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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. D. Hooker   20 September 1862


Sept 20/62

Dr. Darwin

What do you think of Ramsays Lake glacial theory?—1 I think the enclosed may interest you as it does me.—2 if not pray take the will & forget the deed.

I am frightfully busy & inundated with d——d visitors.— there goes the bell— just as I wrote!

Ever yours affec | J D Hooker


Geological Survey Office Christchurch NZ. 9 June 1862.

My dear Sir!

I can not tell you, how thankful I am for your kind letter of the 22 Decb,4 which I received a fortnight ago with all my mails of three months in a lonely shepherd hut at the Alpine lake Pukaki.5 Your judgement on my Nelson Rapport is very kind and the same complaint, that there is no map with it, has been made to me from different sides, but the Nelson Government was afraid of the costs.6 Although I had no instructions from you, I have collected quite after your wishes, and you will find many interesting undescribed plants in the collection, which I shall forward as soon as the box arrives in which it is contained; probably in three weeks.7 Of course I have not forgotten the grasses, amongst which are many remarkable Alpine forms.8 Our mountains are unfortunately so very inaccessible and my occupations so varied, that it is only with great difficulty, that I can find the time for collecting.

I shall accompany the plants with a general description of the country, which, as I hope, will give you a clear insight into the general distribution of the vegetation. There are some very interesting observations which I was able to make.9

Dr Hector is safely arrived. He sent me your letter and wrote me.10 Of course I offered him the hand of friendship and can assure you that I am very glad, that another member of the hammer and such a distinguished one is in New Zealand, so as to be able to consult with him about any difficult geological question. If I find the time I shall go over to Dunedin and see him. I have to thank you very much indeed for your great kindness in giving me such manifold information on scientific subjects of the day and if your time allows you I should be delighted, if in future letters you would do the same

A few days ago I came back from my wanderings; the winter set in very soon, so that having the snow feet deep on the mountains, I was obliged to retreat. My journey has been a very interesting one and as I am so very much pressed with official business, I send you this time only the small accounts, which I published in one of our newpapers.11 You will find an account of my Exploration of last year, when Poor Dr Sinclair lost his life in the Transactions of the Royal Society of Victoria.12 Being now naturalized,13 I think it my duty to offer my work to the scientific societies in England. And as I know, that you are also a fellow of the Geological Society, I shall take the liberty to send you in a few months as soon as my map is finished an account of the geological features of the Alps, on deposits of the glacial periods, accompanied by Maps, sections and sketches, which perhaps you will have the kindness to lay before the Geological Society.14 In October last I sent a Copy of my Nelson Map to Arrowsmith, requesting him to lay it before the R. G. Society, but I got no answer.15 If you see him by chance in one of the meetings, would you perhaps be so kind as to ask him, if he has received my letter with this map?

Our Alps are really superb; the glaciers all of such large dimensions and splendour that it is quite impossible to give an adequate description of it. Why do you not come and make a journey through our Alps?!16 It would amply repay costs and trouble and I should be highly delighted, were I allowed to act as your Cicerone.

Hoping that you have safely received the box of plants with the Chrysolishe and to hear from you, I remain | my dear Sir | Yours very sincerely | Julius Haast.

Dr J. D Hooker | FRS. | etc etc.

Royal Botanical Gardens | Kew.—

CD annotations

Top of first page: ‘Home | Brit. assoc. | Mrs French’ ink
End of letter: ‘Rats.—ink


