Historic Antipodes Island Castaway Depot

The Antipodes castaway depot was constructed in 1886 by the crew of the government steamer, Hinemoa under Captain Fairchild.  Unlike the later standardised depots, it is of dimensions suitable for comfortable living, rather than only being sufficient for stores and temporary accommodation. It measures 4.4 x 2.85m and is constructed entirely of kauri. The speed with which it was assembled, and the precision jointing of the framing timbers indicate that like later standardised depots it was probably taken to the island as a kitset.

Sailing the southern seas

During the middle of the twentieth century the Great Circle shipping route through the southern oceans was experiencing heavy use. Through the combination of increased traffic, poor charts and enduringly poor visibility, shipwrecks became a common occurrence on the subantarctic islands.

The violent seas, extremely cold water and rocky coastlines were treacherous, making the survival rate of the wrecks very low. Once ashore survivors faced extremely rugged terrain, incredibly cold, wet, and windy weather, and isolation. 

Provisions for shipwreck victims

Antipodes Island Castaway Depot today.
Antipodes Island Castaway Depot

Initially the Government responded to this dilemma by depositing small caches of supplies, and liberating domestic animals such as sheep, cattle and goats on the islands. Later, the Government lighthouse steamers GSS Stella and Hinemoa were utilised to install a network of castaway depots throughout the subantarctic islands, along with fingerposts and boatsheds. Small shelters were built to house provisions, which included biscuits, tinned meat, matches, cooking utensils, tools, first aid kits, fishing lines, hooks, needles and thread, sail needles, twine, rifles, ammunition, blankets, jackets, flannel shirts, socks, serge shirts, trousers, and water-tight boots. 

Depot provisioning ended in around 1929.

Getting there

Entry to Antipodes Island is by permit only. There are no landings by commercial tourism operators at this site.

Further reading

Taylor, R. (2006) Straight Through from London: The Antipodes and Bounty Islands  (Heritage Expeditions).

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