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Auckland Islands

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The Auckland Islands lie 465km south-south-east of New Zealand's South Island port of Bluff. They are the largest of New Zealand s subantarctic islands, with a combined area of 625 sq km. As well as having a wide variety of plants and wildlife they also have a rich human history.

Oceania, Australia, New Zealand. 1864. Johnston, Cartographer.

1864 Map Oceania, Australia, New Zealand. Cartographer, Johnston.

The Auckland Islands are made up of the remains of two ancient volcanoes which have been subsequently cut by glaciers. The terrain is rugged and mountainous, with steep cliffs on the western and southern sides and deep valleys with long inlets to the east. Auckland Island is the main island in the group. The group includes many other smaller islands. The largest of these is Adams Island, which lies south of the main island. This is followed by Enderby Island, 1km north of the main island, and Disappointment Island, 8km west of the main island.

There is evidence to suggest Polynesian settlement on Enderby Island at some stage in the island's history, however, when the whaling ship Ocean found the islands in 1806 they were uninhabited. On 18 August 1806 Captain Abraham Bristow named the island group "Lord Auckland's" in honour of his father's friend William Eden, 1st Baron Auckland. Bristow worked for Samuel Enderby, after whom Enderby Island is named. On a later trip in the "Sarah," Bristow named the large harbour at the north of the group "Sarah's Bosom". This was later changed to Port Ross following the visit of Sir James Clark Ross in his two ships the Erebus and Terror in 1840.

HMS Erebus and HMS Terror. 1845.

HMS Erebus and HMS Terror. 1845.

As soon as the islands were redis covered, sealers set up bases there. By 1812 the seals were so depleted that the islands lost their draw and became uninhabited once again. Later, whalers came to the Auckland's although, unlike Campbell Island, this was done from ships and not based on the islands themselves.

In 1840 several scientific expeditions visited the Auckland Island group and found pigs, cats and mice well established on the main island.

In the mid-19th century there were several attempts made to live on the Auckland islands. In 1842 a small group of Maori and their Moriori slaves migrated from the Chatham Islands and created a community there. A few years later, in 1849, Samuel Enderby's grandson, Charles Enderby established a colony at Port Ross, called Hardwicke, which had approximately 200 people.

April 7, 1849, Nautical Standard

The Auckland Islands, a short account of their climate, soil, and productions, and the advantages of establishing there a settlement at
Port Rose for carrying on the Southern Whale Fisheries.

The object of this brochure is to point out the advantages offered by the Auckland Islands to emigrants, and the author gives the best possible earnest of the good faith of his intentions and motives, by proceeding himself to the Islands for the purpose of aiding their colonization. It would, appear by prefatory remarks of Mr. Enderby, that he is about to proceed to the colony with the full support of her Majesty's government, and a full assurance from the Admiralty, that a vessel of war will visit the Islands once in every month. The interest of the general body of settlers will therefore be amply protected. The author gives the following sketch of the history of the discovery and position of the Islands:

"The Auckland Islands, usually denominated Lord Auckland's Group, are situated in the latitude of 51 degrees South, and longitude of 166 degrees East, about 180 miles south of New Zealand, and 900 south-east from Van Dieman's Land. They were discovered in the year 1806, by Captain Abram Bristow, whilst in the prosecution of a whaling voyage in the ship Ocean, belonging to the late Samuel Enderby, Esq., the author's father. In the following year he again visited the Islands in the ship Sarah, belonging to the same owner, and on this occasion took formal possession of them, on behalf of the Crown, leaving on shore a quantity of pigs, which have since increased in number to a surprising extent.

The islands are much frequented by whaling vessels for the purposes of the fishery, especially in the months of April and May, when the whales come into the bays to calve; they are also found to be desirable places at which to wood and water, and where vessels may heave down to repair.

In consideration of the Auckland Islands having been discovered by the captain of a vessel belonging to the author's father, and of other services rendered by the latter to the country, as also for the more recent discoveries of the Southern Continent, by Captain Biscoe, whilst in the employment of the author and his brothers, her Majesty's government has been graciously pleaded to grant these islands to them on very advantageous terms, for the purposes of the whale fishery, as a station, at which to discharge the cargoes and refit the vessels.

The government was desirous that some other site, in an established colony, should have been selected from whence to prosecute the fishery; but on maturely weighing all the circumstances, it was found that none offered the same advantages as the islands in question. A royal charter of incorporation having been obtained for the purpose of enabling a company to carry on the fishery, and colonize the islands, without the shareholders incurring any risk beyond the amount of their respective subscriptions, the author and his brothers have consented to surrender to the company their title to the lands on terms which have been considered liberal; the author is, therefore, no longer restrained by motives of delicacy from entering into such details of the advantages to be anticipated from the colonization of the islands as might otherwise have appeared to be the result of interested motives."

The author proceeds to point out advantages which belong to the Auckland Islands, and which are not always secured in colonial settlements. Mr. Enderby says that all measures of colonization should have some more definite object than that of merely getting rid of superabundant population; it should be based on the principle of selecting a position for a colony from whence some product at least can be obtained, as good as and at a cheaper rate than elsewhere, and the inducement for the colonists should be to produce that article which is in demand by the mother country. He then points out the advantages likely to result from the Auckland Islands as a shipping colony.

"What stronger evidence" he says "is required to prove that shipping colonies are of all others the most valuable, than the fact that the mere occasional visits of whaling vessels to New Zealand, the Marquesas, and Friendly Islands, etc., and particularly the Sandwich Islands, have caused those places to spring to importance."

