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Auckland Islands
Native name: Motu Maha
Auckland islands topo.png
Topographical map of the Auckland Islands
Location Southern Pacific Ocean
Coordinates 50°42′S 166°5′E / 50.7°S 166.083°E / -50.7; 166.083Coordinates: 50°42′S 166°5′E / 50.7°S 166.083°E / -50.7; 166.083
Archipelago Auckland Islands
Total islands 7
Major islands Auckland Island, Adams Island, Enderby Island, Disappointment Island, Ewing Island, Dundas Island, Green Island
Highest point Mount Dick (660 metres (2,165 ft))
New Zealand
Area Outside Territorial Authority New Zealand Sub-Antarctic Islands
Population 0

The Auckland Islands (Māori: Motu Maha) form an archipelago of the New Zealand Sub-Antarctic Islands and include the following: Auckland Island, Adams Island, Enderby Island, Disappointment Island, Ewing Island, Rose Island, Dundas Island and Green Island, with a combined area of 625 square kilometres (240 sq mi). They lie 465 kilometres (290 mi) from the South Island port of Bluff, between the latitudes 50° 30' and 50° 55' S and longitudes 165° 50' and 166° 20' E. The islands have no permanent human inhabitants. Ecologically, the Auckland Islands form part of the Antipodes Subantarctic Islands tundra ecoregion.



Southern coast of the main island
The Auckland Islands as seen by STS-89 in 1998, with the southwest towards the top of the image.

The main island (Auckland Island) has an approximate land area of 510 km², and a length of 42 km. It is notable for its steep cliffs and rugged terrain, which rises to over 600 m. Prominent peaks include Cavern Peak (650 m), Mount Raynal (635 m), Mount D'Urville (630 m), Mount Easton (610 m), and the Tower of Babel (550 m).

The southern end of the island broadens to a width of 26 km. Here, a narrow channel known as Carnley Harbour (on some maps: the Adams Straits) separates the main island from the roughly triangular Adams Island (area approximately 100 km²), which is even more mountainous, reaching a height of 660 m with Mount Dick. The channel is the remains of the crater of an extinct volcano, and Adams Island and the southern part of the main island form the crater rim.

The group includes numerous other smaller islands, notably Disappointment Island (10 km northwest of the main island) and Enderby Island (1 km off the northern tip of the main island), each covering less than 5 km².

The main island features many sharply-incised inlets, notably Port Ross in the northern end of the island.

In geologic terms, most of the islands originated volcanically, with the archipelago dominated by two 12 million year old Miocene volcanoes, subsequently eroded and dissected.[1] These rest on older volcanic rocks dating to between 15-25 million years old with some older granites and fossil-bearing sedimentary rocks from around 100 million years ago.[2]


Restored grave of Jabez Peters first officer of the Dundonald in the graveyard on the main island.

Discovery and early exploitation

Some evidence exists that Polynesian voyagers first discovered the Auckland Islands. Traces of Polynesian settlement, possibly dating to the 13th century, have been found by archaeologists on Enderby Island. [2] This is the most southerly settlement by Polynesians ever discovered. [3]

A whaling vessel, Ocean, re-discovered the islands in 1806, finding them uninhabited.[3] Captain Abraham Bristow named them "Lord Auckland's" on 18 August 1806 in honour of his father's friend William Eden, 1st Baron Auckland. Bristow worked for the businessman Samuel Enderby, the namesake of Enderby Island. The following year Bristow returned on the Sarah in order to claim the archipelago for Britain. The explorers Dumont D'Urville in 1839, and James Clark Ross visited in 1839 and in 1840 respectively.

Whalers and sealers set up temporary bases, the islands becoming one of the principal sealing stations in the Pacific in the years immediately after their discovery.[3] By 1812 so much sealing had occurred on the islands that they lost their commercial importance and sealers redirected their efforts towards Campbell and Macquarie Islands. Visits to the islands declined, although recovering seal populations allowed a modest revival in sealing in the mid 1820s.


Now uninhabited, the islands saw unsuccessful settlements in the mid-19th century. In 1842 a small party of Māori and their Moriori slaves from the Chatham Islands migrated to the archipelago, surviving for some 20 years on sealing and flax-growing. Samuel Enderby's grandson, Charles Enderby proposed to set up a community based on agriculture and whaling in 1846. This settlement, established at Port Ross in 1849 and named Hardwicke, lasted only two and a half years.

The Imperial Parliament at Westminster included the Auckland Islands in the extended boundaries of New Zealand in 1863.


The rocky coasts of the islands have proved disastrous for several ships. The Grafton suffered shipwreck off the coast of the islands in 1864. Madelene Ferguson Allen's narrative about her great-grandfather, Robert Holding,and the wreck of the Scottish sailing ship the Invercauld, shipwrecked at the Auckland Islands in 1864, counterpoints the Grafton story.[4]

In 1866 one of New Zealand's most famous shipwrecks, that of the General Grant occurred on the western coast. Several attempts have failed to salvage cargo from the General Grant, which allegedly carried bullion. A further maritime tragedy occurred in 1907, with the loss of the Dundonald and twelve crew off Disappointment Island. Because of the probability of wrecks around the islands, calls arose for the establishment of emergency depots for castaways in 1868. The New Zealand authorities established and maintained a network of three such emergency supply depots at Port Ross, Norman Inlet and Carnley Harbour from 1887. They also cached additional supplies, including boats (to help reach the depots) and 40 finger-posts (which had smaller amounts of supplies), around the islands.

Scientific research and reserve

From 1942 to 1945 the Auckland Islands hosted a New Zealand meteorological station as part of a coastwatch program staffed by scientist volunteers and known for security reasons as "The Cape Expedition"[5]. The staff included Robert Falla, later to become an eminent New Zealand scientist. Currently the islands have no inhabitants, although scientists visit regularly and the authorities allow limited tourism on Enderby Island and Auckland Island.[6]


Gentianella concinna, an endemic plant of the Auckland Islands.

