Chatham islands

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Chatham islands
NASA image with Chatham Island at the top and Pitt Island at the bottom right
NASA image with Chatham Island at the top and Pitt Island at the bottom right
Waters Pacific Ocean
Geographical location 43 ° 53 ′  S , 176 ° 29 ′  W Coordinates: 43 ° 53 ′  S , 176 ° 29 ′  W
Chatham Islands (New Zealand Outlying Islands)
Chatham islands
Number of islands 11
Main island Chatham Island
Total land area 963 km²
Residents 600 (2013)
Topographic map of the Chatham Islands
Topographic map of the Chatham Islands
Morning mood on the Chatham Islands

The Chatham Islands ( English Chatham Islands , Moriori Rekohu or māori Wharekauri ) are too Zealand owned archipelago in the South Pacific . They also form the smallest administrative unit in New Zealand, see Chatham Islands Territory .

Because of their proximity to the date line , the slogan “ First to see the sun ” was coined for the Chathams . As a result, the remote archipelago once again attracted international interest for a short time as the venue for a special millennium celebration. Administratively, the islands are not assigned to any region or district in New Zealand, but rather form a self-governing territorial authority governed by the Chatham Islands Council .


The archipelago of the Chatham Islands , which covers an area of ​​963 km², is located a good 650 km southeast of the North Island of New Zealand and around 860 km east of Christchurch . Around 600 people live on two of the eleven islands, which are spread over an area of ​​around 7,000 km². The two main inhabited islands, Chatham Island , with an area of ​​920 km², and Pitt Island , with an area of ​​around 62 km², are only 15 km apart.

The capital of the archipelago is Waitangi . It is sheltered in Petre Bay to the west of Chatham Island. Only 5 km south of the capital is Maungatere Hill , at 294 m the highest point in the archipelago. The Chatham Islands are of volcanic origin and predominantly made up of tuff and basalt rock .


f1Georeferencing Map with all coordinates: OSM | WikiMap

Incomplete list of Chatham Islands:

Island name Alias Coordinates surface Residents annotation
The Sisters Rangitatahi ! 456.4327785323.193056543 ° 34 ′  S , 176 ° 48 ′  W. 0.2 - Archipelago
Wakuru Island Te Wakuru Island ! 456.2613895323.803611543 ° 44 ′  S , 176 ° 12 ′  W. 0.17 -
Chatham Island Rekohu ! 456.0888895323.454444543 ° 55 ′  S , 176 ° 33 ′  W. 899 564 Main island
Forty fours Motuhara, Bertier ! 456.0363895324.167222543 ° 58 ′  S , 175 ° 50 ′  W 0.01 - Archipelago
Houruakopara Island ! 455.8988895323.476667544 ° 06 ′  S , 176 ° 31 ′  W 0.04 -
Round Island ! 455.7808335323.914167544 ° 13 ′  S , 176 ° 05 ′  W. 0.01 -
Star Keys Motuhope ! 455.7761115323.996389544 ° 13 ′  S , 176 ° 00 ′  W 0.12 - Archipelago
Rabbit Island ! 455.7600005323.718611544 ° 14 ′  S , 176 ° 17 ′  W 0.02 -
Mangere Island ! 455.7291675323.701667544 ° 16 ′  S , 176 ° 18 ′  W 1.13 -
Sugar Loaf ! 455.7288895323.717778544 ° 16 ′  S , 176 ° 17 ′  W 0.01 -
Little Mangere Island Tapuaenuku, The Fort ! 455.7211115323.684722544 ° 17 ′  S , 176 ° 19 ′  W 0.15 -
The Castle Rangiwheau ! 455.7130565323.661944544 ° 17 ′  S , 176 ° 20 ′  W 0.06 -
Sail Rock ! 455.7125005323.606389544 ° 17 ′  S , 176 ° 24 ′  W 0.01 -
Pitt Island Rangiaotea ! 455.7108335323.784722544 ° 17 ′  S , 176 ° 13 ′  W 62 45
Ahuru Western Reef ! 455.6608335324.141111544 ° 20 ′  S , 175 ° 52 ′  W 0.01 -
South East Island Rangatira ! 455.6538895323.825556544 ° 21 ′  S , 176 ° 10 ′  W 2.19 -
Fancy rock ! 455.6211115323.850556544 ° 23 ′  S , 176 ° 09 ′  W 0.01 -
The pyramid Tarakoikoia ! 455.5675005323.759444544 ° 26 ′  S , 176 ° 14 ′  W 0.10 -

All of the islands, surrounding reefs and rocks are part of an underwater mountain range called the Chatham Ridge.

