Art. LVIII.—The Outlying Islands south of New Zealand.
[Read before the Otago Institute, 13th May, 1890.]
The periodic visit of the Colonial Government steamer “Hinemoa” to the remote sub-arctic islands is now one of the ordinary services of the New Zealand Government, but it is still, and perhaps always must be, the most adventurous. The story of that good steamer's last voyage, however, will contain little that is novel or startling; but I shall endeavour to set forth as faithful a picture as I can of what the islands are like to which the “Hinemoa” goes, and, so far as at present may be, what these islands are worth to us. The service on which they are visited is praiseworthy in the extreme, but at the same time it is undertaken at the most obvious call of duty. It is enough to justify the expenditure involved in sending the steamer, and replenishing the stores, that in later years the boat's crew of the “Sarah A. Hunt” was rescued from Campbell Island, and that the survivors of the “Derry Castle” lived at the Auckland Islands for some months upon our dépôt stores.
I. The Snares.
The steamer got away from the Bluff in the evening of the 8th January, 1890, sailing for the Snares. It matters very little which route is taken to these islands, which lie sixty-four miles south of Stewart Island, as the distance is almost exactly the same whether the vessel goes down the east or the west coast of that island. We chose the west coast, as it is clearer of rocks and islands, and the wind favoured that route. It turned out a slight mistake, as the wind veered a little, but the only result was a little more knocking about than we cared for. We arrived in the morning in a sheltered cove on the east side of the largest island, and found good anchorage in deep water. Long before we came to anchor we could smell the birds, which we soon saw crowding the rocks near
the water's edge, and as we left the ship in boats the braying noise of the crested penguins became incessant.
The sea was smooth, and as we pulled the boats in towards the shore we noticed that the water was of a deep ocean-blue right up to the rocks. The north and east sides of the islands are comparatively low, and the south and west sides high and steep, but even where we anchored there are several tolerably high cliffs, and in them are seen numerous deep caves. One only of them is known to have a convenient entrance, and into this Captain Fairchild steered his boat, the other boat following. The boats went 40 yards into the dark cave, which was high and broad, and continued deeper still, but the further part was very low. There was easy turning-room for boats, and the height was more than we could see with the available light.
I could not help thinking that the attraction which a cave has for most people is but a survival of our troglodytic ancestral habit—a notion which is confirmed by the liking of the more conservative sex for darkened rooms, and of children for “building houses” in dark recesses.
As we came out, flocks of sea-birds flew and swam around us, and we headed up a great herd of nellies (Ossifraga gigantea, giant petrel or breakbones), and chased them awhile. One of them, instead of being nearly black, was a pure-white albino—a case which, though rare, is not unique—and efforts were made by Mr. H. Travers, who was collecting birds, to secure this, but without success. Gulls, prions, petrels, and other sea-birds flew in great numbers about the shore, making the scene a very lively one.
At a steep rocky place clear of all growth the boat was pulled up to the shore, so that the schoolboys, of whom we had six among the passengers, might enjoy a little penguin-hunting. The penguins in the water hopped out of the way of the boat in the most graceful style. They spring from the water, turn with a curve in the air, and plunge in again in exactly the manner in which we see porpoises jumping alongside steamers on the coast. The similitude is exact; indeed, at a certain season I have seen in Cook Strait baby-porpoises, no bigger than penguins, jumping exactly like them, and in the Sounds I have mistaken penguins for young porpoises.
The boys were anxious to begin the business of the voyage by catching a supply of penguins. These showed no undue fear, but naturally tried to avoid capture. They rushed in hundreds up the steep rocky face on which they had established their rookery in front of the line of boys who clambered after them, and when a boy outflanked a penguin the boy generally got very red in the face as he seized the penguin by
the leg, and the penguin returned the seizure with interest. All sorts of ways of picking up penguins were tried with very limited success. Somehow the birds insisted on stretching their pliable necks and seizing the nearest part of the boy with their beaks. In the long-run the army of penguins, with many dignified protests, retreated in comparatively good order into the scrub at the top of the ladder-like rocky slope; but by manfully sticking to their point the boys had averaged about a penguin each, the prizes being carefully detached from the nether garments of the captors and slung into a coal-basket at the bottom of the boat. Had any boy individually turned his attention for a moment from his penguin he would have seen that the place to seize the bird was the neck, which had power to turn so many ways. The simplicity with which the captain seized his birds as by a handle and slung them like turnips into the coal-basket was a lesson, once learned, never forgotten
After this excitement we entered a small and wonderfully snug boat-harbour, so sheltered that even craft of larger size, yachts, and cutters could anchor and brave all weathers there. Here we found a good landing in a clear space close to two old sealers' huts. Immediately on landing the tracks of seals were found. Two fur-seals live here constantly, and are almost personally known to Captain Fairchild.
The tracks are broad and well-defined, and they run up a low hill covered with heavy tussock-grass, and curve and course in various directions about the base of the hill.
A few minutes later the boys who accompanied us disturbed a seal some way up the hill, and down it came to the sea. This was the only fur-seal we saw throughout the cruise. It sat on its haunches, looking at the strange visitors, and seemed inclined to take alarm. The captain went up to the animal and rubbed its neck with a long slender manuka stick, which seemed first to astonish, then to please it, for in a minute or two it moved its head backwards and forwards as if it really liked it. Finally, as it was in the way, it was told to go to sea, and moved thereto more pointedly by the shouts of the bystanders; in another instant the ungainly creature shot across the little bay a foot under water as gracefully and rapidly as a fish, so totally different is the style of its performance as a merman from that as a land animal.
From this bay we commenced a tour of the island, this one being the largest of the Snares, the group containing in all four or five islands of small size. This country is covered with somewhat open timber, excepting a margin along the cliffs. This margin is densely clothed with two kinds of grass, which are never mixed. The grass forms high tussocks, and it is a matter of choice whether you walk on top of these or
between them: if you choose the top you cannot always maintain your choice; if you choose the other route you have to drag your legs in the most wearisome way. The timber is mainly Olearia lyallii (a larger form than Olearia colensoi), a beautiful shrub or tree, here rising to the dignity of a minor forest-tree, with large, round, glossy leaves with flannelly backs, and bearing bunches of large but inconspicuous rayless flower-heads. When this grows a certain height it falls down with the weight of the leaves and the pressure of the wind, and takes root where it touches ground; then it grows upwards again; and after a while it falls again, tearing its oldest roots up and rooting itself a third time: thus the trunk is almost gifted with a power of locomotion. It grows three times as thick as a man's body. This tree is known in Stewart Island as the mutton-bird tree; and we soon found the reason, for the whole of the ground on the island is honeycombed with mutton-bird holes. The traveller constantly breaks the surface and drops into these tunnels, but the depth is not great. At every turn crested penguins (Eudyptes pachyrhynchus), single and in pairs and small flocks, are met in the bush and in the grass. They are literally everywhere, and their harsh note never ceases. The whole of the upper soil of the island is guano, matted with the fibrous roots of the Olearia, the dead wood of which adds a little to the soil. Besides the bray of the penguins, whenever you stop you hear the gentle mewing of the mutton-birds (Puffinus tristis) underground—young birds, I presume. It was the nesting season, but few eggs were obtained, as there was no time to dig. We saw very few of these birds on land, whence I concluded that the old birds were abroad feeding and would return at night.
We found a few interesting plants. Senecio mülleri, a handsome shrub, otherwise rare, is plentiful here; a Ligus-ticum is found on the cliffs, and near it the pretty forget-me-not (Myosotis capitata), while the sweet-scented Veronica elliptica, of the variety called odora by the earlier botanists, borders the shore at every point. On the whole, the plants are not a striking feature of this group so far as variety goes.
Perhaps the most striking plant on the island is Aralia lyallii, or an allied species, which here grows to an immense size, and seems to do equally well under the trees or in the open, the rich guano soil evidently suiting it. Its leaves are sometimes 28in. in diameter, possibly even more. They stand 4ft. high, on stout rhizomes, and form, with the whitish-green masses of flowers and waxy seeds which rise in huge bunches from the centre of the plant, a very attractive object. The plant seemed to me to differ in habit from that seen at Stewart
Island, spreading by means of rhizomes instead of by turning down its stolons and rooting them.
Everywhere there is a strong smell of birds, not generally strong enough to be overpowering; in the penguin rookeries it is so strong that one feels inclined to bolt through them. These are numerous and extensive. There are many on the shores, and many in the forest or scrub. Wherever a rookery is formed the timber or scrub dies, and we often found places where the penguins had taken up new ground, killing a piece of scrub alongside a rookery. The noise in the large rookeries was deafening; the big penguins brayed and the young ones squealed. As we walked through the rookeries there was added to other sounds the roar caused by the tramp of thousands of lilliputian feet as the armies fled before us, raising a miniature cloud of dust as they went. Though very harmless birds, they were very pugnacious, and often preferred to stand and fight rather than get out of the narrow tracks.
