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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Julius von Haast   5 March 1863

Lake Wanaka [New Zealand]

5 March 1863

My dear Mr Darwin!

Fearing that the parcels of letters which I sent from Lake Ohau and which contained also my letter to Dr Hooker with yours enclosed, has been lost, I enclose to you a copy of my last letter.—1

Coming just back from a most interesting journey across the Southern Alps to the West coast, I can only communicate to you, that I discovered a most wonderful pass, a break running N & S across the Alps being only 1600 to 1650 above the sea level, which is the more remarkable as on both sides mountains of 10,000 are covered with extensive glaciers.—2 It was a very interesting although arduous task, large rivers & dense N.Z. forest all the way, and I shall do me the pleasure to send you as soon as I return to Christchurch a more detailed report in print which I wrote here in the field and which will give you an idea of the country traversed.—3 How I lounge to come back to Christchurch, & study your work on the Orchideæ.—4

Believe me my dear Mr Darwin | very sincerely yours | Julius Haast.


(Copy)5 Lake Ohau. N.Z. December 9th. 1862. Dear Sir

Our common friend Dr J. D. Hooker tells me he did me the honour to send you my last letter & extracts and that you were interested in them, yet at the same time communicates to me that you wish for a specimen of our native rat & frog.6 I had the pleasure to send you a month ago two productions of my pen (addressed to the British Museum) for the perusal of which I hope you will find a spare moment.7 You will observe that I took the liberty to call one of our Alpine giants after you as a feeble tribute from the Southern hemisphere to the author of ‘Origin of species’.8

I am very sorry that I have no specimen of the native rat, it being almost extinct, but I shall do my best to procure one for you; The frog exists only in one or two small creeks at Coromandel in the northern island, and I shall write instantly to one of my Auckland friends, Mr. Chs. Petschler to procure one, and to send it directly to you.9 There are some more highly interesting animals in N.Z. quite unknown to science, as for instance a small quadruped in the rivers forming this lake, & as no doubt I shall be able to procure some, I shall do myself the honour to send them to you for examination & description.10 Dr. Hooker tells me that you ask him if I had your ‘Origin of Species’, if ever in my life I could be induced to tell an untruth, it would be here the case, because I should consider it the highest compliment to receive a work like yours from the hand of the Author, and on returning to Ch. Church, I shall present my copy to our embryo of a library, so that I can then fairly say, I do not possess it.11

You will see in my address as Presite. of the Phil. Instte. of Canterbury, that I tried to explain in few words to the members & public at large, the great object of your work, so as to preserve them against the prejudices of bigoted people.12 It will perhaps interest you when I tell you, that the ‘Origin of Species’ was my travelling companion during my last journey, in the N.Z. Alps, taking always a book with me, the careful study of which, the long evenings & rainy days in a tent afford the best opportunity, and I need scarcely say that very often I forgot hunger & fatigue, cold & storm in its perusal, & sometimes I was only roused from its study by the falling of an avalanche, or the howling of the storm.13 If you wish me to make any observations on the subject of natural history, I shall be most happy to fulfil your desires. You will allow me to give you one instance which came under my knowlege, how animals in order to preserve their offspring, adapt themselves to circumstances: the ‘Casarca Variegata’, the ‘Paradise duck’ of the setlers, builds its nest along the bank of rivers, on the ground, but several instances have been observed at the Arowenui bush between Lyttelton and Timaru on the east coast of this island, that these webfooted birds when disturbed from their nests, have built new ones on the top of high trees, bringing afterwards their young ones on their backs down to the water. This occurrance has been observed by many respectable people so that there is not the least doubt about its truthfulness, & have not the deductions from such a change in the habit of an animal a very high bearing on the confirmation of your theories? Any parcel for me if entrusted to the care of Mr. J. Marshman our Provinl. Agent, 16 Charing Cross London, will reach me safely.14 Having hurt my right hand slightly, by a fall with a horse, you will excuse my employing one of my travelling companions to write this. Hoping that you will find time to send me a few lines,

Believe me my dear Sir | very sincerely yours | Julius Haast

Chs. Darwin Esqr | ect FRS | London.

