Three Kings Islands
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Three Kings Islands

Three Kings Islands
Manawat?whi or Ng? Motu Karaka
Three Kings Islands is located in New Zealand
Three Kings Islands
Three Kings Islands
Coordinates34°09?14?S 172°8?24?E / 34.15389°S 172.14000°E / -34.15389; 172.14000Coordinates: 34°09?14?S 172°8?24?E / 34.15389°S 172.14000°E / -34.15389; 172.14000
Total islands13
Area6.85 km2 (2.64 sq mi)
Highest elevation295 m (968 ft)

The Three Kings Islands, called Manawat?whi by M?ori, are a group of 13 uninhabited islands about 55 kilometres (34 mi) northwest of Cape Reinga, New Zealand, where the South Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea converge. They measure 6.85 km2 (2.64 sq mi) in area.[1] The islands are situated on a submarine plateau, the Three Kings Bank, and are separated from the New Zealand mainland by an 8 km wide, 200 to 300 m deep submarine trough. Therefore, despite relative proximity to the mainland, the islands are listed with the New Zealand Outlying Islands. The islands are an immediate part of New Zealand, but not part of any region or district, but instead Area Outside Territorial Authority, like all the other outlying islands except the Solander Islands.


The Waterfall, Tasman Bay, southern east coast of Great Island

Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman bestowed the name Drie Koningen Eyland (Three Kings Island) on 6 January 1643, three weeks after he became the first European known to have seen New Zealand. Tasman anchored at the islands when searching for water. As it was the Twelfth Night feast of the Epiphany, the day the biblical three kings known as the wise men visited Christ the child, he named the main island accordingly. Tasman also named a prominent cape Cape Maria van Diemen, after the wife of Anthony van Diemen, Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). These are the only two geographic features in New Zealand to retain the names given to them by Abel Tasman. Tasman found the islands to be inhabited by M?ori, but since 1840 they have been uninhabited. The M?ori population probably never exceeded 100.

Engraving of a sketch by Tasman's crew member Isaac Gilsemans showing the islands from the north-west

In 1945, G. T. S. Baylis made an amazing discovery on Three Kings when he found the last remaining specimen anywhere of a tree which is now called Pennantia baylisiana, a kaikomako. It was recognised internationally as the world's rarest and thus most endangered tree. Extremely careful propagation in New Zealand has resulted in the species being reliably established, but it continues to be carefully monitored. The islands were made a wildlife sanctuary in 1995. Other plants endemic to the islands include Tecomanthe speciosa and Elingamita johnsonii.


Satellite photograph of the islands by NASA

The Three Kings group falls into two subgroups with four main inhospitable islands and a number of smaller rocks on a submarine plateau called King Bank which rises out of extremely deep water. There are no beaches.[2] The surrounding sea has very clear visibility and contains teeming fish life, attracting hundreds of divers. Another attraction is the wreck of the Elingamite which foundered there on 9 November 1902.

King Group

  • With 4.04 km² Great Island or King Island, is by far the largest. A northeastern peninsula, with an area of about 1 km², is almost cut off by a 200 m wide but more than 80 m high isthmus formed by North West Bay and South East Bay. The island reaches an elevation of 295 m in the western part, while the peninsula is up to 184 m high near its western cliffs.
Three Kings Islands; looking north with South East Bay to the right
  • North East Island, official name Oromaki/North East Island, about 1 km northeast of Great Island, is 0.10 km² in size and reaches a height of 111 m.
  • Farmers Rocks, 0.8 km east of Great Island, are 5 metres high and just a few hundred square metres in size.

Southwest Group

  • South West Island, official name Moekawa/South West Island, at 0.38 km², is the second largest of the Three Kings Islands and is 207 m high. It is located about 4.5 km southwest of Great island.
  • The Princes Islands, seven small islets and numerous rocks with a total area of about 0.2 km², start 600 m west of South West Island and stretch about 1.8 km east-west. The north-eastern islet is the highest at 106 m. The smallest islet is Rosemary Rock.
  • West Island, official name ?hau/West Island, at 0.16 km² the third largest island, is 500 m southwest of the westernmost of the Princes Islands. It is 177 m high. The island plays an important part in the traditional M?ori belief that the spirits of dead M?ori return to their Pacific homeland of Hawaiki. Near Cape Reinga on the mainland, sometimes translated as the underworld, is a gnarled P?hutukawa tree reputed to be more than 800 years old. The spirits are believed to journey to the tree and down its roots into the sea bed. They are said to surface again on Ohau and say a last farewell to New Zealand before going on to Hawaiki.
Ohau Island from the west

Flora and fauna


Nature reserve

Three Kings Island is a nature reserve administered by the Department of Conservation


  1. ^ "Data Table - Protected Areas - LINZ Data Service (recorded area 684.7281 ha)". Land Information New Zealand. Retrieved 2019.
  2. ^ Judd, Warren (1996). "The clifftop world of the Three Kings". New Zealand Geographic (29). Retrieved 2019.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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