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The Botany of the Antarctic Voyage/Part I

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The Botany of the Antarctic Voyage by Joseph Dalton Hooker
Flora of Lord Auckland and Campbell’s Islands






Under this head will be considered the Botany of the few small islands which lie to the south of New Zealand, at least so far as have hitherto been examined. Of these, the two most important, Lord Auckland's group, in 50½° S. lat., 166° E. long., and Campbell's Island, lat. 52½° S. and long. 169° E., were visited by the "Erebus and Terror," and the former also by the French and American Discovery Ships.[1]

Upon McQuarrie's Island, lat. 55° S., long. 159° E., a very few plants have been collected, which are deposited in the herbarium of Mr. Brown, and some in that of Sir William Hooker, at Kew. I am not aware that any account has been published of these islands, nor of Emerald Island (lat. 57° S., long. 163° E.), the botany of which is entirely unknown, but which probably in this meridian constitutes the southern extreme of terrestrial vegetation. Floating masses of Macrocystis and D'Urvillæa are found, however, living and growing on the limits of the pack-ice, as far as the parallel of 64° S.

The Flora of these islands is closely related to that of New Zealand, and does not partake in any of those features which characterize Australian vegetation. Most of the plants may indeed be presumed to exist on the unexplored mountains, especially those of the middle and southern islands, of New Zealand; but others are doubtless peculiar to those higher southern latitudes which they inhabit, thus being analogous to those few novel forms that appear only in the most arctic parts of America. Even between the floras of Lord Auckland's and Campbell's Islands a marked difference exists, several species growing most abundantly in the latter which are not found at all in the former, where also the proportion of species common to other Antarctic countries is less, and the affinity is greater with the productions of New Zealand.

Lord Auckland's Group.—A view of this small and very limited group, of about twenty miles long and eleven in its greatest breadth, as it appears on approaching from the sea, presents an almost equal distribution of wood, shrubs, and pasture-land. The mountains are low and undulating, nowhere exceeding 1400 or 1500 feet, clothed for their greater part, but scarcely to the very summits, with long grass, and frequently covered during November and December, though not generally, with snow. The climate is rainy and very stormy, so that on the windward sides the plants are stunted and checked, and resemble those of a higher southern latitude, or of an elevation several hundred feet above that which the same species inhabit on the sheltered parts. The whole group of islands appears formed of volcanic rocks, mostly of black trap, whose decomposition, especially among the ranker vegetation of the lower grounds, produces a deep rich soil. A Myrtaceous tree (Metrosideros umbellata) forms the larger proportion of the wood near the sea, and intermixed with it grow an arborescent species of Dracophyllum, several Coprosmas, Veronicas (frutescent), and a Panax. Under these, and particularly close to the sea-beach, many Ferns abound; conspicuous among them is a species with caulescent or subarborescent stems half a foot and upwards in diameter, crowned with handsome spreading tufts of fronds. Beyond the wooded region, some of the same plants, in a dwarf state, mingled with others, compose a shrubby broad belt, which ascends the hill to an elevation of 800 or 900 feet, gradually opening out into grassy slopes, and succeeded by the alpine vegetation. It is especially towards the summits of these hills that the most striking plants are found, vying in brightness of colour with the Arctic Flora, and unrivalled in beauty by those of any other Antarctic country. Such are the species of Gentian, and a Veronica with flowers of the intensest blue, several magnificent Compositæ, a Ranunculus, a Phyllachne, and a Liliaceous plant whose dense spikes of golden flowers are often so abundant as to attract the eye from a considerable distance. Here too the vegetable types of other Antarctic lands may be seen in the greatest number, and even such as are analogous to the Arctic productions, none of which can be more decided than a species of Hierochloe, Potentilla, Cardamine, Juncus, Drosera, Plantago, Epilobium, several Grasses, and Mosses belonging to the genera Andræa, Conostomum and Bartramia. Many of the plants in the lower grounds are no less striking and beautiful, as an arborescent Veronica bearing a profusion of white blossoms, a maritime Gentian, a handsome large-flowered Myosotis, the magnificent Aralia polaris (Hombr. and Jacq.), two fine kinds of Anisotome, and several beautiful Ferns.

Campbell's Island, two degrees to the southward of Lord Auckland's group, is smaller, far more steep and rocky, with narrow sheltered valleys, and the broader faces of the hills much exposed, and hence bare of any but a grassy vegetation. Except in the bays, the coast is as iron-bound as that of St. Helena, the rocks assuming even a wilder and more fantastic form. Ever lashed by heavy swells, and exposed to a succession of westerly gales, this land affords no holding-place for such trees as skirt the beaches of Lord Auckland's Islands. In the narrow, sinuous bays, however, the scene is quite changed, for they are often margined by a slender belt of brushwood, with an abundant undergrowth of Ferns, stretching up the steep and confined gulleys.

The geological features of the two islands are alike, and the only difference in climate consists in that of Campbell's Island being still more forbidding and dreary. Fogs, snow-squalls and mists are the prevailing meteorological phænomena of these regions, and though such a state of atmosphere has a tendency to check the general mass of vegetation, still the constant moisture and equable temperature thus afforded support a luxuriant herbage in the very sheltered valleys. In Campbell's Island, the mountains, which rise very abruptly to about 1300 feet, are almost bare of vegetation, their rocky sides presenting a larger proportion of Grasses, Mosses and Lichens than in Lord Auckland's group. Though all the handsomer plants are also found in the larger of the latter islands, yet, by growing here at a much lower elevation and in far greater abundance, they form a more striking feature in the landscape, the golden-flowered Liliaceous plant being conspicuous, from its profusion, at the distance of a mile from the shore.

This work was published before January 1, 1926, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

  1. A few of the plants collected by the French have been published by two of the officers of Admiral D'Urville's Expedition, under the title of 'Voyage au Pôle Sud, Botanique.'