smoking chimney-shafts which meet the eye indicate that the town is busy smelting ores, dug from the neighboring mineral hills and valleys. It is a pleasant and thrifty little city, somewhat liable to earthquakes and their attendant inconveniencies. The place has a population of ten or twelve thousand, and is named after a town in Cornwall, England. We have left Australia proper far behind us, but the Bass Strait which separates that land from Tasmania is evidently of modern formation. The similarity of the vegetation, minerals, animal, and vegetable life of the two countries shows that this island must, at some time in the long-past ages, have been connected with the mainland. And yet the aborigines of Tasmania were a race quite distinct from those of Australia, so different, indeed, as only to resemble them in color. They were a well-formed, athletic people, with brilliant eyes, curly hair, flat noses, and elaborately tattooed bodies. This ingenious and barbaric ornamentation, practised by isolated savage races, seems to have been universal among the inhabitants of the Pacific Islands, though the great distances which separate them, as well as the lack of all ordinary means of intercommunication, would lead to the belief that they could not have borrowed the idea from one another. So late as 1828 there were a few of the Tasmanian aborigines still alive, but to-day there is not a representative of the race in existence.
When the country cast off the disgrace of being a penal colony, the name it bore was very judiciously changed from Van Dieman's Land to that of Tasmania, in honor of its first discoverer, Abel Janssen Tasman, the famous Dutch navigator of the seventeenth century. We should perhaps qualify the words "first discoverer." Tasman was the first accredited discoverer, but he was less entitled to impart his name to this beautiful island than were others. Captain Cook, with characteristic zeal and sagacity, explored, surveyed, and described it, whereas Tasman scarcely more than sighted it. However, any name was preferable to that of Van Dieman's Land, which had become the synonyme for a penal station, and with which is associated the memory of some of the most outrageous and murderous acts of cruelty for which a civilized government was ever responsible.
The whole island has now a population of about one hundred and thirty thousand, and a total area of over twenty-four thousand square miles. It is not quite so large as Ireland. Lying nearer to the Antarctic Circle it is of course cooler than the continent, but the influence of the sea, which completely surrounds it, renders the climate more equable. The general aspect of the country is that of being occupied by thrifty farmers of advanced ideas, such as carry on their calling understandingly, and more like well-populated America than sparsely-inhabited Australia. Our native fruits—apples, peaches, pears, and the like—thrive here in such abundance, as to form a prominent item in the exports, besides promoting a large and profitable industry in the packing of preserved fruits, which are in universal use in Australia and New Zealand. These canned fruits have an excellent and well-deserved reputation. Here, also, we find enormous trees, with a circumference of eighty feet near the ground, and a height of three hundred and fifty feet. Fern-trees, with their graceful palm-like formation, are frequently seen thirty feet in height. The country is well-wooded generally, and traversed by pleasant watercourses; it is singularly fertile, and rich in good harbors, especially upon the east coast. In short, its hills, forests, and plains afford a pleasing variety of scenery, while its rich pastures invite the stock-breeder to reap a goodly harvest in the easiest manner.
Launceston is situated at the head of navigation, on the Tamar, where the town nestles in the lap of a valley surrounded by high elevations. It is regularly laid out in broad streets, lighted by gas, and has a good water-supply brought from St. Patrick's River, fifteen miles east of the city. There are numerous substantial stone buildings, and everything bears a business-like aspect. There is a public library, and several free schools of each grade. The North and South Elk Rivers rise on different sides of Ben Lomond, and after flowing through some romantic plains and gorges, they join each other at Launceston. The sky-reaching mountain just named is worthy of its Scotch counterpart; between it and Launceston is some of the finest river and mountain scenery in all Tasmania. Ben Lomond is the chief object in the landscape, wherever one drives or walks in this part of the island. Tasmania possesses vast mineral wealth. The richest and most profitable tin mine in the world is that of Mount Bischoff, situated about a hundred and fifty miles from Launceston. The Beaconsfield gold mine is only thirty miles from the city, besides several others not much further away, which are rich in their yield of the precious metal.