There were no nestlings; we could only see the sites of downtrodden nests. At the top of the hill we were attacked by sea-hawks or skua-gulls (Stercorarius antarcticus), which watch constantly to surprise young and weak birds. They flew at us furiously, and we had frequently to hold up something to ward them off. Often we could hear the rush of their wings as they passed a foot from a man's head. They are pretty dark birds, with a light-checked colouring on the wings. They are called skua-gulls from their resemblance to a northern species (Stercorarius catarractes), and appear to be rare in New Zealand proper. One mollymawk was noticed nesting alone.
Of small birds we saw a good number—pretty black tomtits (Miro traversi), ground-larks (Anthus novæ-zealandiæ), grass-birds (Sphenæacus fulvus) of a species now rare in New Zealand, and beautiful little snipe. All these were very tame, and were often caught by hand. Mr. Reischek claims that several of them are new species, differing from those described by Sir W. Buller and other writers, but I think I am naming them correctly according to Dr. Otto Finsch.
The snipe (Gallinago aucklandica) is a very graceful little bird. It soon dies in captivity—I suspect of starvation. One got loose on the ship and visited my bed early one morning, and sat upon my chest, close to my face, jumping at flies about the porthole. I tried to catch some of these snipe, following them up closely by the sound as they whistled to each other within a yard of me among the tussocks, but I found that they slipped nimbly into the holes made in the ground by sea-birds.
In the course of the day I managed to secure specimens of nearly all the birds for the Otago Museum. There was one
seen, however, said to be as large as a blackbird, which must be undescribed. All the land-birds were obviously weaker on the wing than their New Zealand congeners; they were also afflicted with a fatal tameness.
It is not known whether a vessel was ever lost on the Snares; they are rather far north for the course of Melbourne ships, but are often sighted. It would not be a nice place to be marooned on, as the water is all polluted by the birds, the penguins apparently taking an especial pleasure in turning the swampy ground at the head of each rivulet into a hideous pool of filth.
The only profit at present derivable from these islands is the young mutton-bird, which is an article of commerce; but they are not now visited for this purpose, as the market is fully supplied from the small islets off the coast of Stewart Island. At some future time they will be productive of considerable wealth as a source of food-supply. They ought, however, to be examined and tested for guano, which might be found to pay. The rocks appeared to be all granite, like those of Stewart Island.
As we left the shore the air was literally dark with mutton-birds flying in every direction, the owners no doubt of the innumerable nests on the shore. I verily believe they might be numbered by millions as they followed their bewildering courses through the air. I am told that towards night they descend upon the land in such numbers as to overwhelm the fires and threaten the stability of the tent of any one encamped there. We all regretted leaving this curiously attractive spot; but in an hour we were at sea again, passing clear of the Snares, close past the rocky Western Snares, and thence turning south towards the Auckland Islands, sighting as we went the high bold cliffs of the western end of the main island, and passing close under them. No dépôt is maintained on the Snares. It is scarcely necessary, as the distance from good harbours in Stewart Island is not great. We had now before us a distance of about 140 miles to run, and with rare good fortune we had a favourable wind.
The Snares were, I believe, discovered by Vancouver, in the last century.
II. Auckland Islands, Northern End.
About breakfast time, after a night at sea, land was sighted. A high island, called Disappointment Island, lies five miles off the west coast of the main group, and this was first seen. It is the only outlier at any distance from the closely-compacted group forming the Auckland Islands. The whole group forms a triangle, of which the apex points to the north. This apex consists of three small and several smaller islands — viz.,
Enderby Island on the extreme north, Ross Island on the west, Ewing Island on the east, and Ocean Island within the harbour. With the smaller islands, these three partly close the mouth of a deep inlet called Laurie Harbour, or more commonly Port Ross. It is completely sheltered, and the islands which shut it in leave a magnificent ship-entrance on the eastern or sheltered side, with smaller entrances for smaller vessels. These small islands are all flat, rough, and scrubby. I landed on Ross Island and Ewing Island, and others visited Enderby Island, but there was not time to cross it and visit the scene of the wreck of the “Derry Castle.” To continue the general description of the group, the main island is the same shape as the group—viz., a triangle. The base of the larger triangle is Adam's Island, a long island running from east to west along the south side of the group, shutting in Carnley Harbour, which cuts right into the heart of the main island. Adam's Island is high land, being a ridge 2,000ft. above the sea, and occasionally higher. The main island is very rugged, and has peaks said to rise up to 1,600ft. or 1,800ft., but I think probably higher. In the whole group there are no less than ten fine harbours, one of which, Carnley Harbour, in the south, with its main entrance in the east, is divided into three branches, and would shelter all the Queen's ships at once. Port Ross was called, I think, by Dumont d'Urville the first harbour in the world. Carnley Harbour is in no way inferior, and is vastly larger.
A map of the islands, reduced from the Admiralty chart planned by the officers of H.M.S. “Blanche” in 1870, is attached to this paper (Pl. XLVI.); and, by permission of the Director of the Geological Survey, I am able to give a number of excellent illustrations of the coast scenery of the group, which were lithographed some years ago by Mr. John Buchanan, F.L.S., formerly draughtsman to the Geological Survey Department (Pl. XLVII.-XLIX.).
Our course before entering Port Ross took us close past the Derry Castle Reef, the extreme north point of the island, on which a ship of that name went to pieces in March, 1887. A few survivors dragged their way through the brushwood to the side nearest the harbour, and there spent five months, until, finding an old axe-head, they made a punt, with which they reached the dépôt, which lay in sight five miles off. They might have got there sooner had they used the skins of the numerous sea-lions to make a boat. We could see numbers of them on a sandy beach as we neared the entrance.
Passing through the fine eastern entrance, we anchored off Ross Island, also a flat piece of peaty land about a mile and a half each way. Here Captain Fairchild introduced us to the
inhabitants. Anxious that we should see the sea-lions at their best, he rounded up a small mob with a manuka switch, flogging them occasionally gently, and not even seriously alarming them. The great clumsy beasts cantered over the rough ground through the tussocks and over the stones in the most ludicrous way. At last they appeared to become quite obedient, and when told to stop did so, turning and staring at their pursuers, literally appearing to obey the word of command. At last they were turned back and told “Now you may go,” and away they capered back, dragging their heavy bodies along the edge of the cliff at a smart pace till they got a chance of sliding down and plunging into the sea. We came across more of them here and there in the tall grass on this island, and, indeed, during the whole of our stay in this group we found them everywhere in the vicinity of the sea, and seldom launched a boat without finding it accompanied to the shore by at least one sea-lion, always as tame as poodles.
Among the woods here,—mostly low rata (Metrosideros lucida) and Coprosma,—we saw and heard the bell-bird (Anthornis melanura) and other songsters; in the grass, the little island snipe were plentiful; terns flew about the cliffs, screaming above the heads of the boys who took their eggs. Among the tall grass grew great plants of the large Ligusticum latifolium, a very handsome plant with heavy masses of seed on the heads, having the general appearance of celery seed. Close to the shore we found beautiful gentians, covered with masses of bright flowers of several colours varying from white to purple, with intermediate shades; here, too, grew rare forms of plantain, and tiny creeping Coprosmas with bright berries, telling the visitor in the plainest terms that he was now entering a sub-arctic region, and that the sea-level plants here were equivalent to mountain plants nearly 3,000ft. above the sea in New Zealand. The grass was everywhere a coarse tussock.
In the afternoon we passed up to the dépôt in Erebus Cove, Port Ross. This may be called the historical centre of the island group, and about it may be found enough evidence to show that a country without inhabitants may have a sad and stirring history.
In the dépôt house a simple inscription in chalk upon a board told the story of the men of the “Derry Castle,” their sufferings and rescue. On a slate in the same room was a record of the story of the “General Grant.” In a little cemetery, a short way off among the scrub now covering the site of the clearing made by Mr. Enderby's settlers in 1850-52, were several graves. One neat stone recorded the death of the child of a settler in 1851. Hard by was the grave of a sailor who had starved to death. He was one of the crew of the
“Invercauld,” wrecked on the west coast in 1864. Of the nineteen men who scrambled ashore, three only were rescued, after twelve months of fearful suffering, by a Peruvian barque which put in for repairs under the impression that the Enderby settlement was still in existence. This man had apparently temporarily left the party, and came back to find his companions and his last chance of life vanished. The author of the book “Les Naufragés, ou Vingt Mois sur un Récif des îles Auckland,” however, professes to identify this man, from some few letters scratched on a slate found with him, as one of the crew of the “I.E.H.,” which left Melbourne in 1865, and was never heard of again. Here, too, were several traces of visitors, and amongst others an inscription, fresh and sharp as when cut on the tree in 1865, recording the visit of Captain Norman with the Victorian Government steamer “Victoria.” A slate on the same tree told how four men of the “General Grant” had left for New Zealand without chart or nautical instrument. These unfortunates were never heard of again.
