Campbell Island/Motu Ihupuku Historic Area

Campbell Island/Motu Ihupuku, New Zealand Subantarctic Islands

  • Campbell Island/Motu Ihupuku Historic Area. 2010 Perseverance Harbour.
    Copyright: N Judd. Taken By: N Judd.
  • Campbell Island/Motu Ihupuku Historic Area. Mosaic of three images of Campbell Island from the International Space Station. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Public Domain. Taken By: NASA "The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth". Date: 27/11/2002.
  • Campbell Island/Motu Ihupuku Historic Area. Weather Station at Beeman Cove on Campbell Island. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: John Baxter - Wikimedia Commons. Taken By: John Baxter.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Area Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 9700 Date Entered 26th September 2019 Date of Effect 16th October 2019


Extent of List Entry

This historic area consists of an area of land and coastal marine area that contains a group of inter-related historic places. The identified historic places that contribute to the values in this historic area are CA/1 Northwest Bay Whaling capstan, CA/2 Northwest Bay Whaling station, CA/3 Northeast Harbour Whaling station, CA/4 Venus Cove French ‘Transit of Venus’ expedition camp, CA/5 Duris Point ‘Transit of Venus’ track/ building platforms, CA/6 Camp Cove Sod hut, CA/7 Camp Cove Farm sod fence, CA/8 Tucker Cove Castaway depot and boat run, CA/9 Tucker Cove Farm homestead, boat run, etc., CA/10 Tucker Cove Meteorological Service jetty and causeway for Tucker Camp, CA/11 Beeman Hill Rock engravings by crew of whaler Antarctic, CA/12 Lookout Bay ‘Platform’ site, CA/13 Tucker Cove Tucker Camp, Cape Expedition and after, CA/14 Northeast Harbour, CA/15 Tucker Cove Sod hut, CA/16 Tucker Cove Stone jetty, CA/17 Tucker Cove Farm tidal fence and stone structures, CA/18 Depot Point Farm tidal fence, CA/19 Tucker Cove Farm peat cutting, CA/20 Tucker Cove Farm peat cutting, CA/21 Tucker Cove Tryworks, CA/22 Tucker Cove Tent camp, CA/23 Tucker Cove Stone Hearth hut, CA/24 Tucker Cove Graves, CA/25 Tucker Cove Farm woolshed, yards and jetty, CA/26 Tucker Cove Farm, cylinder digester, CA/27 Northeast Harbour Rock shelter, CA/28 Monument Harbour Shipwreck timber, CA/29 Southeast Harbour Castaway finger-post, CA/30 Northwest Bay Whaling lookout, CA/31 Northeast Harbour Castaway finger-post , CA/32 Northeast Harbour Whaling station iron pipe, CA/33 Northeast Harbour Whaling station brick floor, CA/34 Moubray Hill Rock shelter, CA/35 Cave Rocks Rock shelter, CA/36 Duris Point Grave of Paul Duris, French ‘Transit of Venus’ expedition, CA/37 Duris Point Prospecting hole, CA/38 Garden Cove Farm stock bridge, CA/39 Duris Point Philosophical Institute of Canterbury 1907 scientific camp, CA/40 Duris Point Methven Boiler Hut and boat run, CA/41 Camp Cove Stone arrangement associated with sealing or farming eras and CA/42 Beeman Cove Meteorological Service base, manned 1957-1995. The area of land and sea that encompasses these historic places includes the land described as Campbell Island/Motu Ihupuku (Nature Reserve, NZ Gazette 1954, p.1462, NZ Gazette 1975, pp.2284-2285) and part Seabed, being Campbell Island and the following inlets: Northwest Harbour, Perseverance Harbour, Southeast Harbour and Monument Harbour, with a 50 metre buffer from the line of mean high water springs of coastal marine area around the rest of the island. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the List entry report for further information).

City/District Council

Outside LA Boundaries


Outside RC Boundaries

Legal description

Campbell Island/Motu Ihupuku (Nature Reserve, NZ Gazette 1954, p.1462, NZ Gazette 1975, pp.2284-2285), Seabed.

Location description

About 550 kilometres south-east of Stewart Island, Campbell Island is the most southerly of the New Zealand Subantarctic Islands.


Bleak and remote, yet with an austere beauty, Campbell Island/Motu Ihupuku Historic Area tells of the significant history of exploration, sealing, whaling, farming, and of the strategic importance of such remote islands in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Campbell Island/Motu Ihupuku has aesthetic, archaeological, historical, cultural and scientific significance.

Māori celestial navigation and maritime expertise, gained over centuries of exploration in Te Moana nui a Kiwa (the Pacific Ocean), ensured a considered approach to exploration of the cold nether regions of Aotearoa. Kōrero records that Hui te Rangiora was the first Polynesian to venture to the Antarctic region some 200 years before Kupe landed in Aotearoa. Māori exploration of the subantarctic area was unsurprisingly intermittent, however following the migratory patterns of tohorā (southern right whale) and toroa (southern royal albatross) would likely have brought them to Motu Ihupuku (Campbell Island) whose name aptly describes the abundant seals found on the island.

Sighted in 1810 by Frederick Hasselburg, captain of the sealing brig Perseverance, Campbell Island was soon afterwards the temporary home of sealers and whalers who exploited the abundant seals and the migrating right whale in the area. Bearing the brunt of southern storms and on an international shipping route, the island also provides a poignant reminder of the fate of shipwrecked castaways in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Scientific expeditions saw the island drawn into international scientific literature on geology, biology and botany; it was also the southernmost of many stations that observed the Transit of Venus world-wide in 1874.

