SUBANTARCTIC ISLANDS OF NEW ZEALAND AND AUSTRALIA PLUS THE CHATHAM ISLANDS
Listen to the names: Snares, Bounty, Antipodes, Auckland, Campbell, Macquarie and Chatham Islands. They are music to the ears of ‘Birders’. Apart from the Chathams, these islands are probably more isolated now than they were when they were discovered in the late 1700s and early 1800s and were regularly visited by sealers, whalers and government steamers searching for castaway sailors. It is relatively simple to get to the Chatham Islands but opportunities to visit the others are rare. This expedition, one of a number operated each year by Heritage Expeditions, is the only one to include all of these islands.
The islands occupy the tempestuous latitudes of the Roaring Forties and the Furious Fifties but they are also known as the Albatross Latitudes and with good reason. Ten of the world’s albatross species breed in the region; five of them nowhere else but here! In fact this zone where the air is never still, hosts the most diverse collection of seabirds in the world. More than 40 species breed down here – that is at least 11 percent of the entire world’s seabird population.
With the exception of the Chathams, the islands are all designated UNESCO World Heritage sites and are afforded the highest conservation status and protection by the Australian and New Zealand governments, so passage to their shores is not granted lightly. There are also islands that we visit within the Chatham Archipelago with similar status and protection.
This expedition has huge appeal to pelagic enthusiasts, penguin fanatics and those interested in island endemics. You don’t have to be a keen birder though to enjoy this voyage. People interested in islands and island ecology, botany, geology and an increasing number of photographers have enjoyed this trip immensely, as have those interested in the history of southern ocean discovery and exploration.
This is one of our ‘signature expeditions’ which has operated annually for over 20 years, so you will benefit from the knowledge and expertise gained over that time.
Pre/Post cruise transfers, one night hotel accommodation in a twin share room (incl. dinner/breakfast), all on board ship accommodation with meals and all expedition shore excursions.
All items of a personal nature, laundry, drinks, gratuities. International/domestic flights, visas and travel insurance.
Our ship - The Spirit of Enderby:
The Spirit of Enderby is a fully ice-strengthened expedition vessel, built in 1984 for polar and oceanographic research and is perfect for Expedition Travel.
She carries just 50 passengers and was refurbished in March 2013 to provide comfortable accommodation in twin share cabins approximately half of which have private facilities. All cabins have outside windows or portholes and ample storage space.
On board there is a combined bar/library lounge area and a dedicated lecture room. The cuisine is excellent and is prepared by top NZ and Australian chefs.
The real focus and emphasis of every expedition is getting you ashore as often as possible for as long as possible with maximum safety and comfort. Our Expeditions are accompanied by some of the most experienced naturalists and guides, who have devoted a lifetime to field research in the areas that we visit. The ship is crewed by a very enthusiastic and most experienced Russian Captain and crew.
The name Spirit of Enderby honours the work and the vision of the Enderby Brothers of London. The Enderby Captains were at the forefront of Antarctic exploration for almost 40 years in the early 1800s. It also celebrates Enderby Island, arguably the greatest Subantarctic Island in the world.
Day 1: 16th November
Passengers arrived from around the globe in Invercargill, New Zealand’s southern-most city. We gathered at the Kelvin Hotel for our first meal together this evening. Our expedition leader Rodney warmly welcomed us all and provided scope for the day ahead and the adventure we were about to set out on.
Day 2: 17th November
Leaving the Port of Bluff
Assembling excitedly at an Invercargill hotel, this morning the passengers and a few staff of 2016’s Birding Down Under expedition explored the town of Invercargill which included the town museum where we saw an exhibit on the natural history of the subantarctic islands and even a special exhibit about New Zealand’s endemic dinosaur – the Tuatara, an ancient and barely-evolved ‘lizard’.
After lunch a coach transferred everybody to the Port of Bluff where we were greeted by the ship’s staff and some of the crew, before spending some time either exploring our new ‘home’ for the next 18 days, or chatting and eating fresh-baked scones in the bar/lounge area.
After a few formalities, including briefings about safety on-board the ship, Zodiac use and an introduction to each member of the ship’s expedition staff, as well as a lifeboat drill, we were soon steaming out of Bluff into the open sea beyond Stewart Island. With many keen birders on board the new birds started piling in and included our first albatrosses of the trip – White-capped mainly as well as a few Salvin’s Albatross – as well as Sooty Shearwaters, Fairy Prions, Common Diving-Petrel, White-chinned Petrels and a handful of Stewart Island (a.k.a. Foveaux) Shags, Spotted Shags and for a lucky few, some Fiordland Crested Penguins. Soon though the light began to fade and it was time to retire for the first spectacular dinner of the expedition – lamb or salmon, both were superb.
Day 3: 18th November
The Snares and at sea to the Auckland Islands
There’s no false start on this expedition – it really is all go from the start. We woke early today in anticipation of our first off-ship activity, a Zodiac cruise around North East Island, part of The Snares. Fortunately the weather had improved slightly overnight, though with a turn predicted imminently Rodney Russ, our expedition leader and Subantarctic legend, made the decision to pull the cruise forward, launching before breakfast rather than after, so as to give us the best opportunity to actually get out and bird the island. Sure enough, it worked, and after a slightly tricky and damp embarkation of the Zodiacs, interrupted by fly-by views of a stonking white-morph Southern Giant Petrel, we were soon powering toward our first island endemics of the expedition. First up came Snares Crested Penguin, with small flotillas greeting us just offshore, whilst a closer inspection of the shore gave us good looks at Snares Fernbird, Snares Tomtit and several large groups of Snares Crested Penguin. Occasional Subantarctic Skuas cruised overhead, whilst Antarctic and White-fronted Terns screeched from the shorelines, and a lucky few even found a Fiordland Crested Penguin amongst the throng. Mammals were also out in force and we found some really great Hooker’s (New Zealand) Sea Lions as well as many New Zealand Fur Seals.
With the weather deteriorating though it was soon time to head back to the ship in time for a rather hearty breakfast. The remainder of the day, through slightly bumpy weather, was spent either on deck, on the bridge, or in cabins downloading photos. Those who braved the elements, or retired to the comfort of the bridge, were rewarded with excellent seabirding. Albatross abounded with Campbell, White-capped, Salvin’s, Southern Royal and Gibson’s all being seen in good numbers, whilst the first Light-mantled Sooty Albatross of the trip was very welcome to all who saw it. Northern Giant Petrels made their first appearance this afternoon, as did Subantarctic Little Shearwater, along with plenty of Broad-billed Prions, many Black-bellied Storm Petrels and a handful of Grey-backed Storm Petrels. Perhaps the most appreciated bird of the day were several great passes by a handful of White-headed Petrels – a really impressive brute of a bird.
By day’s end dinner was well earnt and well deserved for all onboard, and we enjoyed another excellent meal heroically-prepared in less-than-optimal conditions by our superstar chefs, Ed and Connor.
Photo: Heritage Expeditions
Day 4: 19th November
Enderby Island is a special place. Not only does it lend its name to our vessel, and home to many of the staff and crew, the Spirit of Enderby, but it also holds a majestic beauty that few are ever able to appreciate.
Our landing went perfectly, despite a little bit of choppiness, and we were soon all on shore in search of our first Auckland Islands creatures. Of course, first of all we had to make our way through the gauntlet of over-enthusiastic Hooker’s Sea Lions that would come barking at you at great speed, and if you ignored them, simply backed off sheepishly. Next up were Auckland Islands Tomtits that flitted around us at our meeting point, and a small group of flipper-waving Yellow-eyed Penguins stood along the dunes above the beach. Auckland Islands Pipit was almost omnipresent as we began our walk across the island and once on the plateau (a very nice, gentle incline) we found many Auckland Islands Dotterel as well as a small group of displaying Southern Royal Albatross, and several nesting pairs. A lucky few saw Auckland Islands Snipe before we’d even made it to our splitting point, and when we arrived at our rendez-vous along the clifftops we were greeted by the display flight of several pairs of Light-mantled Sooty Albatross – truly mesmerising and a highly sought after experience by many birders.
Parting ways, many opted for the much longer circumnavigation of the island where they found some incredibly obliging Subantarctic (Auckland Island) Snipe, the main target for most, along with point-blank views of everything Enderby has to offer, whilst the remainder of the group backtracked along the boardwalk before walking along the southern shore, finding several Auckland Islands Teal, one of the world’s rarest ducks, as well as some outrageously obliging Yellow-eyed Penguins and fluffy Northern Giant Petrel chicks.
Photo: L. Gwynn
Photo: Heritage Expeditions
Day 5: 20th November
Auckland and Enderby Islands
Today was separated into three different parts. First of all, at daybreak we landed at Hardwicke, site of a former British whaling colony, settled in 1849, that failed to hunt any more than 1 whale in 2 years and 9 months. Our walk through history was incredibly interesting, especially with Rodney and Gus’s running commentary giving us more information than we could ever have hoped for about every aspect of history and life on these islands. Highlights here included a poignant cemetery of British settlers, a heart-wrencher for the Brits aboard, and a visit to the Victoria Tree which features some absolutely amazing carving by a party searching for shipwrecked souls in 1865.
The middle section of the day was filled with an absolutely necessary, but unfortunate medical evacuation of a passenger from Enderby Island. A solemn reminder that the ocean really is the boss here, and to take care at every turn. Fortunately, they returned to the New Zealand mainland (the quick way, on a Southern Lakes Helicopter) and are now recovering in comfort at home.
With the evacuation completed we made an evening visit to Port Ross where everybody walked up and along the coast through superb Rata forest and out onto the top of a hill which transformed our view of the Auckland Islands from sea-bound, to air-bound. In a total panorama we could see islands for miles as Rodney once again pointed out and named each island, and rock, giving us a history of each and every human and historical element in our view. A magnificent end to the day.
Photo: Heritage Expeditions
Day 6: 21st November
Carnley Harbour & Tagua Bay
Given the truly undesirable weather that laid between us and Macquarie Island, we made the decision to spend another day in the Auckland Islands to allow the weather to alleviate somewhat. We spent the majority of the day within Carnley Harbour where hundreds of albatross met us at the entrance including White-capped, Gibson’s, Southern Royal and Light-mantled, along with thousands of wheeling and soaring Sooty Shearwaters and several Slender-billed Prions among many other seabirds.
With the only shelter we could find appearing at Tagua Bay we embarked upon a lengthy, pleasant leg stretch that took us through a series of different habitats before ascending a hill aside the harbour giving spectacular views across the Auckland Islands.
Day 7: 22nd November
At sea toward Macquarie Island
A full day at sea was welcomed by the keener seabirders of the group, allowing a chance to catch up with a few new pelagic wanderers, we entered Australian waters allowing potential country list ticks. A very nice selection of birds kept us entertained throughout the day including our first high tally of Antarctic Prion, several nice Grey-headed Albatross, four ‘species’ of White-backed Albatross including our first Snowy (or classic ‘Wandering Albatross’) and a couple of good Antipodean, and the most remarkable highlight of the day came from the sheer mass of White-headed Petrels we encountered with at least a couple always within sight. Soft-plumaged Petrel was also new for the voyage today.