We spent a pleasant evening plant-hunting among the points and islets of Port Ross. At Shoe Island, a small island in Erebus Cove, where our ship lay, said to be highly magnetic, which Governor Enderby used as his State prison, we tried fishing, without much success. The poverty of the fisheries of these islands is the strongest feature against them, putting them far behind the desolate islands and coasts of Northern Europe. On the top of Shoe Island the boys found a baby sea-lion, which allowed us to pull him about by the flippers without more than an occasional protest, while his mother swam round waiting for the amusement to end. Here we got Stilbocarpa polaris, a splendid plant, allied to the ivy, and closely allied to the Aralia which we found at the Snares; Cotula lanata, with sweet-smelling flowers; and a number of interesting plants. The engineer's men, with shovels and knives, turned over large tussocks, and under them found eggs and young birds in the burrows of the blue petrels (Procellaria cærulea ?), and diving petrels (Haladroma urinatrix). The mother birds never attempted to get away, and the little fluffy, grey, young birds were so fat that they lived to the end of the voyage without appearing to want food.
All that remains of Governor Enderby's settlement—for he held an independent commission as governor of these islands, then a separate colony, and once paid something like a state visit to the governor of Van Diemen's Land — is a piece of country which looks as if it had been cleared, with stumps sticking up here and there, a few mouldering graves, and here and there a heap of roofing-slates. This is all that now represents a good deal of English capital, and a great deal
of misapplied enthusiasm. Mr. Enderby went the length of recommending the islands for settlement in preference to the northern part of New Zealand.
Next morning we visited the head of the harbour, which penetrates some miles into the island, and ends in a thick forest- growth, under a mountain of considerable height. Thence we moved down to Ewing Island, on the eastern side near the entrance. We walked for some hours over this flat island, among fairly-grown rata trees, which occasionally bore bunches of glorious crimson flowers, finding magnificent Olearias on the sea-shore. The shrubs and plants were varied and interesting. Every now and then we stumbled upon huge sea-lions among the tussocks—tame enough when left alone, but certainly awkward customers to fall upon by accident.
On a flat piece of rocky ground near the ocean I found a remarkable plant, which cannot be identified, as it had neither flower nor fruit. I took it to be an undescribed plantain (Plantago), with very broad foliage, but it has been suggested that it may be a new Pleurophyllum.
Swimming in the sea, and occasionally sitting on the kelp and rocks about the shore of this island, we found numbers of the rare flightless duck, Nesonetta aucklandica. This bird is very little known, and is not mentioned in the first edition of Sir W. Buller's great book, but is described and beautifully figured in the second. Its habits seem not to be known. We found it swimming in considerable flocks, sometimes of a dozen birds, close to the shore. We saw none out in the open bay. When a shot was fired they did not dive like teal, but merely hastened their speed. They seemed anxious to make for the shore. We saw them occasionally—often solitary birds—in other parts of this group of islands. This genus is not represented anywhere else. On the point opposite this island there was a large Maoris pa when the Enderby settlers arrived. Three hapus of Maoris had come from the Chatham Islands and settled here and in a small pa at Erebus Cove. They were numerous enough to alarm the settlers, but kept the peace, and left when the settlers abandoned the place.
III. Auckland Islands—West Coast, Southern Part.
The scrutiny of the west coast of these islands is one of the most important parts of the “Hinemoa's” duties. This we were able to perform in a very easy and complete fashion. We steamed out by the same entrance by which we had arrived at Port Ross, and repassed the masses of timber which represent what was once the good ship “Derry Castle.” Binoculars were kept going; they only disclosed numerous sea-lions walking about the sandy beach, and the débris at Derry Castle
Reef. The aspect of the northern coast of the main island is by no means unattractive. A cursory inspection would lead the observer on a fine day, such as we had, to think that it was a well-grassed country, something like that of some of the bare hills of Banks Peninsula. Here is a fine-looking sheep-run, and at a good harbour at the north-west corner of the island is a fine site for a woolshed, stockyard, and shipping appliances. There is a sealers' track from Port Ross to this harbour. I am afraid, however, that the suggestion of a shipping harbour for the sheep-run, with sheds, &c., is a purely superficial view. What looks like rolling hills of grass is a wilderness of high tussocks standing in deep peat, such as we struggled through in other places, in struggling through which years ago the “Invercauld's” survivors lost four of their number, who died, I suppose, really of the fatigue consequent on traversing a few miles of this country. When the Auckland Islands come to be settled it will not be by sheep-farmers, but by people who can manage with their own labour to burn off this tussock and get at a good soil said to underlie the peat. A good deal of top-soil has from time to time passed through my hands with plants collected in the islands. I have worked it between my fingers, and even between my teeth, and am unable to find even a trace of grit in it, so entirely is it composed of dead vegetable matter. In lifting large-leaved herbaceous plants, their dead leaves, the accumulation of a number of years, are often found under the growing leaves, already forming themselves into a peaty soil. Here, too, may be seen the earlier stages of the formation of peat, lignite, and brown coal of the purest kind.
The north coast is almost without wood: this may be due to the want of shelter. The west coast is too steep for trees; so is the external part of the south coast. But everywhere within the extensive harbours timber is found. It forms a regular fringe along the shore, extending up to about 200ft. above the sea—a low limit which attests the severity of the climate; thence it merges into scrub for a few hundred feet more; then come tussock-grass and herbaceous plants. The wood is mainly rata, with several species of Coprosma and a large Dracophyllum—a, timber-tree allied to the heaths, but in appearance resembling a pine, which is common in New Zealand, but does not grow so large. The forest is easy travelling near the shore, but even there you have often to bend to pass under branches. The scrub is extremely hard to pass through. I found a heavy hunting-knife of the greatest assistance in clearing fee way. The bush is everywhere full of bell-birds or korimako, whose beautiful note, I was told by a passenger who listened carefully, varied in different localities, as it does in New Zealand.
The west coast, down which we soon commenced to pass, is very grand and extremely bold. It may be briefly described as a line of cliffs and steeps thirty-five miles long. Nearly everywhere in the world west coasts are steep and east coasts shelving. This is decidedly the case here. In Otago, in Norway, and in North and South America, deep fiords relieve the continuity of these steeps. Here there is nothing of the kind save the strait between the two islands; on the contrary the only apertures of the kind are six fine harbours, seldom visited, on the east coast. The search for castaways does not call for a visit to these, as they are not in the course of any ships, and would not be reached by wanderers from the west coast; moreover, seal-poachers have no occasion to go there, as the fur-seals only frequent the wild west coast.
We passed inside Disappointment Island—a high island lying some miles off the coast, only visited by seal-poachers. We endeavoured to pick out the site of the wreck of the “Invercauld.” Not a stick of her timbers has ever been found. For the first twenty or twenty-five miles of the coast there are numerous places where if men happened to escape at the right spot, they might scramble up to the high land. There is scarcely a stretch of a mile where they could not get up if strong enough. For the next ten miles there is scarcely any place where this could be done.
The romantic story of the loss on this coast of the fine ship “General Grant,” whose figurehead is still seen a long way up the coast, and which, according to the survivors, drove into a cave 250ft. deep, has often been repeated. She was lost with more than sixty passengers and crew; and the few survivors, including the stewardess, were rescued after eighteen months' stay on the island. The fact that the ship carried ten thousand pounds' worth of gold has incited several parties to search for the cave wherein she was supposed to lie, but they have had no better fortune than we had, for, though we examined the coast with much care, and saw caves, we saw none that would answer this purpose.
At several points we saw vast rookeries of birds. Some of these appeared to be penguins; but, though Captain Fairchild makes a point of stopping and examining anything of the sort when there is spare time, he could not afford to do so then. Another of these was an immense area of mollymawk nests (Diomedea melanophrys). These birds, which are allied to the albatros, nest in the most inaccessible places. Here, as in most rookeries, they built among the grass on a slope, with cliffs both above and below it. We thought it might be possible, but difficult, to reach this from Carnley Harbour; but the distance is considerable. The grass where they build grows darker than when in its natural state, and from this we
thought it was a different plant, while the innumerable white spots among the plants looked at the distance exactly like white flowers. Seeing this, I felt certain that I had found one of the plants I was in search of, until the captain disillusionized us by telling us that our white flowers were the heads of mollymawks. Another very striking object seen on this coast, and afterwards on the south coast, was a waterfall which might be said to flow upwards. Streams coming down from the mountains are pretty numerous, and they generally reach the sea down steeps leading from gullies. Here and there, however, they fall over the cliffs, forming small waterfalls. The pressure of wind against a high cliff even in a moderate breeze is very great, and it is well known that in such a case an immense draught is felt at the edge of the cliff, where the compressed air forms an up-rushing wall, while a few yards back this wall causes the neighbouring air to be quite still. Here the waterfall became incorporated with the up-rushing air, and, instead of falling, was carried up above the land in a column like smoke. Presumably it fell again, but apparently until the wind changes it cannot go down, but must saturate the surrounding country, as we could see no water going down the face of the cliff. At the foot of the cliff however, in the sea was what looked like a perpetual whirlwind, which may have been caused by the interrupted water reaching the sea. Subsequently we saw this phenomenon of the column of spray from shore. Here it was exactly like a column of smoke; indeed, it is well known that Musgrave mistook one for a fire, and this mistake has often been made.
