The Terrible History Of Disappointment Island

Grace Higgins | May 8th, 2020

Deep in the subantarctic Auckland Islands of New Zealand, you will find an island that is seldom visited and has a tragic past. It is aptly named Disappointment Island, and apart from being visited by research teams for bird watching missions it is seldom ever visited. There are many hidden bird species on the island that have remained very secretive which is why it is a hotspot for research, mostly because it has over 65,000 pairs of white-capped albatross, but for others, it is part of the dark tourism routes.

Few places on earth have such inappropriate names, Disappointment Island from a biological point of view is far from being a disappointment. The island is rich in wildlife and was named during an era of time when seafarers were always on the lookout for islands that had fresh water, safe harbors, and seal fur. The island has many biological riches so the name doesn’t make any sense. Just 6 km west of the main Auckland Island, it is rarely visited at all as it is less sheltered than other islands in the region. They even found the Auckland railbird there which was once a bird thought to be extinct.

However it does have a bit of a dark past, and that was due to the famous wreck of the Dundonald. In 1907 the vessel went down killing nearly all of its crew, but a couple of survivors made it out onto the island. And here starts an epic tale of survival, the island never sees over ships go past it, so the survivors had to live off the land. They camped out on the island and survived in some of the wildest conditions known to humans. Eventually, they made a tiny boat out of seal skins that they twisted around the few shrubs they found on the island. On this makeshift boat, they were able to paddle to the main island where they found a supplies depot. Here they lived for 7 months before being rescued, only 10 members survived the ordeal out of a crew of 28.

But that is not the only tragedy that happened on Disappointment Island, in 1868 a steel tanker crashed directly into the island due to poor vision. This immediately killed over 68 people and left only 15 survivors, they were stranded on the island for over 18 months before finally being rescued. So as you can see this island has caused its fair share of problems during the annals of seafaring history of the Auckland Islands.

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