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Monday, April 22, 2019

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Antipodes Islands

Posted to Maritime Musings (by on March 21, 2014

Small volcanic islands nearly opposite London

The Antipodes Islands, located in the southwest Pacific Ocean south of New Zealand, were originally called the Penantipodes Islands because they are the nearest land to being directly opposite on the globe from (or antipodal to) London, England.  Over time, the name was shortened to the Antipodes Islands, despite the fact that the small volcanic islands are actually antipodal to land near Cherbourg, France.  The island group consists of the main island of Antipodes, the smaller island of Bollons, and numerous islets and stacks (steep vertical columns of rock formed by wind and water).  The entire island group covers less than 10 square miles.  The islands are on the UNESCO World Heritage List.  It is home to numerous bird species, including the endemic Antipodes Snipe and the Antipodes Island Parakeet, half the world’s population of the Erect-Crested Penguin, and several albatrosses and petrels.  The islands were discovered and charted by Captain Henry Waterhouse of the HMS Reliance in 1800 and claimed for the British Empire.  Hunting of fur seals on and near the islands commenced in 1803, but the seals were largely exterminated by 1807 and human habitation of the islands effectively ceased.  In 1890, an attempt was made to establish a cattle ranch on Antipodes Island, but the effort (as well as the cattle) was short-lived.  In 1893, a ship foundered on rocks offshore.  The surviving eleven crew members spent three months living on mutton birds (a common name for shearwaters), mussels, and roots before hailing a passing vessel.  When the ship President Felix Faure wrecked off Antipodes Island in 1908, the crew sheltered in a well-supplied castaway depot that had been erected in Anchorage Bay.  The most recent recorded wreck in the Antipodes was that of the yacht Totorore in June 1999 with the loss of two lives.  The island group has been identified as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International.  Introduced rodents, primarily rats, prey on eggs and fledglings of the indigenous birds.  An eradication effort has been initiated, but is underfunded.