We now passed the western entrance to Carnley Harbour. It is too narrow or shallow for the “Hinemoa,” otherwise a mile of navigation would have saved us twenty-five miles. We passed it, and turned the fine bold cliffs which form the western end of the southern or Adam's Island. This island, which is generally 2,000ft. high, and sometimes higher, is twelve miles long by from two to four wide, and contains, I believe, some 30,000 acres. It is bold with precipitous shores on the south and steep slopes on the north. Near its eastern end is a gap in the cliffs. We turned and entered this, and found ourselves within the beautiful and rarely visited Fly Harbour. The captain wished to know whether the country above was accessible from this harbour. Deep water goes right up to the head, which is a mile and a half from the entrance. Dense forest clothes the steep sides, the only break in which is under a sheer cliff. A curious bar of kelp rising in deep water comes to the surface half-way up the harbour, and is liable to foul the propeller of a steamer. This serves effectually to break any sea that may enter. It was soon evident that there was no chance of passing through the dense
timber with less than a day's hard work; so we turned and steamed out. The shores close to the water were covered with masses of the most beautiful flowers: Ligusticum, Pleurophyllum, and other rare and beautiful flowering plants are huddled together with a lavish profusion which Nature alone can afford. We were sorry to go, but it could not be helped; so round we went past the last headland of this island, which promised us so much that was interesting, for we had seen on the high grassy uplands that rare sight—dozens of stately white birds sitting in solitude on their nests, and we knew that we were approaching what so few men are privileged to visit—the home of the wandering albatros. Flocks of muttonbirds (Puffinus tristis) accompanied us round the stormy cape, which, presenting an exception to the other parts of this strange land, was wooded to the height of 1,000ft. Heavy seas rolling in closed the mouth of a small cave under the cape, and thus compressing the air caused a loud explosion with a shower of snowy spray as the water plug became thinner with the recession of the wave. Sea-birds of several kinds swept to and fro; spotless albatroses soared high over the land; and in a few minutes we were well up the long, deep, wide fiord called Carnley Harbour, approaching the scene where Captain Thomas Musgrave lays the simple but wonderful story of his life as a castaway. Turning up towards the north arm we found his flagstaff still standing on Musgrave Peninsula, and soon after sighted the ruins of Epigwaitt House, where he lived so long with his men, near to which lay the bones of his ill-fated vessel on the beach. I was sorry to miss visiting this spot, but there was no object in going there; so we passed further up this arm, which led deep into the heart of the main island, and anchored off Figure Eight Island—a low piece of land in the centre of the harbour, so named by Musgrave from its shape—on which the captain of the “Hinemoa” had placed a few sheep and goats. We spent the rest of the afternoon there, some looking for sheep, others for plants. The sheep were found dead; the goats were alive and healthy. A few interesting plants were found. Sea-lions as usual grunted from the little gullies. I gathered here a few spiders, of which Mr. Goyen writes: “All but two of the spiders you collected on the islands to the south of New Zealand are one species, Amamobioides maritima. Of the two others, one is an Epeira (new, I think) and one a Salticus (new). Among the spiders there is a Phalangium which may turn out to be new.”
It would be out of place to narrate Musgrave's interesting story here. The ill-found vessel, equipped to search for tin or some other mythical metal at Campbell Island, was blown ashore through her anchor-chains parting while lying here
temporarily on her return voyage. After waiting nearly eighteen months for succour, the captain made his way to Stewart Island in a frail boat which had been improved a little by his mate, M. Raynal, a Frenchman, who had first to make his file, then with that his saw, out of a piece of old sheet-iron, then his nails, and then proceed with his work.
IV. Carnley Harbour, Adam's Island.
Early next morning we again passed down the deep harbour to the long strait which separates the two islands. We called at the dépôt, which is maintained at a very unsuitable place, on the edge of a densely-timbered point—-accessible only by boat, and visible only from high land. It is, however, supplemented by a boat in a shed lower down the harbour. Then a boat was sent into a cove in Adam's Island to search for some sealers' huts said to exist there. They searched the wrong cove, and by chance came upon a brood of young m-er gansers (Mergus australis) with their parents. The old birds got away, but the chicks were seized; and I had the satisfaction, through the kindness of Mr. Neil (the chief officer), of securing a couple for our museum. This bird is common in the Northern Hemisphere, and is there represented by numerous arctic and sub-arctic species: in the Southern Hemisphere it is represented by this-one species, found only in a limited part of this small island-group. At another landing I saw more specimens of the rare flightless Auckland Island duck, Nesonetta aucklandica, which were not disturbed. Here, too, I only saw them on or close to the shore. Anchoring close to Monumental Island, which stops the entrance from the ocean, we landed, and at once found ourselves in the true plant-gathering country. Here we first spent some time hunting for a wingless duck, different from Nesonetta, said to exist here, but we could not find it. This place will now be known by the name which we gave it—-Fairchild's Garden. It extends from the strait at the north-west end of the island along the shore to the first piece of bush, and thence up to and over the summit of the hill—in all perhaps 400 acres—one of the most wonderful natural gardens the extratropical world can show. No doubt other parts of Adam's Island and other places in the group are equally beautiful, but the day we spent here can never be forgotten. A peaked rock overhead is 700ft. above the sea; the summit rocks are 1,100ft. by the aneroid. The whole of the ground up to these and beyond them for some distance is literally packed with beautiful flowering herbaceous plants. Near the shore the Ligusticums, L. latifolium and L. antipodum, grow in splendid profusion, their stout rhizomes and huge rigid leaves stopping the progress of pedestrians. Along the shore were masses of
golden lily (Anthericum rossii) in seed. Here, too, grew sweet-scented Cotula lanata, and its handsome congener Cotula, plumosa, both of which are worth cultivating. Over the whole country Pleurophyllum speciosum sends up, amid huge ribbed leaves, 2ft. long, its spikes of beautiful lilac or purple flowers. These spikes are usually four or five, sometimes eight or ten, in number. The regular imbrication of the large ribbed leaves, so strong as to push aside the rank grasses, renders these plants singularly beautiful. They form deep cups of crisp foliage, which gives way with a crash as you set your foot on it. We long endeavoured to avoid crushing these splendid plants until they grew too thick, and we too callous, but I could seldom avoid the reflection that often for hundreds of yards each step crushed a plant worth ten guineas in Covent Garden. The next species, Pleurophyllum criniferum, was also plentiful. Its leaves are even larger, and, though not so handsome, make it a very fine plant, especially as its tall, white flower-stalk, sometimes 3ft. high, covered with button-like, brown, rayless flower-heads, 1in. across, is a very striking object. A third species which seems to have escaped the notice of Sir Joseph Hooker is smaller, and has the most beautiful silvery leaves. It grows sparsely on the slopes, and in great profusion on the flat top. I had this in cultivation last year, but it failed me.
Here, too, we met in immense quantities the most beautiful of all the Celmisias, C. vernicosa, a little plant with leaves here seldom more than 2in. long, gleaming like polished nephrite newly from the lapidary's hands, arranged in the most perfect rosettes. I believe that I am almost the only cultivator in New Zealand of this beautiful plant. I find I can keep it alive well enough, but have not had it long enough to get it into flower. It often forms large patches, the pretty rosettes of leaves rising from spreading rhizomes. It was past flowering, but we obtained flowers at a higher altitude next day.
Stilbocarpa polaris is plentiful along the shore. This plant carries a large bunch of seeds on a rather slender stalk. When they ripen they turn black; then the stem, without fading, bends outwards and down to the ground as if by a muscular movement, and carries the mass of nuts to the ground so that they fall clear of the leaves.
Besides these beautiful plants, we gathered many that are curious and interesting to botanists, and many of which I expect to find improve under cultivation. We made two journeys up the hill, each time carrying down heavy baskets of plants, which were duly stored in boxes on board. I have but faintly described the charms of the most beautiful field of flowers I have ever seen. Mr. Kirk was on the hill most of
the day in a rich harvest of botanical treasures, while Mr. Bell, with a ship's boat, was treating the boys to some shooting and boating in the sound. The walking was extremely heavy, and before the day was out we were pretty tired. On the summit, to our surprise, we found albatroses nesting: they were rather young birds, and nearly all the nests were new, the rarity of old nests showing that this place is little used: indeed, Captain Fairchild had not before noticed it as a nesting-place. We procured half a dozen eggs. As we descended we saw that the steamer's anchor was up and that we were wanted on board. It was near 8 p.m. when we reached the ship's boat, dragging our way through the heavy tangle. On the way down we saw pretty green parrakeets; and my brother, Mr. M. Chapman, caught a snipe with his hands.
