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.