Hawke's Bay Research Lodge No. 305


An Address given by VWBro John Livingstone, PGLec, a
PM of The Research Lodge of Ruapehu No 444, to the
Hawke’s Bay Research Lodge on 5th May 2014

Worshipful Master, Right Worshipful, Very Worshipful, Worshipful Brethren and Brethren all - Phew! That’s used up half a minute already. I find these sorts of occasions interesting. Some of you will be thinking - I wonder how long he is going to go on for. Some of you will be thinking - this had better be interesting. And some of you will be thinking - I will try to look interested with my eyes closed.

Meanwhile, I am thinking - That Grand Lodge will, in their publications, cite this Governor General and that Governor General as being a famous New Zealand freemason, but in my view, and I hope that by the time I have finished this address, it will be your view also, that this New Zealand pioneer, who never gets a mention by Grand Lodge, is our most famous New Zealand freemason.

This famous geologist, museum builder and explorer passed away on the 16th August, 1887 aged 65. Prof John MacMillan, when conferring degrees at the Canterbury College Hall some ten days later, urged the students whom he was addressing to act with “enthusiasm” which keeps life young and gives it the capacity of miracle. He declared that a finer instance of its perennial power could not be found than in the career of the teacher and friend over whom the grave had closed. He said, and I quote - It is the thought of his character that has guided the course of this address. Who could meet him without feeling how young the world is, without taking into the blood a new draught of youth from his buoyant nature?  

But then perhaps I should not begin my address to you brethren with the eulogy to man, but rather close the address with it. Let us then, turn from the end to the beginning.

Julius von Haast received the light of freemasonry in his 21st year when he was initiated in the Lodge Philadelphia under the Grand Orient of Belgium at Verviers on 16th October, 1842 and received his master masons degree on 11th May, 1843. He asked for a clearance on the 28th May, 1844 and in that year returned to Germany, visiting Lodge Electic in Frankfurt on 23rd September, 1844, the feast day of St John at Frankfurt.

Bro Haast, like all of us, would have been told that - The universe is the temple of the deity whom we serve. Wisdom, strength and beauty are about his throne as pillars of his works, for his wisdom is infinite, his strength is omnipotent, and beauty shines through all his creation in symmetry and order. Also - that speculative masonry is so far interwoven with religion as to lay us under obligations to pay that rational homage to the Deity, which at once constitutes our duty and our happiness. It leads the contemplative to view with reverence and admiration, the glorious works of creation and inspires him with the most exalted ideas of the perfection of the divine creator.
Over the course of the next few minutes I will endeavour to outline to you how this young man and a freemason viewed his universe and contemplated with reverence and admiration, the glorious works of creation which he discovered, explored, researched and reported on, so that his fellowman might know these truths. For it is only by discovering the truths of God’s creation brethren, that we are inspired by the most exalted ideas of the perfection of the divine creator.

Born in Bonn, Prussia, which was later to become Germany, and from his boyhood an enthusiastic collector of minerals, Haast devoted a considerable portion of his time to geological and mineralogical studies. After leaving Bonn University, Haast spent some years in Belgium and France, afterwards returning to Germany. He also made extensive journeys over the chief parts of Europe visiting Russia, Austria and Italy. A large part of these explorations was spent in mountainous regions and during the eruption of Mt Etna in 1852 he ascended the mountain for scientific purposes. He examined, both on Mt Etna and Mt Vesuvius, lava streams after they had issued from the crater.

Haast was also a musician; he had a fine voice as well as being a competent violinist and played in the orchestra under Mendelssohn’s baton at Dusseldorf.

In 1858 Haast accepted a commission from a firm of English ship owners, Wills, Gann & Co, to visit New Zealand and report on the prospects of a large scale scheme of German emigration. I should mention brethren that life was very hard in the German states at that time. There was much political ferment with demonstrations and uprisings, not only there, but in many other countries in Europe.

Haast arrived in Auckland on the ship the “Evening Star” on the 21st December 1858 with his belongings in a stout teak chest. They included a pair of duelling pistols, a masonic diploma and his masonic apron.
In Auckland Haast met the famous geologist Ferdinand Hochstetter. Haast travelled with Hochstetter for over nine months whilst they were to make a detailed assessment of the coal resources near Hunua and Drury, and to examine the geology of what is now the area of Auckland City for the Auckland Provincial Government. They then took on the larger task of surveying the topography and geology of the central North Island.