The vessel moved to an anchorage some miles to the east, and we then found that the firemen and stewards had been gathering albatros eggs on the mountains; and all hands were kept up until two o'clock in the morning, getting down one of of their mates who had been knocked up. It was interesting to watch the movements of their lanterns and even hear their cheers at a height of 1,500ft. At 10 p.m. the twilight was still strong enough to enable me to read on deck.
Next morning the captain led a party of albatros-hunters. A few birds were wanted for museums, and everybody seemed to want eggs. We landed at the cove where the sealers' huts are, though we did not see them. The road led through a bit of bush, very dense, but traversed by a sealers' track. These sealers make an easy road across the island, and, when they arrive at the cliffs at the other side, lower some of their number to the ledges and caves where these slaughter seals. The slayers and the skins are then drawn up. It is wholly illegal, but it goes on, so that the fur-seals are nearly exterminated. From the rata bush (Metrosideros lucida) we climbed a spur which had been swept by snow, killing the grass and making the going easy. It was a steep climb, with some tiring work, but nothing very difficult. The men who had laid down their eggs the night before when carrying their mate got them again without difficulty, and we crossed the saddle at a height of 1,900ft. (by the aneroid) in one hour and ten minutes. From here, as from our point of vantage yesterday, we had a wide view of the islands. Carnley Harbour, with all its arms, lay as a map before us. Had we sought the summit, a few hundred feet higher, we might perhaps have seen Port Ross and mapped the country. Towards the south the view was uninterrupted as far as the horizon. About the summit of the ridge there were many interesting plants. Celmisia vernicosa covered acres of ground, and was in full flower, being somewhat later at this altitude than down below. This beautiful little perennial
aster, with its delicate tints, forms one of the charms of this richly-endowed, island, just as its numerous allies do in the high alps of New Zealand.
The smaller species of Pleurophyllum was plentiful; a rare fern, a Greum, Plantago aucklandica—a handsome ally of the common plantain, here only found on high land—and a small cress, said to be a rare plant, were in plenty on the storm-beaten heights. Mosses, small rushes, lichens, and other alpine plants grew on and near the rocks. Descending a little way towards the ocean, we came upon the albatroses. They are very numerous. A great many of them were sitting; others were billing and cooing; others seemed to have no particular business on hand; others were young ones waiting to be turned off the old nests; others, again, were turned off, but had not yet learned to fly. An albatros nest is much the shape of the old-fashioned dairy-churns of our early youth, only a little shorter, and solidly built of mud, grass, and weeds. When it has served a year the grass grows up in it, but it is often used again another year, being first raised and trimmed up by the bird. When building a nest, the albatros—I suppose the female—scrapes up the mud from about it, but when she has made a little pile she stands upon it, and the rest of the work is done standing thus, so that her weight—from 18lb. to 25lb.—always serves to solidify what has been completed. In working from this standpoint, the bird digs up bits of earth with its beak and lays them upon the pile. About five digs to the minute is the average rate, and when it has done about five it turns and digs from another place. In digging thus it makes a trench round the cone, which may serve to keep the nest drained. It nearly always builds among high tussock, but takes little or no pains to conceal the nest. Its sole idea of protection is the utter isolation of its nesting-home. Its one plan for protecting its egg is to sit on it and never leave it. When the albatros is building its nest its mouth is generally rather soiled inside. When the nest is built it is finished off with a slight and neatly-made basin-like depression at the top, and in this are placed a few leaves and bits of dry grass, but not enough to prevent the egg from coming into contact with the soil and getting very dirty before it is hatched. There is never more than one egg, which once a day is turned over by the bird to expose the other side to its breast. It is pure-white except at the big end, where it is reddish. It weighs about a pound. It is said to be good eating, but I never tried it. It has two yolks, one small and the other large—at least, so it appeared to me when blowing numerous eggs. Sometimes two albatroses make their nests close together, but this seems accidental. When we got to this ground we separated in collecting the eggs. Often I could
not help stopping to admire the grandly beautiful birds. The oldest are pure-white excepting the wings, which are pencilled with brown; the youngest are nearly black. They are supposed to turn whiter and whiter as they grow older. As we found them here, there were very few quite white; they were generally beautifully pencilled with dark lines. I have given the received explanation as to colour and age, but I am bound to say it does not answer all observations, as some of the young birds not fully fledged in the Otago Museum are quite white. Many birds which could not fly had a little down hanging about their necks still. Their condition shows that there are many young birds not yet fully fledged when the old birds lay their next year's eggs. When a bird is put off its nest it goes over in a helpless way. As you approach it it makes a demonstration, clapping with its beak. This clapping noise, which is even more used by nestlings than by old birds, probably serves to intimidate sea-hawks, but it often betrayed to us the unsuspected presence of nests among the tall tussock-grass. It is said it will snap at flesh, but not at a gloved hand. I generally gave them a bit of stick to bite, and gently turned them off backwards. Thus treated, the bird will fall upon its back, with its head and the elbow-joints of its long wings in the tussock, kicking helplessly with its feet. As soon as possible it would scramble back upon the nest, sometimes looking down occasionally with one eye at a time like a duck to see if the egg was there. When a bird had not yet laid it usually stood up as we came to the nest. When it had an egg nothing would induce it to rise and show it. It would sit close to the nest with the egg in the folds of its abdomen. By its sitting so close we could tell that it had an egg. In some places male and female stood by a half-made nest. We could see them gently curtseying to each other, and then rubbing their bills together. This undemonstrative style of courtship was going on everywhere. I do not suppose that one-half of the nesting birds were laying yet. In many places four, in some eight or ten birds stood in solemn conclave together, and scarcely stirred when we walked among them. I presume they were waiting on change for eligible offers of marriage. Very few birds showed any departure from the universal habit. Once one rushed at me to attack me as a goose does. Once, too, one ran away from me in great haste. Occasionally, as I came up to a bird which was not nesting, it ran along the grass and took flight, soaring away as they do at sea: this, however, was rare. Now and then we found their castings, and these were always found to contain masses of undigested beaks of small cuttlefish. We soon gathered a hundred eggs between four of us. These were blown on the spot with a blowpipe. They were nearly
all fresh, a few only showing signs of incubation. Overhead numerous albatroses soared about. I could not quite make out the order of business, but some authorities say the males come down to feed their mates. Certain it is that either male or female—and I suppose the latter—sits perpetually. If she were to show the colour of her egg a sea-hawk would certainly spike it. These creatures watch incessantly at the penguin rookeries for chances of this kind, and nothing comes amiss to them. We gathered these hundred eggs from about twenty-five acres of ground. Had we been so inclined, we might have walked further and got far more. If one-fifth of the island is albatros-nesting ground, 140,000 birds could nest upon it: in fact, the whole of the high land of the interior is probably nesting-ground, and four eggs to the acre is far below what we found must be the rule elsewhere. Nevertheless, solitary islands are few and small, and albatroses are numerous, so there must be some further explanation of the vast numbers bred. It is certain that the information collected by Sir W. Buller and others may yet be very largely supplemented. Professor Scott states that the albatros does not breed at Macquarie Island.* The landing-party from Commodore Wilkes's ship “Peacock,” however, describe the birds as extremely bold, picking up penguin eggs the party had laid down. I suspect these good sailors had given the name “albatros” to the skua-gull or sea-hawk.
There is evidently a rule in albatros-nesting. Here the season was well on, and the birds were of medium age. At Campbell Island, a long way south, the season was much further advanced, the eggs having young birds in them, while the birds were quite white and far larger than here. At Antipodes Island, where the albatroses were enormously plentiful, eggs were extremely rare, and quite freshly laid and clean; while the birds were younger and much darker than at either of the other places. One must almost suppose that the birds do not return to their old nests, nor even to their former island, but pass on as they grow older to an island further south. The order in which we found them is evidently constant. The dates may vary a little. Captain Fairchild is endeavouring to collect more certain information. The tin clips which he occasionally puts upon them, with the date and place of capture, may serve some day to clear this up.
The dates and latitudes are as follow:—
Antipodes Island, 17th January.—Dark birds. Majority not yet nesting, but billing. Eggs rare; incubation not commenced. Nest-building active. Lat. 49° 42′.
Adam's Island, 5th January.—Medium birds. Majority
[Footnote] * Trans., vol. xv., p. 484.
nesting. Few billing. Eggs plentiful; incubation just commenced. Few nest-building. Lat, 51°.
