I’ve been enjoying our scientist’s fieldwork posts. We have scientist’s photographs from several historic field trips in the photography collection. My favourites are in this photo album from the 1907 Expedition to the Subantarctic Islands. The Expedition was initiated by the Canterbury Philosophical Institute with support from the Government, and studied plants, animals, soils and marine life on the Auckland and Campbell Island groups, as well as a few outliers.
The islands were of real interest to scientists, as they wanted to compare the distribution of species with other parts of the world. The famous British botanist Joseph Hooker had studied plants near the coast during the 1840s, but no one had looked inland or at some of the smaller islands.
The Expedition party was made up entirely of New Zealand scientists such as botanist Leonard Cockayne. There was also a cook, the crew of their transport ship Hinemoa, and a small crew for a whaleboat to ferry the scientists about.
The Hinemoa left Bluff on 14 November 1907, and returned at the end of the month. The scientists made the most of their time on the islands by splitting between the Auckland Islands and Campbell Island. This photo album was put together by the cook to the Auckland Islands group, Mr W B North, and donated to Te Papa by North’s son years later.
The expedition members were astounded to find a group of shipwrecked sailors on Auckland Island. These men had survived the wreck of the barque Dundonald eight months before, and ate birds, seals and roots until they managed to reach the cache of emergency stores left by the Government. Their story is an epic tale, so I’ll cover it in my next post.
The Expedition was a great success. The scientists described a huge range of flora and fauna, and found a number of new species. Some of the specimens they collected are now in Te Papa’s collection. A detailed report was published in 1909 and was well received in the scientific world. The trip was also covered by several newspapers – the Otago Witness did a two-page spread of photographs on Christmas Day, which includes some of the photos in this album.