A Musterer’s Sojourn on Campbell Island – The Diary of Alfred Austin 1919-21
Located in the vast and stormy Southern Ocean, some 700 km from the South Island, Campbell Island is New Zealand’s southernmost sovereign territory. Today it is an uninhabited nature reserve and World Heritage site administered by the Department of Conservation. But it has a long history of occupation and use for sealing and whaling, wartime coastal defence, meteorological observation and, despite its remoteness and subantarctic climate, for farming. The history of the Campbell Island farm has still not been fully documented, so the availability of contemporary personal accounts and diaries is an extremely useful way of filling this gap. Austin’s diary contains a daily record of the period from November 1919 to November 1921 and provides invaluable insight into sheep farming in an oceanic island setting at the very margins of human settlement. From the diary we not only learn about the farming operations, but also find a wealth of information on the way of life among a small isolated group of farm workers, the prevailing (usually inclement) weather, and the resident wildlife. In a series of explanatory essays derived from the diary accounts, each of these is discussed in turn. The resulting document is a very valuable addition to our growing series of personal accounts of human contacts with New Zealand’s subantarctic island realm.
Published in 2004 by Department of Conservation.