Monday, October 12, 2015

Auricular Delusion

We struck in from near Lowry Bay, and reached the source of the Orongo stream before night. There was no path whatever. We shot some kakas and snared a kokako, but saw no huias. We made a good fire as night approached. The natives were awfully afraid of the Wairarapa people, against whom they had lately fought, and while we slept with our feet near the fire, they sat crouched, with our guns in their hands, listening to detect any possibly approaching footsteps, for they were on the debateable land of the two tribes.

The only sound worth noticing was the beautiful melody, towards morning, of the bell-birds. Thousands of these were singing together, and, probably by some auricular delusion, the sound seemed to arrange itself into scales, like peals of bells running down octaves. As the sun rose this music ceased altogether. From the top of the range we had a fine view of Palliser Bay and the Wairarapa Lakes. On our way homeward the natives suddenly stopped; they heard in the distance the peculiar cry of the huia. Imitating this, and adding a peculiar croak of their own, which they said was very attractive, our guides soon brought two birds—a male and female—within shooting distance. We abstained from firing for a moment, admiring the elegant movements of these birds as they leaped from tree to tree, peering inquisitively at us, and gradually coming nearer. We now fired with light charges, and brought each a bird down. Our natives were annoyed at our “griffinism.” They had intended, by a further allurement of a peculiar gutteral croak, to have brought the birds so near as to capture them with a common slip-knot at the end of a stick—a process which we saw subsequently performed with entire success. As we descended the spur near the mouth of the Hutt River, a whale and its calf were tumbling about between Lowry Bay and Somes' Island. They were “finbacks,” and of no commercial value.

Source: Major Charles Heaphy, V.C. "Art. III.—Notes on Port Nicholson and the Natives in 1839". Transactions and proceedings of the New Zealand Institute 12, 32-39, 1879

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