James Hector’s giant map

James Hector (1834–1907) was the dominant figure in 19th-century science in New Zealand. Although he was initially employed as a geologist, he covered the whole range of natural science and explored remote parts of New Zealand. Hector’s dolphin is named after him, as is Mt Hector in the Tararua Range.

New Zealand geologists celebrate his birthday – 16th March – as Hector Day. This year the Hocken Library in Dunedin is celebrating Hector’s birthday by unveiling a newly restored copy of his 1864 geological map of Otago. More than 1.5 metres wide, it is an impressive map that former Otago graduates may recall on display in the geology museum. You can also examine it online at a newly created website, and zoom in to look at detail.

Map curator Karen Craw with a digitally scanned copy of Hector’s geological map of Otago

Map curator Karen Craw with a digitally scanned copy of Hector’s geological map of Otago

Between 1862 and 1864 Hector explored the whole of Otago province (including Southland). Fiordland was particularly inaccessible, so he spent six months investigating the fiords in a small schooner, the Matilda Hayes. During that time he found a route between Lake McKerrow and Queenstown, and returned briefly to a triumphant welcome in Dunedin.

Close-up of the Dunedin volcano (coloured red), a detail from Hector's map

Close-up of the Dunedin volcano (coloured red), a detail from Hector's map

James Hector has a special place in Te Ara – he is one of the most frequently mentioned individuals and appears in a variety of entries, including mining, birdwatching, and timekeeping. Try typing ‘hector’ in the search box at the top right of any page on Te Ara, and you will see the range of his contributions.

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