The early twentieth century saw a revival of whaling, and an unsuccessful attempt to maintain a farm in such a remote and inhospitable place. Apart from the Tierra Del Fuego farms on the Argentinian mainland, the Campbell Island farm has been the world’s southernmost. Later in the twentieth century, Campbell Island’s strategic importance was recognised when a coast watchers’ base was established there in World War Two, later to become a meteorological observation station for the latter half of the century.

The physical remains on Campbell Island reflect the different human activities that have taken place – largely focused in Perseverance Harbour and at the heads of smaller harbours and bays. The significant places include built structures and archaeological sites. The sites are associated with sealing from 1810 to the early twentieth century, farming from 1895 to 1931, bay whaling at Northeast Harbour in the mid to late nineteenth century, shore-based whaling at Northwest Bay and Northeast Harbour from 1909 to 1914 and mineral prospecting. Māori seamen and whalers were in these crews, extending their relationship to the islands and their tribal mātauranga of the subantarctic region. Notable early scientific visits are by Lt. James Clark Ross’s Royal Navy vessels Erebus and Terror in 1840, French visits in 1873 and 1874 for the Transit of Venus and, in 1907, New Zealand’s first scientific expedition to its Subantarctic Islands by the Philosophical Institute of Canterbury. The first castaway depot dates from 1868. Long-term New Zealand government commitments have been the World War Two ‘Cape Expedition’ coast-watchers established in the Tucker Valley in 1941, which was maintained as a Meteorological Service weather station until 1957 when it was shifted to Beeman Cove where it remained staffed until fully automated in 1995.

The Department of Conservation’s management of Campbell Island in the latter part of the twentieth century more than kept pace with a global interest for the preservation of natural ecosystems and conservation. This is reflected in a successful pest eradication programme and the island’s inclusion in the Subantarctic Islands World Heritage Inscription. As a result of the Ngāi Tahu Waitangi Tribunal Claim hearings in the 1990s, the Ngāi Tahu claim area was confirmed as extending into the subantarctic region and the name of Campbell Island officially became Campbell Island/Motu Ihupuku. In the twenty-first century, Campbell Island/Motu Ihupuku remains uninhabited, visited only by naval patrols, scientific expeditions and tourist cruise ships.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Campbell Island has special historical significance, its history reflecting the main resource-based, scientific exploration and strategic issues of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. With its history of sealing, whaling and farming it echoes the main historical strands of New Zealand’s early history. The history of scientific interest is also representative of nineteenth century scientific trends. The later history of coast-watching reflects the history of World War Two and the strategic importance of such remote outposts. The more recent history of protection and scientific study reflects the conservation focus of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

Aesthetic Significance or Value

Campbell Island is remote and dramatic. Set in the storm-tossed Southern Ocean, the island and the remnants of human habitation provide a powerful experience of the isolation and hardship experienced by the people who have left the traces of their life there.

Archaeological Significance or Value

Campbell Island has considerable archaeological significance. The traces of human activity and occupation of Campbell Island remain in the archaeological features such as sealing sites, shipwreck remains, farm sites, whaling sites, and castaway sites. These sites have potential to reveal further information about nineteenth and twentieth century life on this island through archaeological methods.

Cultural Significance or Value

Motu Ihupuku (Campbell Island) has cultural values, particularly for Ngāi Tahu Murihiku Whānui who were involved in farming and settlement, providing whaling services, and assisting scientific expeditions on the Island. Although no pre-European archaeology has yet been identified on Motu Ihupuku, the extent of Māori activity in the subantarctic islands indicates that it may yet be found. Cultural traditions saw Māori follow tohorā (southern right whale) and toroa (southern royal albatross) migration patterns which would have led them to Motu Ihupuku.


Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Kōrero records that Hui te Rangiora was the first Polynesian to venture to the Antarctic region some 200 years before Kupe landed in Aotearoa. Hui te Rangiora is commemorated at Turangapeke whare at Motueka and was represented on the taurapa of the 1990 waka Te Awatea Hou.

Māori celestial navigation and maritime expertise, gained over centuries of exploration in Te Moana nui a Kiwa (the Pacific Ocean), ensured a considered approach to exploration of the cold nether regions of Aotearoa. For those venturing from Motupōhue (Bluff) , Tini Heke (the Snares) was some 200km southwards; then the Auckland Islands some 160km further south, then to Motu Ihupuku a further 270 km southeast of Auckland Island.

A vivid picture of the weather encountered in the most southern of islands is painted in the journal of early European explorer, Captain John Balleny of the Eliza Scott. His record of the visit to Campbell Island in January 1839 notes:

January 10th: Light winds and clear. Saw the island of Campbell’s at 8a.m. At midnight strong winds with rain and thick…

January 11th: Still dirty weather...

January 13th: Blowing hard from the Eastward…

January 14th: SE (wind) Blowing a perfect gale so that we are better here than outside…

January 15th: variable (wind). Blowing hard, the cutter got under weigh but could make nothing of it brought up again…

January 16th: Variable. Blowed hard with heavy rain and thick weather. PM. More moderate...

January 17th: The Emma could not get under weigh it blew so hard and riding with 2 anchors at noon…

Lord Plunket visited Campbell Island and noted the comments made by the Shetland Islands shepherds as:

"not nearly as cold in winter as the Shetland Islands, it was a worse climate all the year round; and I gathered from their account that the weather consists of – frost, rain, then fog, then both together and then a gale of wind! They also mentioned casually that it made things worse when icebergs drifted into the harbour."


