Travel: New Zealand

Passing through the midst of Oceania in the direction in which we enter it, we come to the islands of New Zealand. The distance from San Francisco to Auckland is 5375 miles. After sojourning for a time among the minute specks of land which generally compose these parts of Oceania, it is with quite a degree of comfort that we retire at night upon an island so large that we feel no danger of falling out of bed into the ocean. New Zealand consists chiefly of two main parts, known respectively as the North and South Islands, though quite commonly the latter is called Middle Island, out of respect for a small one which lies still south of the principal body, and which is also called South, or Stewart’s Island. The group is nearly one thousand miles long, and two hundred miles wide at the broadest part. The coast line is over three thousand miles in extent. New Zealand lies one thousand two hundred miles east of Australia. It was discovered by Tasman, in 1642, and afterward visited by Captain Cook in 1769. The area is estimated at over one hundred and twenty thousand square miles, of which North Island contains forty-four thousand four hundred and sixty-seven, and South Island over fifty-eight thousand.

New Zealand enjoys the distinction of being the first country of importance to receive the new-born day. As is quite well known, the 180th degree of longitude east or west of Greenwich has been agreed upon as the line where the day shall be changed. This is called the ” day line.” It passes just east of New Zealand, and in crossing the line, going west, a day is skipped or dropped, that is, a new day is begun. In crossing toward the east, the opposite course is pursued, that is, a day is repeated. The change is made by sailors in the night in which the vessel is nearest the line, so that in one case if the passenger goes to sleep on Tuesday evening, he wakes up on Thursday morning. If, on the other hand, he is going east, and retires on Tuesday evening, he wakes up and finds it Tuesday morning again.

The reason for this will be apparent upon a little careful thought, for it is always sunset at some point on the earth, and always sunrise, and noon, and midnight, at other points at the same time. Let us imagine that we could travel around the earth as rapidly as the earth revolves upon its axis, and we start out from London, or from any other place, at sunrise, on Tuesday morning, and travel west. It would remain sunrise of the same day with us all the time, but when we came to the starting-place, we would have to call it next day, for those who remained there would have had noon, sunset, midnight, and now would have their second morning, which would be Wednesday. Therefore we must change our reckoning, so that at that instant in any place east of London we would call it Tuesday morning, but at any point west of that line, it would be Wednesday. That would be the place where the day would change, but for convenience men have chosen a line that passes through no habitable country, and have fixed that point as a place where the day should change. We may believe, too, that this is the line on which the Maker designed that the new day shall begin. Now it makes no difference at what time we cross that line either way, we must recognize that it is one day on one side of it, and another day on the other side. The line chosen is the 180th meridian of longitude from Greenwich, which we cross just before reaching New Zealand from the coast, this being so, we see how the day comes first to New Zealand.

Some people imagine that they see in this circumstance a difficulty in observing the Sabbath, but instead of there being a difficulty, this is the very provision by which all difficulty in the matter is obviated. By this arrangement each day is measured off by one revolution of the earth, and when it is finished, it is discharged from the calendar, and a new one takes its place at this point. Hence, wherever we may be on the face of the earth, the day comes to us with its full measure of twenty-four hours, and then is succeeded by another of exactly equal length. It is true that by traveling east or west the length of the day may be varied, but at the day line these variations are all rectified, and in circumnavigating the globe one finds that he has done so without disarranging his calendar.

The population of New Zealand, in 1900, exclusive of aborigines, was somewhat over seven hundred thousand, and these are, with but few exceptions, the immediate descendants of those who came from Great Britain. But the transient visitor is more interested in becoming acquainted with the aboriginals than with the people of his own kith and kin. These are called Maoris. The name is pronounced by giving the “a” the broad sound, as in “ah,” then sounding the “o,” though it is commonly but incorrectly pronounced as if spelled “Mowries.” They numbered at the last census, over forty-one thousand. They have been regarded as standing rather in advance of any other aboriginal or savage people ever discovered. It is true that they practiced cannibalism to some extent, and were addicted to the vices of the natural heart, besides having since learned others with which men in their simple state seem to be apparently unacquainted, but they also possessed a, high degree of intelligence, and an independent and self-reliant spirit. Their traditions and religion evinced a higher degree of intellectual discernment than is generally exhibited by savages, and, strange as it may seem, there are to be found in these traditions many remarkable similarities to the Bible account of creation and the subsequent destruction of the earth by a flood, and also of redemption, their god Maui being the reputed saviour of his race.

