- Anchorage Bay, Antipodes Islands by LawrieM
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The New Zealand sub-Antarctic islands consist of five island groups.
- The Snares
- Bounty Islands
- Antipodes Islands
- Auckland Islands
- Campbell Island
They lie in the Southern Ocean south-east of New Zealand, spanning six degrees of latitude, from 47 to 52 degrees south.
Described by the United Nations Environment Program as “the most diverse and extensive of all sub-Antarctic archipelagos”, all five island groups were honoured with World Heritage status in 1998. They are also National Nature Reserves under New Zealand’s Reserves Act 1977. The Department of Conservation (DOC) is charged with protecting and preserving these islands in perpetuity.
Of the five islands, DOC has advised that only main Campbell, main Auckland and Enderby are open to visitors. All other island islets and rock stacks are closed, including The Snares.
Lying 860 kilometres south-east of Stewart Island, the Antipodes are New Zealand’s most distant subantarctic land. They are also one of the lesser known and least visited of New Zealand’s subantarctic islands.
Antipodes Islands consist of a main island (Antipodes Island), surrounded by a series of small offshore islands and rocks. These islands include Bollons Island, at 2 km2 (0.77 sq mi) the second largest in the group, 1200 metres to the northeast of the main island’s North Cape; and the nearby smaller Archway Island. Numerous small islets and stacks further surround the coast of the main island. Together, they have a land area of 20.9 sq km.
The Antipodes are of comparatively recent volcanic origin, and the highest point on the islands is Mount Galloway (402m), which is also the group’s most recently active volcano (although an exact eruption date is unknown).
The Antipodes Islands were discovered in 1800 and named “Penantipodes” by their discoverer, Captain Waterhouse of H.M.S. Reliance, because of its situation near the antipodes of London (i.e. a line drawn directly through the earth from London comes out very close to the Antipodes Islands). Over time the name has been shortened to “Antipodes”.
The islands are steep, and cliffs and rocky reefs line the majority of the coasts. The landscape is tussock, fern and coprosma scrub. Two huts remain – a castaway depot and a Department of Lands and Survey hut.
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Antipodes Islands are home to a wide variety of sea and land bird species including the endemic Antipodes snipe and pipit and two species of parakeet including the Antipodes, or unicolor, parakeet. This bird is notable for, among other things, its habit of eating meat – both scavenging seabird carcasses and even hunting the small grey-backed storm petrel.
The seabirds range from the tiny storm petrel to the Antipodean wandering albatross, one of the largest flying birds in the world. Small populations of white-capped and black-browed mollymawks breed on Bollons Island. There are also the rock hopper penguins, nine species of burrowing petrel, and half the world’s population of erect-crested penguins!
Because of its significance as a breeding site for several species of seabirds such as the Southern Rockhopper and Erect-crested Penguins, Antipodean, Black-browed, Light-mantled and White-capped Albatrosses, and Northern Giant, Grey and White-chinned Petrels, the Antipodes group has been identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International.
In terms of landscape, the Antipodes Islands are mostly covered by tussock lands interspersed with patches of tall, prickly shield fern and megaherbs in the wetter areas. Low herbs and shorter grasses can be seen particularly where seabirds have opened up areas. Recovering slip scars are covered by distinctive and fragile white lichens. Of the 71 species of plants present on the island only three are introduced species.
There is currently a fund-raising project underway to eradicate the island of mice.
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