An eyewitness account of the Admiralty Islets in 1921

Museum scientist Allan McCulloch describes the chaotic nesting scene faithfully copied in our seabird diorama.

'On the north-eastern side of the island [Lord Howe Island] is a group of rocky isles known as the Admiralties. These are rugged, difficult of approach except in very calm weather, and of curiously fantastic form, a great cavern penetrating the largest islet from side to side. The Admiralties are visited annually by countless myriads of seabirds, which find their isolation and inaccessibility excellent for the caring of their young.

Visiting the islets in December [1920], we saw circling and screeching about their nests innumerable birds, which became more numerous and more excited as we approached. Upon landing and climbing the low cliffs, we were greeted by a cloud of Wideawake Terns above our heads, all screaming and chattering with indignation at our intrusion, and ever dipping and snapping their sharp bills about our ears. At our feet their brown mottled eggs lay in profusion everywhere, while newly hatched chickens scuttled away in thousands into holes or under the stunted bushes, tumbling over themselves and each other in their excitement. They were so numerous that we found in difficult to walk without treading upon them, while the shrill cries of their parents in the air were almost deafening....

Conspicuous among the numerous birds are the Gannets, whose large forms can be descried everywhere. They exhibited but little concern at our presence, though it disturbed they readily showed fight with their powerful beaks....Sometimes the parent birds would surprise us by disgorging one or even two half-digested flying fish or mackerel, which, as they were about a foot long, made us wonder where they had been stowed.

Graceful little Blue-billies nested on the cliffs, while such low shrubs and sticks as existed were seized upon by the Noddies for the support of their grassy nests. ... To seaward ... a long black ribbon of Mutton Birds ... set us to wondering how many tons of fish and drift-life must be consumed daily to support the myriad inhabitants of the Admiralties and the main island.'

Allan R. McCulloch, 'Lord Howe Island - A Naturalist's Paradise', Australian Museum Magazine, Vol 1, No. 2, August 1921.

Vanessa Finney , Manager, Archives and Records
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