One of the many treasures discovered during work on several boxes of archival material transferred from the Geology Department was an envelope of original drawings of the Volcanic Plateau dating from the 1890s. The ink wash drawings by surveyor Laurence Cussen and artist Thomas (Darby) Ryan were donated to the Department by one of Cussen’s daughters in the days when the University was still Auckland University College.
From March 1877 until his death in 1903, Cussen was district surveyor for the Auckland region, a huge area which stretched as far south as Mt Ruapehu. In 1891, Cussen produced the first topographical survey of the Volcanic Plateau, climbing Ngauruhoe, Tongariro and Ruapehu to complete the task.
In his survey report, which can be found in the Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, Cussen expresses his indebtedness to Ryan for the use of his sketches and to Professor Algernon Thomas of Auckland University College for assisting with the classification of rock samples.
A friend of Charles F. Goldie, Thomas Ryan (1864–1927) is best known for his portraits of Māori and his watercolours of New Zealand landscapes and seascapes. He was, however, also an outstanding sportsman representing Auckland and New Zealand at rugby during the 1880s. Furthermore he enjoyed cricket, was a keen yachtsman, a member of the Auckland Amateur Athletics and Cycle Club and a member of the Auckland Rowing Club. In view of his work with Cussen perhaps mountain climbing could be added to this list of pursuits.
Katherine Pawley, Special Collections
MSS & Archives 2012/8: Laurence Cussen collection of drawings of the Volcanic Plateau.