Campbell Island, 5th December.—White birds; very large. Nest-building; billing and laying all finished; chicks in all eggs. Lat. 52° 33′.
Chatham Islands, earlier.—Colours not ascertained, but said to be dark. Lat. 44°.
A few birds were captured here, and taken back for museums. The process was simple and humiliating. The noble creature was tied by the beak to prevent it from biting; a bit made of wood was put into its mouth to allow it to breathe; it was trussed—i.e., its wings tied up, and its feet-too. Two were thus tied up and slung over the man's shoulders, so that a bird went under each arm, and so were held and carried. I did not carry any; and a companion who trudged down the mountain with a bird of 161b. weight under each arm and a candle-box of eggs on his back, assured me that when his birds fought each other both with beaks and feet it was not a job to be courted. The fighting seemed to me to be incessant; it was going on whenever I chanced to look that way. Now and then at a critical moment, when there was a struggle with a tussock, it fairly disturbed the bearer's balance. The day was a glorious one, and the sights were most interesting, though, if albatroses sorrow for their eggs, somewhat cruel. On the top of the range were ground-larks, as usual; snipe, too, rose at our feet, and scattered hastily as if from a nest. These pretty little creatures are numerous, and would certainly be exterminated if much disturbed. As we descended in the evening I thought I heard the weka (Ocydromus australis). I do not know whether it was indigenous, but it was taken over from Stewart Island after the wreck of the “General Grant” or “Grafton” to add a little to the food-supply of the island; but these were liberated on the main island, and are not likely to have spread much. Mr. Travers thought he heard the kiwi (Apteryx sp.), which has never been reported from the group. If there it would probably prove a new species. That evening we sailed for Campbell Island, having again the good fortune to have a fair wind. Captain Fairchild had never before known a calm night in the Auckland Islands. We had enjoyed three as fine as could be wished for, with days to match.
V. Campbell Island.
We now spent a night at sea, and early in the morning saw a high island in our course. We came up to it, and found its appearance almost like a series of pyramids and towers rising from the sea. The coast is bold, and about it are studded some noble islets rising sheer out of the water, composed everywhere of columnar basalt. Inland are several peaked mountains
with rocks almost like spikes upon them. The highest of these is 1,800ft., but rising from the ocean they look higher. The names of the peaks, points, and islets tell of the visit of the Antarctic expedition in 1840—Lyall Pyramid, Terror Point, &c.; and of the French Transit of Venus Expedition in 1874— Venus Cove, Vire Point, Jaquemart Island, and others named after Courjolles, Filhol, &c. The island was discovered in 1810 by Frederick Hazelburg—whose name appears appended to a small group of islands near Stewart Island—master of the “Perseverance,” owned by Mr. Robert Campbell, of Sydney. It has several fine harbours, and was for this reason selected by the French in 1874. For some months the “Vire” lay there erecting the observatory under the superintendence of M. Bouquet de la Grye, the Hydrographer to the Navy, and his staff. The day was cloudy, and they never saw the transit. Dr. Filhol, the distinguished naturalist, was there with the ship; and collected and observed birds, fish, and marine animals.
My personal acquaintance with these men added to the interest I otherwise felt in this island, my previous knowledge of which was mainly derived from descriptions given by Dr. Filhol when we lived together fifteen years ago. This gentleman has since published a great work on the island, which I have not had the advantage of seeing. The only recent incident in its history is the story of the “Sarah A. Hunt,” a sealpoacher from America, which was blown away with two men, abandoning two boatloads of men, one of which, after the vessel's arrival in New Zealand, was rescued by the “Stella.” Mr. H. Armstrong, in a recent article in the Leisure Hour, described his visit there in the brig “Amherst” in search of castaways after the wreck of the “General Grant,” and mentions finding wreckage and several graves there, including one of a Frenchwoman.
After passing round most of the west coast we put into North-west Bay. Here there is a small cliff of lithographic limestone, bearing fossils. It is much contorted by volcanic action. An underlying rock is studded with iron-pyrites, which may be the “tin” which tempted Musgrave's charterers. We landed, and went up the ridge in front of us to the height of 900ft. till we looked down a fine cliff facing southwards. From here we could see across the island to the head of Perseverance Harbour, in which was the white house of the dépôt. I felt tempted to walk down to it, but feared that some low land might contain a swamp. The walking was everywhere extremely heavy. The tussocks were very large, and their heads matted together. Among them were a few albatroses. These were very beautiful birds, almost all pure-white excepting the wings. Once when I turned one off its nest it did
what I had not seen one do before—made a savage snap at its egg and punctured a small hole in it. Mr. Bell went more to the west, and climbed a steep hill called the Menhir. It had a stone peak at the summit like the menhirs or Druids' stones of Brittany, and had doubtless been named by a Breton. We had a good view of the island, which is circular, and is almost cut in two by Perseverance Harbour, a fiord of volcanic origin some miles long, with an entrance from the south-east. In the part of the island where we now were, the plants, though not as numerous as at Adam's Island, were even more beautiful. Here the Pleurophyllum speciosum was in better season, and the flowers were of a much deeper purple than those we had seen before. From being isolated the plants had grown better, and each was a picture in itself. Here, too, the Celmisia vernicosa grew leaves less polished than at the Aucklands, but 5in. and 6in. long—i.e., usually twice as long as those we had gathered before. The flower-heads were numerous, from six to twelve on each plant, and were in full perfection. The figure in Hooker's “Flora Antarctica” is an admirable representation of this plant. Their centres were of two colours—light and dark purple—but we attributed this to difference in degree of maturity. I brought back some of them, but have found them more difficult to preserve alive than the small plants from Adam's Island. The grass was much drier; indeed, that appeared to be the character of the country, but, as other travellers do not bear this out, the season may be exceptional. The albatroses were of enormous size; some were brought down for museums. An ingenious man of the sea found that it was easier to tow them than to carry them. As he worked to leeward, according to the prevailing wind, he had the lie of the tussocks with him. A string was put round the beak, and the albatros was towed down to the ship without much trouble; the grass being dry they arrived quite clean and uninjured. We only got a few eggs, and these had chicks in them—an additional attraction at the museums. None of the eggs could be blown; the chicks had to be taken out through a square hole cut in the side. In many places I found pebbles and small angular pieces of stone resting on the ground or on the tops of the tussocks; one very large piece weighed a pound. These must have been dropped by seabirds bringing up food—shell-fish—from the rocks. It affords a mode of accounting for small stones in unexpected places near the sea.
In the afternoon we again went round the west coast and entered Perseverance Harbour, which is a very fine sheet of water, with straight shores. There are several good anchor ages. Mount Honey, the highest hill on the island, is on one side, and Lyall Pyramid on the other. The ridges on either
side are 800ft. high. Though we had only found a few albatroses, we saw them in great numbers in more inaccessible places. On the shore here we saw some white goats, part of Captain Fairchild's stock. Hitherto goats have done well and sheep badly at most of these dépôts, but I think the flocks of sheep put down are far too small. The shores of the harbour are fringed with scrub. This is composed of Dracophyllum. One writer says there are pine-trees; another sees manuka (Leptospermum, sp.). The Dracophyllum, allied to the heaths, but with leaves like grass, is presumably the pine; the Cassinia—a familiar shrub on our hills—is, I suppose, the manuka of the other observer. Another writer found ground larks and wrens; we found neither, though the ground-larks may be there. Mr. Travers obtained no land-birds. Mr. Reischek only saw the blight-bird (Zosterops lateralis, vel cærulescens), which certainly crosses the ocean. Mr. Bell could see no ducks, though they are said to frequent the island. Landing near Venus Cove we were soon among beautiful and interesting plants. Here at 100ft. above the sea the Celmisia vernicosa was very fine and plentiful. I suspect that the reported existence of Celmisia verbascifolia (a well-known Otago plant) on this island is a mistake. On a small area of flat moist land my brother, Mr. Martin Chapman, discovered a new plant, which I identified as an unknown species of Celmisia, to which I have given the name C. campbellensis.* It is quite unlike any other, though its flower-heads are like those of C. vernicosa. We obtained ten plants, one being in flower and others in seed, and brought them all away for cultivation. Mr. Kirk subsequently had the good fortune to obtain one in flower. It seems singular that this should be found within half a mile of the French camp, and close to the spot where, I presume, Sir Joseph Hooker lay, but it appeared to us to be locally confined to less than an acre of ground. Higher on the range it may be more plentiful. One plant growing here, which was generally past flowering at Adam's Island, is Pleurophyllum criniferum. The flowers are by no means so pretty as those of P. speciosum, but the general effect of the plant, with flower-bearing scapes 4ft. high, is very striking. Here, too, we found in flower the beautiful golden lily called Anthericum rossii. This was plentiful enough at the Auckland Islands, but generally past flowering. When in perfection it is a beautiful flower, and I find it easy to cultivate.
