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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.



The Antipodes Islands

These consist of a main island some 5 miles long by 3 miles wide, with offshore islets and rock stacks making an area estimated to be 24 sq. miles in all. They lie in latitude 49° 41' S and longitude 178° 43' E. The main island is a rough plateau bounded by remarkably even lines of steep cliffs, especially in the north-west. The highest point (Mount Galloway) is 1,320 ft. The surface is very rough with a widespread blanket of waterlogged peat, with swamps and tarns in the hollows. Knowledge of geological structure is scanty but all the islands of the group seem to be of volcanic origin. Similarly, detailed information about the climate is meagre, but the dense cover of coarse tussock and hardy herbaceous plants growing on cold, wet peat indicates that conditions are bleak and inhospitable.

The islands, once famous for their fur seals, were discovered in 1800 by Captain Waterhouse of HMS Reliance. The first sealer was Pendleton, an American, whose gang was marooned there for nearly two years. They brought 60,000 skins back to Sydney and started the rush that soon exterminated the stock.

A depot for castaways was maintained on the Antipodes, but only two wrecks have occurred there. The crew of the first, the Spirit of the Dawn, in 1893, did not find the depot, but it was useful to the castaways from the President Felix Faure in 1908.