Open Bay Islands

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Open Bay Islands
Location Westland District
Coordinates 43°52′S 168°53′E / 43.867°S 168.883°E / -43.867; 168.883
Total islands 2
Population (?)

The Open Bay Islands are located off the south-west coast of the South Island of New Zealand. The group comprises two main islands Taumaka and Popotai plus several smaller islets and rocks. They lie approximately 5 km (3.1 mi) offshore from the Okuru River mouth, near Haast and are owned by Poutini Ngai Tahu.

Taumaka is the larger island (c. 20 ha or 49 acres, 660 m or 722 yd long and 260 m or 284 yd wide reaching a plateau 21 m or 69 ft above sea level) and is separated from Popotai (400 m or 437 yd long and 200 m or 219 yd wide) by a narrow channel.[1] [2]


The Open Bay Islands support several endemic species, including a terrestrial leech (Hirudobdella antipodum),[1][2] an undescribed gecko species (aff. Hoplodactylus granulatus),[3] and a skink - the Open Bay Islands skink. Taumaka Island has been identified as an Important Bird Area, by BirdLife International because it is a breeding site for Fiordland penguins.[4] New Zealand fur seals currently numbering in thousands[5] recolonize and show some recoveries after ceases of commercial sealing.[6][7][8] Hector's dolphins[9] and bottlenose dolphins (occasional) are present at Jackson Bay, and migratory southern right and humpback whales are also expectable.[10] Great white sharks have also been confirmed in the area.[11]


Although introduced mammals are not known ever to have reached the islands, the introduction of weka (a native flightless rail, Gallirallus australis) from the South Island in the early 1900s is believed to have had an adverse impact on the flora and fauna of the islands.[1][2][12][13] The Department of Conservation have recommended to the Minister of Conservation that weka should be removed from the islands. The Trust which governs the island agreed to having them removed on the condition that they are not killed.[14]


A sealing gang with ten members was brought to the islands by the Active from Sydney. The men had very basic provisions: some food, salt, an axe, an adze, and a cooper’s drawing knife. The ship, which left the islands on 16 February 1810, was not seen again, and the sealing gang was assumed to have been lost with the ship. After years of considerable hardship, they finally saw a ship, the Governor Bligh, and attracted its attention. They were picked up and arrived back in Sydney on 15 December 1813.[15][16]

The men's fate has been turned into a song, Davy Low'ston, that tells their ordeal.[17][18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Miller, Craig (September 1997). "Occurrence and ecology of the Open Bay Islands leech, Hirudobdella antipodium" (PDF). Science for Conservation: 57. Department of Conservation. ISSN 1173-2946. 
  2. ^ a b c Miller, Craig (December 1999). "Conservation of the Open Bay Islands' leech, Hirudobdella antipodum" (PDF). Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand. 29 (4): 301–306. ISSN 1175-8899. doi:10.1080/03014223.1999.9517599. 
  3. ^ Hitchmough, R., Bull, L. and Cromarty, P. (compilers) (2007) "New Zealand Threat Classification System lists— 2005", Dept of Conservation, Wellington.
  4. ^ BirdLife International. (2012). Important Bird Areas factsheet: Taumaka Island, Open Bay Islands. Downloaded from on 2012-02-17.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^'s%20dolphin%20Lineage.pdf
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ Stirling, I. & Johns, P.M. (1969) "Notes on the bird fauna of Open Bay islands", Notornis 16(121-125).
  13. ^ Burrows, C.J. (1972) "The flora and vegetation of Open Bay Islands", Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 2 (15-42).
  14. ^ Glass, Amy (23 July 2010). "Colony of inbred wekas may have a lucky escape". The Press. Retrieved 31 July 2010. 
  15. ^ Fyfe, Frank (1970). "The story of David Lowston, a pre-colonial NZ song". Journal of New Zealand Folklore. Retrieved 14 August 2012. 
  16. ^ Smith, Ian W.G. (June 2002). "The New Zealand Sealing Industry" (PDF). Department of Conservation. pp. 25, 32. Retrieved 14 August 2012. 
  17. ^ McSaveney, Eileen (25 September 2011). "Nearshore islands". Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 14 August 2012. 
  18. ^ Martin Carthy's version of Davy Low'ston on YouTube

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 43°52′S 168°53′E / 43.867°S 168.883°E / -43.867; 168.883