Antipodes Islands

Antipodes Islands

The Antipodes Islands (from Greek "αντίποδες" - "antipodes" [ [ Antipodes] , Liddell and Scott, "A Greek-English Lexicon", at Perseus.] ) are inhospitable volcanic islands to the south of—and territorially part of—New Zealand. .

The island group was originally called the "Penantipodes" meaning "next to the antipodes", because it is near to the antipodes of London. Over time the name has been shortened to "Antipodes" leaving some to suppose its European discoverers hadn't realised its global location. This misapprehension persists.

The islands are inscribed in the [ UNESCO World Heritage list] together with the other sub-antarctic New Zealand islands in the region as follows: 877-003 Antipodes Isls New Zealand S49.41 E178.48 2097 Ha 1998


The island group was first charted in 1800 by Captain Henry Waterhouse of the British ship HMS "Reliance". In 1803 Waterhouse's brother-in-law George Bass applied to Governor King of New South Wales for a fishing monopoly from a line bisecting southern New Zealand from Dusky Sound to the Otago Harbour to cover all the lands and seas to the south, including the Antipodes Islands, probably because he knew the latter were home to large populations of fur seals. Bass sailed from Sydney to the south that year and was never heard of again but his information led to a sealing boom at the islands in 1805 to 1807. At one time eighty men were present; there was a battle between American and British-led gangs and a single cargo of more than 80,000 skins - one of the greatest ever shipped from Australasia - was on-sold in Canton for one pound sterling a skin, a multi-million dollar return in modern terms. Prominent Sydney merchants such as Simeon Lord, Henry Kable and James Underwood were engaged in the trade as well as the Americans Daniel Whitney and Owen Folger Smith. The William Stewart, who claimed to have charted Stewart Island and probably William Tucker who started the retail trade in preserved Maori heads were present during the boom. After 1807, sealing was occasional and cargoes small, no doubt because the animals had been all but exterminated.

A much later attempt to establish cattle on the islands was short-lived (as were the cattle). When the ship "Spirit of Dawn" foundered on the main island's coast in 1893, the eleven surviving crew spent nearly three months living as castaways on the island, living on a subsistence diet of raw seabird. Coincidentally, a well-supplied castaway depot [ [ Items from the 1880s depot recovered in 1947 and now in the collection of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa] ] was available on the other end of the island. The depot was found and used by the crew of the "President Felix Faure" wrecked in Anchorage bay in 1908. The last wreck at the Antipodes was the yacht "Totorore" with the loss of two lives, Gerry Clark and Roger Sale, in June 1999.

The islands are home to numerous bird species including the endemic Antipodes Snipe, Antipodes Island Parakeet and the Antipodean Albatross. The group is also home to half of the world population of Erect-crested Penguin. The flora of the islands has been recorded in detail, and includes some species of plants known as megaherbs.

In 1886, a shard of early Polynesian pottery was discovered roughly 2ft 6in below the surface on the main island, indicating prior visitation. The pottery fragment, apparently a piece of a bowl, is now housed in the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington.


*"Wise's New Zealand Guide" (4th ed.) (1969). Dunedin: H. Wise & Co. (N.Z.) Ltd.
*"NGA-IWI-O-AOTEA". No. 59 (June 1967). "Te Ao Hou - The Maori Magazine", pp. 43.
* Entwisle, Peter (2005). "Taka, A Vignette Life of William Tucker 1784–1817". Dunedin: Port Daniel Press. ISBN 0-473-10098-3.
* Taylor, Rowley, (2006) "Straight Through from London, the Antipodes and Bounty Islands, New Zealand". Christchurch: Heritage Expeditions New Zealand Ltd. ISBN 0-473-10650-7.

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