The day was cool but fine, and the evenings had now become very long, with twilight like that of the Old Country. Early next day we moved down to a lower anchorage near
[Footnote] * See above, Art XLIII.
the mouth of the harbour and landed on the hillside. Here we picked a spot clear of scrub and clambered up. Some were bent on albatros-egg hunting, and had fair success. I was searching for plants, but found little beyond what we had seen elsewhere. Mr. Kirk was more successful, and obtained some rare and obscure plants. This was the shady side of the harbour, and our experience satisfied us that it is far better to ascend the sunny side, as the vegetation is less rank. Here it was so rank as to make walking extremely difficult. The size of the Ligusticum latifolium of several varieties was amazing. Some of the Coprosma shrubs were laid so low and rendered so dense by the wind that we found it the best mode of progression to walk on top of them, though they sank down like spring beds with the weight.
On our return we steamed out and landed some sheep in the most promising place available in East Bay, another good harbour. These were provided, as much of the live-stock is, by the Invercargill Wreck Fund, an institution which has, under the supervision of Mr. John Macpherson, of Invercargill, for many years made thoughtful provision for shipwrecked seamen. East Bay is a pretty little harbour, not unlike Fly Harbour, in Adam's Island, in character, but without the forest. The flowering-plants along its margin were extremely beautiful. Hence we coasted to the north-east angle of the island, standing inshore to examine the vast rookeries of mollymawks, which occupy a large piece of ground inaccessible from below and difficult of approach from above owing to the necessity for making a long journey through the scrub to reach it. These birds have a singular faculty for picking out safe nesting-places. At this season their young are nearly hatched. Hence we steamed away in the evening, after two pleasant days of rambling, for Antipodes Island—a long journey which kept us all next day and night at sea. We experienced nothing of the vile climate said to prevail here.
VI. Antipodes Island.
Early on the second day after leaving Campbell Island we were off another high island with a few steep outliers. This island has no harbours, and is surrounded by cliffs, under which, as at the Snares, were numerous rookeries of penguins Wherever we went it was the crested penguin; we only obtained three specimens of other kinds in the whole trip—one being the great king penguin, and the others being somewhat similar but smaller birds, possibly immature specimens of the same kind. We anchored under a noble cliff of contorted basalt and tufa on the north-east side, well named Perpendicular Head. Outside of the anchorage were two islets never yet visited, one of which exhibits a fine natural arch of rock. The
landing is at a rocky recess amid the smell and noise of penguins in a small rookery hard by. The dápôt was in good order, and two out of the three cattle left there looked well; the third was missing. The sheep were not seen, but recent traces of them were found. The cattle had begun to make tracks through the heavy tussock at the landing, and had eaten freely of the great rhizomes of the Stilbocarpa and the leaves of a large nettle. These plants and Ligusticum antipodum were common here, but the fine flowering-plants of the other islands were reduced to one species of Pleurophyllum. We started to walk through the island, and found the work very difficult. The high tussock and a fern (Lomaria capensis) covered very treacherous ground. Mountains rise on two sides of a sort of plain or basin. We crossed this, and made for Mount Galloway, 1,300ft. by the aneroid. As we approached it we found its sides scarred by slips and deeply cut by water-worn ravines. Here grew quantities of Coprosma scrub, the only shrub on the island. It was in fruit, and on the fruit were feeding two kinds of parrakeet unknown in New Zealand. I found it very difficult to see them, so completely did they match the colour of the scrub, but I got several for the museum. When I fired a shot they screamed all round, but remained invisible. At times they came close round me, so close that I could not fire without knocking them to pieces. I carried a small walking-stick gun with small shot. I found this gun more destructive than I had found a fowlingpiece with large shot in the Sounds, when I procured some small birds now in the museum; indeed, my gun was so deadly that at Port Ross I killed shags with it easily. These parrakeets have acquired the habit of keeping low down and seldom flying, as to fly on so small an island would expose them to the danger of being blown away to sea. Near the head of the stream which flows down the mountain we found a fine large plot of beautiful Sphagnum moss, which could be seen as a patch on the mountain-side from the ship, two miles off. We failed to get a view from the mountain, as there was a dense fog up there. The summit was clear ground, matted with Pleurophyllum and low-growing Ligusticum. Owing to a fog we failed to see a clear lake said to exist there. There was a good deal of flat ground up there, which was literally alive with albatroses. Young, black, birds were very common; often their breasts were covered with down, and this was matted with piripiri (Acæna adscendens) seeds. The albatroses were building nests everywhere, and numbers of them were billing and cooing and gathered in large flocks as at Adam's Island. They took little notice of us as we walked among them, only clapping their beaks when we went right up to them. They went on with their nest-building and their
billing while we stood close by them. They were as numerous as geese in a farmyard, and less active, for geese would either have run away from or after us. On the flanks of the mountain there were more albatroses, young and old, but very few old enough to be nearly white. The season was decidedly backward as compared with the other islands; we only got three eggs, and altogether only about twenty were found. With such a number of nests I am sure that a month later a thousand could be gathered in the same time, as at Adam's Island some four hundred were obtained. Sir W. Buller mentions parties of Maoris getting a thousand young albatroses from some small islets near the Chatham Islands. Captain Fairchild thinks that albatroses have become less numerous since his first visits to Antipodes Island, though at this season he disturbs them very little, and at other seasons still less; but this is probably due to the fact that his former visits were later in the year. Thinking they might be shifting their breeding-ground, I inquired if he knew of any nesting on the mainland of New Zealand. He replied that he had seen them flying over the high-level land at Dusky Sound, and during the last few years he had noticed immense numbers of birds off the coast of New Zealand, where he had never seen them numerous before. On this island we found young albatroses standing about the old nests quite low down on the plain, but they were far more numerous on the hill. On our way down the mountain we crossed some very wet ground at the source of the stream. Here we found all the leaves of the Stilbocarpa covered with dirt newly thrown out of burrows. We could not satisfy ourselves what birds were making these burrows. We could hear birds squeaking in some of them, and out of one got a young but grown sea-hawk, whether a denizen or a robber we could not tell. In another we got an egg which contained a fully matured nelly (Ossifraga gigantea) chick. On the mountain-side were numerous-holes under tussocks which I took to be those of the Prion, or night-bird, or of some petrel. We did not obtain many plants worth cultivating, but everywhere we saw small but beautiful gentians in flower. Mr. Kirk obtained several interesting plants. Besides the birds mentioned we saw ground-larks paler in colour than those of New Zealand, and very tame. Snipe, too, were obtained, but I did not see any. They are said to be different from those of the other islands. There are, in fact, two species of snipe in the outlying islands, that of the Chatham Islands, G. pusilla, being distinct. All the land-birds are very tame, and are poor fliers. If they were better fliers they would more easily get blown to sea. At some seasons the parrakeets become very shy. This island was discovered by Captain Pendleton in 1800, but I know nothing of his voyage
beyond the fact that his course is marked on large charts, and is Often referred to in Dumont d'Urville's book on the South Pacific. It is the nearest land to the antipodes of Greenwich, which must be about one hundred and twenty miles away. There is a piece of wood on the island recording the accidental drowning of the mate of the ship “Prince of Denmark” in 1824, but this I failed to see. A few years since a sealer lived alone for a season here, and reported that at a certain season he saw the penguins migrate southwards in vast flocks. It is not known where they go to; it is certain, however, that they leave this and the Bounty Islands in the winter, as Captain Fairchild on his visit in July does not find one. Sea-lions are unknown here; fur-seals have disappeared. Fish are scarce here as elsewhere, and are shunned by sailors, as at one season they are full of worms. This is the case even at the Auckland Islands with fish caught in deep water, though there are good fish in the harbours. It is the case likewise at Macquarie and other outlying islands, but not at the Kermadecs.
The albatros-eggs had had a bad time of it as we stumbled through the heavy tussocks—one was broken, another slightly cracked. I carefully laid a sound one on a ledge of rock to keep it out of mischief while waiting for the boat to come off. My attention was attracted by a little ground-lark which played about on the stones. Thinking it might be a new one, I several times tried to knock it over with my hat, as I had done at other places. It narrowly eluded me, and I was just about to make a certainty of it when a shout from Mr. Miller, one of the engineers, who was descending the cliff, caused me to turn. A sea-hawk had spiked my last sound albatros-egg with his beak and was indulging in its delicious contents. When I struggled up to regain my egg the sea-hawk hopped knowingly away, and when the boat had got us off he leisurely returned to finish what he could find of the egg among the crevices of the rock. An hour later we were moving off towards the Bounty Islands in a jumping sea, which was anything but pleasant to any of us, and sufficiently depressing to some to send them to bed. The sea is always worst near the islands. When we got well away to sea it moderated somewhat.
