Meet the Endurance team… Archaeology with Peter Petchey


dunedin_archaeologist_peter_petchey_reflects_on_ph_5374a978b3 (1)

Peter Petchey holding photos of ‘stamper batteries’ from Central Otago, part of his PhD thesis in archaeology, at the University of Otago. Photo by G. O’Brien


By Elsie Percival

kakapo circle

The ships that anchored off Antipodes Island 200 years ago were not visiting to look at the odd parakeets that live there. For those early visitors, their motivation was commercial. From 1805 to 1807 a flurry of hunters travelled to the Islands in search of seal colonies, eager to exploit lucrative bounties for their soft pelts. Other seafarers were cast upon the treacherous shores of the island not by choice, but shipwrecked by the hard-beating waves on steep cliffs and unchartered rocky reefs.

Perhaps there were even earlier voyages to the Antipodes, before Europeans came; but if there were, no trace of their presence on the island has survived. But who knows, there are always hidden archaeological treasures waiting to be uncovered.

On the 2016 ‘Operation Endurance’ Department of Conservation trip to the Antipodes, we are lucky to have our own Indiana Jones on board – Peter Petchey – an archaeologist from Otago University, who is working towards unravelling the enduring history of human contact with the Island. Peter will be building on previous research by Rowley Taylor and Kath Walker, who documented the historic sites of castaways and early sealers on the Antipodes Islands. Returning to these sites, Peter hopes to bring past archaeological findings together, and synthesise them with a fresh investigation of the area. He will be updating field reports, acquiring accurate GPS coordinates and searching for new archaeological evidence.

Keep your eyes peeled for an update of Peters’ work once we reach the island. Alongside our mission to eradicate mice, Peter will be tracing the footsteps of those who were responsible for the arrival of the destructive critters in the first place.

For more information about castaways see Chrissy’s post: Shipwrecked on the Antipodes and for a human history timeline see her post: History of the Antipodes Islands.

Read more about Peter and his PhD

Antipodes, Fingerpost, K Walker

Antipodes, Old Fingerpost pointing to castaway provisions. Photo by K. Walker