Finger post

Image: DOC

Introduction

Finger posts guided shipwrecked sailors to castaway depots - and a better chance of survival on desolate subantarctic islands.

Located on Enderby Island in front of the Sandy Bay Boatshed is a finger post, marking the direction and distance to the nearest former castaway supply depot at Erebus Cove. Finger posts were introduced in the subantarctic by the New Zealand government from around 1888 to direct castaways towards provision depots and boatsheds.

The Sandy Bay finger post was probably erected by the crew of the Stella in 1888 at the same time as the boatshed was constructed.  Along with a series of finger posts installed around the northern half of the Auckland Islands, it directed shipwrecked sailors either to the depot at Erebus Cove or the nearest boatshed.

Finger posts in the southern half of the island group directed them either to the Camp Cove depot, or to the Adams Island boatshed. By the early 1890s a full network of finger posts was in place. The white painted posts were located on prominent landforms around all the subantarctic islands.

There are 23 surviving finger posts recorded on the Auckland Islands, and it is thought that there were as many as forty spread around the coastline. There are a further 14 finger posts across Campbell Island, the Antipodes, and the Snares, but these are located at sites that are not open to visitation. The Sandy Bay Boatshed finger post is the most accessible. Others can be seen from the water when cruising.

If you are unable to visit the islands there is a fingerpost from the Snares Islands on display in the Roaring Forties exhibition at the Southland Museum and Art Gallery in Invercargill.

Further reading

  • Dingwall P., Jones K. and Egerton, R. (eds.) (2009) In Care of The Southern Ocean - An archaeological and historical survey of the Auckland Islands (New Zealand Archaeological Monograph 27, 2009. 
  • Escott-Inman, H. 1911(R/1980). The Castaways of Disappointment Island  (S.W. Partridge & Co).
  • Fraser, C. (1986) Beyond the roaring forties : New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands (Government Printing Office). 
  • Kerr, I. (1976) Campbell Island : a history (Reed).
  • McLaren, F. (1948) The Auckland Islands : their eventful history (A.H. & A.W. Reed).  
  • Taylor, R. (2006) Straight Through from London: The Antipodes and Bounty Islands  (Heritage Expeditions).

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