Auckland Island

Coordinates: 50°41′S 166°05′E / 50.69°S 166.08°E / -50.69; 166.08
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Auckland Island
Mauka Huka
Auckland Island is located in Oceania
Auckland Island
Auckland Island
New Zealand Subantarctic Islands
Coordinates50°41′S 166°05′E / 50.69°S 166.08°E / -50.69; 166.08
ArchipelagoAuckland Islands
Area442.5 km2 (170.9 sq mi)
Length42 km (26.1 mi)
Width26 km (16.2 mi)
Highest elevation659 m (2162 ft)
Highest pointCavern Peak
New Zealand
Population0 (2020)

Auckland Island (Māori: Mauka Huka) is the main island of the eponymous uninhabited archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. It is part of the New Zealand subantarctic area. It is inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list together with the other New Zealand Subantarctic Islands in the region.


Map of Auckland Island

The island has a land area of about 442.5 km2 (170.9 sq mi),[1] and is 42 kilometres (26 mi) long. It was formed 25 to 10 million years ago from a huge volcanic pile which formed two domes – one centred around Carnley Harbour in the south and another (the Ross Dome) around Disappointment Island to the west. The island is made of volcanic scoria, blanketed in over 2m of peat.[2] It is notable for its steep cliffs and rugged terrain, which rises to over 600 m (1,969 ft). Prominent peaks include Cavern Peak, at 659 m or 2,162 ft; Mount Raynal, at 635 m or 2,083 ft; Mount D'Urville, at 630 m or 2,067 ft; Mount Easton, at 610 m or 2,001 ft; and the Tower of Babel, at 550 m or 1,804 ft.[3]

The southern end of the island broadens to a width of 26 kilometres (16 mi), encompassing Carnley Harbour. At the western side a very narrow channel known as Victoria Passage separates the main island from the smaller Adams Island.[4] Adams Island and the southern part of the main island form the crater rim; three kilometres (1.9 mi) north of Carnley Harbour's mouth lies Cape Lovitt, the westernmost point of New Zealand.[citation needed]


Auckland looking north over Deas Head towards Rose- and Enderby Island

There are distinct vegetation zones. There is a band of Southern rata Metrosideros umbellata around the coast apart from on the western side, the height of which is determined by the shelter, aspect and degree of the slope.[5] The rata forest may extend into the Chionochloa tussock grasslands but in most places merges into a thick band of low, tight scrub dominated by Dracophyllum longifolium, Ozothamnus vauvilliersii and Myrsine divaricata. This scrub band is almost impenetrable and in places is dense enough to walk on top of.

An expedition report from 1907 describes the scrub thusly:

The subalpine scrub at 400 ft. made our advance extremely toilsome, the thick masses of Suttonia divaricata scrub had to be cut through before any progress could be made. Throughout our stay on the island this scrub was one of the worst drawbacks we had to encounter; from four to six feet high it is quite impassable with reasonable exertion; walking on the top can be undertaken only by a very light man. Only with the severest exertion can it be pushed aside to enable a man to pass, crawling under it is out of the question.[6]

The scrub band breaks into patches and transitions into extensive grassland of Chionochloa antarctica which in turn merges into a sparsely vegetated fellfield community on the most exposed alpine areas.[7] The megaherbs Anisotome antipoda, Anisotome latifolia, Bulbinella rossii, Pleurophyllum criniferum, Pleurophyllum hookeri, Pleurophyllum speciosum and Stilbocarpa polaris were historically found from the coast into the alpine,[7] however the distribution and populations of these species have been severely impacted by the actions of introduced pigs.[8]

Marine mammals[edit]

Port Ross at the north end of Auckland Island is the only breeding site for the New Zealand population of southern right whales. Up to 400 may be found in the harbour during the winter months, and are regularly surveyed by the University of Otago.[9]

A breeding population of New Zealand sea lions is found on the island. 80% of the total population live and breed in the archipelago. The New Zealand Department of Conservation has conducted an annual survey of the population on the islands since 1994.[10]

Bird life[edit]

The island is part of the Auckland Island group Important Bird Area (IBA), identified as such by BirdLife International because of the significance of the group as a breeding site for several species of seabirds.[11]

The Gibson's albatross Diomedea antipodensis gibsoni, Auckland shag Leucocarbo colensoi, Auckland teal Anas aucklandica, Auckland rail Lewinia muelleri and Auckland snipe Coenocorypha aucklandica are all endemic to the Auckland Island group.[12] Of these only shags are currently breeding on main Auckland Island, in areas where introduced cats and pigs cannot access their nests.