Although the Chatham Islands are east of 180 degrees of longitude, they are west of the international date line . The time zone of the Chathams (CHAST - Chatham Island Standard Time) is ahead of UTC ; the time difference is 12:45 hours (UTC +12: 45), i.e. 45 minutes before New Zealand time (UTC +12). Daylight saving time is also used on the Chatham Islands .


The climate is moderate. Weather extremes, such as long periods of dry or cold weather, are rare, as the ocean effectively balances out the small land masses. Occasional cold spells cannot be ruled out, but frost is unknown. The monthly average rainfall is between 55 and 100 mm, with the maximum in the (southern) winter. The rainiest month is June, the months with the least rain are December and January. The monthly average temperatures are between 15 ° C in February and 8 ° C in July. Cloudy, windy days with changeable weather that changes quickly are typical for the climate of the Chatham Islands.

Flora and fauna


Already Joseph Dalton Hooker , the author of an extensive botanical work on New Zealand (Joseph Hooker: Flora Novae-Zelandiae. Lovell Reeve, London 1851-1853) emphasized the need for a more detailed study of the flora of the Chatham islands. He could not do this himself because the ships Erebus and Terror of the Ross expedition could not land on Chatham due to adverse weather conditions. The first scientific study of flora was carried out by the German naturalist Ernst Dieffenbach in 1840 . He arrived at Chatham with the Bark Cuba in mid-May 1840, stayed two and a half months and also brought the first plant samples from the Chatham islands to Europe.

The plants of the Chatham Archipelago originally come from New Zealand, from both the North and South Island. Although many relatives can be identified in New Zealand, numerous endemics have developed in the 80 million years of isolation , which makes the flora on the Chatham Islands unique. Endemics can be found under the trees and bushes as well as under the herbaceous plants. These are:

  • Myosotidium Hortensia (giant forget-me-nots); an herbaceous plant up to 1 m high, with magnificent inflorescences 10 to 20 cm in diameter
  • Brachyglottis huntii (Chatham Island Christmas tree); a tree up to 8 m high from the Asteraceae family , which is widespread on Chatham itself, but also on Pitts. The leaves are covered with fine hairs, which makes them shimmer silver. The tree is covered with large, bright yellow flower balls in summer.
  • Astelia chathamica (Chatham Islands kakaha); A flowering plant up to 1.2 m high from the Asteliaceae family with silvery-gray, sword-shaped leaves and inconspicuous, greenish flower umbels that produce small, red berries.
  • Aciphylla dieffenbachii (Soft speargrass); an approximately 1 m high umbellifer with blue-green leaf rosettes and large, light yellow flower umbels.

It is not uncommon to find island gigantism among the native plants , ie the growth forms are higher than those of their relatives in New Zealand. The reason for this is likely to be the warm and moderate climate with frequent clouds and occasional showers.

The vegetation cover has become lighter as a result of human interference over the past 150 years. Rushes , ledges and other grassy plants and shrubs cover large areas of land. The New Zealand flax ( Phormium tenax ) and the fern Pteridium esculentum , whose rhizomes are edible, are common. In the once closed forest islands, the Karaka ( Corynocarpus laevigatus ) dominated with a higher growth habit than in New Zealand. The forests were interspersed with tree ferns , the trunks of which the Maori used to build their huts, and Plagianthus betulinus (Ribbonwood), a stately tree endemic to New Zealand. Among the shrubs, those of the genus Coriaria ( Coriaria arborea and Coriaria sarmentosa ) are common.


In particular, the uninhabited smaller islands of the archipelago are known for their formerly rich bird life with a total of 18 endemic species, 13 of which are extinct, such as the Dieffenbach rail ( Gallirallus dieffenbachii ), Hawkins rail ( Diaphorapteryx hawkinsi ), Chatham rail ( Gallirallus modestus ), Chatham duck ( Pachyanas chathamica ), Chatham shelduck ( Anas chlorotis ), Chatham snipe ( Coenocorypha pusilla ), Chatham coot ( Fulica chathamensis ), Chatham penguin ( Eudyptes sp. ), Chatham kaka ( Nestor sp. ), Chatham kaka ( Nestor sp. ) Chatham raven ( Corvus moriorum ), Chatham bell honey eater ( Anthornis melanocephala ) and Chatham grass warbler ( Bowdleria rufescens ), also a subspecies of the New Zealand swan ( Cygnus atratus sumnerensis ) and a smaller species of duck ( Tadorna sp. ). As on many islands off New Zealand, the reason for this is the threat to native wildlife from introduced rats and rabbits.

