Right now, on New Zealand’s southernmost island group, a team of 11 researchers and their support crew are wandering around the cold, windswept Campbell Island, studying the island’s rich ecology and history, and its recovery from decades of grazing and the world’s largest island rat eradication.
And you can follow what they are doing day by day on the Campbell Island Bicentennial Expedition website [no longer available] and Facebook page. There are almost daily blogs from the researchers, and growing albums of photos and videos showcasing what a remarkable and wild part of the planet Campbell Island is.
Located in the sub-Antarctic ‘Furious Fifties’, Campbell Island was discovered 200 years ago in 1810 by Captain Frederick Hasselburg of the sealing brig Perseverance. At least that’s the commonly told story. But was the island discovered a lot earlier, by Polynesian voyagers? No one really knows when the remote outlying islands of New Zealand were first occupied by people, and archaeological work around the Island’s coast, in rock shelters suitable for human habitation may reveal the answer, and shed light on the limits of Polynesian voyaging.
This is just one of several exciting research projects being conducted on this Expedition.
Campbell Island is well-known for its ‘goblin forests’ and megaherbs; sea lions, albatross and endemic birds like the Campbell Island teal, but comparatively little is known about the freshwater life and invertebrate fauna there, and especially how these creatures have responded to the extermination of livestock on the island, and the eradication of rats in 2001. The Expedition marks 10 years since the last Brown or Norway Rat was killed, and a major research focus is to evaluate how the vegetation and invertebrate fauna are recovering.
The dramatic and devastating impact that rats have had on New Zealand’s fauna is featured in Te Papa’s exhibition Blood Earth Fire – Whangai Whenua Ahi Kā. Depending on what material is collected by the Expedition team members, some of these critters, along with photos and videos taken by the team might be displayed in Te Papa from about December 2012, when the major research outcomes from the Expedition should be known. The display would likely be adjacent to Blood Earth Fire, updating the fantastic island conservation story there, a conservation approach where New Zealand is a world leader.
In the meantime though – check out the Expedition online sites and find out what it is like to live and work in one of the world’s truly isolated places, and perhaps witness discoveries as they happen! The expedition will span nine weeks from 6 Dec 2010 to 12 Feb 2011. So while we are out enjoying the sun and warm weather, the Expedition team will be wrapped up in thermals, or shivering in some freezing stream, or getting chased by sea lions, or pecked by penguins, or… lucky buggers!
By Jeff Fox, Concept Developer