The Auckland Island merganser Mergus australis went extinct in 1902. The population is thought to have been 20–30 breeding pairs prior to predation by introduced pigs and cats. The last specimen was collected as a museum specimen in January 1902.[13]

List of resident bird species on Auckland Island[14][12][15][16][17][18]
English name Māori name Scientific name New Zealand Threat Status Estimated no. breeding pairs on Auckland Islands group Percentage of world population on Auckland Islands group Status on main Auckland Island
Gibson's albatross Diomedea antipodensis gibsoni Nationally critical > 5,800 100 Rare
Southern royal albatross Toroa Diomedea epomophora Naturally uncommon < 100 1 Rare, breeding
Northern royal albatross Toroa Diomedea sanfordi Naturally uncommon 2 < 0.01 Absent
NZ white-capped albatross Thalassarche cautasteadi Declining 95,900 > 99 Local colonies
Light-mantled sooty albatross Pēō / kōputu / toroa haunui / toroa ruru / toroa pango Phobetria palpebrata Declining < 5,000 < 23 Occasional
Northern giant petrel Pāngurunguru Macronectes halli Naturally uncommon 340 3 Rare
Yellow-eyed penguins Hoiho / takaraha Megadyptes antipodes Nationally vulnerable < 550 35–40 Breeding
Eastern rockhopper penguin Eudyptes filholi Nationally critical < 3,000 1 Local colonies
Erect-crested penguin Eudyptes sclateri Declining No recent records Unknown Absent
Snares Cape petrel Daption capense australe Naturally uncommon > 10 1 Absent
White-chinned petrel Procellaria aequinoctialis Declining > 153,000 13 Absent
White-headed petrel Pterodroma lessonii Not threatened > 100,000 40 Absent
Sooty shearwater Tītī (juve.) hakoko (ad.) / hākēkeke / koakoa / totorore / takakau / ōi Puffinus griseus Declining > 10,000 < 1 Absent
Subantarctic diving petrel Pelecanoides urinatrixexsul Not threatened > 1,000 < 1 Absent
Black-bellied storm petrel Fregetta tropica Not threatened > 10,000 > 10 Absent
NZ white-faced storm petrel Takahikare / takahikare-moana Pelagodroma marina maoriana Relict > 10 < 1 Absent
Grey-backed storm petrel Reoreo Garrodia neresis Relict > 1,000 > 10 Absent
Lesser fulmar prion Pachyptia crassirostris Naturally uncommon < 1,000 100 Absent
Antarctic prion Totorore / whiroia Pachyptila desolata Naturally uncommon 100,000 < 1 Rare
Auckland Island shag Kōau / kawau

general name for shag or cormorant

Leucocarbo colensoi Nationally vulnerable 1,500 100 Rare
New Zealand Antarctic tern Sterna vittata bethunei Recovering > 50 > 10 Rare
Southern white-fronted tern Sterna sterna Declining > 50 < 1 Rare
Red-billed gull Tarāpunga / akiaki / katatē / taketake / makorā / karehākoa Larus novaehollandiae scopulinus Nationally vulnerable < 300 < 1 Rare
Southern Black-backed Gull Rāpunga / karoro / kōtingotingo (juve.) / pohio (juve.) / kaiē (juve.) / toie (chick) Larus dominicanus dominicanus Not threatened < 500 < 1 Occasional
Subantarctic brown skua Hākoakoa Catharacta antarctica lonnbergi Naturally uncommon > 50 < 1 Occasional
Auckland Island teal Tētē whero Anas aucklandica Nationally vulnerable 500 100 Absent
New Zealand falcon Karearea Falco novaeseelandiae Nationally vulberable > 15 > 1 Rare
Auckland Island banded dotterel Pohowera / piopio / Charadrius bicinctus Naturally uncommon > 300 100 Rare
Auckland Island rail Lewinia muelleri Naturally uncommon Unknown 100 Absent
Auckland Island snipe Hōkio / hākuai/ hākuwai / hōkio Coenocorypha aucklandica aucklandica Naturally uncommon Unknown 100 Absent
Ruddy turnstone Arenaria interpres Migrant Regular in small numbers < 0.1 Rare
Auckland Island tomtit Ngirungiru / piropiro / kōmiromiro Petroica macrocephela marrineri Naturally uncommon Unknown 100 Breeding
Auckland Island pipit Hīoi / pīhoihoi / whioi / kātaitai / whāioio / manu kahaki Anthus novaeseelandiae aucklandicus Recovering > 1,000 100 Breeding
Red-crowned parakeet Kakariki / porete / kākāwaiariki / kākāwariki / kawariki / pōreterete / pōwhaitere / torete / tōreterete Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae Relict Unknown Unknown Occasional
Yellow-crowned parakeet Kakariki / porete / kākāwaiariki / kākāwariki / kawariki / pōreterete / pōwhaitere / torete / tōreterete Cyanoramphus auriceps Not threatened Unknown Unknown Rare
Tui Tūī Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae Not threatened Unknown Unknown Occasional
Bellbird Korimako Anthornis melanura Not threatened Unknown Unknown Common
Silvereye Pihipihi / tauhou / hiraka / iringatau / kanohi mōwhiti / mōtengitengi / pīkaraihe / poporohe / whiorangi Zosterops lateralis Not threatened Unknown Unknown Common

