Five Islands of the Antipodes



As I mentioned at the end of my last blog, this edition is about the area we in the UK sometimes call the antipodes. This isn't strictly correct however. the phrase antipodes can mean any diametrically opposed part of the world. For example, the antipodes of the Amazon Basin is the Malay Peninsula. In fact, Australia and New Zealand aren't really the antipodal point of the UK. Australia's is somewhere in the North Atlantic Ocean, whilst New Zealand's is, sort of, parts of Spain, Morocco and France.

I suppose a better title may have been "Five Islands of Down Under"  but that seemed derogatory to me and possibly even insulting, so there you go, Antipodes it is then.

To confuse you even more, I am starting in Papua New Guinea, part of Oceania as you all know, or should do if you take quizzes regularly. So why not just write about islands of Oceania I hear you shout. Well, I intend to make a blog about each of the oceans, so the smaller nations will be represented in those blogs at a later date.

Now that I have cleared up the confusion over the incorrect title, and the incorrect introduction and probably some incorrect content as well, I will continue on to our first island......

Baluan Island (Papua New Guinea)

Baluan Island, formerly known as St. Patrick's Island, was formed around 12,000 years ago by a now extinct stratovolcano also named Baluan. It's geology is different from neighbouring islands. It is made from balsatic rock rather than rhyolitic rock

Map of the Admiralty Islands of which Baluan is part.

Although the island was formed by an extinct volcano there is still evidence of geothermal activity. There are hot springs on parts of the coast that are covered by the tides at certain times. There are also active volcanoes in the area, the nearby St. Andrew Strait volcano is known to have erupted in the early to mid 1950's.

Baluan Island Bush House

There are several settlements on the island, mostly around the coast, with Mouk being the largest. The total population of Baluan is around 1200 souls.

In the early part of the 20th century the entire population was converted to Christianity, either Catholicism or Seventh Day Adventist. Although traditional native beliefs are still upheld, mainly concerned with illnesses and their cures.

The subsistence economy of the island is boosted by money from overseas. Almost a third of native islanders live and work abroad and send money home to their families. There are cocoa and coconut plantations on the island, however they are small and don't normally export the produce due to the cost of fuel to reach the mainland or neighbouring islands.

The island is more fertile than others in the region due to the basaltic rocks. There are coral reefs around the island with a rich abundance of fish.

There is a phenomenon that is said to occur on New Years Day each year, whereby bright lights can be seen in the night sky. The colours of the lights are said to notify islanders of how good (or bad) the coming year will be. I searched but could find no evidence apart from on Wikipedia, if anyone knows can you let me know in the comments.

Islands at a Folk Music Festival in France.

Getting to the island is difficult. Firstly you have to get to the largest island in the group, Manus. Then you have to take a boat from there. The journey takes around two hours.

This Blog describes life on the island along with some photos.

Brampton Island (Queensland, Australia)

Brampton Island is located off the coast of Queensland within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Most of the island is given over to the Brampton Islands National Park, although there is a resort on the island.

Brampton Island from the air.

The national park also encompasses nearby Carlisle Island and animal residents include koala and several species of bat.

The island is named after a town in Cumberland, England as are the surrounding islands in the group.

There has been a resort on the island since 1933 when it was opened to accommodate passengers from the SS Canberra cruise liner. The resort is currently owned by Brampton Enterprises but has fallen into disrepair. There was a refurbishment planned for 2011, but this is still ongoing.

Dinghy Bay

In 1983, the island hit the news when a resort worker was murdered. Celia Douty was working as a waitress, when she was killed by a guest at the resort called Wayne Butler. At the time there were no witnesses, however the perpetrators brother informed the police. He was arrested in 1988 but not charged due to lack of evidence. However, his ex wife informed police in 1997 and in 2001 Butler was put on trial and convicted. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with no chance of parole. His crime was the first in Australian history to be solved using DNA profiling.

The resort as it used to look.
Clump Point on the island

There are walking trails around the island and several excellent beaches. The waters around Brampton are suitable for SCUBA or snorkelling. However, due to the resorts downfall, there are no scheduled flights or ferries to the island. They can be visited by private boat or yacht.

This Youtube video is of someone visiting the abandoned resort. 

Churchill Island (Victoria, Australia)

Churchill Island is located in the natural tidal bay just south of the city of Melbourne. It is next to Phillip Island to which it is connected by bridge.

Churchill Island, just north of Phillip Island

It is thought that the indigenous Boonwurrong people may have visited the island for thousands of years before the first Europeans set foot on the island in around 1800. During a survey of the area in 1801, a British lieutenant and his convict crew cleared an area of the island and built a farmstead. They planted several crops including wheat, potatoes, apples and peaches with the aim of creating a garden. This was the first European style garden and the first crop of wheat grown in Victoria.

Churchill Island

In 1872, the mayor of Melbourne, Samuel Amess, bought the island and built a large home that still stands to this day.

In 1977, the island was used as a location for the film Summerfield. It was an Australian made film about a mysterious disappearance. It wasn't a great success, apparently.

The island can be reached by road. A bridge connects it to Philip Island which in turn is connected to the mainland by another bridge.

This website has more information about the island.

Antipodes Island (New Zealand)

It seems appropriate to include this island given the title of this blog. Antipodes Island is situated almost 500 miles to the south east of the South Island of New Zealand. It was named as such because it is the nearest land to the antipodal point of London. Although the actual diametric point to Antipodes Island is, in fact, just of the Normandy coast in France.

