Chatham Island

New Zealand

By Sarah Schoon

The island I am researching is Chatham Island just East of New Zealand. I chose this island because it looked very interesting with its wave like cloud patterns and unusual shape.

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Location: Chatham Island is in the Pacific Ocean, almost 850 kms East of mainland New Zealand. The latitude is 44 degrees South and the longitude is 176 degrees West. It consists of two main islands--Chatham Island and Pitt Island.

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SMALL (71 K)

LARGE (310 K)

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SMALL (55 K)

LARGE (165 K)

Pitt Island is 12 miles southeast of Chatham Island. These islands are so close to the International Date Line that people on Chatham Islands will be the first people to enter the year 2000.

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Weather: Clouds almost always cover Chatham Island, which is why there are so few pictures of it from satellites. Being so close to Antarctica, you would think it would be cold, but think again. The wind is coming from the north, which keeps the temperature moderate. The Equatorial Current also keeps the water warm around the island. As a small Island, it has wet and windy weather; though it is seldom cold enough to get a frost. The temperature ranges from about 12oC to 18oC.

There are cirrus clouds floating over parts of the island from the north. In the northern part of the picture there seemed to be a jet trail, but after further research, observation, and measurement, I discovered the cloud trail was due to The Sisters. The Sisters is an island structure about 12 miles north of the Chatham Islands. In this image it forms an almost perfect compass to identify the northern direction.

The clouds indicate the physical geography of the land. The west side of the island has fewer clouds and lakes can be seen clearly. On the east side the clouds are more spread out and the land is less visible with a cloud build up on the southwest side of the island.


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Physical Geography: Chatham Island’s land is about the size and shape of Cape Cod, Massachusetts with 20% being lagoons and inland lakes. Even though the land is fairly flat, it does have a few conical hills and basalt rocky outcrops on the northern coast. The southern block is higher and has some steep gullies. There are a lot of shrubs and bushes throughout the island. The southern coast has high cliffs and waterfalls. In some places the soil is a lovely red/orange and there are also some good peat deposits. Is the soil color the result of the peat or some other mineral deposits?

The coastline is irregular with many indents and large inland lagoons and lakes. There are many tiny islands off shore. On the northern shore the trailing cloud patterns suggest there are several conical hills.

The air appears to be still on Petra Bay because there are no clouds covering this area. Cape L’Eveque (The Horn) appears to be rocky and rough. This confirms my research.

In the process of researching Chatham Island, I found some people on the island who communicated with me through the Internet and e-mail. They sent me many sources to search. Several people are sending me actual photographs of the island. One person has a doctorate in sea lions and seal and does research on both the Chatham Islands and the Auckland Islands.

Businesses: Chatham Island has many places to stay and things to do while you are there. They have lodges, hotels, camp sites, gift shops, repair garage, bar lunches, fast food, bike and car rental, hardware stores, and much more. You can get you car fixed while you have lunch in the restaurants at the Chatham Lodge or Hotel Chatham. You can even go camping at Owenga Camp Site if you like the "great outdoors".

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Using a magnifying glass roads and settlements are visible. The road between Petra Bay and the Te Whangai lagoon can easily be identified. The airport and runways are visible but clouds hide the main town of Waitangi. Many man made features such as roads crisscross the small island.



Fishing: Chatham Island has many fishing industries:

Crayfish (rock lobster); A crayfish industry exists around the Chatham Island coastline.

Paua (black abalone): This shellfish is harvested in the inshore waters of the Chatham Island and exported fresh and frozen to many countries.


Animals: The Chatham Islands have many different kinds of birds, some of which are flightless. The Weka bird is one of the flightless birds. There is also the Black Robin, the Taiko, and Chatham Island Oyster Catcher. These are rare and live only on the islands.



History: The original people on Chatham Islands were the Moriori, who were said to have arrived some 1000 years ago. They adapted to the harsh climates quickly. Lt. William Broughton landed and took possession of the island in the name of King George III of England. The Europeans and the Moriori did not get along well at all and often fought. The Moriori, who were cannibals, were also known to eat the Europeans. European sealers and whalers later landed and built on the island. By 1861 the sealing and whaling stations had almost disappeared and the Moriori population declined to a mere 160. This decline unfortunately continued, and the last full-blooded Moriori died in 1933.

The history of Chatham Island is very interesting, as is the island itself. Someday I would like to visit and explore this island in person.


 Some Chatham Island Links to Visit



Sarah Schoon

I am Sarah Schoon, a 13 year old, seventh grader at James Island Middle School in Charleston, South Carolina. I started working with KidSat images in February in our school computer lab. I wanted to research an island and looked all over the flat map until I found the image I wanted. Since then I have communicated with people on Chatham Island and New Zealand. It has been lots of fun going to MUSC, the Medical University of South Carolina, to work on the fast computers. I have really learned a lot about computers and geography.


Ellen Vaughan

I am Ellen Vaughan, the lead teacher of the KidSat team at James Island Middle School in Charleston, South Carolina. After participation in one of NASA’s teacher education programs called NEWEST, I became an active member of the Charleston CAN DO team. This group of science and math teachers is extremely active in extending student learning through astronomy, space travel, marine biology, photography, KidSat, and environmental studies. As a CAN DO member I have been involved with sending cameras and experiments into space, participating in a student run mission control room, traveling to the Bahamas to learn about marine biology, and participating in the state systemic reform movement. Most of my participation has revolved around the technological aspect of these activities. In the last year the CAN DO team received a Kodak grant which allowed us to develop our own web site ( ) . This site exemplifies the type of activities and professional growth demonstrated by the CAN DO teachers.

Personally, I have taught 25 years, ten of which were in Australia. My experiences with NEWEST changed my teaching style to the extent that I was selected as one of the Charleston top five teachers of the year for the school year 1992-1993. I continue my quest to excite students to the joy of learning. KidSat and EarthKam have become great vehicles of this quest.