Day 8: 23rd November
Macquarie Island is infamous for its remote and fierce nature. Once considered as a location for an Australian penal colony, it was deemed too inhospitable and brutal to be colonised. Unfortunately upon arrival at the island it became rapidly obvious that our morning landing that had been planned would have to be suspended, with the heavy weather system making a beach landing impossible. We did make the decision, however, to spend our time waiting to see if the weather would drop cruising up and down the east coast to and forth from the absolutely unbelievable Lusitania Bay, home to 500,000+ King Penguins. Sure enough, despite not being able to get any Zodiacs in the water, the penguins came out to meet us and we had superb views of King Penguin as they surrounded the ship in small groups. Along with the Kings we also had great encounters with the endemic Royal Penguin, a relatively recent split from Macaroni, as well as far fewer Eastern Rockhopper and Gentoo Penguins. Some of the island’s resident Grey-headed, Black-browed and Snowy Albatrosses also kept us company, and several pods of ‘type B’ Orca had the passengers thrilled.
Unfortunately, despite waiting all day, the weather did not want to calm in the slightest. At one point we managed to drop two scout boats but the reports came back negative and told of scary 5-metre swells dropping right onto the beach and powerful surges making any landing irresponsibly dangerous. Our landing at Macquarie was not to be, but such is life in the Southern Ocean. We are truly at the mercy of a formidable force. On the way out of Macquarie’s surroundings though we did manage to find some very obliging Blue Petrels, highly prized by most on board.
Photo: L. Gwynn
Day 9: 24th November
At sea toward Campbell Island
The day started with a Blue Petrel whizzing around the ship, and continued with a constant throng of seabird activity which included 9 species of albatross, 3 species of Pterodroma petrel, at least 3 species of prion, 3 species of Storm-Petrel and thousands upon thousands of individuals to look at and photograph. Throughout the day people watched or photographed from the bridge or the deck, and the photographers congregated around the stern of the ship where Peter had set up a fish oil drip, attracting a good variety of species within photographic range. Toward the end of the day we were treated to repeated, close passes by not only a fantastic Grey-headed Albatross but also several courting Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses in absolutely perfect light. What a way to end the day.
Day 10: 25th November
Campbell is a special place. Arriving under a perfect blue sky with blazing sunshine we saw the island in its true majesty. Shortly after breakfast two separate groups set out with different purposes. The first went out on a long and relatively tough hike across and around the island, taking all day to do so, whilst the others split their day into two with a lengthy Zodiac cruise in the morning and a more relaxed hike into the plateau in the afternoon. Both groups got fantastic views of the endemic and ultra-rare Campbell Island Teal as well as the secretive Campbell Snipe and the Zodiac cruisers had close up encounters with the beautiful Campbell Shag. The afternoon foray took us into the highlands where we sought out nesting Southern Royal Albatrosses, and we really struck gold. We spent the entire afternoon and early evening within just a few metres of many of these huge, regal and awesome creatures as they formed display groups, fed their chicks and generally went about their comical business, stamping their way through the grasslands with their huge feet. Several more Campbell Snipe were also found, and several boisterous Hooker’s Sea Lions provided some entertainment before we made a hasty retreat through a growing wind and rain to the comfort of the ship.
Photo: L. Gwynn
Photo: L. Gwynn
Day 11: 26th November
At sea toward the Antipodes Islands
Every day spent at sea in the Southern Ocean is an exciting day, whether that’s spent relaxing or birding, reading or just catching up on journals and photo editing. This was very much a quiet day after several intense days of excitement but those who ventured out onto the decks or up onto the bridge recorded some interesting seabirds that included an inquisitive Grey-headed Albatross, our first definite Antipodean Albatross, as well as Gibson’s, Snowy, Black-browed, Campbell, Light-mantled Sooty, Southern Royal, White-capped and Salvin’s Albatrosses. Lots of White-headed and Soft-plumaged Petrels posed a challenge for the photographers on board.
Day 12: 27th November
A.M. at sea, P.M. Antipodes Islands
Several of our expeditions reach Campbell Island and the other islands we’ve previously visited, but only Birding Down Under reaches the islands we visit from this day onwards. First up came the fabled Antipodes Islands, so named because if you draw a straight line through Earth from London (UK) it comes out, more or less, at this rocky outpost.
On our approach to the islands we were greeted by flocks upon flocks of Fulmar Prions, some really great looks at Antipodean Albatross with its distinctive plumage and small size, and a whole throng of other seabirds under perfect blue skies. Once at the islands we decided to Zodiac cruise at Ring Dove Bay, which was the only shelter from the persisting strong wind. Once off and cruising along the shore we instantly found our first group of the remarkably stunning and almost regal Erect-crested Penguin. Further along the coast we found an Eastern Rockhopper Penguin among another Erect-crested colony before our final two bird targets for the day stole our attention. Several Reischek’s Parakeets were seen exceptionally well as they fed just above the shore but the mad dash to a pair of Antipodes Parakeets meant we were soon enjoying great views of this tough and rare bird. As the weather started to take a turn we finished our coastal survey finding a couple of small Eastern Rockhopper Penguin groups as well as breeding Fulmar Prion and Cape Petrel, but the mammal highlight came in the form of several large Elephant Seals and lots of good looks at Subantarctic Fur Seal with their distinctive golden faces and chests.
All too soon, and under the banner of a double rainbow, we made our way back to the ship in time to set sail for our next far-flung destination.
Photo: L. Gwynn
Day 13: 28th November
A.M. Bounty Islands, P.M. at sea
The Bounties are one of the most remote and inaccessible island groups in the world, primarily due to their geology – they are merely sheer-sided cliff-face-clad rock stacks in the middle of the roaring Southern Ocean. Despite this, they are absolutely teeming with life and as we approached early this morning we found clouds of Fulmar Prion, flotillas of Erect-crested Penguin, and tens of thousands of Salvin’s Albatross which presented quite the impressive spectacle. The rarest and most sought after bird here though was the Bounty Islands Shag, considered to be the rarest shag in the world. Fortunately it didn’t take long for one to come out and circle the ship, and before long we were being treated to extremely close views of this handsome snake-necked seabird.
Moving away from the Bounties we spent the remainder of the day at sea toward the Chatham Islands, with the stand-out highlight for many being a large pod of bounding and porpoising Long-finned Pilot Whales, whilst others enjoyed an afternoon of photography at the bow or stern and others sought out a bounty of albatrosses, petrels and other seabirds.
Photo: L. Gwynn
Day 14: 29th November
Pyramid Rock, South East Island & off of Main Island
This grey and overcast morning began with the biggest of bangs. Almost the first bird seen by the early-rising birders was the holy grail of seabirding in the southern Pacific – the Chatham Island Taiko! Out of the early morning gloom, a single Taiko screamed past the ship at high speed before turning and making its way up the wake, staying just long enough for Lisle to make a call over the PA system alerting the sleeping birders to this special presence. We couldn’t believe we’d already scored a Taiko, our luck was truly in.
The remainder of the run into the Chatham Islands was quiet by comparison with the highlight being a pod of Dusky Dolphins, but once we reached the formidable and foreboding island known as ‘The Pyramid’ things really picked up again. A single stack of rock jutting out of the ocean among the Chatham Islands, The Pyramid is the sole breeding location of the beautiful Chatham Albatross. And, as expected, as we arrived off of the island we were soon surrounded by both Chatham Albatross and the equally stunning Northern Buller’s, or Pacific, Albatross. We spent the morning here photographing and enjoying the close up views before making the short journey to South East Island.
Once at South East we decided to bring lunch forward as the weather was shifting, and negotiated a skilful Zodiac embarkation to cruise the shore of the island. Some of the first birds seen were the endemic Chatham Island subspecies’ of Tui, Red-crowned Parakeet and New Zealand Pipit, but it was the small group of the wildly endangered Shore Plover that really stole the show. We had point blank views of these cute little waders whilst Pitt Island Shags fed around us. Further along the coast we located a small group of Chatham Island Oystercatchers before making our way back to the ship.
We had an evening date, after an early dinner, with another try for the Chatham Island Taiko. We cruised the waters off of a known Taiko colony with the hope that we’d find one, and find one we did – quite quickly in fact! Over the course of 45 minutes or so this presumed single individual appeared 4 different times a little distantly before giving a final close pass to all the birders assembled on deck. Unbelievably, in amongst the chaos, THREE Chatham Island Petrels were also seen by the lucky birders and photographers at the ship’s stern – what an unprecedented success!
Photo: L. Gwynn
Day 15: 30th November
Main Island & off of South East Island
Making our way to the shore of the Main Island today we were escorted by a handful of Chatham Shags, appeasing those still desperate to tick the penultimate shag of the expedition. Once on land we made our way to the Awatotora Reserve. The group split into two here, with around 25 staying and birding the valley, where they found Little Blue Penguin, Chatham Warbler, Chatham Pigeon, Chatham Red-crowned Parakeet, Chatham Tui and the endemic race of New Zealand Fantail. The remainder of the group, around 20 people, made their way with an escort to the privately-owned Sweetwater Covenant, a private initiative that seeks to conserve the rare endemic petrels of the Chatham group. Here the group were among extremely few living people to be shown a Magenta Petrel, or Taiko, actually in its burrow by the researchers. In a superb twist of luck, the researchers also had a bachelor Chatham Island Petrel that they were able to show us, allowing all to see these mega rare tubenoses up close and personal – a phenomenal and once in a lifetime experience!
This evening the ship relocated to South East Island which holds the highest concentration of breeding Chatham Island Petrels anywhere, but unfortunately none were seen coming to the island in the near-darkness. However, yet another incredible experience was had by a lucky few who stayed up beyond darkness. Attracted to the ship’s lights, the decks became a sheltering ground for dozens of White-faced Storm Petrels, Common Diving Petrels and Fairy Prions, allowing incredible in-the-hand views as we released the birds from the deck. The ship’s lights were soon turned off and we all turned in after an unbelievable day.
Photo: L. Gwynn
Day 16: 1st December
Off of Mangere & Little Mangere and at sea toward mainland New Zealand
After a couple of very successful days in the Chathams we were greeted this morning by heavy swell and seas breaking against our target location of Little Mangere. Unfortunately this meant that Zodiacs couldn’t be launched and so we opted to slow the ship as we left the islands and to chum off of the back deck. This of course resulted in a cacophony of myriad seabirds, including absolutely point-blank views of several albatross species including the beautiful Chatham and Pacific (Northern Buller’s), and the enormous Northern Royal. The remainder of the day was spent steaming west on our journey back towards mainland New Zealand, birding along the way. Unsurprisingly we found plenty to look at including Grey-faced, Mottled, Soft-plumaged, Cook’s-type and White-chinned Petrels, lots of albatross and even a few Oceanic Sunfish. A beautiful sunset was enjoyed before dinner.
