Three sisters visit Antipodes in 1890

Written by Chrissy Wickes

We Three Go South is the title of a new book by Cynthia Cass featuring the diary of Ethel Richardson who, with her two sisters, made a voyage to the Sub-Antarctic Islands of New Zealand in 1890 when they were aged 18 to 24.

Cynthia Cass talks about her book and her connection to the three intrepid women.

Cover of book by Cynthia Cass

Cover of book by Cynthia Cass

“They travelled on the government steamship “Hinemoa” which serviced lighthouses around the coast and was establishing castaway depots for survivors of shipwrecks on the southern islands. Ethel Richardson was my great aunt. Her eldest sister on the right in the photo is my grandmother who married the ships carpenter from the Hinemoa. They settled on the farm near Pahiatua where I live today.

The diary and an accompanying sketch book have some delightfully amusing drawings of their daring escapades as they journeyed from Wellington round the south of the South Island then to the Snares Auckland, Campbell, Antipodes and Bounty Islands. They displayed an ability to make fun from the simplest of things and teased the sailors on board unmercifully.

Sketch from Ethel Richardsons book of drawings Sketch from Ethel Richardsons book of drawings done after her trip to the Antipodes


Years later the sketch book was used as an incentive for me as a small child, to eat up my greens and I became facinated with the Sub-Antarctic islands as a result, prompting me to see for myself, almost 120 years later, what they had experienced.

I visited the Islands in 2001 and 2007 and have produced a series of paintings which have recently been shown at three exhibitions which also launched the book.

The paintings attempt to show what the islands are like and the book is a fascinating insight into the life of young women of the day. Clad in
long dresses and high buttoned boots, they had little to protect them from the freezing conditions but they appeared to be willing to row boats and ramble over rocky terrain with gusto. The description of their landing on the Antipodes illustrates how intrepid they were.

A sketch of them going after parakeets on the Antipodes shows that these islands are one of the few places on earth where wild beauty has existed unchanged for over a hundred years.”