Brett Phibbs

Tales of the subantarctic

Scattered across the world’s southern seas are some of nature’s richest havens, the subantarctic islands—and New Zealand administers more of them than any other country.


The lie of the land

In August 1849, Sarah and Isaac Cripps and their three children boarded the Fancy, bound for Auckland Island, 465 kilometres south of New Zealand. They were part of a group of 66 prospective colonists planning to start a new settlement in the subantarctic. As they put to sea, they imagined the sunny weather and gentle pastures that awaited them. They would not find out until December that they’d all been tricked.

Living World

The great south road

Every year tourists follow the wet road south to visit the extraordinary wildlife preserves of the subantarctic islands—the raucous penguin colonies, the perennial bloom of megaherbs and the austere and hostile beauty of the ice-laden Southern Ocean.


Treasures of the subantarctic

On Campbell Island, the sun shines for less than an hour a day for almost two-thirds of the year. Rain falls, on average, 325 days of the year. Winds approach 100 km/h 100 days of the year. The mean annual temperature is six degrees. But from kelp-strewn coast to tor-studded mountaintop, the island astonishes at every footstep we take on its quivering peat soil.


The riddle of the Rifleman

The Rifleman set out from Hobart on April 14, 1833, and was never seen again. The fate of the ship, her 12 crew and six passengers, remained a total mystery for 179 years. Only now, after re-examining artefacts collected in 1996 from the foot of Auckland Island’s uncompromising westerly cliffs, have experts finally solved the riddle.

Living World

A wing and a snare

Icon of southern seas, a soaring albatross is picture of grace and strength. Yet thousands die each year through contact with fishing operations. Snagged in nets or hooked and dragged under on longlines, they are victims of a silent slaughter which goes largely unnoticed by land-dwellers, but which is pushing several albatross species towards extinction.