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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



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The Auckland Islands

This group, lying between 50° 26' and 50 56' S, and between 165° 52' and 166 22' E, with a total land area of 220 sq. miles, is approximately 200 miles SSW of Stewart Island. In the group are one large and five smaller islands, with several detached islets and rocky pinnacles. The main island, in area 179 sq. miles, is some 24 miles long and from 3 to 16 miles wide, with Adams Island (35½ sq. miles) in the south, Enderby Island (1,770 acres) in the north, and Disappointment Island off the west coast. All the islands are of volcanic origin with a maximum height of just over 2,000 ft. The east coast of the main island is deeply embayed with long, narrow inlets, but on the west coast are long, unbroken lines of high, steep cliffs—hence the very good sheltered anchorages are in the east, notably in Carnley Harbour which divides Adams Island from the mainland. The climate is cool (temperature range 35°–65 F), humid, cloudy, and very windy. Nevertheless, most of the area is clothed with shrubby forest at lower levels; above about 300 ft are open patches of tussock and sub-Antarctic meadowland. Soils are peaty, waterlogged, and sour.

Abraham Bristow, a whaling captain, discovered the group in 1806, and whaling and sealing attracted temporary and intermittent populations up till 1852 when settlement was abandoned. Little notice seems to have been taken of the islands until ships sailing the great circle route from Australia to Cape Horn were wrecked there. Special interest was taken in the General Grant, carrying passengers and gold in 1866. Following this wreck, depots for castaways were set up to be maintained until 1929. Attempts to find and salvage the gold of the General Grant seem to have done more than anything else to keep public interest in the island alive.

In the 1890s cattle and sheep were grazed with some success, but the isolation of the islands caused this venture to be abandoned. A few wild cattle, pigs, and goats still survive. Oceanic birds (e.g., petrels, penguins, and shags) are plentiful; there are still a few fur seals; sea lions breed there, and such other sea mammals as the sea elephant and the sea leopard are regular visitors.

Next Part: Campbell Island