Fur seals and sea lions were present in large numbers on New Zealand’s coast and were obvious food and clothing sources for the Polynesians when they arrived between 1250 and 1300. In the first two centuries of settlement, Māori were more often seal hunters than moa hunters, with evidence of sealing in the far north, Coromandel, Taranaki, Cook Strait, the Canterbury coast and the south from Waitaki to Fiordland. However, by the 1700s seals were apparently confined to the far south.

Radiocarbon dating of umu and midden material at the Auckland Islands in 2003 concluded that contact at this island was as early as the 13th century. A Government steamer captain in the early 20th century, J. Bollons, fossicked beach front erosion on Auckland Islands and Campbell Island and wrote that he found Māori artefacts at the Auckland Islands. Although no pre-European archaeology has yet been identified on Campbell Island Motu Ihupuku, the extent of Māori activity in the subantarctic islands indicates that it may yet be found.

Sydney based sealers recorded themselves as the first people to see Campbell Island in 1810. Named after Robert Campbell, a Sydney merchant heavily involved in the sealing trade, it has been assumed that this remote, windy place could only have been first-landed by capable, seafaring Europeans. This assumption and the fact that flax was first introduced to the subantarctic by sealers were also made in various 19th century scientific papers. However, historian Ian Kerr, in Campbell Island a History, alludes to the possibility that Hasselburg may not have been the first to see Campbell Island.

From the 1790s sealing became an important economic activity in the south-west Pacific. After the Bass Strait rookeries were exhausted sealing became an important activity in New Zealand. There were rushes after discovery to Dusky Sound in 1798, the West Coast in 1803 and the Auckland Islands in 1806.

Campbell Island was sighted on 4 January 1810 by Frederick Hasselburg, captain of the sealing brig Perseverance out of Sydney, who, on his return trip to pick up sealers he had left on Campbell Island, also sighted Macquarie Island in July the same year and quickly returned to Sydney with the news. When he did get back to Campbell Island, Hasselburg drowned on 4 November 1810 in Perseverance Harbour, along with Elizabeth Farr and a boy George Allwright. The Perseverance itself was fated to wreck on Campbell Island in October 1828.

After 1810, there were rushes to Campbell and Macquarie Islands. Two years later American sealers initiated a surge to the Antipodes Islands, and to a lesser extent the Bounty and Auckland Islands. In three years, 140,000 seals were killed in the Antipodes Islands. By 1809 Foveaux sealers were back, working around Foveaux Strait and Stewart Island. A year later there was a rush to Macquarie and Campbell Islands, with profitable returns on skins dwindling rapidly after each new discovery. Although Campbell Island was ‘commercially of very little importance’ compared with her subantarctic neighbours, history provides insight into the experiences of the early sealers, experiences that can only be imagined; isolation in a wild place, of hardship and, if marooned, searching forever a storm-torn horizon.

Ian Smith has identified known and possible sealing locations on the New Zealand coast from historical data and reported field observations. Campbell Island’s first economic activity was sealing, with an initial ‘rush’ for the new resource followed by small-scale sealing through to the early 20th century. Ling puts the island’s total seal skin numbers from discovery to 1931 at 30,282, of which 15,200 were in three 1810 cargoes. While the total figure may be low from missing data, it is clear that Campbell Island was a small contributor to the south-west Pacific sealing industry, with just 2% of total skin cargoes. The sealing trade in the subantarctic islands was indisputably the springboard for the interest in these cold islands, a fact bemoaned by scientist L. Cockayne in 1907 when he wrote:

"It was trade and not science which first made these remote portions of our Dominion famous. Where the waves break over the jagged rocks was a countless host of fur seals, now, alas! All but extinct. For years small sailing craft, manned frequently by Stewart Island Maoris, visited their shores, riding secure in the fine harbours of Auckland or Campbell Islands, or landing parties on the shining granite rocks of the Bounties or the tussock clad Antipodes. The havoc wrought amongst the seals was almost incredible…"

James Clark Ross, in Campbell Island’s Perseverance Harbour for four days in December 1840, noted ‘The remains of some huts were found on each side of a cove to the north of the Erebus anchorage, as also the graves of several seamen who had evidently been employed on the seal-fishing….’ This was Tucker Cove named after the master of HMS Erebus, one of the two ships of the Ross Expedition of 1839-43. The 2011 expedition excavated test pits in two hut sites (CA/15 and CA/23).

Farming and settlement in the Subantarctic Islands

Māori appear in colonial documents in the Subantarctic Islands in the 19th century. The Taranaki invasion of the Chatham Islands in 1835 had not enabled all of them to gain land. In 1842, Matioro and Ngatere chartered the brig Hannah to take 40 Ngāti Mutunga and their 26 Moriori slaves to Maungahuka (the Auckland Islands) but many in the party were unfortunately, immediately marooned on the inhospitable island. They stayed on the islands for more than 12 years during which time they established pā kainga on both Enderby and Auckland Islands.

