Enderby Island
Image: Peter Moore | ©


The southernmost point of historic Polynesian voyages found to date is on Enderby Island - over 460km south of mainland New Zealand.

In 1997 Atholl Anderson of Australian National University and Gerard O’Regan of Ngāi Tahu Development Corporation, set up The Southern Margins Project. This project examines prehistoric settlements of the islands lying to the south of New Zealand's South Island. Sites have been examined on Stewart and Snares islands, as well as Sandy Bay on Enderby Island.

An excavation occurred at Sandy Bay in 1997 as part of the project. A further investigation at this site was made in 2003, this time as part of the Auckland Islands Historic Heritage Inventory and Landscape project.

Radiocarbon dating and analysis of faunal remains from these sites indicated a group of Polynesians and their dogs lived at Enderby Island for at least one summer during either the 13th or 14th century. The settlers survived on Hookers sea lions, New Zealand fur seals, and coastal birds, including sooty shearwaters, albatross, and penguins.

Prehistoric Polynesian people voyaged extensively throughout the Pacific They settled on almost every landmass between Hawaii, Easter Island, and New Zealand. By revealing this settlement, The Southern Margins Project has extended the known range of Polynesian voyaging through their discovery and record of this settlement. It is the southernmost site recorded of prehistoric Polynesian voyages to date.

Further reading

  • Dingwall, P, Jones, K, and Egerton R, In Care of the Southern Ocean, An archaeological and historical survey of the Auckland Islands, New Zealand Archaeological Association Monograph 27, Auckland, 2009.
  • Anderson, A. J., O’Regan, G., 2000. To the final shore: prehistoric colonisation of the subantarctic islands in South Polynesia. In Anderson, A. J., Murray, T. (eds), Australian Archaeologist. Collected Papers in Honour of Jim Allen. Canberra: Coombs Academic Publishing, The Australian National University.
  • Anderson, A. J., 2005. Subpolar settlement in south Polynesia. Antiquity 79:791-801.
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