Hooker had previously asked CD what he thought of Ramsay 1862 in his letter of 20 August 1862. See also letter from A. C. Ramsay, 26 August 1862, letter to A. C. Ramsay, 5 September [1862], and letter to J. D. Hooker, 21 [September 1862].
Hooker sent CD a letter from the German-born New Zealand geologist, Julius von Haast, together with some newspaper reports that had been enclosed with his letter (see letter from Julius von Haast, 9 December 1862). The letter is reproduced here (see enclosure), but the newspaper reports have not been identified; however, it is evident from the letter to J. D. Hooker, 21 [September 1862] that they related, among other subjects, to glacial remains observed during Haast’s 1862 expedition in the Southern Alps of New Zealand. Hooker had told CD about Haast’s earlier observations on glacial phenomena in New Zealand in his letter of [29 December 1861] (Correspondence vol. 9); for CD’s response, see the letter to J. D. Hooker, 16 January [1862] and n. 6.
The enclosure has been identified by Hooker’s statement, in a letter to Haast of 18 September 1862 (Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, MS. papers 37.96), that he had just received Haast’s letter of 9 June 1862.
Hooker began to correspond with Haast in 1861; his letters to Haast are preserved in the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, MS. papers 37.96–105. His letter of 22 December 1861 is partly reproduced in H. F. von Haast 1948, pp. 248, 250–1.
Following the discovery of gold in the province of Otago in 1861, Haast, who was made provincial geologist for Canterbury in that year, set out at the end of January 1862 to search for gold-bearing deposits in the Southern Alps of New Zealand, and to continue there the regular work of the geological survey of the province. He returned to Christchurch at the end of May 1862 (H. F. von Haast 1948, pp. 199–219).
J. F. J. von Haast 1861. In November 1859, Haast had been appointed by the provincial government of Nelson province, New Zealand, to conduct a topographical and geological survey of its western district between January and August 1860. The provincial government had originally intended to illustrate the report with maps and plants, but in the event, declined to do so on the grounds of expense, ‘much to the disgust of Haast and others’ (H. F. von Haast 1948, pp. 47, 105). See H. F. von Haast 1948, pp. 42–9, 69–112.
In his letter to Haast of 22 December 1861 (H. F. von Haast 1948, p. 248), Hooker had expressed a hope that Haast would be able to collect botanical specimens on his expedition in the little-explored Southern Alps. Having collected many new plants, Haast sent them to Hooker in August 1862, with a friend who was travelling to Europe ‘by the overland route’. See the letter from Haast to Hooker, dated 10 August 1862, which is in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (Director’s Correspondence 174 (New Zealand letters, 1854–1900: 276)). Hooker, who had published a flora of New Zealand following his own visit there (J. D. Hooker 1853–5), used them in preparing his government-sponsored Handbook of the New Zealand flora (see J. D. Hooker 1864–7, p. 12*). See also H. F. von Haast 1948, pp. 247–51, 294–8.
In his letter to Haast of 22 December 1861 (H. F. von Haast 1948, p. 248), Hooker had especially requested Haast to collect some of the ‘alpine grasses, junci, cyperaceae and small plants, especially on the west coasts, and near the snow’, stating that it was amongst these that the representatives of Australian and Fuegian plants and ‘most of the interesting novelty’ were to be found.
See the letter from Haast to Hooker, dated 9 August 1862, which is in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (Director’s Correspondence 174 (New Zealand letters, 1854–1900: 273)).
The Scottish geologist James Hector was appointed provincial geologist of the province of Otago, New Zealand, in 1861. In his letter to Haast of 22 December 1861 (H. F. von Haast 1848, p. 250), Hooker had mentioned that he intended to give Hector a letter of introduction to Haast, continuing: ‘I am sure you will find him a most agreeable and worthy coadjutor’. Hector wrote to Haast on 19 April 1862, enclosing Hooker’s letter of introduction.
The newspaper articles have not been identified, but see n. 2, above.
Haast refers to the former colonial secretary, Andrew Sinclair, who was drowned while accompanying Haast on his geological expedition to the headwaters of the Rangitata River, Canterbury province, in 1861 (H. F. von Haast 1948, pp. 179–81). Haast apparently refers to his paper, ‘On the physical geography and geology of New Zealand, principally in reference to the Southern Alps’, which was read before the Royal Society of Victoria on 26 May 1862 (see Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria 6 (1865), Proceedings, p. xv); however, the paper was subsequently lost, and was consequently not published (Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria 6 (1865): vi). Hooker and Sinclair had collected plants together in New Zealand in 1841, and Hooker dedicated his Flora Novæ-Zelandiæ (J. D. Hooker 1853–5) to Sinclair. Having retired as colonial secretary, Sinclair returned to New Zealand in 1858 in order to collect plants for Hooker’s Handbook of the New Zealand flora (J. D. Hooker 1864–7). On Sinclair’s death, Hooker wrote: ‘His loss has been a very great one, whether as a botanist or as an enthusiastic and liberal patron of science’ (DNZB).
Haast, who was born in Germany, was naturalised as a British subject in February 1861 (H. F. von Haast 1948, p. 123).
Haast’s map of the province of Canterbury, showing ‘the glaciation during the Pleistocene and recent periods as far as explored’, was communicated to the Geological Society of London by Roderick Impey Murchison in 1864 (J. F. J. von Haast 1864a). See also J. F. J. von Haast 1867.
Haast refers to the map-maker John Arrowsmith, who was a member of the council of the Royal Geographical Society. Although a paper by Haast on the Southern Alps of New Zealand appeared in the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society in 1864 (J. F. J. von Haast 1864b), it was accompanied by a composite map of the provinces of Otago and Canterbury, illustrating two other additional papers.
In his letter to Haast of 22 December 1861 (H. F. von Haast 1948, p. 248), Hooker stated: ‘To me the Middle Island of New Zealand is still the most interesting spot botanically in the globe, and I would rather botanize those mountains you traverse than any others.’


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

DNZB: A dictionary of New Zealand biography. Edited by G. H. Scholefield. 2 vols. Wellington, New Zealand: Department of Internal Affairs. 1940. The dictionary of New Zealand biography. Edited by W. H. Oliver et al. 5 vols. Auckland and Wellington, New Zealand: Department of Internal Affairs [and others]. 1990–2000.

Haast, Heinrich Ferdinand von. 1948. The life and times of Sir Julius von Haast, explorer, geologist, museum builder. Wellington, New Zealand: privately published.

Haast, John Francis Julius von. 1861. Report of a topographical and geological exploration of the western districts of the Nelson Province, New Zealand. Nelson, New Zealand: Nelson provincial government.

Haast, John Francis Julius von. 1867. Notes on the geology of the province of Canterbury, N.Z., principally in reference to the deposits of the glacial epoch at the western base of the Southern Alps. [Read 19 June 1867.] Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society 23: 342–52.

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1853–5. Flora Novæ-Zelandiæ. 2 vols. Pt 2 of The botany of the Antarctic voyage of HM discovery ships Erebus and Terror, in the years 1839–1843, under the command of Captain Sir James Clark Ross. London: Lovell Reeve.

Hooker, Joseph Dalton. 1864–7. Handbook of the New Zealand flora: a systematic description of the native plants of New Zealand and the Chatham, Kermadec’s, Lord Auckland’s, Campbell’s, and MacQuarrie’s Islands. 2 vols. London: Lovell Reeve & Co.


Asks his opinion of A. C. Ramsay’s glacial lake theory. Encloses Julius Haast’s communication on glacial phenomena.

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3731,” accessed on 29 May 2023,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 10