From Julius von Haast 9 December 1862
Lake Ohau. N.Z.
December 9th. 1862.
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.2 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.3 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’.4
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.5 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.6 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.7
You will see in my address as Presit. of the Phil. Instt. 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.8 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.9 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.10 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.
Will try to procure specimens of native rat and frog for CD. Will be glad to make observations for him.
Cites case of a species of duck that normally nests on ground but builds in trees if disturbed.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3851,” accessed on 26 April 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-3851