The vegetation of the Auckland Islands sub-divides by distinct altitudinal zones. Inland from the salt-spray zone, the fringes of the islands predominantly feature forests of southern rata Metrosideros umbellata, and in places the subantarctic tree daisy (Olearia lyallii), probably introduced by sealers.[7] Above this exists a subalpine shrub zone dominated by Dracophyllum, Coprosma and Myrsine (with some rata). At higher elevations tussockgrass and megaherb communities dominate the flora.

The Auckland Islands hold important seabird breeding colonies, among them several species of albatross, two species of penguin and several small petrels.[1] The rare Yellow-eyed Penguin breeds here, as does the endemic Auckland Shag and around a million pairs of Sooty Shearwater. The Aucklands also host several landbirds as well, including the Auckland Island Snipe, Red-fronted and Yellow-crowned Parakeets, Tui, New Zealand Bellbird, New Zealand Pipit, a subspecies of the Tomtit, the Double-banded Plover, New Zealand Falcon as well as the endemic Auckland Rail (Lewinia muelleri) and Auckland Islands Teal.

The Auckland Islands host the largest communities of subantarctic invertebrates, with 24 species of spider, 11 species of springtail and over 200 insects.[8] These include 57 species of beetle, 110 flies and 39 moths. The islands also boast an endemic genus and species of weta, Dendroplectron cryptacanthus.

The freshwater environments of the islands host a freshwater fish, the Koaro or Galaxias brevipinnis, which lives in saltwater as a juvenile but which returns to the rivers as an adult. The Auckland Islands have 19 species of endemic freshwater invertebrates, including one mollusc, one crustacean, a mayfly, 12 flies and two caddis flies.

New Zealand (Hooker's) Sea Lions.
By the 21st century the islands had become its primary breeding location.

A number of introduced species have come to the islands; ecologists eliminated or allowed to go extinct naturally cattle, sheep, goats, dogs, possums and rabbits in the 1990s; but feral cats and pigs remain. Workers removed the last rabbits on Enderby Island in 1993 by the application of poison; during the project also eradicating mice.[9] Curiously, rats have never managed to colonise the islands, in spite of numerous visits and shipwrecks and their ubiquity on other islands.[10]

Introduced species affected the native vegetation and bird life, and caused the extinction of the Auckland Islands Merganser (a duck species formerly widespread in southern New Zealand, and ultimately confined to the Auckland Islands).

Only two native mammals exist: two species of seal which haul out on the islands, the New Zealand Fur Seal and the threatened New Zealand Sea Lion.

A healthy population of more than 1000 Southern Right Whales are known to occur here.

See also


  1. ^ a b Shirihai, H (2002) A Complete Guide to Antarctic Wildlife. Alua Press:Degerby, Finland ISBN 951-98947-0-5
  2. ^ Denison, R.E.; Coombs, D.S. (1977). "Radiometric ages for some rocks from Snares and Auckland Islands, Campbell Plateau". Earth and Planetary Science Letters 34 (1): 23–29. doi:10.1016/0012-821X(77)90101-7. 
  3. ^ a b McLaren, F.B. (1948) The Auckland Islands: Their Eventful History A.H and A.W Reed:Wellington
  4. ^ Allen, Madelene Ferguson (1997). Wake of the Invercauld : shipwrecked in the sub-Antarctic : a great-granddaughter’s pilgrimage. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press. ISBN 0773516883. 
  5. ^ Hall, D.O.W. (1950). "The Cape Expedition". The Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939–1945 (Historical Publications Branch). Retrieved 2009-07-29. 
  6. ^ BirdLife International (2003) "Auckland Islands" BirdLife's online World Bird Database: the site for bird conservation. Version 2.0. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International. Available: (accessed 13/7/2007)
  7. ^ Campbell, D & Rudge, M (1976) "The case for controlling the distribution of the tree daisy Olearia lyallii Hook. F. in its type locality, Auckland Islands" Proceedings of the New Zealand Ecological Society 23 109-115 [1]
  8. ^ Department of Conservation (1999) New Zealand's Subantarctic Islands. Reed Books: Auckland ISBN 0-7900-0719-3
  9. ^ Torr, N (2002) "Eradication of rabbits and mice from subantarctic Enderby and Rose Islands", Turning the tide: the eradication of invasive species (Proceedings of the international conference on eradication of island invasives; Occasional Paper of the IUCN Species Survival Commission No. 27. Veitch, C. R. and Clout, M.N., eds
  10. ^ C. Chimera, M. C. Coleman and J. P. Parkes (1995) "Diet of feral goats and feral pigs on Auckland Island, New Zealand" New Zealand Journal of Ecology 19(2): 203–207

Further reading

  • Wise's New Zealand Guide (4th ed.) (1969). Dunedin: H. Wise & Co. (N.Z.) Ltd.
  • Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives of New Zealand (1863, Session III Oct-Dec) (A5)

"Island of the Lost: Shipwrecked At the Edge of the World" by Joan Druett - an account of the Grafton & Invercauld wrecks "Sub Antarctic New Zealand; A Rare Heritage" by Neville Peat - the Department of Conservation guide to the islands

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

AUCKLAND ISLANDS, a group in the Pacific Ocean, discovered in 1806 by Captain Briscoe, of the English whaler "Ocean," in 50° 24' S., 166° 7' E. The islands, of volcanic origin, are very fertile, and are covered with forest. They were granted to the Messrs Enderby by the British government as a whaling station, but the establishment was abandoned in 1852. The islands belong politically to New Zealand.

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