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Haast begins West Coast expedition

8 January 1863

View of Haast Pass, 1866
View of Haast Pass, 1866 (Alexander Turnbull Library, A-149-011)

In January 1863, geologist Julius von Haast led an expedition in search of an overland route from the east to the west coast of the South Island. He found a suitable route from the upper Makarora River, crossing the Southern Alps by the saddle now known as Haast Pass.

Although prospector Charles Cameron is credited with ‘discovering’ the pass, Haast was rewarded by having it named after him. His expedition reached the pass on 23 January. After crossing it, they travelled downstream, reaching the coast on 20 February. On an earlier expedition, Haast had discovered the extent of the Grey River coalfields and found traces of gold in several rivers.

Haast was one of a number of European scientists who surveyed and explored New Zealand’s landscape during the 19th century. Between the late 1830s and the 1870s, Ernst Dieffenbach, Ferdinand von Hochstetter and Haast covered much of the country, mapping its animals and geology. As Canterbury Provincial Geologist from 1861, Haast led comprehensive surveys of the province, sprinkling German names over the landscape as he went.

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Haast begins West Coast expedition, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated