Shipwrecks and sooties in the Auckland Islands
Katrina Goddard, Forest & Bird’s Marine Advocate is exploring the sub-Antarctic Islands with Heritage Expeditions. This is her diary from day 4 of the trip.
This mornings wake up was rather special. Rodney, our expedition leader, called through that we had made it into Carnley Harbour in the Auckland Islands and we were attempting to head up the western arm towards Victoria Passage. Unfortunately, it was like something out of the Lord of the Rings and the mist came all the way down to the ocean. We had to turn around and instead head up the Northern arm – into the remains of an ancient volcano, a caldera.
The seabirds came as a welcome party for us and there were literally hundreds of sooty’s flying around us.
Today was more about the history of Carnley Harbour. I had two highlights, one was getting to see the last remains of the Grafton which was shipwrecked in 1864. Seeing the boat remains and then walking into the forest and seeing the remains of the hut (called Epigwatt) where shipwrecked sailors lived for 19 months was unreal.
The Grafton story is so fascinating the men realised there only hope for survival was to save themselves. They ended up cutting their tiny dinghy in half and enlarged it by a few feet so that three of the five men could set off to New Zealand to be rescued. It took six days and I can only imagine how unpleasant the journey would have been in these seas but they finally reached Port Adventure on Stewart Island. After raising the alarm, a rescue was launched for the two remaining men.
My second highlight is along the same theme – seeing the finger posts set up by the New Zealand government in the 1880s. The finger posts pointed to the castaway huts that that had been established on these remote islands to tide over shipwrecked sailors.
My only disappointment was when we visited Figure of Eight Island – the third most important breeding area for critically endangered New Zealand sea lions – to find there were none present. In fact all day cruising around we only saw one curious male sea lion. Hopefully they will head here soon as it’s only the beginning of the pupping season.
Tonight as we sit down for dinner, we set sail for Campbell island.