CD annotations

Top of letter: ‘Change in Habits in nest in Duck. | New Zealand Vertebrata.’ ink
1.1 Our … species’. 1.7] crossed ink
2.1 I am very sorry] after opening square bracket, ink
2.3 I shall write … desires. 3.11] crossed ink


See enclosure and n. 5, below. Haast enclosed this letter and its enclosure with a letter to Joseph Dalton Hooker of 5 March 1863 that arrived in mid-June 1863 (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 19 June 1863 and n. 2).
Following the discovery of the rich Dunstan gold-fields in Otago province in August 1862, Haast, who was provincial geologist in the neighbouring Canterbury province, began an expedition through the Southern Alps of New Zealand’s Middle Island (now South Island), with the aim of examining the rocks along the boundary line of the two provinces at the nearest point to the Otago gold-fields. In January 1863, Haast discovered a pass above Lake Wanaka (the ‘Haast pass’), which allowed him to traverse the Southern Alps and descend to the west coast. See H. F. von Haast 1948, pp. 273–301.
Haast’s provisional report to the superintendent of the province was dated 3 March 1863; it was sent ahead of him to Christchurch and was printed in the Christchurch Press, 1 April 1863, pp. 1–2, and 2 April 1863, pp. 2–3. Haast returned to Christchurch on 12 May 1863, and probably dispatched a copy of these newspaper reports in his letter to CD of 13 May 1863. See H. F. von Haast 1948, p. 289.
Orchids was published in May 1862. Hooker had told Haast about the impact of the book in a letter of 18 September 1862 (Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, MS.37.96).
Haast initially wrote this letter on 9 December 1862, evidently enclosing it with a letter to Hooker of 10 December 1862. Hooker received Haast’s letter in mid-April 1863, but either he lost Haast’s letter to CD, or Haast failed to enclose it as promised (see letters from J. D. Hooker, 20 April 1863 and [30 April 1863], and letter to J. D. Hooker, 23 April [1863]). For reasons of clarity, the copy of Haast’s letter has been reproduced here, in addition to being reproduced in its proper chronological position (Correspondence vol. 10, letter from Julius von Haast, 9 December 1862).
See the enclosure to the letter from J. D. Hooker, 20 September 1862 (Correspondence vol. 10). See also ibid., letter to J. D. Hooker, 21 [September 1862] and nn. 6 and 7.
J. F. J. von Haast 1862a and 1862b (see letter to Julius von Haast, 22 January 1863). There are annotated copies of these publications in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
J. F. J. von Haast 1862b, p. 127. Mount Darwin is at the northern end of the Malte Brun Range, in the Southern Alps of New Zealand. Haast explained his practice of naming mountains in a letter to William Jackson Hooker of 9 June 1862: ‘When beginning with the survey of the Southern Alps of New Zealand, hitherto entirely unknown, I proposed myself to create a kind of Pantheon or Walhalla for my illustrious contemporaries amongst those never-trodden peaks and glaciers’ (H. F. von Haast 1948, p. 213).
Charles Petschler was a merchant at Vulcan Lane, Auckland, New Zealand (Chapman’s New Zealand Almanac 1860, 1862).
In J. F. J. von Haast 1861, p. 135, Haast stated: ‘The native rat (Mus rattus) is the only known indigenous land quadruped’. However, in J. F. J. von Haast 1862a, p. 6, Haast discussed the possible existence of two further indigenous quadrupeds. One was a badger- or otter-like quadruped, ‘called by the natives Kaureke’, which he believed probably still existed in areas around the lakes and rivers of the Southern Alps. The second was a smaller, nocturnal quadruped, traces of which Haast had found ‘in the river bed of the Hopkins, the stream which forms Lake Ohou [Ohau]’.
Haast refers to the Philosophical Institute of Canterbury, which he founded in the summer of 1862 (H. F. von Haast 1948, pp. 220–30).
In J. F. J. von Haast 1862a, p. 7, Haast presented his discussion of Origin as a ‘tribute to its illustrious author’, stating that this was ‘the great work of the age’ in natural history. While asserting that CD’s theories were not altogether new, Haast claimed that CD’s ‘great merit’ was that he had not only dealt with the subject in a ‘true philosophical spirit’ but had also collected ‘a great mass of facts, which throw new light on this inexhaustible source of inquiry’. After briefly summarising CD’s theory, Haast indicated some points of significance raised in Origin for the study of the geology and palaeontology of New Zealand. See also letter to Julius von Haast, 22 January 1863.
As provincial geologist for the province of Canterbury, Haast had spent the period from January to May 1862 in the Southern Alps of New Zealand, carrying out the regular work of the geological survey, together with a search for gold-bearing deposits (H. F. von Haast 1948, pp. 199–219).
John Marshman was agent to the Canterbury Emigration Office, 16 Charing Cross, London (Post Office London directory 1863).


Sends copy of his December letter [see 3851], which he fears is lost.

Has been in the Southern Alps and has discovered a wonderful pass.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Francis Julius (Julius) von Haast
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Lake Wanaka N.Z.
Source of text
DAR 166: 1–2
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4026,” accessed on 25 July 2017,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 11