This is part of the first full soil survey of the North Island, published by the Soil Bureau in 1954 to increase the country’s knowledge of soil quality — mainly for meat, wool and dairy farming.
The islands of Rangitoto and Motutapu look like twins on this map, coloured exactly the same shade of gold. But to a soil scientist able to decode the tiny numbers, they are actually very different. Rangitoto with its ‘gravelly sand’ (5d) and ‘rocky loam’ (5f) is useless for grazing animals, while the ‘black and dark-grey sandy loam’ (5e) hidden in the rolling hills of Motutapu is fertile, perfect for sheep farming.
Soil surveying was painstaking work in the 1950s: fieldwork was done with little more than a spade, notebook and auger (a sampling tool shaped like a corkscrew) and the maps were drafted by hand.
Map details: Soil map of New Zealand of the Auckland Province (sheet two) from General survey of soils of North Island, New Zealand. Produced by the New Zealand Soil Bureau, Wellington, 1954. View catalogue entry.
Read more map stories »