Discovery of book solves a history mystery

23:36, Sep 14 2012

A book that has been missing since 1939 and contains sketches of Invercargill from the 19th century has been found in Christchurch.

The book belonged to John Turnbull Thompson, a surveyor who recorded notes and early diagrams of Invercargill dating back to 1856.

Land Information New Zealand records manager Alison Midwinter said the book was discovered at Archives New Zealand last month.

It was likely a member of the public returned it to the Dunedin office and then it was sent to Christchurch in 2010, Ms Midwinter said.

There was no way of knowing how long it had been in the archives; all that was known was that it was not there for the formal check in 1939, she said.

One of the sketches was labelled First house in Invercargill (the Survey Office) while others are of rivers and streams and someone's moko.


"It is quite literally in many ways the first record of the land," Ms Midwinter said.

"It is in a sense, priceless."

All early surveyors were issued with a field book that was then registered, she said.

Mr Thompson's was the 45th registered book and there are still 22 missing.

Invercargill city councillor Lloyd Esler said it was an exciting discovery.

"I'd love to see it and see if there's anything new in terms of what was around then."

The Southland Times