Port Ross, Auckland Islands

Photo: L. Mead & T. Nicklin [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
Do you dream about remote islands? Not tropical ones like those in the Caribbean and the South Pacific. You’re thinking more rugged, more windswept, and less visited. The Faroe Islands. The Shetland Islands. The Falkland Islands. Saint Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha. You should add the Auckland Islands to that list.

If you immediately assume that the Auckland Islands are part of New Zealand, you’re right. But the small archipelago—comprised of one main and seven smaller islands—isn’t near the capital or even the North Island. The volcanic Auckland Islands lie nearly 300 miles south of the South Island. They’re part of the Antipodes Subantarctic Islands tundra ecoregion. They’re also an Important Bird Area and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Polynesians first discovered these far-flung islands around the 13th century. Their Enderby Island settlement became the most southerly Polynesian settlement in the world. But it didn’t last. No one was on the islands when British whalers arrived in 1806. They, too, attempted to set up a colony. Hardwicke, a farming and whaling colony, sat at the edge of Port Ross, a natural harbor on the main island of Auckland Island. Within a few years, it was also abandoned. Offshore shipwrecks prove how difficult it was to navigate the area. Though the islands eventually became part of New Zealand, they’ve remained uninhabited—at least by people.

Birds, on the other hand, are plentiful. Auckland shags, which lay exactly three pale blue-green eggs. Auckland teals, a type of dabbling duck. Auckland rails, whose one-second crex calls extend at least 10 times in a row. Auckland snipes, whose females are larger than the males. Those are just the endemic birds. Other land and seabirds, including one million pairs of sooty shearwaters, call the islands home, as well. There are marine mammals, too. Deep-diving New Zealand fur seals. Rare New Zealand sea lions. Thousands of southern right whales. Even southern elephant seals are starting to return to the islands they once called home.

So, though the Auckland Islands are rarely visited, you’re going to dream about eventually seeing them. You picture yourself standing atop Mount D’Urville, the highest point on Auckland Island. It overlooks Carnley Harbour, the remains of an extinct volcano. You see yourself exploring the jagged coastline, the deep inlets, and the failed colony. Plus you plan to see animals that you’ve never seen in the wild. Now you just have to figure out how to turn your dream into a reality.

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