Two European attempts to settle the Auckland Islands occurred in 1849 and 1873; both of short duration. Dreams of settling the Subantarctic Islands were briefly realised with Charles Enderby’s mid-nineteenth century Auckland Island settlement. A London whaler, with interests in the southern whaling grounds, Enderby proposed that the Auckland Islands could become a whaling base and agricultural settlement. His firm, S. Enderby and Sons, took out a lease on the islands for 30 years and set up the British Southern Whale Fishery Company. Enderby himself was appointed resident commissioner and lieutenant governor. Three ships and over 200 settlers arrived at Port Ross in December 1849 and January 1850. The two communities, Māori and the latter Enderby settlers, collaborated to improve the living conditions at the settlements however by 1852 the settlers had had enough and fled the island. William Mackworth, the acting commissioner for the Enderby settlement, noted on 4 August as he left, ‘The satisfaction I feel at this moment is beyond description. My miserable life at Port Ross will never be forgotten’. In 1854 Matiora arranged transport for himself and around 30 others to Port Adventure on Rakiura where Ngāi Tahu rangatira Maika Neera gave them permission to remain. By 1856 the last of the stranded Māori had left the islands too after finally being rescued by a ship chartered by their Chatham Island whānau.

Throughout the 1860s whalers visited the subantarctic islands and Māori were noted in their crews, for example, Te Kene Turia Morokiekie crewed on the Amherst and made numerous trips through the subantarctic. Morokiekie (known as Ben Wesley and Ben Moses) was considered a master at dead reckoning – even in foggy conditions – and is remembered as also being a very reliable weather prophet.

The second attempt to settle the Auckland Islands began in 1873 when the Government granted a Dr. F. A. Monckton of Invercargill a 21-year lease over the islands. Less than three years later, in February 1877, the captain of a visiting Royal Navy warship accused the couple appointed by Monkton to tend the small farm there, of ransacking all three Auckland Islands depots. The two, who had reached ‘a state of chronic discontent’ and wanted to leave the islands, admitted that they had taken foodstuffs just in order to stay alive.

In November 1894, Government leases were auctioned for pastoral runs on most of New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands. Campbell Island was the first to be taken up in early May 1895 when James Gordon of Gisborne, who had successfully tendered for a 21 year lease at £15 per year, arrived on the island along with men from the Shetland Islands, 356 sheep, building material for a house and woolshed, and provisions for 12 months. In 1901 the lease was transferred to Captain W.H. Tucker, also from Gisborne. By 1903 there were 4000 sheep on the island. In 1907, after losing his Shetland Island crew, Tucker approached men from Te Awaiti to provide farm and whaling services. After an investigative trip to the Antarctic in November 1907, the Whaling Syndicate of Jackson, Heberley and Norton signed their first agreement with Tucker in 1908 and began their farming/whaling sojourn on Campbell Island. In 1916, when Tucker sold to the Dunedin partnership of J.A. Mathewson and D. Murray, 6800 sheep gave 131 bales of wool.

The enterprise again changed hands in 1927 when stock and improvements were bought by John Warren. Farming ended in 1931, defeated by isolation and irregular transport exacerbated by the 1920-21 depression and the Great Depression of the early 1930s. The Antipodes Island lease was sold but no farming took place. New Zealand’s offering of farming leases in the southern islands were similar to French initiatives for the Indian Ocean Kerguelen Islands, also in part to establish a regular connection and active presence in these remote and strategic possessions.


Shore-based whaling was another important economic activity in nineteenth century New Zealand, hunting the black or right whale. Whales followed established migration routes around the New Zealand coast, as well as around the Subantarctic Islands. Early whaling stations were usually located on the migration routes or in the calving harbours. New Zealand’s shore-based whalers took their skills to more isolated places such as Campbell Island, although whaling was short-lived. The Campbell Island whaling story links into the New Zealand story – particularly the association with the Te Awaiti, Cook Strait and Whangamumu, Bay of Islands whalers.

The shore-based whaling for right whales was the third economic activity on Campbell Island, notably from stations at Northwest Bay from 1909 to 1913 and Northeast Harbour 1911-1914. The two stations were the last frontier of New Zealand shore-based whaling based on right whales from the late 1820s to the 1840s and 1850s when the species had become scarce in New Zealand harbours and bays. The surviving mainland industry turned to humpbacks, smaller species and occasional sperm whales. A tryworks site (CA/21) in Tucker Cove probably relates to a ca 1878 operations by the whaler Bencleugh. A hut site (CA/23) near the tryworks, which may have also been part of the Bencleugh operation, is included below with ‘Other sites’. Another site associated with whaling is rock cut initials on Beeman Hill (CA/11), probably left by Norwegian pelagic whalers from the Antarctic who visited Campbell Island in 1894 and 1897.

Whaling at Northwest Bay

The Northwest Bay operation was initiated by Captain Tucker who invited whalers from Te Awaiti, Tory Channel, for summer work on his run and winter whaling, right whales having been seen in winter near the island. After first establishing the likelihood during a 1907 visit, and negotiating agreement with Tucker in 1908, the Te Awaiti Whaling Syndicate, under John Heberley’s lead, set up their whaling station, in early 1909. The whaling syndicate also reconnects Māori presence in the subantarctic, particularly with Motu Ihupuku. The Norton whaling whānau were well known from Kaikōura to Te Awaiti. Patrick Norton, an immigrant from Ireland, married Tangitu, a wāhine rangatira of Kaikōura. Her sons and grandsons were consummate whalers with entre to the coastal resources and tribal mātauranga their lineage gave them. Tame (Tommy or Thomas) based himself in Kaikōura and Tiemi (James or Jim) in Te Awaiti. Both travelled backwards and forwards between the two whaling centres as did their sons. James’ sons, Jack, Tim, Harry, Dick and Manny would all spend seasons down in the cold inhospitable yet invigorating environment along with their whanaunga the Timms and the Awaiti Tomms family.

