Joseph Hatch

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Joseph Hatch

Joseph Hatch (1837 – 2 September 1928) was a New Zealand politician, but is now remembered for harvesting penguins and elephant seals for their oil on the sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island from 1890 to 1919. About two million penguins were killed over nearly three decades. His company J. Hatch & Co was based in Invercargill, New Zealand and then Hobart, Tasmania where he is buried.

Early life[edit]

Hatch was born in London, England in 1837 or 1838, and was a qualified chemist (pharmacist). In 1862 en route from Melbourne to Invercargill he saw the island with multitudes of penguins and sea elephants. He settled in Invercargill where he opened a pharmacy.

Political career[edit]

Parliament of New Zealand
Years Term Electorate Party
1884–1887 9th Invercargill Independent

In Invercargill, he became a Councillor in 1876. He was Mayor of Invercargill in 1877–1878.[1] He was the Member of Parliament for Invercargill from 1884 to 1887, when he was defeated.[2] His oil factor trade was controversial even then, although he was an entertaining speaker and debater.

Oil trade[edit]

The Dunedin firm of Elder and Co had pioneered the sea elephant oiling industry on Macquarie Island from 1878 to 1884. Hatch’s gang started with sea elephant bulls in 1887, but in 1889 with fewer bulls and the Norwegian development of a steam-pressure digestor which could extract oil from meat and bone as well as blubber and from smaller animals like penguins, Hatch realised the potential of the penguins on the island. Of the four species on the island (Rockhopper, King, Royal and Gentoo) they mainly utilised rock penguins. Eventually oiling plants were established at Lusitania Bay, South East Bay, The Nuggets, Hasselborough Bay and Bauer Bay.

Hatch had a legal dispute with his captain, Jacob Eckhoff over his ship, and there were three shipwrecks around the island (Gratitude, 1898; Clyde & Jessie Niccol 1910) with 20 deaths. The New Zealand Government was restricting the seal killing season from 1875, although Macquarie Island was unclaimed. By 1919 objections culminated in perhaps the first-ever international campaign to preserve wildlife, with Antarctic explorers like Douglas Mawson, Frank Hurley and Apsley Cherry-Garrard, supported by H. G. Wells in his story The Undying Fire and Baron Walter Rothschild.

Hatch had supporters in New Zealand as well, including his fellow Southland politician Sir Joseph Ward and the Tasmanian state government in Australia. He got a 7-year oiling lease from the Tasmanian state government in 1905, and in 1912 the headquarters was moved to Hobart, Tasmania. In 1915, a new company, Southern Isles Exploitation Co., was established. But by 1919 the Tasmanian government would only extend the lease for a year. In 1922 Hatch was a Nationalist candidate for the state seat of Denison, but he was not elected.[3] By 1926, the company had collapsed, and Hatch lost his properties in Invercargill and Hobart.

Family and death[edit]

He married Miss Sarah Annie Wilson in Melbourne, Australia in 1869. They had 3 daughters and 4 sons. Hatch died in 1928 aged 91.


  1. ^ "Mayors down the years". Invercargill City Council. Retrieved 18 October 2010. 
  2. ^ Wilson, James Oakley (1985) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1984 (4th ed.). Wellington: V.R. Ward, Govt. Printer. p. 203. OCLC 154283103. 
  3. ^ "Mr. Hatch at New Town". The Mercury. 26 May 1922. 
  • Harvest of Souls: the Oil Baron of Invercargill by Geoff Chapple in New Zealand Geographic Number 74, July–August 2005 (pages 40–53)
  • Joseph Hatch and the loss of the Kakanui by A. J. De La Mere (1990, Invercargill Licensing Trust/Craig Printing) ISBN 0-473-01043-7
  • An Errand of Mercy: Captain Jacob Eckhoff and the loss of the Kakanui by Redmer Yska (2001 Banshee Books, Wellington) ISBN 0-473-07699-3

External links[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Henry Feldwick
Member of Parliament for Invercargill
Succeeded by
Henry Feldwick