Expedition to Snares Island

The remote Snares Islands, 105km south-south-west of Stewart Island, are teeming with rare wildlife – including tomtits, albatross and penguins. 

They seldom have human visitors. In late 2013, four Te Papa scientists spent two weeks on the Snares, carrying out a range of seabird and plant research projects.

Bird expert Colin Miskelly describes the expedition to the Snares Islands, from the biosecurity check before landing on the island, to studying the behaviour of the Snares crested penguin.

Would you scramble into a ‘horrible hole’ to count bird chicks? How about counting the regurgitated remains of a meal? It’s all in a day’s work for Alan Tennyson, a Te Papa scientist studying broad-billed prions (pararā).

Te Papa scientists wanted to learn more about the plants on the Snares Islands, which have rarely been studied because the islands are so remote. The plants’ descriptive names tell us a lot about them. There are tree daisies and Cook’s scurvy grass – and some species are so little known that they don’t even have a common name.

The most abundant bird on the Snares Islands is the sooty shearwater (also known as the muttonbird or tītī). There are thought to be more than one million pairs on the Snares alone. Four Te Papa scientists had the daunting task of counting them, to see whether their numbers are still shrinking. Find out how they did it.

We wish to thank the Department of Conservation, Hokonui Rūnaka, Te Rūnanga o Awarua, Te Rūnanga o Ōraka-Aparima, and Waihōpai Rūnaka.