Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 6, October 1966
'CITY OF VOLCANOES'. A Geology of Auckland (1964)
By PROF. E. J. SEARLE (Paul's Book Arcade).
In reading Prof. Searle's book I was moved to wonder, quite as much by the image I formed of the indomitable purpose of man in compelling from cold stone the concealed legends of aeons, as by the travail of the land itself in folding, twisting overlaying, tilting, slumping and erupting. We are only too familiar with the momentary and sensational triumphs of team-work with applied sciences in the revelations in criminal courts. The geologist uses the same methods and the same diligence with detail to build his theories. He draws on allied sciences to corroborate evidence of what varied and mighty principals have contributed and are contributing to a timeless creation.
However, the book is more than an admirable picture of skilled craftsmen at work. It is written for those who have been about the northern peninsula with eyes open. It is written for those who as children scrambled on the scoria-cones, caught shrimps on wave-cut platforms, challenged the cliffs, sniffed the chill, damp air of caves, and who peopled, in the long holidays, the wastelands of tumbled, sun-baked, igneous blocks strewn over the lava-flows which, before the recent population explosion, characterised the Auckland area.
Most residents of suburban Auckland are aware for some reason or other, that the piece of crust they have colonised is a veneer for a subterranean landscaping that could have inspired the Greek myths of the underworld or Dante himself. I once saw a long-established kitchen-garden subside deep into the bowels of the earth not a hundred feet from Mt. Eden Road. Aucklanders prize the mysterious sculptures of their shores on the wave-tortured west coast and across to the more gentle, indented shores of the Waitemata and the gulf. There are few elevations and depressions, few features of any kind in the vicinity of Auckland, south to Hinuera and north to Kaikohe and Whangarei Heads whose history is not revealed in this compact but thorough survey.
More than fifty photographs, many of them aerial, and numerous diagrams accompany the text. There is an acknowledgement in reference to some photographs by the late Prof. J. A. Bartrum whose name is associated with most geological surveys in this part of the world. "I was glad to see this. "Barts" eminence as a geologist was, I think, equalled by his capacity for making friends of all young people. He was a great and good man of simple tastes. He had an early association with Thames. His son, 'Jock' was highly esteemed as a doctor in Paeroa.
Our languages, like the earths crust, all organisms and man-made structures are forever changing. Our English is being rudely jolted by elbowings from the commercial world and lamentably or even laughably form a "beautification" society in our province. How entirely delightful it is to find a science treatise expressed in the dignified simple reference style praised, but rarely achieved in our schools and universities. Listen to this: "Volcanoes from their fiery hearths belched molten streams of basaltic rock and scattered showers of scoria and ashes, building up cones and veneering the countryside with erupted debris".
Prof. Searle's book will please the true Auckland citizen and the upholder of Anglo-Saxon; it could even be a useful aid to teachers of English.
J. J. JENSEN.
BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE — THE SEARLE FAMILY
Ernest J. Searle is Associate Professor of Geology at the University of Auckland, and our special interest in his work lies in the fact that he was born in Karangahake where his father, Wm. J. Searle, was in business from 1897 - 1918 when he moved to Auckland. An Uncle, Mr. H. O. Searle, who never married came to Paeroa a year earlier, and these widely esteemed brothers had bootshops in the days when highly skilled craftsmen made much of their own stock. Their parents had come to N.Z. in 1865 in the "Ernestina" and Wm. married Mary Williamson, the daughter of other passengers.
Mr. Wm. Searle took a prominent part in the life of Karangahake, being Chairman of the School Committee for many years, Choir Master at the Presbyterian Church, Sec. of the Oddfellows Lodge, and a keen Bowler, while Mrs. Searle played Croquet on the adjoining green at the western end of River Rd. They had three children - Connie a Teacher, now Mrs. Bernard, Raglan; Dorrie (business career) married Arthur Nodwell of Karangahake (Justice Dept, Wellington), Phil who is in charge of the Auck. City Council Waterworks Pumping Station; and Ernie (Auck.). After his early school days in Karangahake he was educated at Auck. Grammar School and University College. Later he taught at Grammar and is remembered by at least two of his old pupils now in Paeroa, (Bernie Baker, and Sid Barren who duplicates these pages). He also taught at Auck. Teachers Training College, before taking up teaching at the University. He is author of "Teaching Science in Post Primary Schools" (N.Z. Council for Education Research); numerous articles on Geology, and is widely known as a Lecturer. In 1961 he was awarded the degree of Dr. of Science for investigations in the Auckland Volcanic Field.
In a recent letter he says - "Although I was so young when I left, I'm always amazed at the call of that wonderful little niche in the hills.