An unruly, wind-blown, 100-year-old spruce tree on subantarctic Campbell Island is possibly the world's loneliest tree. VeronikaMeduna visited it earlier in December 2013 with Jonathan Palmer, who analysed its tree rings to study the...
60 days of snow, rain, hail and gale has pelted the six 3 metre long insect nets that I installed with Steve C., Carla and Jo’s help just south of the base after our arrival. Against the demons of weather, the nets have stood strong, no doubt due to the clever hand of the net constructor, my Ma, and her sewing machine.
For 2 months I have daily cleared the amassed invertebrate treasure, often with Carla’s assistance, and with Carla and Mark covering for me when I have...
Many of the historic sites that were easily seen in 1981 are now obscured by scrub and other vegetation. I have included two images here that show the rate of vegetative growth on Campbell Island over the last 30 years.
The first image is one I took on my 1981 visit to the island. It shows posts and a central pole of what may have been a small tent camp from the early farming era beginning 1895 – a site now known as the ‘Bivvy’. In the middle distance are two...
There are many things that draw people to studying and exploring nature. Just being able to experience the miracle of life in the course of your work is a great privilege – even if most of the time you are desk-bound and enveloped in the tedium of writing grant applications. Anyway, I digress. This is about those moments of personal and scientific discovery – finding something never known before. These can be grandiose theories and principles; but I get a thrill out of much...
Early botanists exploring Campbell Island were astounded by the lush herbaceous plants that they called megaherbs. Megaherbs encompass a diverse array of plants including Bulbinella, Stilbocarpa, and Anisotome, but the large showy daisies in the genus Pleurophyllum are arguably the most striking. Three species are included in the genus, which is endemic to the subantarctic islands. All three are found on Campbell Island. They hybridize in various combinations, which suggests reproductive...
With nearly 50 species, New Zealand is the centre of diversity for the genus Dracophyllum. Dracophyllum longifolium ranges widely on the mainland of New Zealand, but is also found on Stewart, Auckland and Campbell Islands, whereas D. scoparium has a perplexing distribution being found both on the Chatham Islands and Campbell Island, but not on the mainland.
At low elevations on Campbell Island they form almost impenetrable dwarf forests, which can reach up to 5 meters high, but...
Most plants perished from Antarctica as global temperatures cooled and the ice sheets advanced. Cushion plants and mosses were among the last plants to perish. Although the precise stratigraphical sequence and dates are controversial, fossil remains suggest that they may have persisted until the Pliocene Epoch about ten million years ago.
Cushion plants form expansive communities on Campbell Island. It is conceivable these plants are the descendants of Antarctic tundra vegetation....
A number of exotic plants have become established and persist on Campbell Island. They are mostly associated with homestead or campsites or along tracks. The most common are range grasses such as Poa pratensis, Kentucky bluegrass, Festuca rubra, red fescue, or Anthoxxanthum odoratum, sweet vernal grass. A few such as Cerastium fontanum are found in coastal habitats at the high tide line or tussock or megaherb communites. They are mostly perennial herbs or grasses with seeds or fruits that...
One of the simplest and most effective ways of visualising and evaluating change in vegetation is to go back to where historic photos were taken and take the exact same shot. It is amazing to see history happen in front of your eyes. We are fortunate in having many old photographs taken around Campbell Island going back as far as the 1880s – before there was much human-caused change in the vegetation. This is a bit of a base line.
It is widely accepted that sympatric speciation occurs, but it has rarely been demonstrated and the process is not well understood; allopatric speciation (reproductive isolation by distance) being a more common mode of evolution. Island ecosystems provide a perfect venue to test these evolutionary phenomena.
Two species of Abrotanella are found on Campbell Island. Abrotanella spathulata is the more...
Well not wrangle the Rockhopper's, but I am off to monitor chick survival. It’s been 6 years since I was at Penguin Bay, and the photos here date from then. In that short time it’s likely the population of Pengs has continued to decline, an ongoing trend since the 1940s.
I’m heading over to the Bay, about a 6 hour tramp across the heart of Campbell Island, to help out Kyle Morrison, a Canadian PhD student studying Rockhopper Penguin decline as part of a NIWA...
On Dec 24 Mark Crompton and I set out on a botanical expedition to the saddle between Mt Azimuth and Mt Fizeau. These two peaks roughly bisect Campbell Island and offer outstanding views to the north and south. As the albatross glides it is only about three kilometres to the saddle, but the track winds through dwarf Dracophyllum forest, boggy tussocks, megaherbs and alpine tundra fellfields near the saddle.