VII. The Bounty Islands.
A fearful stench pervaded my cabin when I awoke. I dreamed of it before I awoke—indeed, it was that and nothing else that awakened me. I have slept in strange places and amid a thousand strange smells, but never did I endure anything so sickening as this. I knew my room was full of fearful things, and visions of broken albatros-eggs haunted my
shattered senses, though my almost hermetically-closed box looked all right. I rushed out to the bath half awake. The galleries smelt as my room did. The bathroom was just as bad. Then I remembered the faint odours of the Snares (which, by the way, we had smelt a mile across the sea), and I knew what had happened: we were steaming among the bird islands. The Bountieś are sixteen rocky islets, running up to a few hundred feet at the highest. They have no soil upon them. Wherever there is room there sits a crested penguin. The largest islet is 30 acres in extent, and under the lee of this we anchored. From the anchorage we could sea half the islands; but the nearest one to us carried no birds, as the sea can wash over it. Even at the distance of half a mile the noise of the birds was deafening. It rose and fell with a cadence like that observable in the forests of Australia when the locusts or cigale are numerous, or near marshes where frogs abound. I wanted to land, and as boats were sent ashore two of us ventured in them. We found the rocks too steep to get up any distance, so we gave it up. The steward and the carpenter went up a short way. Here the stench was simply awful. We watched the penguins swarming over the rocks for awhile. The great nellies swam about us; the mollymawks sat beside their big young ones among the penguins on the rocks; the whale-birds, too, made their homes in the deeper crevices. It is good to think that some creatures can stand the smell of penguins. Heavens! what a place to be marooned in! There was a dépôt here too, but lightning has destroyed it, and the sea is rarely fine enough to allow material to be landed to repair it. A sail is provided to catch water. Fortunately there is no suspicion that anybody was ever wrecked here. It is, however, a fact worth noting that, though no homeward-bound ship from Otago has ever been missed, half a dozen from Lyttelton have gone out which have never been heard of. The last of these, the “Marlborough,” left on the 11th January. She is not likely to have touched either this or the Antipodes group, as we should probably have found some trace of her. We sighted the “Rangitikei,” from Otago, two days out, soon after leaving these islands. We were glad to get back to the ship with her evil smell—away from the noise and the intolerable stench of the island. In moving away the captain took us slowly past the largest face of the largest island; it was one mass of penguins. Crowded as they were, I judged that there were a million penguins on the 100 acres of land in the group. There must have been fully as many—perhaps twice as many—in the water, for they were in flocks for miles out. Sir William Jervois and Captain Fairchild once made a calculation, and, I believe, concluded that five million penguins resorted there.
The captain assured us that they were often packed far closer than we saw them, and then there were fewer in the water.
The penguin gets out of the water in a heavy sea with great ease. It dives towards a sloping face of rock; then the sea carries it on as it swims under water high up towards it. It bounds like a fish upwards just as the sea is retreating, and lands flat-footed on the face of the rock. Long before another wave washes up it makes two or three vigorous jumps and is out of its reach. A land-animal would get smashed to atoms in the process. I shall never forget the quaint and beautiful sight presented by the rows of penguins as we passed slowly along the face of this desolate rock. We were now to windward, and the stench had vanished. The rocks are hard, coarse granite, and, as the penguins wholly desert them in winter, the rains wash them quite clean. There is not a blade of vegetation upon them; not a green thing, save the Pleurococcus, or green mould, which smeared the rocky walls here and there. The islands derive their name from the ship in which the brave and tyrannical Bligh sailed when he discovered them in 1788. We now started for home again. I understand it was originally the intention of our Government to annex Macquarie Island, further south than Campbell Island, but, finding that it was included in the Commission of the Governor of Tasmania, this could not be done. It is to be hoped that this will ultimately be arranged, as the island can be of no use to Tasmania—from which it is far distant—and its exclusion from New Zealand leaves us exposed to the depredations of seal-poachers. This island is the resort of sea-elephant hunters from New Zealand, and I am sorry to say that these have not always respected our laws for the protection of fur-seals. Professor Scott and Mr. (now Dr.) Reginald Strode visited it some years ago, and the former wrote an interesting account of his fortnight's stay there.*
There is said to be another island farther south called Emerald Island. All that is definitely said of it in authentic books is that the ship “Emerald,” in December, 1821, in lat. 57° 30′ S., long. 162° 12′ E., saw the resemblance of an island, very high, with peaked mountains. A gentleman living at Port Chalmers tells me that a sea-captain told him that he had seen it and had been round it, but could see no place for landing. It was a small, high, rocky island. This, however, has not been reported to navigators in these seas. Some maps and gazetteers now omit it. Commodore Wilkes sailed over the site of it in the “Vincennes,” and, separately, his vessel, the “Porpoise,” did the same. As the position was uncertain, and the weather thick, there is still a possibility of its being found, but it may
[Footnote] *Transactions, vol. xv., p. 484.
have been a cloud-effect only. A suggestion that it was an iceberg would not answer, as it was distant twenty-five miles, a distance at which the highest floating berg could not be seen. As seals were at one time numerous at Macquarie Island, and numerous ships visited it in pursuit of them until they were exterminated, it is not likely that they left Emerald Island unsought for.
We made a quick run to Port Chalmers, and so ended this most successful and enjoyable expedition. From all classes—officers, stewards, and sailors—we met with nothing but kindness and attention.
Captain Fairchild writes me on the subject of dates of nesting of the albatros and crested penguin as follows: “I find that the albatros lays—Campbell Island, lat. 52° 33′ 26″ S., 5th December; Auckland Islands, lat. 50° 0′ 32″ S., 5th January; Antipodes Island, lat. 49° 42′ 5″ S., 20th January. They must take nearly 50 days to hatch, as we found them just beginning to lay on the Antipodes Island the 17th January last; and when I was on the Antipodes on the 18th March, 1886, I found them just beginning to hatch out. The penguins lay—On the Snares, lat. 48° S., 1st October, and hatch out about 5th November; on Campbell Island, about 5th September; on Antipodes, about 25th September; on the Bounties, lat. 47° 46′ 24″ S., about 1st October, the same time as on the Snares. I have not been able to see the man I wanted to see from the Chatham Islands, so I cannot tell you when the albatroses lay there, but I know that it is later than it is on the islands farther south.”
Raynal, Musgrave's mate, mentions gathering several eggs at Campbell Island on the 2nd December, only one of which was fresh enough to eat. The evidence in the recent case of deserting seamen tried in Dunedin showed also that at Campbell Island the birds were nesting in November. The advanced state in which we found a certain proportion of the eggs at Auckland Islands showed that the earliest eggs are laid at an earlier date than Captain Fairchild gives.
Captain Fairchild visited the islands again in October, 1890, and experienced terrible weather. The barometer three times recorded 28–62. He tells me he found very few albatroses on the islands excepting young ones. This confirms the statement that the old birds abandon their large full-grown chicks, and these have to live on their own fat until they are strong enough and light enough to fly.
As I have been asked by many people as to whether valuable minerals exist in the islands, I can only say that the appearances seem to me to render this improbable. The Snares and
Bounty Islands are granite. The other three groups are recent volcanic, but at Campbell Island the floor of the ocean—an ancient limestone-bed—has been lifted up, and appears in the face of a cliff. At the Auckland Islands an immense dyke of dark rock, cutting the high cliffs of the west coast from the summit to the sea, was visible for miles, and some singular dykes were observed crossing each other, but covered with tussock grass, at Adam's Island. These should be examined, but are not likely to give any valuable result. I saw no stratified rocks in the group, though-I am aware that others have fancied they found them. Most of the plants are doing well in good moist soil in shaded positions in my garden.
Captain Fairchild, under date 15th February, 1891, writes, on his return from the second cruise in search of traces of the s.s. “Kakanui,” as follows: “I find that the Auckland Islands albatros is quite a different bird from those we saw at Campbell Island. Those we saw on the Auckland Islands and the Antipodes have dark heads and blue eyelids, while those on Campbell Island have pure white heads with dark eyelids, and are a larger bird, being about 71b. heavier than either the Auckland Islands or Antipodes birds. We have some on board now, and I was anxious for you to see them; they are so different when you see them together. All the birds on the islands were more numerous this year than they were when you were at the islands. We went up after albatros-eggs at the same place, where you were up at the Auckland Islands, and we got two hundred eggs on about 5 acres. It was marvellous to see them; they were within a few feet of each other, all sitting on their eggs.”
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I have compared the eggs in my possession. Two from Campbell Island measure respectively 5 3/16in. by 3in. and 5 ⅛in. by 31/8in. They are more elongated towards the small end and rounder and blunter at that end than those from the Auckland Islands. A large number from the Auckland Islands run from 4 10/16in. by 3 1/16in. up to 5 4/16in. by 3in. Nearly all, however, are about 4 10/16in. by 3in. A few are as much as 5in. long, and a very few exceed 3in. in the shorter axis. I must still say that the whole subject requires more attention than can be given to it on a hurried visit.