Photo: L. Gwynn
Day 17: 2nd December
At sea to Dunedin
The long journey back to New Zealand necessitates two full days at sea to cover the vast distance, but this of course gives plenty of time for some final sea watching as we enter the range of a few different species. Today we saw 5 species of Pteredroma in a morning, plenty of other seabirds, and on the mammal front we recorded Sei, Long-finned Pilot and Cuvier’s Beaked Whales. Highlights of the day for many were two new seabirds for the voyage, and lifers for most onboard: the cute Black-winged Petrel and the tricky and rare Pycroft’s Petrel, a highly sought after New Zealand endemic.
Day 18: 3rd December
At sea to Dunedin
The final day of an expedition is a unique moment; a mixture of overriding elation and joy, and sadness. Today was a day spent seeing final birds including more Pycroft’s Petrel, Cook’s Petrel and our first Buller’s Shearwater and Otago Shags, as well as cetaceans like Dusky Dolphin and Long-finned Pilot Whale, but there was also a lot of packing, sorting and re-capping to do. An end of expedition slideshow was masterfully put together and edited by Edin and we all shared a final few laughs and even a few tears over what had been a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Our final dinner with friends new and old was filled with laughter, chatter, and of course fantastic food as always. It had been an incredible 18 days.
Click here for the Species List.
25 November to 10 December 2014
25 November 2014
Christchurch to Chatham Islands; Waitangi & off ‘The Horns’
Around 20 degrees C. Part cloudy part sunny. Light winds (Beaufort force 1-2) from NW. Visibility good.
This morning, we headed to Christchurch Airport and were in for a surprise when we were driven right onto the tarmac next to the plane. The New Zealand Customs officials were there to meet us, check our passports and then we were free to board the plane. We were off towards the Chatham Islands, with a one and a half hour flight ahead of us. Time flew with us, and we had a quick group photo on the tarmac in front of the plane.
After landing we headed to the Hotel Chathams in the township of Waitangi, where we were met by Adam our Expedition Leader who invited us inside for lunch. The ship was at anchor in the bay and excitement was building. The keen birders decided lunch could wait and headed back to the beach where a couple of Chatham Island Oystercatchers had been spotted. After some good prolonged views, the birds took flight, but photos were already in the can, and lunch was calling. After lunch we had free time for a few hours to roam the local area, with some checking out the local museum, or just wandering the beach. We met up again later at the main wharf where the Zodiacs arrived to shuttle us to the ship.
At 1600 the operation began to get everyone aboard the Professor Khromov, also known as the Spirit of Enderby. The luggage arrived about an hour later and then there were a number of briefings in the lecture room. Adam introduced himself and the team of hotel manager Meghan, guides Rachael, Brent (B1) and Morten, chefs Cy and Connor, Doctor Lauren as well as the Department of Conservation (DOC) representative Brent (B2). Meghan introduced the ship and various household procedures, after which we were given the mandatory safety briefing as well as a full run down on Zodiac boarding, disembarking and safety.
In the meantime, the ship had sailed out of the bay and proceeded to south and then north several times along the shores off ‘The Horns’ in a search of the elusive and rare local petrels. By now there was very little wind so conditions were not the most promising for finding those species, but we enjoyed close views of some Northern Buller’s Albatross, Northern Giant Petrels and White-fronted Terns, as well as the first couple of New Zealand Fur Seals of the voyage.
Come 2030 we were all hungry and we enjoyed our first great dinner on board. After the meal, the concept of bird listing was introduced, and Brent (B1) summarized the sightings of the day.
26 November 2014
Chatham Islands, Awatotora Reserve, Pitt Strait & off ‘The Horns’
Around 20 degrees C. Overcast until 4 pm, then sunny. Rain until 10 am, then dry. Winds Beaufort 5-6 from NW, swell building to 3 metres. Visibility good after the rain.
After an 0600 breakfast, a briefing and a packed lunch making session, it was time for our first very wet and bumpy Zodiac ride. Everyone did very well on the gangway, and by 0900 we had boarded the bus to make our way to the Awatotora Reserve. Bruce and Jill introduced the area and conservation efforts, after which we dispersed. Some shopped for T-shirts, some strolled about on the road, while some went various distances down the path towards the coast, a few all the way. Apart from the wonders of a native forest full of local plants and trees, the attraction for most was the endemic bird species. The Pigeon and the Warbler were soon localized and most had good views also of the Tui, the Parakeet, the Fantail, the Silvereye and the Pipit. Along the way, we enjoyed our lunches and when the rain had stopped, it was a very pleasant morning altogether. At 1315 we boarded our buses again and headed across the island, this time all the way east to Owenga, to where the ship had repositioned to avoid the by now unworkable swell back on the west side. We had a stroll along the beach until it was once again time for a choppy and wet Zodiac ride back to the vessel.
Soon after returning to the ship, everyone was summoned to partake in the mandatory safety drill, which was executed smoothly. Adam announced the plans for the remaining part of the day, and soon afterwards Meghan opened the bar.
We cruised Pitt Strait during the early evening and saw several Cook’s Petrels and Grey-faced Petrels as well as a pod of Bottlenose Dolphins and thousands of prions in the distance. After an early dinner, we continued to make passes off ‘The Horns’, scanning the sea continuously. When the sun set on a clear horizon, some began to lose hope, while others refused to give up. About ten minutes later, there it was – Magenta Petrel! It came in from the west and made a brief but very distinct visit off the stern, before wheeling off into the distance. It seemed that everyone who was on deck got onto the bird, and spirits soared.
27 November 2014
Chatham Islands, South East Island, The Pyramid & Mangere Islands
Around 20 degrees C. Early morning and late afternoon: Blue skies and sunny, wind NW Beaufort 3. Late morning until afternoon part cloudy, winds NW Beaufort 5. Visibility good.
An 0600 wake-up call announced a much better day than the forecast had promised. At 0645 we were all in the Zodiacs for a 2-hour cruise along the shores of South East Island. Good conditions allowed us to enjoy great views of most things that could be expected: Shore Plovers, Chatham Island Oystercatchers, Red-crowned Parakeets, Pitt Island Shags, Chatham Island Pipits and one Tomtit. There were numerous New Zealand Fur Seals along the shores as well. It was with reluctance that we headed back to the ship for a 0845 breakfast.
The winds picked up to about force 5 as forecast by mid morning but the sun was still out, so we circumnavigated the spectacular Pyramid Rock in wonderful conditions. Adam chummed and the ship was beset by hundreds of albatrosses of various species, while the rock itself lay covered in more yet. A spectacle not easily forgotten! The ship headed north again on the east side of Pitt Island, past Rabbit Island during lunch, where a few Chatham Shags flew out to greet the vessel. Conditions around the Mangere Islands made a Zodiac cruise impossible, so we had a quick look at them from the ship, after which the course was set for the waters south of South East Island, the main breeding area of the Chatham Petrel.
It was a quiet afternoon, so many took the change to snooze. After our 1800 dinner, it was up and down, or rather east and west, back and forth south of the Pyramid, hoping for sightings of pterodromas, but we mostly saw prions, storm-petrels and albatrosses. After dark we held the regular bird-listing session then it was time for sleep. This evening we gained 45 minutes as we went back to New Zealand time.
28 November 2014
At sea towards the Bounty Islands
Around 15 degrees C. Mostly sunny, briefly clouded over in the morning with one rainsquall. Wind morning NW to SW Beaufort force 2-3, afternoon W force 5. Swell SW 3-5 metres. Visibility good.
Sunrise at 055 was beautiful, over a calmly rolling sea with hardly a breath of wind. Morning birding provided good views of White-chinned, Soft-plumaged, Grey-faced and Mottled Petrels as well as our first White-headed Petrel. There were many storm-petrels and prions about, and the first wanderers of the voyage. A small pod of Long-finned Pilot Whales showed briefly.
At 1000 Rachael delivered a talk on seabird adaptations and physiological character traits, while at 1130 B1 delivered a lecture on identification at sea of many of the expected species of our voyage. The great lunch was cooked up for us once again by Cy and Connor was followed by the screening of ‘Beyond the Roaring 40’s’, a good introduction to the islands we will visit. More detail was unveiled in Adam’s late afternoon introduction to the Bounties and Antipodes, which was followed by B2’s description of the planned mouse eradication project for the Antipodes. The afternoon gave us many good birds, most notably many Soft-plumaged and some White-headed and Mottled Petrels, several Antipodean Wandering Albatrosses and much more. The first Light-mantled Sooty Albatross of our voyage made an appearance towards dinnertime.
During dinner, we learned that we would arrive at the Bounties around 0800 tomorrow. The seas did build during the day so our progress was slowed. Some were also somewhat stricken with motion sickness during the day. After Morten had read the daily bird list (26 tubenose species seen today) there was time to relax, chat, have a drink or simply catch up on some rest.
29 November 2014
Bounty Islands & at sea towards the Antipodes Islands
Around 12 degrees C. Mostly sunny in the morning, with scattered cloud and a few rainsqualls. Wind morning W Beaufort force 3, afternoon W force 5, now overcast. Swell confused, mostly SW and W 3 metres. Visibility good.
From sunrise until after breakfast, we steamed slowly closer and closer to the Bounties. A confused sea and old swell made it seem unlikely that we would be able to launch the Zodiacs for an inshore cruise, but the combined talents of Adam and the Captain allowed us to experience this very special and rare treat. From up close, we marvelled at the amount of life on these seemingly remote and barren rocks – but what is remote depends on your point of view, and what is not barren here is the sea. Countless Bounty Shags, Salvin’s Albatrosses, Erect-crested Penguins, Fulmar Prions, Cape Petrels, Kelp Gulls, Antarctic Terns and New Zealand Fur Seals have made this their home. We enjoyed excellent views of all these species, flying, swimming, standing, walking, crawling, nesting, preening, squabbling, etc. All too soon, it was time to return for a tricky disembarkation at the gangway as we set a course for the Antipodes.
After lunch Morten delivered a talk on marine mammals covering aspects of distribution, adaptations, social structure and identification markers as we sailed south. The birders on deck added numerous Black-bellied Storm-petrels to the list, as well as the first Wilson’s Storm Petrels and Black-browed and Campbell Albatrosses. The bar hour was well attended and we enjoyed a dinner of chicken, lamb curry or the vegetarian option, followed by Pavlova – sweet and interesting! It was a fairly quiet ship after the bird listing due to an early start tomorrow!
30 November 2014
Antipodes Islands & at sea towards Campbell Island
7-10 degrees C. Morning overcast with occasional showers, afternoon increasingly sunny. Wind SW Beaufort force 3 dropping to 2, late afternoon rising again to force 5. Swell SW 2-3 metres and rising. Visibility good.