The journey from here to Hobart, a distance of one hundred and twenty miles, takes us through the length of the island in a southeasterly direction. We pass through lovely glades, over broad plains, across rushing streams, and around the base of abrupt mountains. Hobart was so named in 1804, in honor of Lord Hobart, who was then Secretary of State for the Colonies. It is surrounded by hills and mountains except where the river Derwent opens into lake form, making a deep, well-sheltered harbor, whence it leads the way into the Southern Ocean. Among the lofty hills in this vicinity Mount Wellington towers forty-two hundred feet above the others, so close to the city as to appear to be within rifle range. The shape of the town is square, and it is built upon a succession of hills, very much like Sydney. It has broad streets intersecting each other at right angles, lined with handsome, well-stocked stores and dwelling-houses, serving an active and enterprising population of thirty thousand and more. Of these shops, two or three spacious and elegant bookstores deserve special mention, being such as would be creditable to any American city. It must undoubtedly be a cultured community which affords support to such establishments.
Yet we cannot forget that Hobart has scarcely outlived the curse of the penal association which encompassed its birth. Between thirty and forty years ago, the British government expended here five thousand dollars a day in support of jails and military barracks. The last convict ship from England discharged her cargo at Hobart in 1851, since which year the system has gradually disappeared. The city is supplied with all the necessary charitable and educational institutions, including a public library and art gallery. The street scenes have the usual local color, embracing the typical miner, with his rude kit upon his shoulder, consisting of a huge canvas bag, a shovel, and pick. The professional chimney-sweep, with blackened face and hands begrimed,—he whom we lost sight of in Boston years ago,—is here seen pursuing his antiquated vocation. Market-men have the same peculiar mode of delivering purchases to their customers that we have noticed elsewhere in this country, and are seen galloping about upon wiry little horses, bearing upon their arms large well-filled baskets. Women, with small handcarts full of slaughtered rabbits, cry them for sale at twelve cents a pair, besides which they receive a bounty for killing these pests.
The river Derwent, which rises far inland where the beautiful lakes St. Clair and Sorell are embosomed, broadens into a lake six miles wide where it forms the harbor of Hobart, and is famous for the regattas that are rowed upon its surface. Here, the largest craft that navigates these seas can lie close to the wharf and the warehouses. A visit to the Lake District of Tasmania affords many delightful views, where those inland waters just referred to lie in their lonely beauty, now overhung by towering cliffs, like those bordering a Norwegian arm of the sea, and now edged by pebbly beaches where choice agates and carnelians abound.
The charming cloud-effects which hang over and about the lofty hills which environ the capital of Tasmania, recall vividly those of the Lake of Geneva, near Chillon, while the Derwent itself, reflecting the hills upon its blue and placid surface, forms another pleasing resemblance to Lake Leman. In ascending Mount Wellington, the lion of Tasmanian scenery, when we find ourselves at an elevation of about two thousand feet, it is discovered that we have reached the Old World ocean-floor. Here, there are plenty of remains of the former denizens of the ocean,—fossils, telling the strange and interesting story of terrestrial changes that have taken place in the thousands upon thousands of years that are passed.
About twenty miles from Hobart we find a forest of the remarkable gum-trees of which we have all read,—trees which exceed in height and circumference the mammoth growths of our own Yosemite Valley, and fully equal those of Victoria. The immediate locality which contains them is known as the Huon District. A walk among these forest giants fills one with wonder and delight; their lofty tops seem almost lost in the sky to which they aspire. No church steeple, no cathedral pinnacle reared by the hand of man, but only mountain peaks reach so far skyward.
Tasmania is largely occupied for sheep-runs and wool-raising. The eastern side of the island is studded with lovely homesteads carefully fenced, the grounds about the residences being covered with fruit trees and flower plats. There does not appear to be any waste land, all is carefully improved in the peopled districts. The roads are often lined with thrifty hedges, symmetrically trimmed, frequently consisting of the brilliant, constant flowering, fragrant yellow gorse, and sometimes of the stocky species of scarlet geranium. This sort is not fragrant but becomes very thick by being cut partly down annually, until it makes an almost impenetrable hedge. Prosperity and good taste are everywhere noticeable, amid a succession of landscapes like those of the populous New England States.
We embark at Hobart by steamship, for Southern New Zealand. After following the course of the river Derwent for a distance of twelve miles, its mouth is reached, where the ship's course is a little south of east, the dull green of the waters on soundings rapidly changing to the navy blue of the ocean. The prevailing winds here are from the west, which with the Australian current and the Antarctic drift, are in our favor, so the ship speeds cheerily on her way.
