New Zealand's Sub-Antarctic Islands - 2008

ridge of Mount Lyall took about an hour and all the while we were in awe at the superb scenery, sharply outlined by the continuing blessed sunshine.

Our understanding of the early human history on this island would never have prepared our senses for the pristine glory of the rocky and lonely outpost just above the Southern Ocean. In the early 1800s the island was the scene of seal hunting (until the fur seals were nearly exterminated there) and whaling (until overhunting reduced their numbers to near extinction in that locale). The slaughter continued until the early 1840s. Afterwards, the island was left pretty much undisturbed and might have recovered on its own until 1896 when it was leased out for sheep and cattle husbandry. That almost fatal attack on the vegetation continued until 1931 when the lease ran out and the government decided not to reissue such rental agreements. An automated weather station was placed on the island that had to be checked infrequently. In 1954, the government gave all the islands of the Campbell group National Reserve status. All feral cattle and sheep were finally removed by 1984. When DOC was given jurisdiction over the parks, reserves and forestlands, the agency also became responsible for these Subantarctic land bits. A massive eradication program was begun to clear this island of Norway rats that had been present for 200 years. Campbell was declared rat-free in 2003! It was and is the largest rat eradication success story in the world. Since that time, the native invertebrates, vegetation and seabirds have been steadily returning and re-establishing themselves much more quickly than scientists dared wish. The Hooker’s sea lion is still endangered for reasons the researchers are even now struggling to understand. In the interim, they are protected and monitored on all these islands. The fur seals rebounded with a huge success, probably due to lessened competition with whales for food. Whales are also increasing their numbers now that hunting is prohibited in these waters and their numbers are slowly but surely rising as well. Campbell Island teals (a native duck) have been

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