It was only 0530 when Adam woke us up and by 0600 we were in the five Zodiacs at Ringdove Bay, on the southeast side of Antipodes Island, where we had shelter from the winds and most of the swell. Apart from the occasional brief shower, the entire duration of the outing was spent in balmy and sometimes even sunny conditions. We sat and cruised off the island, marvelling at the rock formations, the colours, the rich vegetation – be it tussock grass, ferns or giant kelp – and the prolific wildlife. We had enjoyable and prolonged views of everything that the island has to offer. Both species of Parakeet, three species of seal, two species of crested penguin, numerous Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses wheeling and courting, Antarctic Terns, Kelp Gulls, Brown Skuas, singing New Zealand Pipits and the local Fairy Prions, circling over the sea and near their nest sites. A highlight was entering into a cathedral-like cave that Gaudi would have found inspiring. Life was happening all around us, in all its manifestations. The planned two hours out turned into three, before we tore ourselves away. Once again we had been blessed with far better than usual conditions for a unique opportunity to experience yet another of these mythical island formations of the Subantarctic.
We were all more than ready for breakfast when we returned to the vessel which then set a SW course towards Campbell Island. About 10 knots of head wind was all we had, but under the grey sky strangely few birds showed in the morning. Most of us had a wee bit of rest.
After our burrito lunch, the skies began to clear, while the winds continued to drop even further. The sea was still up some three meters, but it was not unpleasant as the swell was right on our nose and rather old. Pterodromas were mainly represented by White-headed and Mottled Petrels. A few Antipodean Wanderers and Campbell Black-brows showed as well. At 1500 Adam ran us through the measures and procedures necessary for us to land bio-securely at the islands ahead. This briefing was followed by everyone carefully vacuuming their outer layers and backpacks, all of which were duly inspected by B2.
As the winds began picking up slightly in the late afternoon, a few new birds appeared. The first Grey-headed Albatross of the voyage was seen well, and B1 noted a Chatham Petrel flying by from the bridge. After dinner and reading of the bird list most were ready for an early night.
1 December 2014
At sea towards Campbell Island
Around 7 degrees C. Mostly overcast, part sunny especially morning, showers. Wind SW Beaufort force 3 increasing to 6 then afternoon dropping to force 4 W. Swell confused, mostly SW 2 meters increasing to 5 metres then dropping to 3 metres. Visibility good.
Our speed was slowed somewhat by the oncoming sea, as we continued on towards Campbell Island. The morning offered a lecture by B1 entitled ‘Extinctions and Re-discoveries’, which told a sad story of the mass extinction occurring at the hand of man, but with some good news thrown in as well. One bright note was the rediscovery and consequent conservation management efforts related to the Taiko, or Magenta Petrel and the Kakapo. A personal account of Brent’s and others’ rediscovery of the presumed extinct New Zealand Storm-petrel, not seen for 170 years, but found recently to exist and breed near Auckland and now ‘twitchable’ by almost anyone, was an entertaining part of the lecture. At 1130, the ship’s shop opened for a while, giving everyone an opportunity to stock up on clothing, literature, gifts and postcards.
Most attended lunch and then went down to the lecture room to listen to Adam’s introduction to Campbell Island, with an overview of its geology as well as human and natural history. At 1700 two documentaries were screened back to back, one about the successful and very ambitious rat-eradication project on the main Campbell Island, the other about the rediscovery and recovery of the Campbell Island Flightless Teal. Birding was slow today, but there were some good Campbell and Light-mantled Sooty Albatross as well as an early evening Southern Fulmar, perhaps the bird of the day.
2 December 2014
Campbell Island, Perseverance Harbour, Tucker Cove, Camp Cove, North West Bay & Cole-Lyle Saddle
6-8 degrees C. Mostly overcast, slivers of sun occasionally, frequent showers in the morning, dry all afternoon. Wind WSW Beaufort force 5 dropping to 2, evening increasing to 3-4. Visibility good.
In the early hours of the morning we arrived in the sheltered anchorage of Perseverance Harbour at Campbell Island. After wake-up, breakfast, briefing and packed lunch making, it was time to disembark the small but hardy group of 4 long hikers who were to spend all day walking to Northwest Bay and back. Shortly afterwards, everyone else embarked on a 3-hours plus Zodiac cruise of the inner harbour. We came back aboard for lunch, then in the afternoon set out for a dry landing at the abandoned meteorological station for a trek up the 3km board walk.
The day was magnificent for all. The weather was grey, misty, wet and windy in the morning. However by the afternoon, it was dry, the winds died down and the skies opened a little every now and then. It was as good as any day gets here.
The various groups ended up with a variety of experiences, and the sum total was quite impressive. Great encounters were had with all the best birds this part of the island can offer – the flightless Teal, the enigmatic but recolonising Snipe, Yellow-eyed Penguins, the magnificent Southern Royal Albatrosses, the endemic Shag, nesting gulls and terns and giant petrels. A rare vagrant was even spotted on the west coast, a Pacific Swift. Hooker’s Sea Lions cavorted in the water and on land, intimidating some but fascinating all. The mega-herbs impressed and so did the woods, the lichens and the mosses. In the time we were there, the tide rose from low and went back to low – the hours passed quickly and the day was thoroughly enjoyed.
During dinner, our anchor was lifted, and we headed back out after a wonderful day at Campbell Island – onwards to new adventures.
3 December 2014
At sea towards Macquarie Island
Around 7 degrees C. Overcast all day with much rain and shorter periods of dry. Wind NNW Beaufort force 4 to N 5 morning and early afternoon, late afternoon SW force 3 increasing in the evening to S force 8. Sea confused 1-2 metres, building evening from S. Visibility varying, impaired much of the day.
A much quieter night than expected/feared was followed by a 0830 breakfast. The day progressed with limited birding opportunities due to weather and visibility, but a number of albatrosses: Light-mantled Sooties, Campbells, White-cap’s and Southern Royals were seen through the day. Many Antarctic Prions were also around and some Mottled and White-headed Petrels as well as a few Soft-plumaged added spice. An old female Antipodean Albatross followed us for more than 12 hours. Considering our average speed of near 12 knots, and her wheeling around from front to back, left to right, she must have travelled well over 500 miles today!
Rachael spoke to us in the morning about the Eastern Rockhopper Penguin and its crisis, while Adam later introduced us to Macquarie Island and the plans we have for our activities there. After a chicken curry lunch and a little break, it was time to hear B1 give us tips on photography in his lecture ‘The World through a Lens’, while the late afternoon was set aside for once again vacuuming off any seeds that may have been clinging to bags and outer garments after our visit to Campbell Island. In the evening, a video about the rabbit eradication program on Macquarie was screened. During bar-hour, there was an opportunity to hand in passports and postcards, to have them stamped at Macquarie. A dinner of pork, fish or vegetarian was as usual much appreciated. Chefs Cy and Connor are still getting many compliments.
4 December 2014
Macquarie Island: Buckles Bay & Sandy Bay
5-8 degrees C. Sunny all day with only scattered cloud. Wind SW Beaufort force 3 to W 4. Visibility good.
After quite a rocky night, during which most of us only got little or highly interrupted sleep, we found that the gale had passed and the winds had died away by morning. On its tail we had sunny conditions and only mild winds. It was looking good for our visit to Macquarie Island, and even better when the resident pod of Orcas greeted us an hour before arrival. B1 and Morten took two boats ashore and soon the local rangers were on board. Adam and head-ranger Chris briefed us on the plans for a guided tour around the base on the isthmus at Buckles Bay and the necessity of a stern landing onto a boulder beach.
Once everyone was ashore we split into five groups and set off accompanied by base staff. Highlights of our tour included the razorback board walk with great views from the top, the weather balloon release, the Gentoo chicks already creching, the tussock grass recovering, even the earth’s crust. The west beach and its life-and-death scenes, such as the big round wet eyes of the Southern Elephant Seal weeners contrasted by the Southern Giant Petrels going into the eye-sockets of the deceased of the same species. In the mess hall, we had coffee and snacks and the opportunity to chat with the base staff or buy souvenirs.
A quick repositioning brought us to Sandy Bay and another view of the Orcas seemed to indicate good fortune once again. At 1600 ship’s time (1400 local time) we headed ashore for the true wildlife highlight of the voyage. We spent four hours on half-a-mile of beach, marvelling at the numbers and behaviours of the local residents. These were primarily King and Royal Penguins and Southern Elephant Seals, but there were also numerous Brown Skuas, Southern Giant Petrels and a few other birds. The sun kept shining on us with few interruptions, but by the end of the landing, the cold of the wind had crept through most people’s layers. A quick ride back in the Zodiacs brought us to the comfort of warm showers and warm tea, or dry clothes and dry martinis, as one’s taste would have it.
5 December 2014
Macquarie Island, Lusitania Bay & Sandy Bay
Around 3 degrees C morning, 10 afternoon. Morning partially overcast with sunny spells, afternoon mostly sunny with scattered cloud. Wind W Beaufort force 1-2 morning and N force 1-3 afternoon. Visibility good.
After a leisurely breakfast, we were at the huge King Penguin colony of Lusitania Bay. Perhaps some 100,000 pairs breed here, the census this year gave 50,000 chicks on the island, most of which were in this colony. We had easy conditions and enjoyed an hour long Zodiac cruise along the shores. A few Royal and Rockhopper Penguins, and the ubiquitous giant petrels completed the picture. Whether gazing at the masses on shore or enjoying the flocks of penguins cavorting around the boats, it was a spectacle to admire. The rusting boilers on the shore bore witness to a historically different approach to the animals here.
Later in the morning, we repositioned back north to Sandy Bay. An early lunch freed the entire afternoon for yet another amazing landing at Sandy Bay, giving everyone an opportunity to see what we felt we missed yesterday, or to take everything in today at a less frantic pace and with more peace of mind to spend time at each little scene happening. It was not easy to decide on which were the favourites: the darling Elephant Seal pups, the inquisitive Royal Penguins or the handsome but comical Kings. Many of us simply sat and watched, becoming so much part of the environment that penguins and seals alike idled up to us and made contact. If Adam had not called everyone together, we would not have made the last Zodiac.
An hour later when we dropped the rangers back at Buckles Bay, most didn’t notice as they were having drinks in the bar instead. A delicious fish/steak dinner with chocolate mousse to follow was served up while we were still at anchor, after which we took off for the Auckland Islands.
6 December 2014
At sea towards the Auckland Islands
Around 6 degrees C morning, 12 afternoon. Overcast. Wind SW Beaufort force 0-1 morning, gradually increasing to force 4-5 afternoon. Swell old SW and newer NE both 1 metre. Visibility good.
We enjoyed a leisurely day at sea. Calm as almost never, we enjoyed cruising along at good speed, with good sea-birding along the way. In the early part of the day, both Rockhopper and Royal Penguins were seen. White-headed Petrels were seen consistently throughout the day in good numbers, Mottled Petrels too, though in fewer numbers. Antarctic and Fulmar Prions were also with us, as were many Black-bellied Storm-petrels and some Grey-backed too. Over the course of the day, eight species of albatrosses were seen. Before lunch, some had a couple of brief views of small pods of Hourglass Dolphins, while one sighting of two distant Southern Bottlenose Whales and another of a speeding Minke Whale were the best cetaceans today. Gradually, the unusually calm conditions turned into something more normal for these latitudes, with the winds picking up from the SW.