The Chatham flycatcher ( Petroica traversi ) is one of the rarest bird species in the world. The population has recovered from a minimum of five specimens, including just one adult and one young female, to more than 200 specimens in 2013. The Chatham ringed plover ( Thinornis novaeseelandiae ) only breeds on Mangere and South East Iceland . The magenta petrel ( Pterodroma magentae ), also called "Taiko" , used to be the food source for the Moriori . His head count has also recovered in recent times. The endemic long-beaked gerygone ( Gerygone albofrontata ) does not appear to be threatened. The Chatham albatross only breeds on The Pyramid Island . Among the endemic species of the island group also counts Pitt Shag whose stocks has declined in recent years and by the IUCN is classified now classified as severely endangered.

The goat's parakeet is also represented with an endemic subspecies ( Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae chathamensis ).



The indigenous people of the Chatham Islands, the Moriori , originally descended from the Maori of New Zealand. According to the archaeologist Patrick Vinton Kirch from the University of California, Berkeley , the first settlement took place from New Zealand around 1200 AD. There was only one wave of settlement, after which Chatham fell into isolation, so that an independent culture could develop. According to another opinion, the initial settlement did not occur until around or shortly before 1500 AD. The Polynesians had large, seaworthy double-hull canoes at their disposal, with which the distance of around 800 km across the open sea could be covered. Excavations in the late 1970s identified several early settlements, for example: Owenga and the Waihora Mound on Chatham Island and Waipaua and Tupuangi on Pitt Island.

The Moriori were hunters and gatherers. The main sources of food were sealing seals, hunting land and sea birds, collecting mussels and edible plants. The use of caraka fruits and fern roots has been archaeologically proven. The findings also suggest that the Moriori hunted whales - at least occasionally - as evidenced by numerous whale teeth and short clubs (patu) made from whale bones.

Society was largely egalitarian , and social rank was dependent on gender and age. The heads of the extended families decided on the distribution of resources and imposed temporary taboos to protect them. Chatham's population was probably around 2,000 before the European discovery.

European discovery

The first European ship reached the HMS Chatham , the escort ship of the Vancouver expedition , under the command of William Robert Broughton the archipelago on November 29, 1791. The ship was anchored in the Waitangi Bay - Broughton called later Skirmish Bay ( skirmish -Bay) - on the west coast of Chatham. The Moriori drove out the British landing command, with a sailor killing a Moriori with a musket shot. Broughton named the islands after his ship, which in turn was named in honor of John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham .

Between 1809 and 1883 Pakehas invaded Chatham. They systematically hunted the seals to sell the skins to China. In doing so, they destroyed an important source of food for the indigenous people. They spread infectious diseases against which the Moriori had developed no antibodies and also introduced rats, cats and dogs, which threatened the breeding birds.

German lay missionaries played an important role in the Maori and Moriori mission on Chatham. Johann Heinrich Christoph Baucke (1814–1908), originally a carpenter, Johann Gottfried Engst (1819–1910), originally a shoemaker, as well as Franz Schirmeister (1814–1867), David Müller and Oskar Beyer from the Protestant Gossner Mission founded in 1836 came on February 20, 1843 with a whaling ship. At the foot of Mount Maunganui, Baucke and Engst built a mission station, a small but massive stone building that is still preserved today. The missionaries were not very successful. Baucke stayed at Chatham with his wife Maria Müller, his son William later moved to Wellington and wrote several articles and books on Maori life and culture.

Invasion and annihilation

But the greatest threat, which ultimately led to the total annihilation of the indigenous population, was an invasion of the belligerent Maori of New Zealand. On November 14, 1835, the brig Lord Rodney brought 900 Maori from Wellington to Chatham. The Maori tribes of the Ngati Mutunga, the Ngati Tana and the Ngati Haumia had been defeated by Te Rauparaha and now wanted to look for a new livelihood on Chatham. On December 5, 1835, the Lord Rodney brought 400 more Maori. Many of them were sick from the arduous sea voyage, and the peaceful Moriori nursed them to health. The Moriori had also fought bloody tribal wars in the early part of their history, but under their chief Nunuku-whenua in the 16th century they learned to resolve conflicts peacefully. They had nothing to oppose the warlike Maori, armed with muskets. They were killed or enslaved, their land robbed. In 1868 there were only 110 Moriori left. On March 18, 1933, Tame Horomona Rehe (or Tommy Solomon, as his European name was), the last pure-blood Moriori, died.

The causes for the extinction of the indigenous population were:

  1. Introduced diseases, predominantly flu and measles
  2. Destruction of basic food sources. The seals were largely extinct by 1840.
  3. Systematic persecution and killing by immigrant Maori.