In three seasons from 1909 they took 13, 10 and eight whales. At Northwest Bay, the gang was focused on right whales for the whalebone so there were no tryworks for processing blubber for oil. In 1911, the Hebberley brothers left and Jack Norton took over leadership. In May 1913, after only one whale had been taken, their motorised launch the Whaler was wrecked during a storm. Whaling continued, albeit more cautiously and within a smaller area. The Te Awaiti whalers then continued farm work and turned to sealing once Jack Norton had secured a licence. The last whale catch was a cow and calf in Perseverance Harbour in 1916 just as the whole whaling gang left the island to sign up for the war effort. 1916 was also the year Tucker ended his connection with the island when he didn’t renew his lease. Three recorded sites relate to the Northwest Bay station (CA/1, CA/2 and CA/30).

Whaling at Northeast Harbour

The Northeast Harbour whaling station was set up in January 1911 by the firm Jagger and Cook of the Cook family whaling operation at Whangamumu, south of the Bay of Islands. With them were the 28m whale-chaser Hananui II and the Huanui, a 59 ton schooner. Unlike the Northwest Bay whalers they were interested in sperm whales for processing oil so the gangs weren’t in competition. They took 13 whales in the first season and 17 (16 right whales and one fin whale) in 1912. The next two years were not successful and the whalers did not return after 1914. In 1917 Campbell Island whaling ended with the loss of the 10 ton launch Komuri. Three site records relate to the Northeast Harbour station. (CA/3, CA/32 and CA/33).


The best known Campbell Island prospecting interest is that of the Grafton which was at the island 2-29 December 1863 looking for an ‘argentiferous tin’ mine, of which information had been given by a Sydney draper. This was not found and the Grafton went on to be wrecked on the Auckland Islands in early January 1864. After 12 months waiting for rescue, five of the seven man crew made it to Rakiura and were given care and attention by Ngāi Tahu woman Mere Newton and her husband Captain Tom Cross. Cross would quickly take his Invercargill based vessel, the Flying Scud, to rescue the remaining two crew members on the Auckland Islands, some 360 kilometres away.

The historical origin of prospecting holes north of Garden Cove is not known. Three are noted by Judd; the site recorded here (CA/37) is likely to be one of these. The prospectors may have been attracted by the presence of quartz veins appearing in the Garden Cove shoreline profiles. It is possible that a hut site (CA/40; see below) on the shore nearby was a prospectors’ hut.

Scientific expeditions

Scientists’ interests in the Subantarctic Islands ranged from botany (providing comparative samples of botanical specimens) to astronomy. In the days of small sailing ships involved in Antarctic exploration, islands such as Campbell Island were of ‘distinct value’, providing shelter in the wild Southern Ocean, collection of water and firewood and, in a time of scientific curiosity, a place of study in its own right.

The first scientists on Campbell Island were with the Royal Navy’s Erebus and Terror expedition under Captain James Clark Ross in December 1840, when the young Joseph Dalton Hooker, with David Lyall and Robert McCormick, collected 2-300 botanical specimens, described later in Hooker’s ‘Flora Antarctica’. In 1873 the French naval ship Vire under Captain J. Jacquemart visited to examine the island’s suitability for observations of the 1874 Transit of Venus across the face of the sun (and so to calculate the distance from the earth to the sun). A favourable report saw the Vire back in September 1874 and accommodation and scientific huts set up in what is now Venus Cove, only to have the 9 December transit obscured by cloud. Jones has written of the successful outcome and the archaeology of a German expedition to the Auckland Islands viewing the same event. In November 1907 a Philosophical Institute of Canterbury expedition chartered the Hinemoa under the captainship of Captain John Bollons, a fluent te reo speaker who had been whangai’d by Tohi and Pani Te Marama of Bluff. He was authorized to hire a whaleboat and crew at the Bluff that was headed by Whaitiri of Ruapuke Island. The expedition spent 12 days on Campbell Island ably assisted by the mātauranga of the Hinemoa crew, pointing out the landing places on the island and providing necessary physical work to assist the scientists. Expedition leaders later praised the active assistance of the captain, officers and crew of the vessel. The expedition contributed to ‘The Subantarctic Islands of New Zealand’ (two volumes) published in 1909. Scientific visits have continued to the present day. No recorded sites relate to the Erebus and Terror visit, three are from the two French stays on the island (CA4, CA/5 and CA/36) and one recorded site is from the Philosophical Institute of Canterbury expedition (CA/ 39).

Kerr writes that the known history of interaction between the natural environment and introduced species has provided botanists, like Cockayne, with the ‘unrivalled opportunity of studying the effect of the introduction of a foreign herbivorous animal on the natural vegetation and plan formations.’ The comparison is possible because of the earlier observations of Hooker, Kirk and others.

Castaway facilities

New Zealand’s maritime heritage is reflected in the shipwrecks that dot the coast and the offshore islands. While loss of life was tragic, even more moving was the potential for castaways to be marooned on offshore islands, particularly in the Subantarctic, where castaways might never be rescued. The Subantarctic Islands lie to the south and south-east of New Zealand. Ships that were blown astray in the Southern Ocean were wrecked on the islands that lay on the Great Circle Route used by ships leaving Australasia for Europe – some 11 shipwrecks were known to have occurred between 1833 and 1908.