B1 delivered a witty lecture in the morning entitled ‘Birding 101 – an introduction to tweety birds and the weird people that watch them’ and then Meghan opened up the ship shop for the last time. Lunch was buffet style and the pizzas were happily devoured. In the afternoon, Rachael talked about her special interest, Mottled Petrels. Later B2 introduced and screened two ‘Intrepid New Zealand’ documentaries about the shipwrecks of the Grafton and the Invercauld at the Auckland Islands.
After bar hour, dinner and bird-listing, the movie ‘The Big Year’ starring Steve Martin and Angelica Houston was screened in the lecture room. Today was all about learning what makes birders tick – or not.
7 December 2014
Auckland Islands, Carnley Harbour, Adam’s Island & North Arm
7 degrees C morning, 11 afternoon. Overcast with a few sunny spells. Wind SW Beaufort force 6 morning, gradually decreasing to force 3 afternoon and evening. Visibility good.
The winds were high in the morning, so early risers enjoyed good seabirds before the ship entered into Carnley Harbour, and there was a small pod of Dusky Dolphins seen briefly bow-riding too. In the calmer waters of the harbour, huge rafts and flocks of Sooty Shearwaters impressed as we sailed deep into the waterway, and there were also good numbers of Auckland Island Shags, Grey-backed Storm-petrels and even two New Zealand Falcons seen near the ship. At 0945 we began a one and a half hour Zodiac cruise that turned into two and a half hours because of the great weather and sighting conditions. Numerous Bellbirds were seen and heard and we had great views of half a dozen or so Auckland Island Flightless Teal, New Zealand Falcon, Yellow-eyed Penguins as well as more shags, shearwaters, gulls, skuas, albatrosses and Sealions.
Once everyone was back aboard, Meghan announced some household items to bear in mind, while Adam sketched the plans for the afternoon. Lunch was then heartily devoured – Cy and Connor had done it again. By 1415 we were up the north arm of Carnley Harbour, where we had a 2-hour landing at the site of the wreck of the Grafton. The afternoon was used (for all but a few in vain) to search for Yellow-crowned Parakeet, others simply enjoyed beach combing, Rata forest exploration, studies of mosses and lichens, or simply hanging out and relaxing.
At 1700 Adam gave an overview of the Auckland Islands and their geology as well as natural and human history, as we sailed out of Carnley Harbour and up the east coast of the main island. The weather was great, still overcast but with less wind and quite balmy temperatures. The birders on the bow picked up a number of Subantarctic Little Shearwaters as well as photogenic Grey-backed Storm-petrels. We had an early dinner (much praised lamb taking the prize tonight) and Adam warned us of an early start tomorrow. B1 completed the day with the listing of all of today’s wildlife sightings.
8 December 2014
Auckland Islands, Enderby Island & at sea towards the Snares
9 degrees C morning, 12 afternoon. Partly overcast with some sunny spells. Wind nil morning gradually picking up from NNE to Beaufort force 4-5 afternoon and evening. Rain evening. Visibility good.
We awoke to a beautiful morning, sunlit and still. After breakfast at 0600, Adam gave a thorough briefing on the options for the day. By 0800, after packed lunch making, we were in the Zodiacs, shuttling ashore at Sandy Bay where we were “welcomed” by Hooker’s Sea Lions and Yellow-eyed Penguins. We also felt the potential power of the surging swell on the beach. With the wind forecast to increase, plans for the day were modified, and instead of a circuit route, everyone was offered to go as far as Derry Castle Reef and then back, to be shuttled back to the ship by 1400.
We traversed the island on the boardwalk, enjoying the Rata forest and the scrubland above, Southern Royal Albatrosses dotted across the landscape at their nesting sites. After a walk into the flowering Bulbinella field to look for Auckland Island Snipe, and successfully seeing several, we headed further along the shore to see the Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses on their nests. The group split up, and most walked as far as the reef, while others meandered to and fro and eventually back to Sandy Bay. Wildlife encountered included more penguins and Sea Lions, many Double Banded Plovers and Auckland Island Pipits. We enjoyed seeing lovely Gentians and Anisotome in flower and amazing scenery along the shores and on the flatter bits of land.
Adam extended the landing time to 1500 as the landing beach swell – having built steadily until about noon – suddenly dropped almost right out. Shortly after having everyone back on board, the decision was made to anchor up and head for the Snares – the forecast gale making it wise to gain some time for the crossing. Soon after we sailed, birders were seeing unidentified diving petrels, identified storm-petrels and fair numbers of Subantarctic Little Shearwaters. For now, it was still a mere force 4 from the NE and a swell of about one metre. An early dinner was consumed as everyone prepared for a potentially rocky night en route to the Snares.
9 December 2014
The Snares & at sea towards Bluff
10 degrees C morning, 13 noon and afternoon. Overcast with considerable rain. Wind NNW Beaufort force 7-8, by late afternoon veering to W and then S, decreasing gradually to force 4. Seas rising through the day to 6 metres plus, then dying out. Visibility reduced, clearing towards evening.
There were 30-35 knot winds on the bow when we awoke at 0700. This caused some pitching with sudden lurches, but wasn’t too uncomfortable. The ship came close into the lee of the south end of the Snares at 0830 and then cruised the east coast, where numerous white specks on the rocks were the best views most had of Snares Crested Penguin, although a few people were lucky to spot one or two between monster waves nearer to the ship. One or two Southern Buller’s Albatrosses were seen as well. The Cape Petrels were effortlessly soaring everywhere. By 0930 the Captain had set a safe NE course through the gale force winds and the 20-foot waves crashing onto the bow. There was no further programme for the morning except to hunker down and stay safe!
Amazingly, Natalia, Lina, Connor and Cy had lunch for us at 1300, and in the afternoon Megan was in the bar/library to settle accounts. Over the course of the afternoon the winds began to die down and late in the afternoon we came into the lee of Stewart Island. The afternoon allowed for reasonable views of more Southern Buller’s as well as a couple of Fiordland Crested Penguins – the eighth penguin species of the voyage.
A disembarkation briefing was followed by a wonderful photographic expedition recap of our voyage put together by Rachael with images from most of the staff. During bar hour we had a celebratory toast to one of the best ever ‘Birding Down Under’ expeditions, the weather having been extremely kind to us almost right to the end and with almost every species possible seen over the course of our two weeks together. The farewell dinner was a wonderful buffet created once again by the galley team.
10 December 2014
We disembarked under a leaden but mercifully dry sky after breakfast and all the packing, boot washing, immigration procedures and farewells were concluded at 0900. Each group headed off in a different direction, looking for new adventures, but taking with them the treasured memories of this one shared on the remote islands of the untamed Southern Ocean.
11 November - 24 November 2014
11 November 2014
At Sea, Snares en-route to Enderby Island
Seas built overnight as we left Bluff and steamed towards the Snares. Rolling swells, driven by westerly winds built the sea steadily overnight, meaning a sleepless night for many as we adjusted to the movement. We arrived at the Snares about 0730 and were pleased to see that seas weren’t as choppy in the lee of the island as anticipated, and the call was to head out Zodiac cruising as quickly as possible to take advantage of the good conditions. We cruised in under the cliffs at Mollymawk Bay (no Buller’s in residence yet though), and proceeded north hugging the island, through the cave into Hoho Bay. Puttering about in Hoho Bay and Ship’s Cove we had excellent viewings of the endemic Snares Tomtit, Fernbird and Snares Crested Penguin. Other highlights included excellent viewings of Southern Skua in full territorial display, Antarctic Terns, male Hooker’s Sealions (juveniles and bulls) lolling about in the water and New Zealand Fur Seals. The weather held for us and we experienced sunshine and light winds – a rare treat at the Snares! At 1000 we headed back to the ship, treated to porpoising Snares Crested Penguins around the Zodiacs and a raft of Cape Pigeons. Having only her Zodiac-driving learner plates, Rachael was pleased to have undertaken the cruise without difficulty and thanked all her excellent passengers.
Back on board we enjoyed a leisurely late breakfast, followed by a solid day of more excellent birding from the bridge. Conditions built as we departed the Snares, but eased somewhat into the afternoon. Highlights of the afternoon included many Cape Pigeons, White-chinned Petrel, the ever magnificent Mottled Petrel (fast becoming everyone’s favourite – no surprises there), Black and White-bellied Storm Petrels, Southern Royals, Salvins, White-capped and Campbell Albatrosses, Giant Petrels and a plethora of often hard to identify prions. So ended an excellent first full day at sea – a taste of things to come.
12 November 2014
We arrived at Enderby Island in the wee hours, a safe anchoring in the harbour heralded by calming seas. The day dawned partly cloudy, with a stiff sou’wester blowing. Undeterred by the conditions and in anticipation of the wonders to come, everyone was fair chomping at the bit to get ashore. Before we could proceed a briefing was held, full of helpful information such as ‘say no and walk away when a horny Sea Lion approaches’ and ‘yes, more than a t-shirt is required for this jaunt around a Subantarctic island’. The first boatload proceeded ashore around 0930 and was greeted by Yellow-eyed Penguins standing to attention on the dunes above the landing, a bevy of Northern Giant Petrels overhead and Pipits flitting amongst their feet. Once everyone was ashore we ran a gauntlet of juvenile Sea Lions in order to get to the huts at the other end of the beach so that we could change gumboots for shoes and drop gear. When everyone was ready we set off en-mass over the board walk, first through Rātā and Dracaphilum forest, out into Hebe scrub (where we were treated to two Southern Royal Albatross on the ground a mere 5m away), and burst out into a field of Bulbinella. Spreading out in a line, we scanned the tussocked area for the infamous Auckland Island Snipe. It wasn’t long before several were spotted and everyone had a chance to see them up close. We then wandered down to a good spot to spy Light-mantled Sooty Albatross nesting on the cliff edges. Here the group split, with a quarter staying behind to get a better look at the Light-mantled, while the others set off on a loop of the island, round Derry Castle Point and back to Sandy Bay through a variety of terrain which included boulder fields, peat swamp, tussock meadows, Rātā forest and Hebe scrub. Many of the mega-herbs were in flower: Stilabcarpa were in full bloom with a delicate scent, some Bulbinella were out, and Anisotome were still to come through. Birding highlights included: Auckland Island Shag and Teal, a Northern Giant Petrel chick, New Zealand Falcon, Red-crowned Parakeet, Brown Skua, Banded Dotterel, Tui, Bellbird and several well-meaning but unlikely sightings of rare and/or exotics. A 10km round trip was a tiring but rewarding experience for many and we were aided by delightful weather which was sunny in patches and refreshingly breezy. A few people relayed the startling experience of accidently coming too close for comfort to a cheeky Sea Lion, but no harm was done. Everyone arrived back at the ship content and full of stories, many which would have to wait for another day as people were ready to head off to bed early to rest their tired bodies for the activities tomorrow.