The tedium of the voyage is beguiled by watching the graceful movements of the wandering albatross, the fateful bird of nautical romance, which is sure to be seen in considerable numbers below the thirtieth parallel of south latitude. The peculiarities of this sea-bird's flight are a constant marvel, for it scarcely ever plies its wings, but literally sails upon the wind in any desired course. We wonder what secret power can so propel him for hundreds of rods with an upward trend at the close. If for a single moment he lights upon the water to seize some object of food, there is a trifling exertion evinced in rising again, until he is a few feet above the waves, when once more he sails with or against the wind, upon outspread, immovable wings. With no apparent inclination or occasion for pugnacity, the albatross is yet armed with a tremendous beak, certainly the most terrible of its kind possessed by any of the feathered tribe. It is from six to eight inches long, and ends in a sharp-pointed hook extremely strong and hard. It has been humorously said that if he pleased, the albatross might breakfast at the Cape of Good Hope and dine in New York, so wonderfully swift is he in flight and so powerful on the wing.
At night the phosphorescence of these lonely waters lying just north of the Antarctic Circle, between Tasmania and New Zealand, is indeed marvellous. Liquid fire is the only term which will properly express their flame-like appearance. If a bucketful is drawn and deposited upon deck, while it remains still it appears dark and like any other water, but when agitated it emits scintillations of light like the stars. A drop of this water placed under a microscope is found to be teeming with living and active creatures. If we suspend a muslin bag for a few moments over the ship's side, with the mouth open, then draw it up and permit it to drain for a few seconds, placing what remains in a glass tumbler, we shall find the abundance of living forms which it contains quite visible to the naked eye. No two of these minute creatures seem to be of similar form; the variety is infinite, and their activity incessant. Most of these animalcules, however, are so small that if it were not for the microscope we should never know of their existence.
The voyage from Hobart to the Bluff, South New Zealand, usually consumes four days, and it is often a very rough passage. Sailing-vessels making this trip carry a quantity of crude oil, which in extreme cases they employ to still the boisterous sea about them, when "God maketh the deep to boil like a pot." It should be known that our own Benjamin Franklin first suggested, about a century ago, the carrying of oil by vessels for this purpose. This shrewd American philosopher was also the first to suggest, about the same time, that ship-builders should construct the hulls of vessels in water-tight compartments, thus affording sufficient sustaining power to float them when by accident portions of the hull became leaky or broken into. After the lapse of a century both of these precautions have been adopted, and are much used.
As we sight the land, the southwest coast of New Zealand is found to be indented with deep fjords [Pronounced feords.] almost precisely like the coast of Norway from Bergen to Hammerfest; and, singular to say, these arms of the sea, like those of the far north, are much deeper than the neighboring ocean. The Bluff, also known as Campbelltown, is situated in the very track of storms, being open to the entire sweep of the Antarctic Ocean. Its shelving side, sloping towards the harbor, forms a sort of lee, or sheltered position, which is occupied by a pretty little fishing-village of some sixty houses, and contains a population of less than a thousand. These people gain their living mostly from the neighboring sea, and from such labor as is consequent upon the occasional arrival of a steamship bound northward. We may here take refreshment at the Golden Age Inn, which is the most southerly house of public entertainment on the globe.
New Zealand did not become a recognized British colony until the year 1840. For three-quarters of a century after Cook's first visit, the native tribes remained in free possession of the country. It is true that England was mistress of these islands by right of discovery, but she made no formal assumption of political domain until the period already named, when it was formed into a colony subordinate to the government of New South Wales. As early as 1815, white men of venturous disposition began to settle in small numbers among the natives; but often their fate was to be roasted and eaten by cannibals. Before 1820, missionaries, no doubt influenced by truly Christian motives, came hither and devoted their lives to this people,—in more senses than one, as it is well known that they not infrequently met with a fate similar to that of other settlers.
New Zealand lies as far south of the equator as Italy does north of it, and is divided into the North and South Islands by Cook's Strait. The South Island is also known as the Middle Island, to distinguish it more fully from Stewart Island, which belongs to the group, and which lies to the south of it. This last-named island is separated from Middle Island by Foveaux Strait some fifteen or twenty miles across the water from the Bluff. It is about fifty miles long by thirty broad, and has a mountain range running through it, the loftiest peak of which is a trifle over three thousand feet high. There are some fishing hamlets here, but there are very few inhabitants. All these islands are popularly believed to have once formed part of a great continent, which is now sunk in the sea.