Introduced species[edit]

There are currently introduced pigs, cats and mice on Auckland Island. Auckland Island is the only island within the New Zealand Subantarctic Island Area with invasive mammalian pests.[19] A project proposed by the Department of Conservation aims to remove these pests from the island, with feasibility trials started in 2018.[20][21]

DNA analysis suggests that mice—Mus musculus—did not colonise Auckland Island from a New Zealand population but instead arrived with whalers or sealers from North America.[22] They eat invertebrates, seeds, other plant material, native fish eggs and can eat bird eggs and chicks.[23] They severely deplete invertebrate populations, reduce the seedbank, eat seedlings & plants and compete with birds for food resources.[24]

Domestic cats—Felis catus—were first recorded at Terror Cove in 1840, presumably introduced by sealers, but most likely arrived in the two decades prior to this.[24] The impact of cats on the birds of Auckland Island was first noted by the Coastwatchers, who tamed some for company – the Ranui Station cats were recorded to kill 60 Antarctic prions over three months in 1942. Ornithologist Brian Bell found that prions were confined to cliff faces at Crozier Point in 1962 and noted "any bird landing...[fell] an immediate prey to the feral cats.".[25] Gut content and scat analysis show that cats are feeding on small passerines and seabirds.[26] A cat was seen feeding on a pre-fledging juvenile white-capped mollymawk at South West Cape.[27]

Goats were introduced to the Auckland Islands several times in the second half of the nineteenth century, to serve as a source of food for castaway sailors, with at least one liberation in 1865 on the main Auckland Island. By the 1970s, only one population remained, a group of about 100 based on the northwest side of Port Ross, in the north-east of the main island.[28] Browsing by goats caused significant damage to lowland tussock Chinochloa antarctica in particular.[29] In 1986 and 1987, over 60 animals were removed from the island for captive breeding in New Zealand. A decision was made to eradicate the remaining animals, an operation which was completed by 1992. An investigation in 1999 into the fate of the translocated animals in New Zealand found that the breed had become extinct.[30]50°41′S 166°05′E / 50.69°S 166.08°E / -50.69; 166.08

Pigs—Sus scrofa—were first introduced at Port Ross in the north of Auckland Island in 1807 by Captain Abraham Bristow and several further liberations occurred in the 19th century. The pigs were intended as a food source for shipwreck survivors and sealers.[2][31] Auckland Island pigs are a feral race of domestic pigs which are considered a distinct breed by the Rare Breeds Conservation Society of New Zealand. Pigs have had a severe impact on populations of megaherbs, with populations of these plants on Auckland Island being almost totally depleted by the early 1900s.[29]

Dunnocks, common redpolls, Eurasian blackbirds, song thrushes and common starlings which were introduced onto mainland New Zealand have naturally established on Auckland Island.[32]

Oleria lyalli is a tree asterad native to New Zealand which may have arrived with humans in the 19th century. It is spreading from a historic settlement site at Erebus Cove and covers neighbouring Ewing Island.[33] Harakeke Phormium tenax is found at Erebus Cove, Sealer's Creek, Ranui Cove and Tandy Inlet, and was introduced probably by the second wave of sealers to visit the island, to make rope, twine, baskets, mats etc.[34] Kormiko, Veronica salicifolia, was first reported in 1975 around the Lindley Point farmhouse site at Deas Head, built in 1851.[35]