Next they were engaged by the Nelson Provincial Government to assess the worth of coalfields, goldfields and copper deposits in the district. After Hochstetter returned to Austria in 1859, Haast was then engaged by the local government to explore the west coast of the Nelson Province searching for useful minerals and to make a topographical survey. The Nelson Province, at that time, extended right down the west coast of the South Island to as far as the Grey River, where Greymouth is today.
Haast’s exploration resulted in his discovery of the Brookdale coal seam which Haast reported was 8’ 2” thick and covered an area of 120 sq miles, being 8 miles broad by 15 miles long. This coal seam subsequently became the property of the Westport Coal Co at Denniston, its quality being equal to the best Welsh coal. It was this same coal that saw the survival of the HMS Calliope at Apia in March, 1889. That, in itself, is a fascinating story and if there is time I could outline it to you later.

CANTERBURY – Lyttleton:
In 1861, after his assignment was completed, Haast received an urgent request from the Canterbury Provincial Government to come to eastern Canterbury and examine the course of a tunnel to take a railway line from Lyttelton to the Canterbury plains. Contractors from Britain had started to cut the tunnel from the volcanic crater wall between Lyttelton and the Heathcote Valley. However, on meeting beds of hard rock at either end the contract was abandoned. Direct rail contact between Lyttleton and Heathcote and on to the town of Christchurch was urgently needed to break a transport bottleneck.
Haast duly travelled to Christchurch and after two weeks of field work was able to report to the Provincial Council that only a little amount of tough rock remained if the tunnelling were to continue. His predictions were shown to be correct when subsequent tunnelling proceeded.

Haast’s professional authority was firmly established by this work and he was then engaged as Provincial Geologist for two years. This appointment was later extended to 1868 and then again between 1874 and 1876. His brief was the geological and topographical mapping of the unsurveyed hilly to mountainous Canterbury Province (which at that time included what is now known as Westland) on both the eastern and western sides of the middle South Island (an area of more than 12,000 square miles) where the provincial government expected he would find deposits of valuable minerals.

In a series of summer to autumn expeditions with small parties travelling mainly on horseback, Haast visited the headwaters of every major river in Canterbury, crossed four transalpine passes, examined parts of South Westland and named many mountain peaks and other features. He also carried out various other geological assessments of coal seams, of supplies of limestone and building stone, and of artesian water sources. He had collected large numbers of specimens of rocks, fossils, plants and animals for further scientific study and he had prepared a preliminary geological map.

In addition to his routine reports, he had also written accounts of his observations on landscape and geological features in the Southern Alps and the Canterbury and Westland lowlands, especially the extensive ancient glacial moraines, the many extant glaciers, the overlapping great river fans that form the Canterbury Plains, the formation of lake basins and the structure of the volcanoes that make up Banks Peninsula.

In addition to the exploration of Canterbury, Haast proposed to the Canterbury Provincial Government the creation of a provincial museum. Haast would donate his collections and future collections to the museum. He would undertake its custody at no charge and exchange with other museums, so that when his work was finished, there would be, besides his maps, something which would prove highly advantageous to the intellectual development of the inhabitants, as well as to the material development of the resources of the province. Haast was employed as museum director from 1868 onwards.

Founded in 1873, Haast was Professor of, and head of, department of the Department of Geology from 1876 to 1887 and here is an extract from one of his lectures: -
Geology was the study of the great book of nature before them and except perhaps astronomy, took the highest rank of human knowledge, for it treated the laws of the planets which we inhabit, which to the eye of the great mass seems to be all confusion, destruction and accident. Do you not think that it must be a beautiful science which teaches you to decipher the sublime language written by the finger of God all around? Those who could not decipher that book, walk as it were, blindfolded over this beautiful earth where everywhere, from the highest alpine summit to the smallest grain of sand on the seashore, give evidence of an ever kind, all loving providence. The geologist or naturalist is never alone; never weary, because from flying cloud to the millions of microscopic animals on which he sets his foot, all are of joyful interest. 

From 1880 to 1887 he was a member of the senate, the governing body of the University of New Zealand. In 1862 Haast was one of the founding members of Canterbury Philosophical Institute the aim of which was to foster science, literature and the arts in Christchurch. Haast was president on several occasions with the Institute eventually becoming a branch of the Royal Society of New Zealand.
I would like to quote to you some excerpts from Haast’s inaugural address which lasted an hour and a half, for you to get some measure of the man: -

So long as we have confidence in ourselves, so long as we possess a strong will to succeed, we cannot fail and indeed failure has never yet befallen those who have become united by the powerful bond of love for science - and also - Great is creation and inexhaustible are its wonders. No eye is able to see them all, and the mind tries in vain to comprehend them all - and also - Let us not be deterred by difficulties, assured that perseverance and determination must lead to success. Let us fulfil our self-imposed task; we should feel the good which must result from a diligent prosecution of our work will more than repay us for any sacrifices we may make in the great cause of science and art.
Brethren, do you not detect the masonic teachings that have surfaced in this address.