Unlike Australia, New Zealand is rarely visited by drought. The whole eastern coast abounds in good harbors, while the rivers and streams are ever flowing and innumerable. Though it is a mountainous country, it differs from Switzerland in that it has no lack of extensive plains, which seem to have been left by nature ready to the hand of the farmer, requiring scarcely ordinary cultivation to insure large and profitable crops of grains. This diversity of surface, as well as the fact that these islands extend over thirteen degrees of latitude, give the country a varied climate, but it is a remarkably temperate one, its salubrity far surpassing that of England or any part of the United States. While snow is never seen in the North Island except upon the highest mountains, the plains of the South Island, as far south as Otago, are sometimes sprinkled with it, but only to disappear almost immediately. The rivers are generally destitute of fish, and the forests of game. It is no sportsman's country; but vegetation runs riot, the soil being remarkably fertile, clothing the wild lands with perpetual verdure and vigorous freshness.
The area of the islands known as New Zealand is about one hundred thousand square miles, being a few more than are contained in England, Wales, and Ireland combined. The entire coast line is four thousand miles in length. Out of the seventy million acres of land, forty million are deemed worthy of cultivation. The soil being light and easily worked favors the agriculturist, and New Zealand is free from all noxious animals and venomous reptiles. It is stated that no animal larger than a rat was found here by the discoverers. The remote situation of the country, surrounded by the greatest extent of ocean on the globe, has kept it in a measure unknown to the rest of the world, even in these days of rapid communication with all parts of the earth. Wellington, the capital, is about fifteen thousand miles more or less, from the Colonial Office in London; in other words, New Zealand forms the nearest land to the actual antipodes of England. The precious metals are distributed over the land in gold-bearing quartz reefs, rich alluvial diggings, and in the sands of its many rivers. Mines of tin and iron as well as other minerals are supplemented by an abundant supply of the most important of them all; namely, coal.
There is little of interest to detain us at the Bluff, so we continue on by steamer to Dunedin, the metropolis of Otago district, and indeed, the principal city of New Zealand, if we make the number and wealth of its population the criterion of comparison. The cities of both Australia and New Zealand, but especially those of the latter country, have a habit of locating themselves among and upon a collection of hills, up the sides of which the houses creep in a very picturesque manner. Dunedin is no exception to this rule, rising rather abruptly from the plain, which is the location of the wharves and business houses, to the summit of the surrounding hills. A portion of the plain near the shore, upon which broad streets and substantial blocks of buildings now stand, consists of made land, redeemed at great expense from the shallow water front of the town.
The first settlement here was made so late as 1848, by a colony nearly every member of which came from Scotland, and from this source the city has continued ever since to draw large numbers annually. The Scottish brogue salutes the ear everywhere; the Scottish physiognomy is always prominent to the eye; and indeed, there are several prevailing indications which cause one to half believe himself in Aberdeen, Glasgow, or Edinburgh. This is by no means unpleasant. There is a solid, reliable appearance to everything. People are rosy-cheeked, hearty, and good to look at. The wand of the enchanter, to speak figuratively, touched the place in 1861, from which date it took a fresh start upon the road of prosperity. It was caused by gold being discovered in large quantities near at hand, and from that date the city of Dunedin has grown in population and wealth with marvellous rapidity. Large substantial stone edifices have sprung up on all the main thoroughfares devoted to business purposes, banks, public offices, churches, schools, storehouses, etc., giving an unmistakable aspect of prosperity. The street-cars are mostly operated on the cable principle. Horses could not draw heavily-laden cars up some of the steep streets. The sensation when being conveyed on one of these cars up or down a steep grade of the city, is the same as when ascending or descending some Swiss mountains, by means of the same unseen power. The car is promptly stopped anywhere, to land or to take on a passenger, no matter how steep the grade, by the simple movement of a lever, and is easily started again. The powerful stationary engine situated a mile away, by means of the chain beneath the road-bed quietly winds the car up the declivity however heavily it may be laden, without the least slacking of speed.
The singularly formed hills about Dunedin are not mere barren rocks,—they have their suggestiveness, speaking of volcanic eruptions, of wild upheavals, dating back for thousands of years. Scientists tell us that these islands are of the earliest rock formations. The ground upon which this city stands, like that of Auckland further north, is composed of the fiery outflow of volcanic matter.