Mark is a fine companion; I’d trust him with my life. He walks at a...
What am I doing down here – 41 years since I first set foot on Campbell Island? I originally came down as a callow youth to set up a vegetation monitoring programme for recording the way plants responded to the eradication of sheep. This was carried out progressively between 1970 (northern part of Island), 1984 (all but southeastern tip of Island) and early 1990s when the last one was removed.
We are going back to check all those plots, transect lines and photo points (...
Rats like to gobble creepy crawly things (insects). But which ones do they like to gobble the most? And of those favourites, have any endured down here on Campbell Island? It’s now almost a decade since the furry devils were eradicated from the island, so no longer are things like the giant weevils and the local weta subject to regular chompings.
This series of nets is a replica of an experiment run in 1960; by comparing records from then to now I can see which insects have...
The Sitka Spruce planted in Camp Cove by Lord Ranfurly early last century has been erroneously reported as the southernmost tree in New Zealand. Of course trees go further south in Patagonia, but there are trees here already – it’s all a matter of definition.
Trees have been described as woody plants with a single trunk and canopy of foliage, a woody plant over 5 m tall and other height limits. The native heath trees on Campbell Island (2 species of Dracophyllum or...
Campbell Island is not really the place for fishnet stockings but nets are in this season. We know there are nets out across the oceans, possibly harming the fish stocks that the penguins and albatrosses dine out on. But here on the Bicentennial Expedition to Campbell there are smaller fish to fry – and some bigger!
The next thing I saw these heroic freshwater biologists doing was scrubbing the rocks for algae-inhabiting insects and crustaceans and then measuring the rocks;...
Shelley, congratulations on your very impressive prospectus. Best wishes for your own work on the freshwater environs.
We are most grateful that very busy people, such as you, have been willing to spare the time to help us extend our knowledge of geology and botany.
Pegasus U3A - Geology/Botany Group
Your Trust's vision demonstrates that there is a real role for NZers in the guardianship, understanding and on-going protection of our southern most islands.
Andy Roberts, Department of Conservation
We hope a glass of our beautiful wine will help you end each day on a positive note — and a well deserved one at that.
Kathyrn Ryan, Mountford Estate wines
Wishing you every success in this very exciting project, and we look forward to linking with you via museum exhibitions and events.
Gael Ramsay, Southland Museum
I hope all goes well for you on this adventure and that you find some new and exciting things. We'll be thinking of you (a little enviously) and look forward to hearing about it later.
Can we come too? Seriously, thank you for having the foresight and dedication to help ensure the preservation and protection of something so wildly unique and wonderful. Inspirational!
Greg & Helen, No Worries Company Services Ltd
I bet you'll see some 'firsts' on this trip, so thanks for allowing us to bring this very special and remote place a little closer to our listeners.
Graeme Hill, Environews @ Radio Live
Looking at your site brings back a lot of memories. Had great days at North West Bay building an A frame hut in our spare time. I wonder if it is still there? Wish I was coming with you.
Say gidday to Mark Crompton (Swampy) for me. I was the DSIR technician during my stay and Mark was one of the meterology observers. I met Don Merton during 1970.
All the best for a successful expedition to Campbell Island. No matter what the weather, we know you’ll be warm and dry!
Shelley—you tired, determined, extremely hard working person. The fieldwork on Campbell will be a doddle after all the effort you've devoted to getting there. You have my profound admiration.
Murray Williams, CIBE advisor
Best of luck to the brave team heading south, our thoughts will be with you on this exciting adventure!
Good luck on what is a fantastic initiative. I’m pretty jealous too. Have a great trip, Shelley!
Tom Burkitt, EIANZ
All the best for a successful mission and I look forward to following the process online!
Cynthia Winkworth, Otago University
Steve, What a great trip, I am really proud of you. Have a safe journey. I am going to watch your progress on face book.
Loads of Love, Mom
We only have one planet. Understanding and looking after it is critical. We are proud to support this visit to the Wild South to further our understanding of life in remote places. And envious of your opportunity to visit the island! Enjoy.
Peter Robinson, Hill Labs
This is an awesome expedition which I'm sure will generate some fantastic publications in the years to come. Kia kaha to all, enjoy being there and may it all go well.
Please accept our full donation support of your first aid requirements. Wishing you a safe & successful expedition!