13 November 2014
Auckland Island Zodiac cruise & the Shy Albatross Colony
In the early hours of the morning we raised the anchor and headed down the eastern side of Auckland Island and into Carnley Harbour. Here we were offered two choices. We could take a Zodiac cruise around the shores of Adams Island in the hope of sighting Red and Yellow-crowned Parakeet, having closer views of Auckland Island Shags, Teal, Bellbird and Tui, and with luck a view of the Banded Rail. The other option was to attempt a rough landing onto a break platform, followed by an arduous walk straight up 200m to a Shy Albatross colony. Many people opted for the first option given the cold conditions (occasional hail and showers) and the tough climb, but a hardy bunch set off in two Zodiac loads to attempt the landing. They made it ashore without too much hassle and slogged up the hill to be rewarded with excellent views of Shy Albatross on nests as little as 5m away which was a real treat after all their labours. Cold, blustery conditions were reported from the colony.
The Zodiac expedition experienced some success. They had clear views of a Red-crowned Parakeet feeding in a Hebe close to shore, excellent views of Teal feeding in and around the shoreline, including clear views of male vs female colouration (males with the green sheen around the head and neck), size (males slightly larger), and views of the birds flapping their stumpy wings. We crossed over to the Western Arm of Carnley Harbour in hope of spotting more parakeet, though unfortunately Yellow-crowned Parakeet didn’t put in an appearance. The current was racing through Victoria Passage and waves were breaking with force, making everyone glad that we didn’t have to pass through that area. Back on board, we had lunch in the shelter of the harbour before setting a course for Macquarie Island. As we eased out of the harbour into open waters we were pleased to find that conditions were calmer than expected and we made good progress into the afternoon. The birding went quiet at this stage as we were passing over deep, unproductive waters.
14 November 2014
Day at sea; Auckland Islands to Macquarie Island
A day at sea was welcomed by many as a chance to sleep in, relax, catch up on reading and lists. Conditions at sea remained favourable and we made good time progressing towards Macca. The calm conditions gave us a chance to enjoy the first lectures of the trip. Morten kicked things off with a very informative lecture giving an overview of marine mammals in the region. Rachael happily discussed the world’s best Pterodroma (Mottled Petrel – no debate there), and Rodney brought it home with an introduction to Macquarie Island, including a briefing on the landings to come. The Sea Shop opened for the first time this trip, proving popular with queues out the door. Sadly demand for Tuatara hats couldn’t be matched, though we can report a record day for Tuatara toy sales. A documentary exploring the recent eradication of rabbits and mice from Macca was played just before dinner. Quiet birding continued up on the bridge, with sightings few and far between compared to the previous days. A lucky few caught glimpses of Striped Beaked Whale, Blue Petrel and Soft-plumaged Petrel. Despite the slow birding, favourable conditions made the bridge a popular and relaxing place to be and many enjoyed whiling away the hours up there.
15 November 2014
Sandy Bay, Macquarie Island
We anchored off Buckles Bay (the bay where the ANARE base is stationed) around 0300 and awoke to blustery, southerly conditions, with patches of sunshine. Rodney and Adam picked up the five Macca rangers from the base (Chris & Andrea the parks rangers, Keon 2IC/BOM crew, Meg the doctor and McGuiver the carpenter). Once they were aboard we headed down the east coast to anchor off Sandy Bay, our landing point for the day. Wasting no time, the Macca inhabitants made a beeline for the fruit bowl, temporarily cleaning us out of bananas. Once their potassium levels had returned to normal ranges, they gave us a briefing and we shuttled ashore by Zodiac, dodging King Penguins in the water as we went. Once ashore we were free to explore the bay to take in the splendour of our surroundings - tussock covered hills towering over us to the west, black volcanic sand beaches and the wildlife, oh the wildlife! King Penguins (adults and chicks), Royal Penguins and Southern Elephant Seals abounded. Overwhelmed at first, many of us soon cottoned on to parking up in a chosen spot and watching the animals pass on by, unperturbed by our presence. Ignoring the 5m rule, weaner Elephant Seal pups were keen to cuddle/search for milk, while curious Kings pecked at offensive gumboots. The Royal Colony was a sight to behold, with approximately 4,000 birds on nests with eggs. The local skua gangs punished inattentive parents, with at least five successful predation events observed in just 45 minutes. The stiff southerly breeze continued to blow, and many were pleased to head back to the ship for a warming lunch and some respite from the cold. Once circulation had returned to toes and fingers, many were keen to head back out once again for another dose of Macca magic. We were lucky to be treated to surprise views of a vagrant Leopard Seal and even a lone/lost Macaroni Penguin. Some were witness to a nasty GP attack on a King Penguin chick – luring the unsuspecting youngster into the surf before half-drowning then taking turns murderously pecking at the poor thing. It was a terribly drawn out process and one not pleasant to watch. The Macca team lodged with us on board that evening and were thoroughly tickled with the range of fresh food and conversation. One table in particular seemed to be having more than their fair share of fun, which entertained us all.
16 November 2014
Lusitania Bay Zodiac cruise + Buckles Bay tour
As we had to wait until the Macca team at the ANARE base were awake (being two hours behind on eastern Australian time), we were spent the time crusing a little way down the coast to Lusitania Bay. Views over the island were striking: snow had fallen on the tops overnight, while the water looked bluer than ever and hundreds of King Penguins porpoised and performed around the boat. Taking breakfast in shifts, we launched the Zodiacs and cruised along the shores of the bay, which is home to around 250,000 King Penguins of all ages. Stretching out several kilometres along the beach and at least 500m inland, the sight, sound and smell of the colony was something to behold. We also caught glimpses of Eastern Rockhopper Penguins from afar and were able to observe white nellies (pale morph of Southern Giant Petrels) at close range. Toddling back up the coast after breakfast, we were treated to clearing skies and by the time we arrived back at Buckles Bay the sun was beating down. On shore, we were split into small groups and were escorted around the base and its surroundings by the Macca rangers. We were introduced to other Macca team members (also keen for a yarn with new faces and fresh stories). With the eradication completed, the number of core staff at the station has reduced (currently 26 and very male dominated), and most work is focussed on post-eradication monitoring, weather and atmospheric data collection, as well as base maintenance. We watched a weather balloon being released (Robin ably assisted with this process), and were treated to Devonshire tea in the mess. All in all it was a most civilised visit. We were given the opportunity to wander down the west coast and up a board walk to a high point which gives excellent views over the base and the isthmus on which it sits. Along the way many of us observed a group of Giant Petrels feeding on an Elephant Seal carcass. There was a definite hierarchy within the group of birds and many circled, waiting for their chance to pounce. Elephant Seals were out in force, enjoying the sunbathing opportunity, while we were also treated to close views of a small Gentoo Penguin colony. As we Zodiaced back to the ship we passed by a small Rockhopper Penguin colony near the base and sightings were made of a large, unknown and very active species of penguin…most assuredly a Macca endemic. The clouds started building as we pulled anchor and set sail for Campbell Island – perfect timing. Birding picked up as we moved on, with sightings of both Blue and Soft-plumaged Petrel. Seas, now behind us, continued to be kind, which was appreciated by all.
17 November 2014
Day at sea enroute to Campbell Island
Many enjoyed the sleep-in this morning, as people took the opportunity to relax into a full day of birding, punctuated by meals, cups of tea and lectures. Shallower, more productive waters between Macca and Campbell meant that bird numbers were up and many caught a glimpse of Blue and Soft-plumaged Petrels. Seas continued to be favourable and the wind swung round to tail us from the sou’west. Adam started the lecture programme for the day, talking about various albatrosses and how to identify them. Rachael followed with a pre-lunch lecture on specialist adaptations of seabirds, while Rodney gave an informative introduction to Campbell Island in the afternoon.
18 November 2014
Carnley Harbour/ Col Lyall/ Northwest Bay Circuit, Campbell Island
The day dawned bright and sunny, with light winds as we sailed into Carnley Harbour and set anchor about 0600. Following a briefing we split into two groups: those who chose to head off on the Northwest Bay Circuit with Adam and Dr Jim, and those who chose to Zodiac cruise around the harbour in search of Campbell Teal in the morning, followed by a walk up to Col Lyall in the afternoon. Given the strenuous nature of the NW Bay Circuit, most chose the latter option and a group of ten set off with Adam, ready to stretch their legs. This team reported a good days walk, with two excellent sightings of Snipe, and five Campbell Teal in Camp Cove where they were picked up at the end of the day.
Zodiac cruisers were also treated to excellent views of a pair of Campbell Teal and were able to closely observe the difference in size and colour between the sexes. Snipe were heard calling not far in-land, though were not sighted from the boats. Campbell Shag were perched on boulders along the shore, and proceeded to strike many a pose for the cameras. During our cruise of the inlets, we made stops at the old homestead site, where many had close encounters with a territorial sub-adult male Sealion. He seemed especially interested in those with big cameras, but luckily no gear was lost to his enthusiastic approaches. Two Giant Petrel nests were seen close to the homestead site, with chicks quite exposed to the elements and predation. A group of parents were parked up nearby keeping an eye on us, and we could only presume they were taking time out from demanding offspring. A further stop was made to visit ‘the loneliest tree’- a spruce planted in Camp Cove. It is a matter of debate in whose memory the tree was planted, though Ranfurly seems to be the most popular theory. Before stopping for lunch we raced across the harbour in the hope of spotting Light-mantled Sooty Albatross on the nest. Keen eyes spotted one about 15m up a cliff, tucked in under Draccaphilum trees which made an ideal hiding spot.
A packed lunch was enjoyed picnic style out in the sunshine on the deck before we headed off again, this time for an excursion up to the Southern Royal colony at Col Lyall. Some were lucky enough to spot Snipe with Rodney, while others went ahead to maximise their time at the albatross colony. A well graded boardwalk took us up to the tops, and we burst out of the bush-line into tussock and megaherb country. Here we were greeted by courting Southern Royals, some on nests, some strutting their stuff and many wheeling overhead. We were all amazed at the variety of noises these birds could produce: pops, rrrrrs, clicks, brays… they didn’t hold back and seemed entirely unperturbed by our presence. The flip-flop of their huge paddle feet was comical, as was their style of walking. They appeared hunched over like old men, shuffling along with hands clasped behind their backs. We whiled away several happy hours enthralled by their behaviour. During this time the wind dropped and despite the occasional hail shower, conditions were very pleasant. By the time we reached the landing to head back to the ship, the waters in the harbour were as calm as a mill pond. Dinner was served while we stayed in the lee of the harbour and most would have been very happy to spend a further few days in the area, but unfortunately the schedule dictated our movement onwards and upwards towards the Antipodes. We were treated to incredible soft light as we made our way out of the harbour. All in all, Campbell made a very striking impression and was generally agreed to have been one the highlights to date.
