From 1895 to 1931, several attempts were made to farm sheep on Campbell Island, but the island’s isolation made it impractical.
The Second World War introduced the next era of human occupation: coastwatching. It was sparked by the ‘Erlangen incident.’ In 1939, with war imminent, the German merchant ship ‘Erlangen’ departed in a hurry from Otago Harbour and headed for the Auckland Islands to load wood to fuel her boilers. Her crew laboured to cut 235 tons of rata [trees] over several weeks. When the New Zealand Government heard of the incident, it decided to mount a coast watch at Auckland and Campbell Islands. Code-named the ‘Cape Expedition,’ the coastwatchers established stations at Ranui Cove in Port Ross, Tagua Bay in Carnley Harbour and Tucker Cover in Perseverance Harbour. Three vessels took it in turn to service the stations – the auxiliary schooner Tagua and auxiliary ketches Ranui and New Golden Hind.1
The Tucker Cove base on Campbell Island was kept open as a weather station after the war ended. In 1957 a new meteorological station was built at Beeman Point in time for the International Geophysical Year of 1957-58, a milestone in international scientific research and cooperation. The Campbell Island station contributed to the network of atmospheric observations. Tides, earthquakes and geomagnetic changes were also measured. From then through to its conversion to an automatic operation in 1995, the Campbell Island station typically had a staff of 12, appointed for 12 months at a time. Although the buildings remain, the station is no longer permanently staffed but part of the complex is utilised periodically by scientists and Department of Conservation management staff.2
1. Peat, N. (2003). Subantarctic New Zealand: A rare heritage. Invercargill, NZ: Department of Conservation. p 84.
2. Idem. p 85.
3. HJ ‘Bert’ McKechnie (1928-1995), radiotelegraphist at Awarua Radio ZLB 1950-1991, seconded to Campbell Island 1951. Photos sourced by Alex Glennie.
1970s: Raoul and Campbell Islands radio circuits