Dunedin has all the usual educational and philanthropic institutions which a community of fifty thousand intelligent people demand in our day. It is especially well supplied with primary and other schools. Throughout New Zealand there are over eight hundred registered public schools of the various grades. It is a source of gratification to realize that educational interests are nowhere neglected in these far-away colonies, where the eager pursuit of gold has been so prominent an element in inducing immigration. New Zealand is nearly as rich in gold deposits as is Australia, and the precious metal is obtained under nearly the same conditions. Much gold has been found here in what are called pockets, under boulders and large stones which lie on the sandy beach of the west coast. This is popularly believed to have been washed up from the sea in heavy weather, but undoubtedly it was first washed down from the mountains and deposited along the shore. Official returns show that New Zealand has produced over two hundred and fifty million dollars in gold since its discovery in these islands.
When Captain Cook first landed here, he fully understood the cannibal habits of the native race, and sought for some practical means of discouraging and abolishing such inhuman practices. Upon his second visit, therefore, he introduced swine and some other domestic animals, such as goats and horned cattle, in the vain hope that they would ultimately supply sufficient animal food for the savages, and divert them from such wholesale roasting and eating of each other. The goats and some other animals were soon slaughtered and consumed, but the swine to a certain extent answered the purpose for which he designed them; that is to say, they ran wild, multiplied remarkably, and were hunted and eaten by the natives; but cannibalism was by no means abolished, or even appreciably checked. Wild hogs, which have sprung from the original animals introduced so many years ago, are still quite abundant in the North Island.
About two hundred miles northward from Dunedin is the city of Christchurch, settled first in 1850, and the chief seat of the Church of England in New Zealand, having a noble cathedral. Littleton is the port of Christchurch, situated eight miles below the city, and connected with it by both river and railway. This metropolis contains about thirty-five thousand people. In its museum there is a most interesting and perfect skeleton of that great bird, the Moa,—indigenous in this country and believed to have been extinct about two thousand years, probably disappearing before any human beings came to these islands. The Maori Indians (pronounced Mow're), the native race of New Zealand, can be traced back but six or seven hundred years, and only very imperfectly during that period. They are believed to have come from the islands lying in the North Pacific, presumably from the Sandwich or Hawaiian group. Even the traditions of these natives fail to give us any account of this gigantic bird while it was living, but its bones are found in various sections of the country, principally in caves. What is left of the Moa to-day is quite sufficient to form the greatest ornithological wonder in the world. The head of this reconstructed skeleton in the museum of Christchurch stands sixteen feet from the ground, and its various proportions are all of a character to harmonize with its remarkable height. This skeleton shows the marvellous bird to have been, when standing upright, five feet taller than the average full-grown giraffe. It belonged to the giants who dwelt upon the earth perhaps twenty thousand years ago, in the period of the mammoth and the dodo.
A couple of hundred miles further north will bring us to Wellington, the national capital. After a narrow entrance is passed, the harbor opens into a magnificent sheet of water, in which the largest ships may ride in safety and discharge their cargoes at wharves built close to the busy centre of the town. Here, as in Dunedin, a portion of land has been reclaimed from the sea for business purposes. The city has its asylums, a college, hospital, botanical garden, Roman Catholic cathedral, and a colonial museum,—the latter being of more than ordinary interest in the excellence and completeness of its several departments. A structure which is exhibited here and called the Maori House, built by the natives as a specimen of their domestic architecture, is particularly interesting, being also full of aboriginal curiosities, such as domestic utensils, weapons, and carvings. The house is of ordinary village size, and is ornamented on many of its posts by carved figures, representing native heroes and gods. The province of Wellington stretches northward a hundred and fifty miles and contains seven million acres of land, diversified by two mountain ranges. The population of the capital is a little over twenty thousand. The town impresses one as being a community of shops, and it is a subject of surprise how they can all obtain a living.
A considerable number of natives, mostly in European costume, are seen in the streets of Wellington, loitering about the corners and gazing curiously into shop windows, the girls and women having heavy shocks of unkempt hair shading their great black eyes, high cheek-bones, and disfigured mouths and chins, which last are tattooed in blue dye of some sort. The males tattoo the whole face elaborately, but the women disfigure themselves thus only about the mouth and chin. It is most amusing to see them meet one another and rub noses, which is the Maori mode of salutation. This race has some very peculiar habits: they never eat salt; they have no fixed industry, and no idea of time or its divisions into hours and months; they are, like our North American Indians, constitutionally lazy, are intensely selfish, and seem to care nothing for their dead; they have a quick sense of insult, but cannot as a rule be called pugnacious; they excite themselves to fight by indulging in strange war-dances and by singing songs full of braggadocio; and, after having been thus wrought up to a state of frenzy, they are perfectly reckless as to personal hazard. The Maori is not, however, a treacherous enemy; he gives honorable notice of his hostile intent, warring only in an open manner, thus exhibiting a degree of chivalry unknown to our American Indians. Money with the Maori is considered only as representing so much rum and tobacco. Alcohol is his criterion of value; bread and meat are quite secondary.