19 November 2014
Day at sea enroute to Antipodes Island
With the wind on our tail, we continued to ride the swell towards the Antipodes. Favourable birding conditions continued and representatives from all expected species called in around the boat. Sightings of Wandering Albatross began to increase (nearly all males, returned early to complete renovations on the nest before the Mrs was back in residence in a couple of weeks). Several sightings of Grey Petrel and Little Shearwater were made too, though were not seen by all. The weather proved glorious and sunny, and many spent happy hours out on the fantail of the ship photographing birds trailing behind while occasionally dodging rogue waves as they washed over deck. The lecture programme continued to break the day. Firstly two films documenting pest eradication from Campbell Island and the subsequent recovery of Campbell Island Teal were screened. Adam then sorted peoples petrel identification puzzles, and Rachael reported on the decline of the Eastern Rockhopper population on Campbell Island. She told us that there has been a 94% decline since 1942, with changes in sea surface temperatures altering the distribution of prey species. It appears that the volume of prey, as opposed to the ‘quality’ of prey is the main driver of population decline. Currently populations are experiencing slight positive population growth, associated with localised SST cooling, but this is anticipated to be only a short term hiatus from an overall long term trend towards warming SST. The Sea Shop opened for a second time this trip, with possum/merino gloves proving to be the trendy item of the day.
20 November 2014
Half day at sea + Antipodes Island Zodiac cruising
We pushed on through the morning, edging ever closer to the Antipodes. The wind and swell built as we went, coming in from the south-west. The sun still ruled overhead and the photographers were happy with the range and number of birds that followed the ship. Several Grey Petrel and Little Shearwater were observed, though not all were lucky enough to catch a glimpse. Perhaps this was an omen of things to come? We made good time to the Antipodes, nudging into Ringdove Bay around 1100. The volcanic nature of the island was immediately obvious, with large, layered cliffs erupting out of the ocean, and sweeping remnants of caldera edging the archipelago. The bathymetry is such that we were unable to lay anchor – dropping off sharply to over 700m deep not far from shore. Nudging into the lee of the island, we were able to enjoy lunch in relatively calm seas before coming around again to launch Zodiacs, and once again in order the load passengers into said Zodiacs. A rolling swell, gusting westerlies and a drifting ship, made loading Zodiacs into a fine art of haste and precision.
All boarded without incident and we were able to jet our way inshore to begin searching for four big ticks: Antipodean Parakeet, Reischek’s Parakeet, Erect-crested Penguin and Subantarctic Fur Seal. The latter two presented themselves readily, obligingly residing at close range in the middle of Ringdove Bay. Not long afterwards a group of five parakeets made themselves apparent (though with their cryptic colouration, they tested some peoples’ patience). Despite the fact that they are often in mixed flocks, on closer inspection they all proved to be the red-crowned Reischek’s. Onwards and upwards, we cruised south along the shoreline when a Humpback Whale surprised us by surfacing nearby. Taking a few breaths, she dived and popped up again 10 minutes later between the boats and the shore, most likely having swum directly under us! Making our way slowly north along the west coast we encountered several more pairs of parakeets, though frustratingly only Reischek’s. Still we were able to appreciate the wild nature of the island, with dirty waterfalls hinting at the sodden nature of the plateau and large slips caused by a large cyclone centred on the island on 6 January 2013 and estimated to have affected 20% of the island. Other highlights were close observations of the Erect-crested Penguins, and feeding flocks of Cape Petrel. With the swell and wind increasing (and body temperatures decreasing) we eventually had to call the search off and admit defeat. A disappointing result, but such is life. As we sped back towards the ship we had an encounter with a smaller Humpback (which may have been the calf of the first one we saw), which breached several times before sending us off with a graceful wave of the tail fluke. Showers set in as unloading took place and many were glad to be back in the warmth on-board. After warming up with drinks and dinner, the unlucky few not to have seen Grey Petrel gave it one more crack as we departed the island, but unfortunately had no luck. Dr Jim really felt the double blow – it had been a tough day at the office. As we pulled away from the shelter of the island, seas and winds started to build and we all braced ourselves for a bumpy night.
21 November 2014
Sail-by Bounties and day at sea enroute to Chathams
We pitched and rolled through the night, tilting up to 40° at times, making a sleepless night for many. Many gave up on sleep and tried to read, while others decided a drink was the best option. However, conditions were such that the internal bar door jammed shut, and a treacherous mission through the external door was required to make it back to the safety of the cabins. Conditions improved in the early hours as we neared the Bounty Islands, an archipelago of 13 rock stacks erupting from the ocean floor. Unfortunately with large rolling swells and 35kn westerly winds, Zodiac cruising was a definite no-go. Luckily, the key species were very obliging and came to us. Bounties Shag abounded in the air around the boat. In the high winds they had a tough time making any leeway flying anywhere, but their slow progress at close range lent itself to lovely views, and photos of this rare endemic. Salvin’s Albatross soared around the ship in good numbers, and Fairy and Fulmar Prions made their presence known. Even from a distance the chaos of the mixed colonies on the islands was apparent, with Erect Crested Penguins, prions, albatross and New Zealand Fur Seals squeezed cheek by jowl on any available space. With no vegetation or real soil, it appeared the birds scraped a nest of guano, small rocks and loose feathers together. The shags appeared to nest on a couple of separate, exclusive rock stacks, with mainly fur seals for company. Challenging wind and sea conditions meant that we were only able to make two passes before heading on our way. The slight change of direction bought easier sailing, much to everyone’s relief, and many stayed on deck in the hope of glimpsing the elusive Magenta Petrel, but had no luck. Rodney and Adam gave a talk on the joys of cruising in the Russian Far East, which whipped up some scheming and planning for future trips. Many turned in early hoping to catch up on lost sleep to be in peak condition for Magenta Petrel spotting the next day.
22 November 2014
The day of the Magenta Petrel (day at sea enroute to Chathams)
Today was the day, the day to see Magenta Petrel. Dawn broke at 0530 and with it came a wave of the keenest of the keen on deck, with all eyes peeled and binos at the ready. And so the wait began…. People settled in and got comfy. We knew it would likely be a marathon, not a sprint. As the sun edged further over the horizon some ventured inside to answer the call of nature or for the quick comfort of a cup of tea. Then all of a sudden the call from Adam came over the PA system: “Magenta Petrel close in at the back of the boat!” Before we could fully grasp the significance of this statement the bird had gone as fast as he’d come. The lucky few celebrated while the unlucky few lamented. Expert opinion suggests that this was the closest one had ever been to the ship and provided some of the best photos ever taken of this species. Spirits were not dampened for too long however as those who had missed out picked themselves up and doubled their vigilance, stopping only for a quick bite (a delicious brunch and hors d'oeuvres – thanks boys) and a briefing from Rodney regarding activities at the Chatham Islands. Thankfully conditions were magnificent on deck with light winds, light seas and sunshine, glorious sunshine. Photographic opportunities were numerous as Northern Buller’s and Chatham Albatross began to trail the boat. Still no joy on the Magenta Petrel front as the day wore on.
An early dinner (thanks for being so understanding Cy and Connor) refuelled the tanks and we were energized to settle into the home stretch while the ship completed laps of the SW corner off ‘the horns’ of Chatham Island, the site of their known breeding grounds. Patiently we waited while Adam periodically dripped fish oil off the back of the boat in the hope of luring one in. The light was softening in the west and daylight was beginning to run short when all of a sudden eagle-eyed Adam spotted the distinctive jizz of a Pterodroma on the southern horizon. Calling the attention of all and sundry, 63 pairs of eyes strained to lock onto the bird, which became easier and easier as it flew in closer, completing a small lap around the stern and flew off. Emotions were running high, shouts of joy echoed around, adrenalin was pumping and dance moves were busted. The unfortunate few who managed to miss a sighting in all the excitement were awarded not only a second, but a third chance to view the bird, as it came in on the boat again and again, before heading off into the sunset. This climax ended an unprecedented day of viewing as it was only the second time two birds had been spotted in one day and the most number of viewing opportunities in a day. A life bird for many, this was truly the cherry on top of a fantastic trip. While many indulged in a celebratory drink, frivolity was kept in check owing to another extremely early start the next day.
23 November 2014
Awatotora Reserve, Chatham Island
Westerly winds and swell forced us to anchor on the east side of the island overnight in Owenga Bay. Despite an optimistic start time of 0530 this morning, which would give us enough time for a briefing and to make our packed lunches, conditions were deemed too unpleasant to continue until they had lessened. Once cleared with various parties ashore, the call was made to hold off until the afternoon as the forecast was for easing winds. Most gave a grateful sigh and headed back to bed for a blissful snooze. At 1300 we set off for the golden sand of Owenga. Plentiful whitecaps made for a wet and bumpy ride, but the breeze soon dried us off. We were picked up by school buses, so some of the taller people found themselves with their knees around their ears. As we passed through the main township of Waitangi we noticed that most of the town seemed to be gathered at the rugby club. We drove for 45 minutes down to the Awatotoroa Reserve on Liz and Bruce Tainui’s land at the south west corner of the island. Several Weka and many Harrier Hawkes were spotted enroute, while lambs and calves frolicked in the fields. Awatotoroa is just one part of the conservation work undertaken by Liz and Bruce. They also run the Taiko Trust, facilitate Chatham Petrel, Taiko (Magenta petrel) and Chatham Albatross translocations and undertake extensive predator control. Awatotoroa is a 2,000 acre reserve of regenerating native forest, with is heavily trapped. Here we were greeted by Chatham Pigeons as we hopped off the bus, one of our target species. We were given the chance to head off down the track in the gully through to the coast or to amble around at our own pace in order to spot our other target species, Chatham Grey Warbler. Its distinctive song is a dead giveaway and everyone soon managed to lock onto one. The bush structure along the gully dominated by tree ferns, ribbon wood and Kawakawa trees proved quite unique compared to the rest of the main island. In the end only four people made it all the way to the end and were rewarded with views of the Chatham Island Forget-me-not and Pitt Shags nesting in the distance. Others who stayed close got to observe a Fantail on a nest and Weka chicks. All enjoyed the sunshine and were pleased not have visited there in the howling wind and showers that dominated the morning. It was an easy ride back to the ship by Zodiac as the seas were now flat, though large swells through Pitt Strait meant we stayed off the east coast overnight.
24 November 2014
The Pyramid, South-East Island, Mangere Island
The final morning of our expedition dawned cool and cloudy, though this did not put people off enjoying some excellent birding. Crepuscular rays made for striking photographic opportunities as we steamed south towards The Pyramid, a rock stack resembling a sharks tooth with a large cavity, which erupts out of the ocean. This spectacular feature is the stronghold of 5,000 breeding pairs of Chatham Albatross (and one confused Salvin’s). We chummed as we circumnavigated the island a couple of times and it didn’t take long for the waters around the boat to be inundated with scrappy Chatham Albatross and Northern Buller’s. They provided a real spectacle as they came into land like floatplanes on their big paddle feet and tussled greedily over fish scraps.