Three shipwrecks on the Auckland Islands in the 1860s led to castaway depots being placed on New Zealand’s southern islands. Depots, boatsheds and finger-posts on the Auckland Islands are described by Egerton et al. (2006) and depots on the Antipodes and Bounty Islands by Taylor. Wreckage on Campbell Island was sighted on three occasions in Northwest Bay during the period 1868 to 1877. Wreck relics were discovered in Monument Harbour by a weather station member in 1972 and surveyed by Judd in 2007. Campbell Island castaway facilities are described by Kerr, the first castaway provisions being left in 1868 by the Amherst (sent by the Southland Provincial Government to look for survivors of the General Grant), taking the form of a case of provisions at Tucker Cove marked by a white pole. After 1882 a larger depot was built at Depot Point, with a shed for provisions and a boatshed. Six fingerposts around the island pointed the way. The depot was closed in 1923.

Long-term government stations

The outbreak of World War Two in September 1939 brought renewed interest in the strategic importance of the Subantarctic Islands as places to monitor and report the movements of enemy ships. This was the ‘Cape Expedition’ 1941 to 1945. Scientist Sir Charles Fleming was part of the Cape Expedition, taking the opportunity to study the geology and natural history of the island. After the war, the Campbell Island coastwatching camp situated in the Tucker Valley, evolved to become New Zealand’s subantarctic weather station. The history and archaeology of two Auckland Island stations is told in the 2003 expedition report.

The Tucker Camp was used from the end of the war by the Meteorological Service and Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) until a new base was built at Beeman Cove in readiness for the 1957 IGY (International Geophysical Year). The weather station was staffed until automated in 1995. The most recent significant use of the historic Beeman Base was by the two-month 2010 Campbell Island Bicentennial Expedition in the summer of 2010/11. Meteorologist and Campbell Island historian Ian Kerr writes that Campbell Island was ‘probably the most important weather station maintained by the New Zealand Government.’

The Subantarctic Islands’ history of scientific study, the recognition of their natural values and the cycle of the introduction of species and their removal is part of the cultural history of the islands and reflects the twentieth century prioritisation of conservation. The earlier history of the exploitation and farming are ‘statement of possession, and of our intent to tame unused country.’ Environmental historian Bernadette Hince writes that this history is common to other isolated islands, and is part a global history of isolated islands"

"the ecological changes made by humans, the debris, the remains of the buildings all testify to a tangible human history shared by many of the Subantarctic Islands. They are what constitutes the subantarctic’s cultural history."

More recently, the natural importance of Campbell Island has been recognised. New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands were declared National Nature Reserves in 1986, the highest possible conservation status, and in 1998 were inscribed on the World Heritage List for their significant natural values. In 2014, the ocean around Campbell Island was declared a marine reserve (Moutere Ihupuku/Campbell Island Marine Reserve). Since 1995, Campbell Island has been uninhabited, with only periodic visits from naval patrols, researchers and tourists.

Physical Description

Current Description

Physical descriptions of sites in this report are taken from the archaeological survey that took place in early 2011 during the 2010 Campbell Island Bicentennial Expedition, undertaken by 50° South Trust.

At 52°S, Campbell Island is New Zealand’s southernmost territory but for the Ross Dependency in Antarctica, and is one of several island groups in the Southern Ocean south of mainland New Zealand, including the Auckland, Antipodes, Bounty and Snares groups, and Australia’s Macquarie Island which is the furthest south at 54°S. The Subantarctic Islands lie in a semicircle to the south and south-east of New Zealand, and are the five southernmost groups of New Zealand’s outlying islands.

Campbell Island is located at 52.33 S and 169.09 E. The main island area is 112.68 km2, offshore islets and rocks bringing the total to 113.31 km2. The highest point is Mount Honey at 558 m. Average January temperatures are: high 12.1°C, low 7.1°C. The annual rainfall of 1.33 m falls on average 325 days a year.

Campbell Island is around 14 kilometres at its greatest length from north to south and west to east. There are no safe all-weather anchorages on the west and south coasts, and while landings in Northwest Bay and Monument and Southeast Harbours can be achieved in fair weather, these bays are open to the ocean and whoever anchors in these places should be aware that weather conditions can change with little warning. Though secure anchorage can be found in either of the two harbours on the east coast, of which Perseverance Harbour is the more popular for large vessels because it offers more swinging room, both harbours are subject to very strong winds, primarily from the west.

Unlike the Auckland Islands further north, where lower altitudes are dominated by rata forest, there is no forest on Campbell Island, and only one tree, a spruce planted early last century in Camp Cove. Instead, vegetation is mostly tussock grassland with spectacular megaherb fields including Pleurophyllum speciosum, Anisotome latifolia and Bulbinella rossii. For nearly a century from 1895 sheep created and maintained short grassland throughout the island. Since they were removed, the last in 1991, high ground is reverting to tussock grassland and herb-fields, with lower ground being taken over by scrub dominated by dracophyllum scrub to 4–5 m high. Almost all human activity on Campbell Island has been on low ground near the shore so that sites now being hidden, damaged and buried in dense vegetation is an issue for heritage conservation.

Notable among wildlife are sea lions and sea elephants. Less apparent in the harbours and bays are fur seals which have not recovered from 19th century exploitation.

Seabirds include major breeding populations of several albatross and mollymawk species and other sea-birds. Rockhopper penguin numbers have declined by 94% from ca 1.6 million breeding birds in the late 1950s, apparently after a southward shift of the food-rich ocean convergence zone. Rats, which may have arrived soon after 1810, were exterminated in 2001 in a remarkable Department of Conservation exercise using several helicopters. Campbell Island snipe, pipits and teal are now back on the main island after surviving more than 150 years on rat-free off-shore islets.