The name "Maori" is that which these aborigines gave themselves. If there were any human beings upon these islands when the Maoris first arrived, they doubtless fell a prey to the cannibalistic habits of the newcomers, whose insatiable appetite for human flesh was irrepressible. When discovered by Cook, they were the lowest of savage races; they knew scarcely anything of the mechanic arts, their skill being limited to the scooping out of a boat from the trunk of a tree, and the fabrication of fishing-nets from the coarse fibre of the wild flax. They also made spears, shields, and clubs. They had no beasts of burden, and so their women were made to supply the place. Their agriculture was confined to the raising of sweet potatoes and the taro root, while their more substantial food consisted of fish, rats, wild fowl, and human flesh. Captain Cook estimated, when he first visited them, that the Maoris had passed the period of their best days. He thought that in the century previous to his coming hither they had eaten about one-fourth of their number. The race is now estimated at only thirty-six or thirty-eight thousand, though it is certain that it embraced a hundred thousand about a century ago. The decrease in ten years is apparent to observant persons, a fact not clearly accounted for by any excess of living on their part, though their daily habits are not very commendable, especially as to drink. They are all most inveterate smokers,—men, women, and children; you can give a Maori maiden nothing more acceptable to her taste and appreciation than a pipe and a plug of smoking-tobacco. As a people, they have manifestly filled the purpose for which Providence placed them upon these islands of the South Sea; and now, like the Moa, they must pass off the scene and give way to another race. So it seems to be with the Red Man of America, and so it was with the now totally extinct natives of Tasmania.
When this capital of Wellington was first settled, the newcomers could build their houses only of wood, the frequency of earthquakes warning them against raising edifices of heavy material or making their dwellings over one or two stories in height. But earthquakes, though now occasionally experienced, are by no means so frequent as formerly. Tremulousness of the earth and rumblings as of distant thunder are heard now and again, in the hills that stretch inland towards the mountains, which is quite sufficient to keep the fact in mind that this is a volcanic region. Earthquake shocks are frequent all over the islands, and it is believed that New Zealand was rent midway, where Cook's Strait divides the North from the South Island, by volcanic explosion. There is known to be an extinct volcano at the bottom of the strait, in front of the entrance to the harbor of Wellington, over which the water is never absolutely calm and where it sometimes boils like a caldron.
Auckland, the northern metropolis of New Zealand, was formerly the capital of the country until Wellington was selected for the headquarters of the government, as being the more central and accessible from the several islands. So beautiful and picturesque are the bay and harbor that one is not surprised to hear its citizens call it the Naples of New Zealand. Before the European settlers came here this was the locality where the most savage wars were carried on by the natives, and where the most warlike tribes lived in fortified villages. Though the country has virtually no ancient history that is known to us, it has a recognized past extending back for some centuries. When the missionaries first came here about the year 1814, the main subsistence of the natives who lived around what is now Auckland harbor, was human flesh. The first white immigrants, as well as the seamen of chance vessels driven upon the coast, were invariably killed and eaten by the Maoris. Not only did cannibalism prevail here, but it was common in Brazil, in the West Indies, in the other Pacific Islands, along the coast of North America, and among the Indians of Chili, who ate the early navigators who landed upon their shores.
The isthmus upon which the city of Auckland is built is undoubtedly one of the most remarkable volcanic districts in the world, though the agency of subterranean fires is visible enough to the traveller all over the country. Mount Tongariro, six thousand feet high, is even now in activity, with occasional fiery outbursts. The earthquakes which occur in both the North and the South Islands, cause alternate depressions and elevations. That of 1855 raised the coast line four feet for many miles in length. As in the peninsula of Scandinavia, we here find a grand longitudinal mountain range from the extreme of the South Island through the Auckland district to the far north, forming, as it were, a backbone to the country.
Mount Eden is the nearest elevation to the city, and is seven or eight hundred feet in height. On this hill there are abundant evidences still left of the native fortifications, but of the large Maori population that once covered the peninsula and lived in these pahs, or fortified villages, not a soul remains. The harbor is one of the best in Australasia, having ample depth and good wharf facilities, besides being quite sheltered. Its shorter distance from the ports of America gives it an advantage over all others in this region. It is reached from London, across the American continent, in thirty-seven days, while to reach Sydney requires four days more of steam navigation across a boisterous sea.
