History of the Antipodes Islands

By Chrissy Wickes

Fingerpost indicating direction of depot. Photo by K.Walker

Fingerpost indicating direction of depot. Photo by K.Walker

The following information has been taken from Straight through from London. Taylor, 2006.

1800                  March 26 the Antipodes Islands were discovered and named “Penantipodes” by their discoverer, Captain Waterhouse of H.M.S. Reliance

1805                  February first sealing gang arrive on the island from the schooner Independence. This American gang killed about 60,000 seals over the course of the year they were stationed on the islands. By 1880 about 330,000 seals had been harvested off Antipodes and successfully reached port[1] 

1805-1806        A total of 86 sealers inhabited the Antipodes

1880                  Crew from the schooner Alert found no seals during a 6 week stay, but brought back 3500 penguin skins

1886                   March 17 a castaway depot was established. The depot was served mostly on a yearly basis until 1927

1887                   Three goats and seven sheep were landed no Antipodes. Gums, firs, wattles and Scotch broom were planted. None of which survived

1888                   First scientist to visit Antipodes was Andreas Reischek from the vessel Stella

1889                   Three cattle landed on Antipodes

1890                  Kirk & Chapman visit and completed the first botanical collection from the island noting that all 3 adventive plant species (Stelleria media, Sonchus asper and Poa annua) were already present on the island

1893                  Sept 4 the first recorded wreck, the barque Spirit of the Dawn, sixteen crew with 5 lives lost. The survivors were rescued by Captain Fairchild of the Hinemoa after 88 days during which time they did not find the castaway depot

Department of Lands offered a lease on the Antipodes for farming

1895                  Mr W Dunwoodie took up this lease for 21 years but never took any stock to the island

1894                  Eight guide posts (fingerposts) were installed pointing to castaway depot

1903                  The botanist Cockayne visits. Three more heifers were landed

1904                  More sheep and goat are liberated. These were the last introductions

1908                  March 13 the second wreck on the Antipodes occurred with Président Félix Faure. The crew killed the last surviving livestock remaining on the island, being a young cattle beast. All 27 crew survived the 60 days before being rescued by HMS Pegasus

1909                  Captain Bollons reports mice numerous in the castaway depot

1961                   Antipodes declared a Flora and Fauna Reserve

1978                   Antipodes declared a Nature Reserve

1980’s               NHNZ make documentary See more

1999                  The last wreck to date was the Totorore, where 2 people lost their lives. The Totorore was a scientific expedition yacht that had completed several successful research trips to the Antipodes previously.


[1] It is estimated that up to 15% of the total harvest may have been wasted during collection and transport . This factor would increase this total take.(Taylor 2006)