Campbell Island historical activity and archaeological sites reflect either economic or official purposes. Economic activity has been sealing, farming, whaling and prospecting; official (mostly New Zealand government) presence includes castaway facilities, the World War Two Cape Expedition coast-watchers, Meteorological Service, and scientific expeditions. Sealing was the first economic activity, thus making any related site significant in the island’s archaeology. On current knowledge this means accommodation huts. Two 19th century sod huts are reported; one in Camp Cove the other in Tucker Cove. Both were likely to have been occupied by sealers and/or marooned sailors. Huts were reported in both bays in 1840. Test pitting of the Tucker Cove Sod Hut in 2011 revealed sea bird and possibly seal bone (certainly mammal) indicating locally sourced parts of a diet, and stockpiled chert suggests an early rather than late 19th century date. If this hut site is an early sealing site it will be the only one in New Zealand to have been physically tested. Also in Tucker Cove is the ‘Stone Hearth Hut’, but here the use of brick in the fireplace and a possible link to the Bencleugh visit ca 1878 suggest occupants other than sealers. The Camp Cove hut has sod walls and may be the ‘establishment’ reported by Ross in 1840, so was most likely a sealers’ hut. At the Methven Boiler Hut timber piles do not suggest early 19th century or sealers. The boiler from the Dunedin Methven firm is no older than 1886 and may be 1906 or later. Other possible sealing era sites are the Tucker Cove graves (CA/24), and the enigmatically placed stone constructions (CA/41) in Camp Cove which may also relate to Ross’s report.

Nine site records tell of 1895-1931 farming on Campbell Island. The homestead (CA/9) and woolshed (CA/25) records are of large sites with several elements at the heart of the farm. Other records are mostly of one aspect of activity. More farm remains, notably 15 kilometres of fence-line, are described by Judd in his 1990 expedition report. The brief period of a single farming enterprise, in the end outside its practical limits, gives a farming landscape frozen in time.

The archaeology of whaling on the island mostly records two early twentieth century shore stations at Northwest Bay and Northeast Harbour, each with three widely dispersed parts, and so separately recorded sites. Two other sites probably relate to earlier visits by the whalers Bencleugh and the Norwegian Antarctic. The main Northeast Harbour record (CA/3) includes domestic and industrial parts of the station backed up by good historical documentation. This is a major site. At Northwest Bay, accommodation (CA/2) and industrial (CA/1) parts of the whaling operation are widely separated at opposite ends of the bay. Both have suffered more damage than at sheltered Northeast Harbour. The Tucker Cove tryworks (CA/21) is likely to be a rare temporary land establishment set up by a whaling vessel.

An unimpressive prospecting drive (CA/37) rounds out a story of optimism and the hope of riches that brought people to remote Campbell Island, as with the sealers, farmers and whalers.

Official scientific activity began with the December 1840 Royal Navy visit of Ross’s Erebus and Terror Antarctic expedition. No physical evidence is known; a search for the expedition’s magnetic station east of Shoal Point by Judd and Bagley was unsuccessful – the site had been heavily modified by seals, but Campbell Island was put on the scientific map when Joseph Hooker described botanical specimens in his ‘Flora Antarctica’. Other major contributions to scientific knowledge were by the 1873 and 1874 French Transit of Venus expedition and by the Philosophical Institute of Canterbury in 1907. For three months the French occupied Venus Cove (CA/4) where there are still important archaeological remains despite fossicking by meteorological staff. Other French remains are the Duris grave (CA/36), and nearby tracks and platforms on the west side of Garden Cove (CA/5) recorded by Palmer and Judd but not revisited in 2011. The Tucker Cove stone jetty (CA/16) may possibly be French work. Only a stone fireplace was recorded of the Philosophical Institute of Canterbury camp in Garden Cove (CA/39), this site also having suffered from fossicking attention.

The most important castaway facility is the depot (CA/8) at the mouth of Tucker Cove (Depot Point), where there was a boatshed and provision shed and still is a boat run and signpost. Two of three surviving finger-posts put up around the island are at Southeast Harbour (CA/29) and the head of Northeast Harbour (CA/31). The finger- post at Cook Point, Northeast Harbour, was not visited and so not recorded although observed to be still standing in a naval patrol June 2012.

An official presence on the island that was to continue for 54 years began with the 1941 arrival of the Cape Expedition and setting up of a coast-watchers’ base (CA/13) in the valley at the head of Tucker Cove. At the end of the war this was taken over by the Meteorological Service and grew to 15 buildings. In the 1950s a new base was set up at Beeman Cove, where it still stands, but without permanent staff since automation in 1995. Tucker Camp and Beeman Base are important historical and archaeological places.

A particular threat to historic sites is the dense scrub dominated by dracophyllum now reclaiming lower ground since the removal of sheep which had previously maintained grassland over much of the island. The scrub conceals sites from archaeologists and tourists alike and its roots damage sub-surface deposits. Major sites such as the Tucker Cove Sod Hut (CA/15) and nearby farmhouse (CA/9) and woolshed (CA/25), Tucker Camp (CA/13) and the Northeast Harbour whaling station (CA/3) are near to being buried in a sea of scrub. Vegetation change from tussock to dracophyllum scrub at less important sites such as the Northwest Bay whalers’ lookout (CA/30) is also a loss to the historic landscape.