Human presence on the island[edit]

Hardwicke graveyard, 2011

There is archaeological evidence that the Auckland Islands were briefly settled and abandoned by Polynesians around 600–700 years ago. Māori and Moriori from the Chatham Islands settled at Ranui Cove from 1842 till 1856.[34] Auckland Island was the site of the failed settlement of Hardwicke, which was founded in 1849 but survived only three years before being disbanded in 1852.[36]

Both the Grafton and the Invercauld were wrecked on Auckland Island in 1864, and groups of survivors lived unaware of each other on opposite ends of the island. The Grafton survivors lived for 18 months on the island before building a boat and sailing to New Zealand; the Invercauld survivors camped in the remains of Hardwicke; and all but three died before being rescued.[37]

The German transit of Venus expedition of 1874 made observations from Terror Cove in Port Ross.[38]

Coastwatchers from the Cape Expedition were stationed on the island from March 1941 to October 1945. Two stations were constructed: One at Ranui Cove in outer Port Ross and another at Tagua, on Musgrave Peninsula in Carnley Harbour. A base at Waterfall Inlet was the mooring point for the Ranui which serviced the stations.[39]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Auckland – including Dundas, Ewing, Rose". Retrieved 1 August 2010.
  2. ^ a b Adams, CJ (1983). "Age of the volcanoes and granite basement of the Auckland Islands, Southwest Pacific". New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics. 26 (3): 227–237. doi:10.1080/00288306.1983.10422237.
  3. ^ "Map of the Auckland Islands". Department of Conservation. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  4. ^ "DOC maps: Discover the outdoors". Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  5. ^ Rudge, DJ; Campbell, MR (1984). "Vegetation changes induced over ten years by goats and pigs at Port Ross, Auckland Islands (Subantarctic)" (PDF). New Zealand Journal of Ecology. 7: 103–118.
  6. ^ Godley, E. J. (May 1979). "The 1907 Expedition to the Auckland and Campbell Islands, and an unpublished report by B. C. Aston". Tuatara. 23 (3): 133–157 – via New Zealand Electronic Text Collection.
  7. ^ a b Rance, Chris; Rance, Brian; Barkla, J (2015). New Zealand's subantarctic islands. New Zealand: Department of Conservation. pp. 6, 10–13, 20–67. ISBN 978-0-478-14470-3.
  8. ^ Chimera, C (1995). "Diet of feral goats and feral pigs, Auckland Island, New Zealand". New Zealand Journal of Ecology. 19 (2): 203–207. JSTOR 24054437.
  9. ^ "Southern right whales returning to mainland New Zealand". RNZ. 10 July 2018. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  10. ^ "Sea lion monitoring on the Auckland Islands". Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  11. ^ BirdLife International. (2012). Important Bird Areas factsheet: Auckland Islands. Downloaded from "BirdLife International - conserving the world's birds". Archived from the original on 30 June 2007. Retrieved 29 March 2014. on 23 January 2012.
  12. ^ a b "Location search | New Zealand Birds Online". Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  13. ^ "Auckland Island merganser | New Zealand Birds Online". Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  14. ^ "Māori Dictionary". Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  15. ^ Roberston, HA (2017). "Conservation status of New Zealand birds 2016" (PDF). Department of Conservation. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
  16. ^ Taylor, G (2000). "Action plan for seabird conservation in New Zealand. Part A: Threatened Species" (PDF). Department of Conservation. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
  17. ^ Taylor, G (2000). "Action plan for seabird conservation in New Zealand. Part B: Non-Threatened Species" (PDF). Department of Conservation. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
  18. ^ Heather, B; Robertson, H (2015). The Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand. New Zealand: Penguin. ISBN 9780143570929.
