Hochstetter’s maps and sketches

Pencil and watercolour sketch of Pirongia (Ferdinand Hochstetter)

Pencil and watercolour sketch of Pirongia (Ferdinand Hochstetter)

The Hochstetter Collection held in Basel, Switzerland, contains a variety of 19th-century documents and images of the New Zealand landscape, most of which have not been seen by New Zealanders since they were collected by geologist Ferdinand von Hochstetter, who visited the country in 1858–59. Sascha and Sandy Nolden are producing a catalogue of the collection, and a few months ago I wrote about the first two volumes, covering paintings and photographs. The third volume, covering maps and sketches, has now been published.

In some ways this is the most exciting volume because it consists largely of material created by Hochstetter himself. Hochstetter was always sketching and taking notes wherever he went. The sketches were not intended to be works of art, but rather records that he could use in producing maps and writing up a summary of the geology. Sometimes he filled in a sketch with watercolour, as in the image of Mt Pirongia above.

'Mount Wellington oder Maunga Rei' (Ferdinand Hochstetter)

'Mount Wellington oder Maunga Rei' (Ferdinand Hochstetter)

One of the first surveys that Hochstetter undertook, in January 1858, was to examine the geology of the Auckland area and map the volcanic cones. He was accompanied for much of the time by Charles Heaphy, who had a long-term interest in geology and had compiled his own map of the volcanoes. Hochstetter already had some experience in mapping volcanic cones from his work in the Eifel volcanic field in Germany, and was able to apply this in Auckland. He made detailed maps of individual volcanoes, including Mt Wellington, shown above, and compiled this into a map of the Auckland volcanic field, which was later published after he returned to Vienna. The mapping of Heaphy and Hochstetter provides a record of Auckland’s volcanic cones before many of them were quarried away, and is being examined again in the 21st century as there are moves to protect the remaining volcanic cones.

'Ruapehu and Tongariro' (Ferdinand Hochstetter)

'Ruapehu and Tongariro' (Ferdinand Hochstetter)

Lake Taupō was the southernmost part of Hochstetter’s exploratory trip around the central North Island in 1859. He was very keen to visit the Ruapheu-Tongariro volcanoes that dominate the landscape, and visited chief Iwikau Te Heuheu Tukino III at Tokaanu to seek permission. This was not forthcoming, so he had to content himself with sketching the mountains from a distance, in his notes comparing Tongariro with Vesuvius.

Images of tiki from Tokaanu and Ōhinemutu (Augustus Koch)

Images of tiki from Tokaanu and Ōhinemutu (Augustus Koch)

Hochstetter’s party was led by local Māori guides, and wherever he went he also gathered information on place names and cultural features. His maps provide a valuable record of names provided to him in 1859. Artist Augustus Koch, who was a member of the party, recorded these carved figures or tiki at marae they visited at Tokaanu (at the southern end of Lake Taupō) and Ōhinemutu (near Rotorua).

There was great interest in the giant extinct bird, the moa, and Hochstetter was keen to collect bones that he could take back to Austria. While he and Haast were exploring the Nelson district they took part in excavations of a cave in the Aorere valley, recovering a number of bones, and the excavations were recorded by Christopher Maling.

Sketch of an imaginary encounter with a moa (attributed to Ferdinand Hochstetter)

Sketch of an imaginary encounter with a moa (attributed to Ferdinand Hochstetter)

There was much speculation about the lifestyle of the moa, and whether they had been wiped out by early Māori settlers. This sketch, attributed to Hochstetter, portrays an imaginary encounter between a Māori hunter and moa sheltering in the caves. It is, perhaps a preliminary sketch for a reconstruction of a moa that he was to later publish in the account of his travels in New Zealand.

This new volume makes a major contribution to our knowledge of Hochstetter’s travels in New Zealand in 1858-59 as well as other aspects of life and landscape at that time. The Nolden brothers are to be congratulated on producing such an attractive and scholarly catalogue of documents that might otherwise have remained hidden.

As part of his PhD thesis, Sascha Nolden has transcribed and translated the letters that Hochstetter wrote to Haast after he left New Zealand – a 25 year long correspondence that has been largely overlooked by researchers because it is entirely written in German. The English translations have now been published by the Geoscience Society of New Zealand as a free downloadable PDF (4.5 MB): The correspondence of Ferdinand von Hochstetter and Julius von Haast.

Sascha Nolden and Sandy B. Nolden, Hochstetter Collection Basel. Part 3 – New Zealand maps and sketches. Auckland: Mente Corde Manu Publishing, 2013, 127 pages.

The publisher can be contacted at: mente.corde.manu@gmail.com

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