Three Kings Islands

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Three Kings Islands
True color image from NASA
True color image from NASA
Waters Tasman Sea
Geographical location 34 ° 10 ′  S , 172 ° 9 ′  E Coordinates: 34 ° 10 ′  S , 172 ° 9 ′  E
Map of Three Kings Islands
Number of islands 11 (+ numerous rocks)
Main island King Island
Total land area 4.86 km²
Residents uninhabited
Drawing by Isaack Gilsemans (1643)
Drawing by Isaack Gilsemans (1643)

The Three Kings Islands ( Māori : Manawa-tawhi or Ngā Motu Karaka , German: Drei-König-Insel ) are a small group of 13 islands with a total area of ​​4.86 km² approximately 55 kilometers northwest of Cape Reinga , the most northwestern point of the North Island of New Zealand . This is where the Pacific and Tasman Sea meet.

The islands are located on an undersea plateau, the Three Kings Bank, and are separated from the North Island by an 8 km wide and 200-300 m deep trench. Because of this, and because of their distance from the mainland, they are part of the New Zealand Offshore Islands . They are therefore part of New Zealand, but not part of a region of New Zealand, rather they are an Area Outside Territorial Authority (area outside the local government).

The islands were named on January 6, 1643 by the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman , three weeks after he became the first European to discover New Zealand.

Tasman anchored off the islands in search of drinking water. Since it was the rough night of the Epiphany , the day on which the Three Kings visited the Christ child, he named the island after them. Tasman also named the northern tip of the North Island Cape Maria van Diemen after the wife of Anthony van Diemen , Governor General of the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia ). These are the last two geographical objects that still bear their name given by Abel Tasman.

Tasman found the islands to be inhabited, but have been uninhabited since 1840. The Māori population probably did not exceed 100 individuals.


In 1945 GTS Baylis discovered the last specimens of the Pennantia baylisiana tree , a Kaikomako, on the island . This tree was considered the rarest and most endangered tree species in the world. Although a reproduction program has resulted in stable populations, the species is carefully monitored. Other plants endemic to the islands are Tecomanthe speciosa and Elingamita johnsonii . The islands have been a nature reserve since 1995.

The sea surrounding the islands is rich in fish life and attracts numerous divers. Another sight for divers is the wreck of the Elingamite , which ran aground here on November 9, 1902.

Islands of the Three King Islands

Map of the Three Kings Islands

The islands are divided into two subgroups with four main islands and a number of smaller rocks:

King group

  • Great Island or King Island (Māori: Ohau or Manawatawhi ) is by far the largest island in the group with 4.04 km². A peninsula in the northeast of the island with an area of ​​about 1 km² is almost divided by a 200 meter wide but 80 meter high isthmus between North West Bay and South East Bay. The island rises to 295 meters in the west, while the tip of the peninsula near its western cliffs reaches 184 m.

The island plays an important role in the traditional Māori belief that the spirits of the dead Māori will return to their homeland of Hawaiki in the Pacific. At Cape Reinga on the North Island - sometimes translated as the underworld - there is a gnarled Pōhutukawa tree that is said to be more than 800 years old. The spirits travel to the tree and down by its roots to the bottom of the sea. They reappear at Ohau to bid New Zealand one last farewell before heading to Hawaiki.

  • Maratea Shoals, three islets just off the southeast tip of King Island
  • North East Island , about one kilometer northeast of Great Island, is 0.10 km² and up to 111 meters high
  • the Farmers Rocks , 800 meters east of Great Island, are five meters high and only a few hundred square meters.

Southwest group

  • South West Island , with 0.38 km², is the second largest of the Three Kings Islands, 207 meters high and is 4.5 kilometers southwest of Great Island.
  • the Princes Islands , seven small islands and numerous rocks with a total area of ​​about 0.2 km², from 600 meters west of Southwest Island and then extending almost two kilometers to the east. The northeast islet is the highest at 106 meters.
  • Lion Rock, east of the Princes Islands, 50 to 70 meters in diameter
  • West Island is the third largest island at 0.16 km². It is located 500 meters southwest of the westernmost island of the Princes Islands and is 177 meters high.


Web links

Commons : Three Kings Islands  - Collection of Images