Auckland occupies a series of hills divided by valleys trending in the direction of the sea or harbor. The slopes and hill-tops are dotted by villas, each of which is surrounded by flowers and ornamental trees. The business part of the town is not particularly attractive, though Queen Street, the principal thoroughfare, contains some fine stores and brick edifices, as well as public buildings of stone. Both the level and the hilly streets are traversed by street railways, upon which horse-power only is used. The population, including the immediate environs, is about sixty-five thousand. The educational interests of the city are well provided for by primary schools, as well as by means for secondary education in a college for boys, and a high school for girls, both taxed to their full capacity.
The Ponsonby suburb and the village of Whou are composed of pleasant residences tastefully ornamented. Parnell forms another suburb, rendered attractive by hedgerows, drooping willows, and prettily arranged gardens. From this point one gets a fine view of the outspread bay lying below, full of various busy maritime craft. Steam ferry-boats are constantly gliding across the harbor, little white-winged cutters bend gracefully to the breeze, the tall masts of sailing-vessels line the piers, and tiny row-boats glance hither and thither. The lofty marine-signal hill looms up across the harbor, in its verdant garb, while volcanic cones, a little way inland on either shore, form an irregular background. Far away and beyond all is seen the swelling bosom of the great Southern Ocean.
This metropolis is situated in the centre of rich timberlands, and also of an abundant coal deposit. Should the Panama Canal be completed, Auckland would be the first port of call and the last of departure between Europe and the colonies of the South Pacific.
The kauri-tree—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. It produces a timber which for some purpose 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. It is said that the kauri-tree requires eight hundred years to arrive at maturity. To visit the forest where it is found in the Auckland district, one takes cars from the city to Helensville, a distance of about forty miles, where the Kaipara River is reached, upon which small steamers ply, taking us directly to the desired spot. Here, the busy saw-mills which are gradually consuming these valuable trees are so situated that vessels of two thousand tons can load at their yards and with their cargo 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 native to the country is also found here, among them the rimu, the matai, the white pine, the tooth-leaved beech, and the totara, all in close proximity to the kauri. The commercial prosperity of Auckland 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. It is a clannish tree, so to speak; and when found near to those of other species it groups itself in clumps apart from them. One often sees, however, forests where the kauri reigns supreme, quite unmixed with other trees.
The kauri-gum forms a large figure in the list of exports from Auckland, and the digging and preparing of it for shipment 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 unreasonable; the gum is a partially fossilized production, showing that it has gone through a process which only a long period of years could have effected. It is usually found at a depth of five or six feet from the surface. It is undoubtedly a fact that this northerly part of New Zealand was once covered by immense forests of this gum-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 from the living. Experiments have been tried which have proven that the gum exuded by the growing tree has no commercial value. 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.
The immediate neighborhood of Auckland is almost denuded of original trees, but ornamental species are being planted, and flowers are plentiful. The Maoris had distinctive and expressive names for every bird, tree, and flower, before the white man came. There is a lovely little native daisy called tupapa, and a blue lily known as rengarenga, also a green and yellow passion-flower named by the aborigines kowhaia. A glutinous, golden buttercup is known as anata, nearly as abundant as its namesake in America. All these are wild-flowers, cultivated only by Nature's hand. New Zealand seems to be adapted for receiving into its bosom the vegetation of any land, and 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, we find pines and cypresses, oaks and willows, elms and birches, besides fruit-trees of all sorts, which are grown in Europe, thriving here in abundance, in the grounds surrounding the settlers' houses. The range of temperature is here very limited. Summer and winter are only known as the dry and the rainy seasons; flowers, vegetables, grapes, in short, all plants, grow thriftily the whole year round in the open air. Tropical and hardy plants are equally at home; Scottish firs and Indian palms, oranges, lemons, india-rubber trees, and the lime thrive side by side. As in Japan, so it is here. One can gather a pretty bouquet out of doors any day in the year.