  19. ^ "Maukahuka: Pest Free Auckland Island". Retrieved 29 April 2019.
  20. ^ "Trials test feasibility of removing pigs, cats and mice from Auckland Island". Predator Free NZ. 4 February 2019. Retrieved 29 April 2019.
  21. ^ Cox, Finlay; Frank, Veronika; Horn, Stephen; Hanley-Nickolls, Rose; Jacques, Paul; Sagar, Rachael; Ware, James (1 February 2021). "Maukahuka Pest Free Auckland Island – Technical feasibility study report" (PDF). Department of Conservation. p. 123.
  22. ^ Veale, AJ; Russell, JC; King, CM (2018). "The genomic ancestry, landscape genetics and invasion history of introduced mice in New Zealand". Royal Society Open Science. 5 (1): 170879. doi:10.1098/rsos.170879. PMC 5792881. PMID 29410804.
  23. ^ Broome, K; Brown, D; Brown, K; Murphy, E; Birmingham, C; Golding, C; Corson, P; Cox, A; Griffiths, R (2019). "House mice on islands: Impacts, management and lessons from New Zealand.". In Veitch, CR; Clout, MN; Martin, AR; Russell, JC; West, CJ (eds.). Island Invasives: Scaling up to meet the challenge. IUCN. pp. 100–107.
  24. ^ a b Russell, JC; Horn, SR; Harper, GA; McClelland, P (2018). "Survey of introduced mammals and invertebrates on Auckland Island, March–April 2015" (PDF).
  25. ^ Hanley-Nickolls, JR (September 2019). "Cat among the prions". Forest & Bird. 373: 24–25.
  26. ^ Harper, Grant (2010). "Diet of feral cats on Subantarctic Auckland Island". New Zealand Journal of Ecology. 34 (2): 259–61.
  27. ^ "Feral cats 'devastate' seabird populations on Auckland Island". RNZ. 10 April 2019. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  28. ^ Russell, James; Horn, Stephen; Miskelly, Colin; Sagar, Rachael; Taylor, R (March 2020). "The introduction and impacts of land mammals on the Auckland Islands". Notornis. Special Edition – Auckland Island.
  29. ^ a b Campbell, DJ; Rudge, MR (1984). "Vegetation changes induced over ten years by goats and pigs at Port Ross, Auckland Islands (Subantarctic)". New Zealand Journal of Ecology. 7: 103–118.
  31. ^ Robins, JH; Matisoo-Smith, E; Ross, HA (2003). "The origins of the feral pigs on the Auckland Islands". Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand. 33 (2): 561–569. doi:10.1080/03014223.2003.9517744 – via Research Gate.
  32. ^ "Location search | New Zealand Birds Online". Retrieved 9 February 2019.
  33. ^ Lee, WG; Kennedy, PC; Wilson, JB (1983). "The Ecology and Distribution of Olearia lyallii on the Subantarctic Auckland Islands" (PDF). New Zealand Journal of Ecology. 6: 150.
  34. ^ a b Walls, Geoff (2009). "Picking up the plant trail: Botanical Evidence of People in the Auckland Islands". In Dingwall, Paul; Jones, Kevin; Egerton, Rachael (eds.). In Care of The Southern Ocean. Auckland: New Zealand Archaeological Association. pp. 223–244. ISBN 978-0-9582977-0-7.
  35. ^ Johnson, PN; Campbell, DJ (1975). "Vascular Plants of the Auckland Islands". New Zealand Journal of Botany. 13 (4): 665–720. doi:10.1080/0028825x.1975.10430354.
  36. ^ Rykers, Ellen (July–August 2018). "Lie of the land". New Zealand Geographic. 152: 92–103.
  37. ^ Druett, Joan (2007). Island of the lost: shipwrecked at the edge of the world. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. ISBN 9781741753684.
  38. ^ Jones, Kevin (2009). "Terror Cove, Port Ross: The German Transit of Venus Expedition 1874 and other Scientific and Discovery Expeditions from 1840 to the Start of World War I". In Dingwall, Paul; Jones, Kevin; Egerton, Rachael (eds.). In Care of The Southern Ocean. Auckland: New Zealand Archaeological Association. pp. 87–103. ISBN 978-0-9582977-0-7.
  39. ^ Bagley, Steve; Jones, Kevin; Dingwall, Paul; Edkins, Chris (2009). "The Erlangen Incident and the Cape Expedition of World War II". In Dingwall, Paul; Jones, Kevin; Egerton, Rachael (eds.). In Care of the Southern Ocean : an Archaeological and Historical Survey of the Auckland Islands. Auckland: New Zealand Archaeological Association. pp. 191–222. ISBN 978-0-9582977-0-7.