Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
Volume 23, 1890
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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

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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.