At Auckland, we are in the vicinity of the famous Hot Lake District of New Zealand, the veritable wonderland of these regions, to reach which we take the cars for a distance of a hundred and thirty miles, then proceed thirty miles further by stage to the native town of Ohinemutu, on Lake Rotorua. This route carries us in a southeast course and leads into the very heart of the North Island, among the aborigines. The railway passes through a level country or valley, which, however, is bounded on either side, five or six miles away, by lofty hills, presenting a confusion of irregular forms. These hills contain an abundance of mineral wealth in the form of gold, silver, iron, coal, and manganese. Many low-lying marshy fields of native flax are seen, and the Waikato River is three times crossed in its winding course, as we thread our way through the valley. Large plantations, each containing several thousand young pine-trees of the American species, are seen, covering gentle slopes, and many broad acres of level land, where the government is endeavoring to establish artificial forests throughout wide reaches of unwooded country. These trees grow more rapidly here even than in their native soil. Small Maori encampments, composed of a dozen lodges each, are scattered along the way, the lazy tattooed natives—men and women—lingering about the stations, with blackened pipes in their mouths, smoking the rankest sort of tobacco, while they chatter together like Benares monkeys.
The last part of this brief journey, that from Oxford to Ohinemutu, takes us through one of the grandest forests in all New Zealand, extending eighteen or twenty miles, with scarcely a human habitation or sign of life, save the cabin where we change horses, and the occasional flutter of a bird. In this forest, mingled with tall columnar trees of various species, are seen frequent examples of the fern-tree thirty feet in height, and of surpassing beauty, spreading out their plumed summits like Egyptian palms, while the stems have the graceful inclination of the cocoanut-tree. The picturesque effect of the birches is remarkable, flanked by the massive outlines and drooping tassels of the rimu. For miles of the way on either side of the narrow road the forest is impenetrable even to the eye, save for the shortest distances, presenting a tangled mass of foliage, vines, and branches such as can be matched only by the virgin forests of Brazil, or the dangerous jungles of India. Ground ferns are observed in infinite variety, sometimes of a silvery texture, sometimes of orange-yellow, but oftenest of the various shades of green. Here, too, we make acquaintance with the sweet-scented manuaka, the fragrant veronica, and the glossy-leaved karaka; this last is the pride of the Maoris.
Specimens of the lofty rimu-tree are seen, about whose tall white stems a parasitic vine (a plant which obtains its nourishment from another plant to which it attaches itself) slowly and treacherously weaves itself, clasping and binding the upright body with such marvellous power of compression as literally to strangle it, until ultimately the vine becomes a stout tree and takes the place of that it has destroyed. The most noted and destructive of these vegetable boa-constrictors is the gigantic rope-like rata, whose Gordian knot nothing can untie. The tree once clasped in its coils is fated, yielding up its sap and life without a struggle to cast off its deadly enemy. Many trees are observed whose stems bear branches only, far above the surrounding woods, laden with bunches of alien foliage,—parasites like the mistletoe. Indeed, this forest seems like vegetation running riot, and with its clumps of dissimilar foliage fixed like storks' nests in the tops of the trees, recalling the same effect which one sees on the St. John's River in Florida.
Once fairly within the area of the Hot Lake District, which is the most active volcanic region of the Antipodes, nothing seems too strange to be true; geysers, vapor-holes, boiling springs, and dry stones burning hot beneath one's feet, surround us, as though the surface of the land covered Nature's chemical laboratory. Sulphur, alkaline, and iron impregnated pools of inviting temperature cause one to indulge in frequent baths, and it seems but natural that the natives in their half-naked condition should pass so much time in the water. Near the shore of Lake Rotorua, where it is shallow, a boiling spring forces its way to the surface of the surrounding cold water, telling of a submerged fiery caldron underlying the lake at that particular point. It is, however, no more significant than the scores of other steam-holes and spouting geysers which force themselves to the surface of the land all about this sulphurous region. In short, the little town of Ohinemutu is built on a thin crust, roofing over as it were a vast fiery furnace, whose remarkable volcanic eccentricities form the marvel of this locality. Here, the traveller eats, drinks, and sleeps above a series of suppressed volcanoes, and is apt to recall the fate of Pompeii. Many of these springs and geysers are so hot that a mere touch of the water will blister the flesh as quickly as contact with red-hot iron. Others are of a temperature suitable for boiling vegetables; and still others by artificial means—that is, the introduction of cold surface water—are rendered of a temperature suitable for bathing purposes. One must walk cautiously among these boiling mud-pits, open springs, and steam-holes, for a misstep might prove fatal. Dangerous caldrons lie on either side of the path, within a few inches of where one may be walking all unsuspiciously.