If then the mere visits of whaling vessels to these various islands (when the expenditure of each, including advances to seamen, does not exceed 100) confer great benefits on them, how much more advantageous must it be to a colony, when such vessels make it their permanent station, and when the expenditure will probably exceed 1,500 each?

The various Australian settlements, rightly estimating the benefits which result from the frequent visits of the American whalers to their ports, take every opportunity of encouraging such visits, so likewise do the authorities at Manilla, for they are so keenly alive to their interest, that they have lately directed all tonnage dues on whaling ships visiting that place, and all export duties on the stores supplied to them, to be suppressed for the space of three years, by way of experiment, in order to encourage such vessels to repair thither.

Again if we turn to the message of the President of the United States of America, dated 4th of December last, we find the following remarks:

The depot of the vast commerce which must exist in the Pacific, will probably be at some point in the bay of San Francisco, and will occupy the same relation to the whole western coast of that ocean, as New Orleans does to the valley of the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico. To this depot our numerous whale ships will resort with their cargoes to trade, refit, and obtain supplies. This of itself will largely contribute to build up a city, which would soon become the centre of a great and rapidly increasing commerce,"

The Samuel Enderby. Whaling Ship. 1849.

As the Americans already have a most extensive whale fishery, the President did not refer to the trade for the purpose of proving that San Francisco would advantage the fishery, but that the mere visits of the whaling ships would of itself largely contribute to build up a city at San Francisco.

The great advantage of commercial enterprize possessed by whaling stations has been overlooked, although such wonderful results have hitherto come to pass, for to the communications made by masters of whaling ships are to be attributed the whole of the trade possessed both by England and the United States of America in the Pacific Ocean, as well as the formation of the whole of the colonies of Australia, Van Dieman's Land, New Zealand, and in other smaller islands.

Similar advantages will be permanently enjoyed by the settlers at the proposed station, as they will obtain from the masters of the whaling fleet, who will visit every part of the world, but be precluded from trading themselves, accounts of new markets opened, old markets ill or short supplied, and new products of various kinds.

The ports in the Auckland Islands will be free and open to the visits of all vessels, when every accommodation will be afforded them to refit and refresh. The colonization of the islands will be contingent on the success of the fishery, and every acre of land will be put in requisition for supplies for the ships of the Company and others touching at the island; consequently the Company will carefully reject all offers to purchase land coming from persons who do not engage to bring it into immediate use for the required purposes.

The prosperity of the Auckland Island settlement will greatly benefit all the adjacent colonies, since it will at least for some time to come, be in a great measure dependant upon them for cattle, timber, &c. &c. &c, in the purchase of which payment will be made in money, an article of no small value in those colonies, especially in New Zealand, for if we except the remittances the latter is enabled to realize through the means of Treasury bills to meet the heavy expenditure of the local government, which expenditure constitutes an important item in its finances, the colonists would be entirely dependant upon an indirect, and at present very limited trade, for what money they might have on the island.

Enderby's colony was abandoned in August 1852.

Auckland and Brazilian Mergansers.

Auckland Island and Brazilian Mergansers.

They were followed by the Maori, who left in March 1856. Everyone found the climate too harsh, and growing conditions too poor, to survive. The whaling that they hoped to base Hardwicke on never eventuated. In fact, the only whale they caught was while the colony was being dismantled. The Auckland Islands were officially included in the extended boundaries of New Zealand in 1863.

Wake of the Invercauld: Shipwrecked in the sub-Antarctic: A great-granddaughter's pilgrimageShips, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports.
Madelene Allen

Robert Holding, a young English sailor, was only 23 in 1864 when he and 19 others were shipwrecked on the windswept, inhospitable Auckland Islands in the sub-Antarctic Ocean south of New Zealand. Ships, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports. When rescued a year later, he was one of only three survivors - the rest having died from starvation and exposure. Written by Holding's great-granddaughter, this is a tale of adventure and survival. Using survivors accounts, including Holding's, various ship records, Madelene Ferguson Allen describes this piece of maritime history and examines the sailors' struggle for survival.

1899. World's Fleet. Boston Daily Globe

Lloyds Register of Shipping gives the entire fleet of the world as 28,180 steamers and sailing vessels, with a total tonnage of 27,673,628, of which 39 perent are British.

Great Britain10,990 vessels, total tonnage of 10,792,714
United States 3,010 vessels, total tonnage of 2,405,887
Norway 2,528 vessels, tonnage of 1,604,230
Germany 1,676 vessels, with a tonnage of 2,453,334, in which are included her particularly large ships.
Sweden 1,408 vessels with a tonnage of 643, 527
Italy1,150 vessels
France 1,182 vessels

For Historical Comparison
Top 10 Maritime Nations Ranked by Value (2017)

  Country # of Vessels







1 Greece 4,453 206.47 $88.0
2 Japan 4,317 150.26 $79.8
3 China 4,938 159.71 $71.7
4 USA 2,399 55.92 $46.5
5 Singapore 2,662 64.03 $41.7
6 Norway 1,668 39.68 $41.1
7 Germany 2,923 81.17 $30.3
8 UK 883 28.78 $24.3
9 Denmark 1,040 36.17 $23.4
10 South Korea 1,484 49.88 $20.1
Total 26,767 87.21 $466.9

The Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.



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Merchant Shipping.Merchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce.  
History of Merchant Shipping and Ancient CommerceMerchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce.
W. S. Lindsay

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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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