Antipodes Island is on the right hand side of the map.

As you can imagine, being so remote and in inhospitable waters this island is currently uninhabited.

There is no evidence of any human visits to the island prior to the European explorations in the early 19th century. The island was seen in 1800 when seals were reported to be present in vast numbers. By 1805 the first sealing gangs had arrived and set up camp. Over 60,000 seals were killed in the first year alone. At one point there were around eighty men on the island and there were battles between British and American gangs over skins. The largest ever cargo from the area of around 80,000 skins was sold in Guangzhou (then Canton) for £1 sterling per skin, a multi million pound cargo in todays money.

South Bay, Antipodes Island
Castaway Hut on the island. (GSV image)

There have been a few shipwrecks on the island, the latest being in 1999. In 1893, eleven survivors of the British ship, Spirit of the Dawn, spent 88 days marooned on the island.

There is now a "Castaway Hut" in case of emergencies.

In 1955 the island was considered as a possible site for testing of nuclear weapons due to it's remoteness.

The island is regarded as an Important Bird Area for it's many species of seabird and half of the world's population of the Erect-Crested penguin.

In 2016, the New Zealand Department of Conservation dropped 65 tonnes of bait to eradicate the island's estimated 200,000 mice.

Penguin Colony

To visit the island you must have a permit from the Dept. of Conservation. There are several companies that visit Antipodes Island on their Antarctic Cruises amongst other remote places.

This Blog describes a visit to the island but doesn't land there. Whereas this YouTube video is of a group walking across the island.

Great Barrier Island (New Zealand)

Breaking with tradition a little on this one, because Great Barrier Island is the sixth largest island in New Zealand.

It's Māori name is Aotea although it was named Great Barrier Island by Captain Cook as it acts as a natural barrier between the Pacific Ocean and the Hauraki Gulf.

Location of Great Barrier Island off the North Island coast.

The island has some particularly diverse environments. The eastern exposed coast has long beaches, sand dunes, and heavy surf whereas the western coast features sheltered coves with some of the best diving sites in the whole of New Zealand. Inland there are wetlands, forest and rugged hills and heaths.

The highest point, Mount Hobson, at just over 2,000 foot above sea level, is the remnants of a volcano that was last active around 10 million years ago.

Mount Hobson or Hirakimata in Māori.
Sawmill at Whangaparapara

Mining began on the island with the discovery of Copper in the early 19th century. Later silver and gold was discovered. It was proposed in 2010 that some of the mines be re-opened to access the suspected $NZ 4.3 billion worth of minerals still underground. Local objections are that the environment would be devastated by the operation.

Logging was another large industry on the island up until the mid 20th century, most of the forests have more or less regrown nowadays.

The island was also the home to New Zealand's last whaling station. It opened almost a century after the peak of the industry in 1956 and closed just a few years later in 1962 due to the increased protection of whales.

Pigeon Post Stamp

Due to a number of shipwrecks and the lack of communication to the mainland at the time, the island set up a pigeon postal service. Stamps were issued and the service was used until a cable was laid to the mainland in 1908.

The island has two sites of significant interest to the Polynesian society. They are called marae and are sacred meeting places.

In 2017, the island was accredited as a Dark Sky Sanctuary, the first island to achieve this designation. This has proved a lucrative tourist attraction especially for astrophotography and stargazing.

In 2007, the island was the setting for the BBC's Castaway reality show.

Ferry in 1910
Ferry nowadays

The island can be reached by ferry from Auckland, the journey takes around four and a half hours. There are also two airfields on the island with flights from Auckland taking around 35 minutes.

The island has it's own website


I have purposely stayed away from the convict history of this region, in the words of Basil Fawlty "I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it". If you haven't seen Fawlty Towers, a British sitcom from the 1970's starring John Cleese of Monty Python fame, then I suggest you check it out. There are numerous episodes on YouTube. Link. They are hilarious, but of their time, please do not be offended.

Anyway, back to the blog. As you can gather, and I have mentioned this before, I have lost my way a little with blogging. Work has never been busier, and amongst this my wife has been diagnosed with osteoarthritis and is now registered disabled. I am not after any sympathy, just telling it like it is. None of us are getting any younger and life sometimes throws you a curve ball. But enough of my woes.

I will get round to the next edition at some point but it may be a while, so bear with me. South America will be the next destination, with five islands from that continent. Then five from Central America and the Caribbean, followed by North America. And that will be it for the Five Islands blog I'm afraid.

If anyone wants to make a similar blog about islands of a specific country, in a similar vein to QuizzerBros with his excellent Five Islands of Tasmania, then be my guest. I look forward to reading it. All I ask is a little mention in the Introduction or something. 

That will do for now. See you all later in the next blog.

Level 63
Oct 15, 2023
Wow, I read and marked the blog earlier in the day, but forgot to comment. Thank you for another interesting and well-informed blog!
Level 78
Oct 15, 2023
Thank you for reading it and taking the time to comment !
Level 74
Oct 16, 2023
Interesting! (As always)

While I am familiar with the topological sense of the word, I never knew the word antipode was used in any geographical sense (i.e., that it gave the name to any locations). I am now proud to know about the Antipodes Island! :D

Level 78
Oct 16, 2023
Thank you for reading and commenting, I had never heard of the island till I did the research either.