Press Release – Waikato University
The list of books penned by former Waikato University academic John McCraw is a long one so his latest, at the age of 86, is fittingly about New Zealand’s longest river – the mighty Waikato.November 23, 2011
River fertile ground for former Waikato academic
The list of books penned by former Waikato University academic John McCraw is a long one so his latest, at the age of 86, is fittingly about New Zealand’s longest river – the mighty Waikato.
The Wandering River is the Geoscience Society of New Zealand’s 16th guidebook and is subtitled Landforms and geological history of the Hamilton Basin.
Emeritus Professor McCraw, a former Dean of Science at the university, says the book is aimed at the general public rather than academics and a technical audience, and was a long time in the pipeline.
“To be honest, I started it many years ago but other projects got the better of me,” says Emeritus Professor McCraw. “So when the society went on record a few years ago saying it would be finished by the end of the year I had to get cracking.”
The book explains how the Hamilton Basin was formed and how the Waikato, which broke into the basin about 22,000 years ago, built a series of alluvial fans that partly buried the existing hill and valley landscape of the basin floor.
“Towards the end of the fan building period, the river adopted a number of different routes across the basin and many of these old courses are preserved,” says Emeritus Professor McCraw. These features, together with others such as the huge peat bogs, the deep gullies, the scores of lakes and the effect of the Taupo eruption are described and illustrated in the book which also includes a series of detailed field trips.
Emeritus Professor McCraw spent his early career years conducting soil surveys all over New Zealand as well as in Australia, the United States and Europe. A soil surveyor in Central Otago for the now defunct DSIR, he was transferred by his employer from Alexandra to Hamilton in 1963 to conduct soil surveys in the North Island.
Emeritus Professor McCraw led the first New Zealand Soil Bureau Antarctic Expedition in 1959 and the McGraw Glacier on the frozen continent is named after him. He started at Waikato University in 1969 as the Founding Professor of Earth Sciences (now known as the Department Earth and Ocean Sciences within the Faculty of Science and Engineering) and gave his last lecture in 1987.
Honoured with an MBE in 1992 and Companion of the Royal Society of NZ in 2005, Emeritus Professor McCraw was a member of the Commission of Inquiry into the Abbotsford landslide disaster and the Chairman of the Task Force Inquiry into management of rabbit prone lands of NZ. He is a graduate of both Otago and Victoria universities.
His other books include The Siren’s Call, a personal account of his service with the Alexandra Fire Brigade (some of which was spent as its chief), Early Days on the Dunstan and 10 others, most of which are about the history of gold mining in Central Otago.