The history of New Zealand and of its occupation by Europeans is in many respects a repetition, on a small scale, of the transformation of the United States from a land of wild ness and savagery to a country of prosperous civilization. Encroachment and cruelty have been inflicted oftentimes by the superior race, and cunning and reckless revenge have often been employed in retaliation. Relentlessly has civilization pushed its way step by step into the regions of untutored life. Wisdom and justice have not always attended these steps, and when, finally, the poor natives could bear no more, a bloody massacre would be executed by the exasperated Maoris, which would call down upon them the wrath of the survivors and of the sympathizing whites. Gradually the original race is fading away. The introduction of civilization brought with it vices to which the simple races were unaccustomed, and to which they have ever proved such easy victims. Under the blighting licentiousness, these human withered away. Still, Christianity has done a good work. for the Maoris. in nearly every part of the country. To some degree nearly all of those who remain have embraced its teachings and come under its influences. It is said that soon after the introduction of Christianity the entire race received it, so that the pioneer missionary, Samuel Marsden, exclaimed that “a race of pagans has been Christianized.” But the influence of drunkenness and flowers of the wild woods have cupidity and dishonesty practiced by other white men lead many of the natives to prefer their heathen religion to that system which to them seemed to embrace such cruelty, therefore they returned to it for a time.

The Maoris are of a brown color. Their hair is straight, and their features not at all repulsive, except as they are made so by the favorite custom of tatooing. By this process an indelible coloring matter is introduced into the skin in fanciful and fantastic patterns by a painful operation. Sometimes they who have been thus disfigured, desire to appear more civilized than those marks will permit, but the die having been cast, the case cannot be altered, the marks must be retained through life.

It was quite amusing to witness, upon one occasion, the discomfiture of a Maori chief on being made aware of his appearance, as it was probably the first revelation of himself that had ever come to him. We were lying in the beautiful Bay of Islands on a lovely day, during which time the steamer was coaling and taking cargo at different wharves. There were at times quite a large number of Maoris on the decks looking for something with which to amuse themselves. They discovered that my son, then a lad of ten years, had some skill in the use of his pencil, and sought to make a practical use of his talent. After considerable persuasion he was induced to draw the portrait of the chief above referred to, whose face was badly disfigured with tatoo marks. The artist located himself with paper and pencil, and the old man composed his features and vesture with care and dignity, and sat stone still for five minutes, when the picture was done, and it was really quite true to life.

But it was a sight to behold the old man’s countenance as he looked upon what purported to be a representation of his own physiognomy. He rejected the imputed likeness with great disdain and evident disgust, which he expressed with earnest words that we could not understand, but which alarmed the boy artist, but the displeasure of the subject was more than overmatched by the amusement of the younger members of the company, who recognized and attested to the faithfulness of the picture with shouts of laughter and repeated assurances of its correctness. This only added to the discomfiture of the chief, who finally took the piece of paper, and satisfied himself by carefully tracing on his face all the marks on the picture, and then grunted his acknowledgment of the likeness.

The Maori method of greeting is by rubbing noses instead of kissing, and this ceremony, on extraordinary occasions, such as a funeral or a formal reception, becomes, as I have been told by them, and as one can well imagine, a tedious and sore proceeding, after the hundredth rubbing of the same nose.

It was on this trip to the north that I had my first experience in seasickness. We left Auckland late in the evening on board a little coaster called the “Clansman.” Within the harbor all was quiet enough, and we little suspected what awaited us outside, so we went to our berths at once, anticipating a good night’s rest, but once upon the open sea, we found ourselves tossing and plunging about under a fierce storm of wind and rain from the east, which blew directly against the- rock-bound coast along which we sailed. There were three of us in a two-berth cabin, and it fell to my lot to try to occupy the settee, but my principal employment was falling off and getting on again. The storm increased till morning.

At three o’clock there came an unusually great sea, which sent our little craft so far over that it seemed to hesitate as to whether it would come back or not. I began to think that it might not, and the women and children were quite sure of it, as I judged by their screaming. While the steamer was deciding the matter, it was struck by another wave that sent it a few degrees farther over, and by this time the writer was trying to hold onto the floor, having abandoned the bed. The dishes in the racks came down with a crash, and many barrels of sea water came down the gangway, adding greatly to the dismay of the already terribly frightened women. In that moment of suspense I lost my grip on my digestive apparatus, and I have since known all about what seasickness is.

We knew, however, that we were in the care of our heavenly Father, and had no feeling of terror, though the night was pronounced by the captain to be one of the worst he had ever experienced. The sight of the sea the next morning was grand and awful. We were not far from the cliffs against which the massive waves hurled themselves with gigantic force and thundering roar, sending foam and spray a hundred feet into the air.