Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

germinal capacity, that though he admits that it occupies the very first place in importance, Dr. Carpenter does not, I believe, say anything beyond what has been quoted.

In the commencement of his paper, Dr. Carpenter speaks disparagingly of a class of reasoners who uphold a “hypothetical vital principle, a shadowy agency that does everything in its own way, but refuses to be made the subject of scientific examination.” There is an amusing similarity between the statement concerning the vital principle here ascribed to defective reasoners, and the statement which Dr. Carpenter makes respecting his own “germinal capacity,” at the close of

“ The special attribute of the vegetable germ is its power of utilizing after its own peculiar fashion the heat which it receives, and of applying it as a constructive power to the building up of its fabric after its characteristic type."

his paper.

SEVENTH ORDINARY MEETING.

ROYAL INSTITUTION, 25th January, 1864.

JAMES A. PICTON, F.S.A., President, in the Chair.

Mr. F. T. Roberts, M.B., and B.Sc. (Lond.), and Mr. James Birchall, were balloted for, and elected members.

The Volume of Proceedings for the past Session was laid upon the table, and announced to be ready for distribution.

Mr. MOORE exhibited some remarkable specimens of Septaria from the lias at Cheltenham, as well as some other objects lately presented to the Museum by Mr. S. Bendall of that town.

Mr. MORTON exhibited some interesting fossils from the Lingula flags of North Wales, including good specimens of the great Trilobite, Paradoxides Davisii.

An interesting discussion took place upon the subject of the recent explosion in the Mersey. Mr. Towson exhibited the momentary effect produced upon the barometer by means of a tracing of its self-registering indication.

A paper was then read

ON THE RELATIONS EXISTING BETWEEN THE DIMENSIONS AND DISTANCES OF THE SUN,

MOON, AND EARTH.

BY JAMES SMITH, Esq.

EIGHTH ORDINARY MEETING.

ROYAL INSTITUTION, 8th February, 1864.

J. BAKER EDWARDS, Ph.D., F.C.S., V.P., in the Chair.

Mr. J. R. Cuthbert was balloted for, and elected a member.

Mr. MOORE exhibited some bones of the Moa brought from New Zealand by Sherbrooke Walker, Esq., of Bathafarn Park, Ruthin, North Wales, and kindly presented by him to the Derby Museum. They consist of a right and left femur, two left tibiæ, and two left metatarsi, one fragment of tibia, and two vertebræ, of the largest known kind, the Dinornis giganteus of Owen. The height of the bird was estimated by Professor Owen at ten feet. No remains of this species hitherto existed in the museum, and although since the first discovery, consisting of a single fragmentary bone, in 1839, considerable numbers of bones of ten or eleven different species had been brought to England and deposited in the museum of the College of Surgeons and the British Museum, but few were referable to this species, the collection of Mr. Walter Mantell, consisting of 700 or 800 bones, containing a smaller and less perfect series than those now exhibited.

Mr. SHERBROOKE WALKER, who was present, stated that the bones were found in a limestone cave at Blue Cliff Station, in the province of Canterbury, by Mr. Poigndestre, proprietor of the station, who presented them to him during his late residence in New Zealand. To get into the cave the discoverers had to let themselves down by a rope, and crawl into the cave on their hands and knees. The bones were found lying on the floor in loose soil among a large quantity of others, bones of kakas (parrots,) wekas (wood-hens,) &c.

An interesting discussion took place, and on the question as to the extinction of these gigantic birds, Mr. SHERBROOKE WALKER stated that “the Maories, in New Zealand, certainly have some traditions respecting it, but it is questionable if they can be relied on. They say that formerly the Moa birds were very numerous, and used to kill the native children, so that at last, fearing that if they did not destroy the race of moa birds that the Moas would exterminate theirs, they held a council and determined to burn the island, and, according to them, a day was fixed, and the whole of the east coast was set fire to at the same time, whereby the gigantic race of birds was entirely destroyed. Whether there is any truth in this report or not, it is impossible to say, but is is very evident that all the east side of the middle island was once heavily timbered, for go where you will, on hills or plains, you will find large burnt logs of a species of pine, called by the natives 'Totara,' which never decays in the ground; and also, but much rarer, burnt logs of a sort of cedar, now quite extinct on the island. These logs are charred on the outside, but as sound as the day they were burnt when you take the outside off None of the other sorts of wood which decay in the ground are ever found, thereby clearly showing that it must have been some time since the island was burnt, for all traces of other woods, too, have vanished. You will ask, possibly, how it happens that there is any timber at all left in the island. I can only account for that, by supposing them to have been protected by a swamp or river. We sometimes find the moa bones in swamps, which would lead one to think that they might have fled into them for protection from the fire. Many people believe to this day that they still exist in the unexplored forests on the west coast, and I confess I am not altogether incredulous of their existence myself. I only know of one instance of a Maori saying that they had seen one personally, which was to a friend of mine, whom an old woman told that when she was a child she remembered having seen one, and described the place where she had seen it, which was an open tract of country towards the west coast. My friend, thinking that it sounded as if there was some open country there, went down on an exploring expedition, and found the place exactly as she described it, but no Moa bird. He ultimately took up the country for sheep farming purposes. The Maories have also traditions that these birds used to go into caves, and that their ancestors made large nets of the New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax) and, having caught them, used to eat them. Another friend of mine was told by the natives, when he was going up into the interior of the country, that he would be sure to see Mous, but that they would not hurt him ; however, he never saw any. There had been several reports of Moas having been seen, but hitherto none of them have been confirmed.”

Mr. MOORE exhibited a stuffed specimen of the New Zealand owl-parrot, Strigops habroptilus, (G. R. Gray), from the Derby Museum, the species referred to in the following note lately given to him by Mr. Walker, detailing a very singular habit :-“You asked me for some information respecting the 'Rakapo,' or large New Zealand ground parrot. It is found in great numbers on the west coast of the Middle Island, but very rarely any where else. It is about the size of a common fowl, with a varied black and green plumage. The only one I ever saw alive was brought from the west coast by Mr. J. C. Watts Russell, of Canterbury. It was evidently a night bird, as it always hid itself under some thick plant (being kept in a small patch of enclosed flower garden) in the day time. It cannot fly at all, and has a very singular way of progressing, giving a hop forward, and then putting its head down and resting its forehead on the ground. At first I thought this might arise from the specimen I saw having a broken leg ; but Mr. Watts Russell, a gentleman of undoubted

G

« AnteriorContinuar »