Planned German colonization

After signing a provisional purchase agreement with the New Zealand Company on September 12, 1841, a group of influential Hamburg merchants under the leadership of Karl Sieveking , Senate Syndicate from Hamburg , attempted to use the Chatham Islands for a German colonization project according to Edward Gibbon Wakefield's colonization theories acquire. For this purpose the German Colonization Society was founded with its seat in Hamburg. The project failed after Queen Victoria declared the Chatham Islands to the British colony of New Zealand on April 4, 1842, by means of a letters patent, and thus to British territory.


The Chatham Islands had a population of 600 according to the 2013 census, of which 336 were of Maori or Polynesian origin. Only the two larger islands Chatham (564 inhabitants) and Pitt (45 inhabitants) are inhabited. The other eight islands, on the other hand, are comparatively small and unsuitable for permanent settlement. Today the Chatham Islands are the only permanently inhabited islands in the New Zealand Offshore Islands .


The main branches of business are agriculture, sheep breeding, fishing and lobster breeding. A modest tourism also brings about 5000 visitors to the islands annually.


Unofficial flag of the archipelago

The capital of the archipelago is Waitangi , has about 300 inhabitants and is located on Petre Bay on Chatham Island. In 1995, with the Chatham Island Council Act, the islands got their Chatham Island Territory status back and their own Island Council. Since then, the archipelago has been managed as an independent region.


  • Christian Nau: The Island Lexicon - All Islands in the World . Heel Verlag, Königswinter 2003, ISBN 3-89880-220-5 .

Web links

Commons : Chatham Islands  - Collection of Images, Videos, and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. a b Statistics NZ: 2013 Census
  2. Statistics New Zealand (Ed.): New Zealand Official Yearbook 2012 . July 4, 2013, ISSN  2324-5212 (English, ).
  3. Visit. Chatham Islands Enterprise Trust, archived from the original on December 19, 2015 ; accessed on April 5, 2018 (English, original website no longer available).
  4. ^ Christian Nau: The island lexicon . 2003, p. 57 .
  5. ^ National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), Auckland, New Zealand. Retrieved January 15, 2019 .
  6. ^ A b c Ernst Dieffenbach: An account of the Chatham Islands. In: Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London. No. 11, 1841, pp. 195-215.
  7. ^ Ferdinand Mueller: The Vegetation of the Chatham Islands. John Ferres, Melbourne, 1864.
  8. a b incredible story of the Black Robin, accessed June 29, 2016
  9. Birdlife International: Pitt Island Shag Phalacrocorax featherstoni . Retrieved June 29, 2011.
  10. ^ Patrick Vinton Kirch: On the Road of the Winds - An Archaeological History of the Pacific Islands Before European Contact. University of California Press, Berkeley-Los Angeles-London 2002, ISBN 0-520-23461-8 , p. 277.
  11. ^ Atholl Anderson: Origins, Settlement and Society of Pre-European South Polynesia. In: Giselle Byrnes (Ed.): The New Oxford History of New Zealand. Part One - People, Land and Sea . Oxford University Press, Melbourne 2009, p. 27, ISBN 978-0-19-558471-4
  12. ^ A b Douglas G. Sutton: A culture history of the Chatham Islands. In: The Journal of the Polynesian Society. Volume 89, No. 1, 1980, pp. 67-94.
  13. ^ Atholl Anderson: The 1978 Raoul Island Archaeological Exploration: an interim report. In: New Zealand Archaeological Newsletter. 1979, Vol. 22, No. 2, pp. 76-82.
  14. ^ A b Rhys Richards: A Tentative Population Distribution Map of the Moriori of Chatham Islands, circa 1790. In: Journal of the Polynesian Society. Volume 81, No. 3, 1972, pp. 350-374.
  15. Bruno Weiss: More than fifty years on Chatham Island - cultural-historical and biographical descriptions. Kolonialverlag Berlin, 1901
  16. ^ Rolf Herzog: On the status of Moriori research. In: Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin: History and oral tradition in Oceania . Ethnological seminar at the University of Basel in 1994
  17. ^ Robert W. Kirk: Paradise Past - The Transformation of the South Pacific, 1520-1920. Mc Farland & Co., Jefferson 2012, ISBN 978-0-7864-6978-9 , pp. 99-100.
  18. ^ Rhys Richards: Plans for a German Colony on the Chatham Islands . In: James N. Bade (Ed.): The German Connection - New Zealand and the German-speaking Europe in the Nineteenth Century . Oxford University Press, Auckland 1993, ISBN 0-19-558283-7 , Chapter 5, pp. 46-51 (English).
  19. ^ Jahn Kelly, Brian Marshall: Atlas of New Zealand Boundaries . Auckland University Press, Auckland 1996, ISBN 1-86940-149-2 (English).