Haast had dealt with fire in the Bank’s Peninsular, ice in the Southern Alps, and air and the effect of the weather on those mountains. He was now called upon to prove his knowledge of the water under the earth and to show again the practical value of geology.

At the request of the Municipal Council of Christchurch, Haast examined the practicality of supplying Christchurch with pure water by means of artesian wells and sent in his report on the 19th June, 1863. The city had hitherto obtained its water from the Avon and Heathcote rivers, their tributaries and other local streams. This course was followed by the digging of numerous wells which were liable to contamination by numerous cesspits.
A good supply of high quality water was also needed for industrial use and essential for firefighting and for the water carts which damped down the dusty streets in summer, especially when the nor’westers blew in across the Canterbury plains. Briefly, Haast reported that the Banks Peninsular volcanic system was of submarine origin and that its lava beds were deposited below the sea when the Canterbury plains did not exist. Numerous rivers and glaciers then brought into the bay enormous amounts of sediment which were separately deposited in the form of shingle, gravel, sand and mud.

Haast predicted that the well borer would meet these layers and clay pans and once having done so, an abundance of good water would be obtained. The subsequent remarkable results of the borings by which an almost endless supply of pure water was obtained for Christchurch and its neighbourhood amply confirmed his views. The story of Christchurch’s artesian water supply, its development over the last one hundred and fifty years and the present supply is an interesting story in itself. Some facts that will be of interest: -

Firstly, Christchurch enjoys some of the purest drinking water in the world. It is continually monitored and tested but it is not chlorinated or treated in anyway whatsoever. Unlike Auckland’s water which takes some of its supply from the Waikato River which has sewerage water from Hamilton in it, or London’s water which I understand passes through the human body seven times. Christchurch’s water is usually forty years old but some of the water is of a great age coming from rain which fell on Canterbury about three thousand years ago.

The water serves a population of approximately 304,000 people. The annual quantity of water pumped is 50 million tonnes. Average daily consumption is 450 litres per person. There are fifty-three pumping stations and one hundred and forty wells. The depth of the deepest well is 190 metres. The diameter of the largest well is 580mm. The total length of water pipe is 3,300km which is about the distance from Christchurch to Whangarei. I should mention that the figures I have quoted are pre-earthquake days.

Haast further enhanced his reputation when he reported on the cause of the earthquake wave (which today we call a Tsunami). This occurred on the 15th August 1868 and was seen in Lyttleton harbour. The water receded from the harbour at a rate of 12 knots leaving vessels high and dry. At the end of the breakwater where the average depth at low tide was 15ft one could walk dry shod. An hour later with a roar like thunder, a wave about 8ft high rushed up the harbour with great speed, tearing vessels from the wharves.

One of the most important events in Haast’s life was his visit in December, 1866 to Mr Moore’s sheep station at Glenmark. During drainage of a swamp large quantities of moa bones had been discovered. Haast returned to Christchurch with a large American four-horse wagon full of moa bones. From these bones seven moa skeletons were assembled and were the beginning of a collection with no rival in the world. Subsequent visits to Glenmark extended and completed that collection and provided Haast with material for exchanges that were to bring back collections worth many thousands of pounds.

For Haast had found the fulcrum for his lever in establishing the Canterbury museum. Haast obtained birds of every hue, insects of every dimension and animals trooped in as they did for Noah’s ark. Collections showered in from China to Peru, from Vienna to Japan and Haast then grouped them, named them and displayed them in his beloved museum.

Haast in the course of collecting for his museum corresponded with museums all around the world and had now become a dealer in natural science merchandise. In a letter to him from Prof Henry Ward of New York, who roamed the world from Abyssinia to Australia collecting animals and birds and who could sell you anything from a giant walrus to a Peruvian mummified skeleton, we read - Grizzly bear, adult male is very hard indeed to get. He so keenly appreciates field sports that whenever he sees a man with a gun, he himself becomes the hunter and chases him to the nearest tree, at the foot of which he will lie down for eight hours. Hunters dislike this.

