In 1874, the remains of huge vertebrae were found at Mount Potts in Canterbury. They were so big, that if they belonged to a creature it would be the biggest to be ever found on earth.
The beast would be over 200 tonnes if the size of the vertebrae were used as a measure. It was named Hector’s ichthyosaur - a massive marine creature - a fish lizard - a reptile that had been on land then returned to the sea.
That would make it bigger than a blue whale.
But the remains have now vanished, with the rumour being they were on a ship going to London that was lost at sea.
The creature was named after James Hector - the father of Te Papa.
Another marine creature is better known for being named after him, Hector’s dolphin - one of the rarest and most endangered in the world.
Hector was born on March 16, 1838 to Alexander and Margaret in Stockbridge, Edinburgh. He received a medical degree aged 22, but had a passion for geology, which he also studied.
He was appointed geologist to an expedition in America to explore new railway routes. An accident nearly killed him. His horse kicked him in the chest. Thinking he was dead, the others dug his grave. Fortunately he regained consciousness before he was buried.
In 1862, Hector came to New Zealand to do a geological survey, travelling around the South Island to determine good places to settle. He hired staff to bring him fossils and specimens to categorize. He created a geological map of Otago known as Hector’s map.
Hector went on to found the Geological Survey of New Zealand before moving to Wellington to supervise the construction of the Colonial Museum and was the first manager of the Wellington Botanic Gardens.
In 1868 he married Maria Georgiana Monro and they went on to have nine children.
By 1903 he was unwell and retired - remaining as president of the Royal Society of New Zealand.
Hector died in Lower Hutt in 1907 and is buried at Taita Cemetery.
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