Other damage is by sea lions and elephant seals which create deep wallows and runs where they gather. This has badly damaged the hillside and beach flat at Northwest Bay whaling station (CA/2); a hut site behind the station capstan (CA/1) is completely destroyed. Sea damage includes high tides eating away the poor quality mortar of the Tucker Cove tryworks (CA/21), and stone structures broken up by wave action, notably the Tucker Cove stone jetty (CA/16), castaway depot boat run (CA/8) and tidal fence (CA/18), all at or near Depot Point and so exposed to the length of Perseverance Harbour which can be a funnel for wind and waves, and the Venus Cove jetty (CA/4) and adjacent shoreline profiles. Stream erosion has taken much of the brick floor (CA/33) associated with the Northeast Harbour whaling station, and possibly some of the Camp Cove stone arrangement (CA/41) where what is visible is now close to the eroding bank.

Proposals for prioritising Campbell Island historic sites conservation have also been made by Palmer and Judd (1981) and Judd (1992, pp. 3-6; 1994, p. 4). It must be emphasised that the 39 sites recorded in 2011 are not the only archaeological sites on Campbell Island. Others have been noted by Judd in his several reports, but not revisited in 2011, and others, including significant sites, may yet be found.

Construction Dates

Sealing camps present

Original Construction
- 1874
Venus Cove Transit of Camp

Tucker Cove castaway depots

Bay whaling

1895 - 1931

- 1907
Scientific Expedition

1909 - 1914
Renewed whaling activity - Northwest Bay

1911 - 1914
Renewed whaling activity - Northeast Harbour

1939 - 1945
Coast Watching service presence

1945 - 1995
Meteorological Service presence

Construction Details

Timber, brick, metal, stone

Completion Date

10th September 2019

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop, Huia Pacey

Information Sources

Underwater Heritage Group

Judd, 1980

N. J. Judd, Preliminary Reports of the Campbell Island Expedition 1975-76. Leader's Report on Historical Sites, Reserves Series No. 7, Dept. of Lands and Survey Head Office, 1980

Judd, 1980

N. J. Judd, ‘Protection of Historical Information in the Subantarctic,’ Dip. Parks and Recreation Dissertation, Lincoln College, 1980

Judd, 1991

N. J. Judd, Campbell Island Historic Site Inspection 1990, Dept. of Conservation, 1991

Judd, 1995

N. J. Judd, Campbell Island Historic Sites in 1995, Dept. of Conservation, 1995

Kerr, 1976

I. Kerr, Campbell Island: A History, A.H. & A.W. Reed, Wellington, 1976

Palmer and Judd, 1981

J. Palmer & N. Judd, Campbell Island Archaeological Investigation 1981: A field survey, assessment and management recommendations for historic sites on Campbell Island, The Department of Lands and Survey Head Office, Wellington, 1981

Prickett, Bagley and Judd, nd.

N. Prickett, S. Bagley & N. Judd, ‘Campbell Island Archaeological Survey Jan – Feb 2011,’ 50° South Trust Occasional Papers No. 1. Report to the NZHPT under Section 14, Historic Places Act 1993, Authority No 2011/134

Other Information

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.

Archaeological sites are protected by the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014, regardless of whether they are entered on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero or not. Archaeological sites include ‘places associated with pre-1900 human activity, where there may be evidence relating to the history of New Zealand’. This List entry report should not be read as a statement on whether or not the archaeological provisions of the Act apply to the property (s) concerned. Please contact your local Heritage New Zealand office for archaeological advice.

A fully referenced New Zealand Heritage List report is available on request from the Otago/Southland Office of Heritage New Zealand

Historic Area Place Name

Beeman Cove Meteorological Service base, manned 1957-1995.
Beeman Hill Rock engravings by crew of whaler Antarctic
Camp Cove Farm sod fence
Camp Cove Sod hut
Camp Cove Stone arrangement associated with sealing or farming eras
Cave Rocks Rock shelter
Depot Point Farm tidal fence
Duris Point ‘Transit of Venus’ track/ building platforms
Duris Point Grave of Paul Duris, French ‘Transit of Venus’ expedition
Duris Point Methven Boiler Hut and boat run
Duris Point Philosophical Institute of Canterbury 1907 scientific camp
Duris Point Prospecting hole
Garden Cove Farm stock bridge
Lookout Bay ‘Platform’ site
Monument Harbour Shipwreck timber
Moubray Hill Rock shelter
Northeast Harbour
Northeast Harbour Castaway finger-post
Northeast Harbour Rock shelter
Northeast Harbour Whaling station
Northeast Harbour Whaling station brick floor
Northeast Harbour Whaling station iron pipe
Northwest Bay Whaling capstan
Northwest Bay Whaling lookout
Northwest Bay Whaling station
Southeast Harbour Castaway finger-post
Tucker Cove Castaway depot and boat run
Tucker Cove Farm homestead, boat run etc.
Tucker Cove Farm peat cutting
Tucker Cove Farm tidal fence and stone structures
Tucker Cove Farm woolshed, yards and jetty
Tucker Cove Farm, cylinder digester
Tucker Cove Graves
Tucker Cove Meteorological Service jetty and causeway for Tucker Camp
Tucker Cove Sod hut
Tucker Cove Stone Hearth hut
Tucker Cove Stone jetty
Tucker Cove Tent camp
Tucker Cove Tryworks
Tucker Cove Tucker Camp, Cape Expedition and after
Venus Cove French ‘Transit of Venus’ expedition camp