Haast had been asking Ward for ethnological specimens, clothing, weapons, etc., of American Indians. Ward had the very thing and writes - We can for $600 give you an Indian warrior with wax head and hands, in full costume with weapons, both his bow and arrow and quivers and his rifle and knife as he has fixed them up to suit his savage taste. Add $150 to that and he shall be the actual Indian — so far as skin of head, arms, hands, lower legs and feet go — you shall have the skeleton nicely stuffed. Add $275 more and his horse of their peculiar breed, all rigged out with native saddle, bridle, lariat, hobbles, etc. He shall stand by his side or be mounted on it. Add $175 more and his high wigwam of tanned buffalo hides daubed with paint, snake, etc.”

At the opening of the museum in September, 1878, the governor of New Zealand, the Marquis of Normanby said “There are few cities in the old country that can boast a museum superior to this”

I have not in this lecture told of the story of Haast’s epic journeys through the province of Canterbury for that would be a lecture in its own right. But for us to gain an insight and an appreciation of the extent of his exploration of the province we need look no further than his discovery of Haast Pass.

Haast’s reason for going so far south was that the Otago goldfields were giving such magnificent results. It therefore was of great importance for Canterbury that Haast examined the rock along the boundary line of both provinces at the nearest point to the Otago goldfields and if possible to follow them to the west coast by way of Lake Wanaka.

Setting off on the 22nd January, 1863 Haast and four companions took a boat to the head of Lake Wanaka. From there they headed up the valley and climbing some 700ft found a watercourse running in a northerly direction. They then travelled to the Haast River and down the river to its mouth on the West Coast, arriving on the 20th February, taking twenty-nine days to cover some fifty-five miles. It gives you some indication of the difficulties they faced on this journey. Today the journey by road is just a few hours.

Many of you will have travelled through Nelson, Canterbury and Westland provinces and perhaps have asked yourselves the question “Why are there all these foreign names?” It is to Haast that we owe the naming of over 140 peaks, ranges, glaciers & rivers.

The great scientists of the 19th century are there — geologists, physicists, botanists, zoologists, geographers, pioneers and explorers. Names of the world’s scientists irrespective of their nationalities: English, French, German, Swiss, Austrian, American, Australian and New Zealand.

To name a few - Mount Franklin in honour of Sir John Franklin, a famous Rear Admiral and explorer who fought with Lord Horatio Nelson at Trafalgar in 1805. The Grey River after Governor Sir George Grey, Herschel Mountains after Sir William Herschel, who discovered the planet Uranus and was the Royal Astronomer to King George the 3rd. Tasman Glacier after Abel Tasman, the Dutch navigator who visited New Zealand in 1642 and Franz Joseph Glacier after Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria.

My opening remarks about this famous geologist, museum builder and explorer began with the eulogy to Sir Julian von Haast for therein it was said as you may recall “Who could meet him without feeling how young the world is, without taking into the blood a new draught of youth from his buoyant nature?” 

To continue the eulogy quotation - He was a boy in heart until the day he died. We felt as if he would never grow old. It was the shattering of this illusion that largely made the news of his bereavement so startling. So bracing was his influence, so contagious his energy and zeal, such manly living sympathy rayed forth from him. It was as if part of ourselves had been torn from us. And only when he has vanished do we begin to see how much he was to our college, our country. Without his invincible ardour, his unflagging energy, his personal influence with those who guided the destinies of this province in former years, the great educational establishments that are the admiration of all strangers would not now exist. Never will he lack a monument as long as these remain. But in the annals of our land too and across the page of science he has written his name and to you young graduates he has left the legacy of his work to fulfil and perpetuate. May his memory invigorate you for the struggle that lies before you, as his large hearted energy cheered those who had to work with him in life.

Worshipful Master and brethren, Sir Julian von Haast, a New Zealand pioneer, geologist, museum builder, a naturalised British subject, knighted Commander of St Michael & St George by Queen Victoria in person, honorary Doctorate of Science at Cambridge University, Fellow of the Royal Society, Knight of the Order of Franz Joseph of Vienna, Order of the Iron Crown, an hereditary Austrian knighthood, Cavalier and Order of the Crown of Italy, and many other awards from Germany, England, France and New Zealand, a fine musician and a freemason, a member of the St Augustine Lodge No 609 of Christchurch, who viewed with reverence and admiration the glorious works of creation and who reported on them for the benefit of his fellow man.


1) The Life & Times of Sir Julius von Haast, KCMG, PhD, DSc, FRS by H.F. von Haast, MA, LLB, sometime Pro-Chancellor of the University of New Zealand, Wellington, 1948

2) Julius Haast in the Southern Alps by Colin Burrows, DSc


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Hawke's Bay Research Lodge No.305

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