Our next excursion was a Zodiac cruise close to the shores of South East Island. In shore it didn’t take long for us to spot the sassy little Shore Plovers who, with their black caps and white headbands, resembled little bald monks scurrying around the shore line. Much to everyone’s delight Adam spotted a pair of Chatham Island Oystercatchers as we poked our nose around into the next bay. Two big ticks! Unfortunately Snipe and Black Robin were not inclined to make an appearance (dreams are free), but we enjoyed excellent views of fur seals, nesting Pitt Shags and White-fronted Terns, while Tui, Kakareke and Fantail were spotted in the bush. While we were cruising, the crew and chefs were busy fishing out the back, hauling in beautiful blue cod, though sadly not enough for all of our lunches. Pulling anchor we made a beeline for Mangere Island, off the northwest corner of Pitt Island in the hope of taking a Zodiac cruise there. Enroute we saw Chatham Shag, another big tick. During this time we had our final briefing for the disembarkation and debriefed the trip. Those who were unsure were assured that taking a flight from the Chathams dressed in gumboots would be considered normal. Megan put together a wonderful slideshow summary of our expedition, with many striking shots of the plants, wildlife and people along the way. When we arrived at Mangere the call was made to abandon our plans for a Zodiac cruise as conditions were too difficult to launch the boats, so we circumnavigated the island as close as possible. Mysterious cetacean sightings were made, with some swearing they saw dolphins, while others said they were Shepherd’s Beaked Whales. No consensus could be made, but it was an exciting, if brief, viewing so close to the ship. From here we made a final pass of ‘the horns’, hoping for views of the Chatham Petrel as we had heard from Liz that one was in residence at the colony. Winds had dropped significantly, so conditions were not ideal for gadfly petrels. Best efforts were made to attract anything in the vicinity, with fish oil being dropped and even war-whopping, but to no avail. There was not a gadfly in sight so luckily the company of those who chose to ride it out was excellent. With darkness falling we admitted defeat and headed inside to enjoy Cy and Connor’s delicious farewell buffet dinner.
All in all this was a particularly fantastic trip due in part to the especially good weather, the unprecedented sightings of a number of rare species and also the people who shared in the excitement and wonder of it all. Many thanks for the excellent company and for choosing to experience this special part of the world with us.
We gathered at the Kelvin Hotel, Invercargill from around the globe, all in happy anticipation of our adventure on the Southern Ocean. At dinner we met our Expedition Leader Rodney Russ and his son Nathan who is responsible for the operation of their Russian owned and crewed vessel the Professor Khromov, better known to us as the Spirit of Enderby. Rodney outlined the programme for tomorrow and we retired to our rooms to prepare for boarding tomorrow.
Our luggage was collected and transferred to the ship, so we were free to explore Invercargill or visit the very interesting Southland Museum. There we saw the excellent Southern Ocean exhibit and the weird native Tuataras which can be linked to the dinosaurs. We reassembled at the hotel at 2pm for the transfer to Bluff where we boarded the ship and were shown to our cabins. After some time to unpack we gathered in the Lecture Room for a formal introduction to the Expedition Team and a ship briefing from Rodney and Cruise Director, Meghan. Light rain had started to fall after the Life Boat drill so most of us adjourned to the bar for a social drink before dinner. Adam convened the first meeting for what was to become a regular after dinner feature for the voyage – the reading of the bird list. Then it was time to retire for the night and dream of adventures to come.
Departing Bluff. Photo credit: ABreniere
The ship was rocking and rolling all night so sleep was difficult and there were many bleary eyes at the 6.45am breakfast. We had arrived off the Snares in the early hours and drifted off South Bay as Captain Dmitry and Rodney assessed whether we could take the planned Zodiac cruise. Winds were NW at about 20 knots but conditions were marginal due to a heavy swell. We went ahead with the Zodiac briefing and waited while conditions were assessed. At around 8.30 we were off in the 5 Zodiacs driven by Adam, Samuel, Meghan, Agnes and Rodney. We made our way between the main island and Broughton Island to Hoho Bay where we found ourselves in a very sheltered little inlet favoured by numerous Snares Crested Penguins. A few New Zealand Fur Seals dozed on the rocks and further up the hill lay the occasional Sea Lion. Fernbirds and Tomtits in the area were most obliging and many good images were captured by inquisitive lenses. Unfortunately our visit to this little oasis was cut short due to a predicted wind change to the SW, so we raced back to the ship and headed further South towards the Auckland Islands.
The afternoon was spent listening to an introduction to the Auckland Islands from Rodney and bird watching from the bridge and all decks. A small pod of Long Finned Pilot Whales was pointed out by Adam around 5pm. Then it was time for dinner with a choice of delicious New Zealand lamb or chicken for the main course, followed by the regular reading of the bird list in the bar.
Snares Crested Penguins. Photo credit: MKelly
A grey dawn greeted us as we sat off Port Ross, on Enderby Island. The ship had arrived there around 2am and dropped anchor in the sheltered harbour of ‘Sara’s Bosom’ so we had enjoyed a much needed restful sleep in the calm waters. Two Zodiacs were launched after our morning briefing, gear cleaning and lunch packing to shuttle the group ashore. We ran the gauntlet of inquisitive male Hookers Sea Lions on landing and assembled on the beach and set off to walk the boardwalk across the island. It was surprising and exciting to see a New Zealand Falcon in the landing area. Along the way the distinctive shapes of nesting Southern Royal Albatross could be seen and flying overhead were Light-mantled Sooty Albatross. A Yellow-eyed Penguin had very obligingly decided to make a home right next to the boardwalk and a researcher had set up camera equipment there to monitor the bird’s movements. Once we reached the Western Cliffs the group split up to look for Subantarctic Snipe. All groups were successful in this challenge, and then moved on to look at Light-mantled Sooty Albatross nesting on the cliffs. At this point Adam led the way for people wanting to walk to Derry Castle Reef with Rodney at the end of the group. During their long walk around the island they saw several more Snipe, Yellow-eyed Penguins (one even up a small Rata tree), Auckland Island Flightless Teal (which were nesting so fairly shy) and Banded Dotterel. In and around the Rata forests many Tui, Bellbirds, Pipits and Red Crowned Parakeets were seen. One of the more memorable scenes of the day was watching several Giant Petrels tearing into a New Zealand Fur Seal carcass on the rocks.
Samuel and Agnes led the remainder of the group back along the boardwalk towards Sandy Bay once more. Some of us decided to walk through the tussock towards the beach where the female Sea Lions would be hauled out prior to giving birth at Sandy Bay. Samuel accompanied us and found a nice sheltered spot in the tussock for our picnic lunch. Soon after setting out again we came across a Yellow-eyed Penguin just a few metres away from where we had been reclining. On our return it was a challenge to pass through the many male Sea Lions who seemed to like to congregate on the grass near the DOC huts above Sandy Bay. One in particular seemed to take a great liking to Agnes and appeared determined to have her in his harem. The last Zodiac shuttle left the beach at 7pm and all reported to have had a wonderful day on this unique island.
The reading of the bird list took place before a dinner of venison or pork, and most retired early after the exertions of the day.
Hookers Sealion and Spirit of Enderby on Enderby Island, Auckland Islands. Photo credit: ABreniere
Rain and low cloud accompanied our entry into Carnley Harbour, so Rodney postponed the morning briefing until he had had time to assess the best options for the day. It was clear that the climb to see the Shy Mollymawk Colony on South West Cape would certainly not be worth the effort in such claggy conditions, so that would not be on the agenda. He decided we would make a brief landing at Epigwatt where the Grafton was wrecked in 1864. All five men aboard survived this wreck and built a hut here where they lived for 18 months before sailing their modified dinghy to New Zealand. The remains of the ship and their hut can still be seen. A hardy few of our group ventured out in the inclement weather to take a stroll around the area and to look for Yellow-crowned Parakeets in the surrounding mossy and moist Rata forest.
It was a choppy ride south towards Macquarie Island, with many preferring the comfort of their bunks to the windy decks. Chefs Bruce and Dean and wait staff Natalia and Katya did a magnificent job of preparing and serving meals under extremely difficult circumstances.
Riding the ocean waves. Enroute to Macquarie Island. Photo credit: MKelly
We came to anchor at 2am off Buckles Bay, the site of the ANARE base. Rodney went ashore and returned with the Station Leader, Mark Gasson, Chief Ranger Chris and Ranger Kris. They remained on board as we cruised south to Sandy Bay where everyone was ferried ashore by Zodiac for free time to observe the King and Royal Penguins and Elephant Seals. It was sunny and a balmy 5 degrees when we arrived, but the wind chill factor made it seem colder, particularly when sleet showers swept by with some regularity. We were met on shore by Dana, Billy and Ange, 3 of the hunters who patrol the island with their dogs looking for rabbits, rats and mice. They were glad of our company and happy to share their experiences of living in such a remote and challenging place. The wildlife was prolific and the sounds and smells very memorable, particularly in the Royal Penguin colony at the end of the boardwalk. Fat young male Elephant Seals lay in a pile burping, grunting, scratching and wrestling for space while cute weaners lay all around the beach waiting for mothers who will no longer return. Fluffballs of grey feathers disguised emerging King Penguins while adults, some still moulting, trudged to and fro for no apparent reason. A pair of Brown Skuas nested just near the boardwalk to the Royal Penguin colony, nice and handy for a takeaway meal whenever they felt hungry, penguin eggshells around the nest testament to their preferred snack. We saw one lone Chinstrap Penguin wandering the beach, which seemed to take a great interest in us, perhaps in the hope that we might keep him company until he could find others of his kind. Two Macquarie Shags sat preening on the point as we departed. As one of the last Zodiacs made its way back to the ship for lunch a small pod of around 6 Orca was spotted, with one large male clearly visible above the waves. They were no doubt cruising the coast on the lookout for unsuspecting weaners. Most of the group returned to Sandy Bay after lunch for another walk amongst the prolific wildlife, which apart from the odd peck or grunt, seemed unaware of these long lens toting humans. It had been a wonderful day on this magnificent stretch of Macquarie coastline.
Sandy Bay, Macquarie Island. Photo credit: SBlanc
Snow had covered the island overnight, so we admired the glistening coastline as we made our way south to view the huge Royal Penguin colony on the Southern tip of the island. Conditions were too cold and blustery for a Zodiac cruise so we saw what we could from the ship and returned north to anchor off Buckles Bay. There we went ashore under sunny skies and were split into 5 groups to tour the ANARE Base (founded in 1947) and the surrounding area in the company of base staff. Just opposite the landing site and all along the approach road to the base, Gentoo Penguins were nesting with one or two chicks. It was wonderful to be able to see them so close. Very close to this site of new life stood a sombre reminder of the past in the form of rusting digesters which had been used by employees of Josef Hack to render penguins to oil when the Elephant Seal population had been decimated. The beach on the Western side of the small isthmus was a wild and windy place, littered with Elephant Seal weaners, kelp, rocks and the occasional pile of weathering bones. The colours of the sea here were nothing short of spectacular, ranging from deep aqua to a vivid blue. Elephant Seals lay everywhere, taking shelter in the work sheds around the base, although the station proper is afforded a little protection by a fence. This did not deter one huge male however who had managed to break down a section and make himself at home in a cosy spot between two of the buildings. Staff have thus far been unable to get him to budge, and can only wait until the monster decides to move on. Inside the station mess the ‘postmaster’ stamped our mail and our passports at a table next to the bar while we viewed the wall of photos showing staff from ages past. It was interesting to see one of our group as a young man (with long flowing locks) who had been the base doctor here in his younger days. All too soon it was time to transfer back to the ship, with Zodiacs pausing at a rocky outcrop on the ride back to see some Rockhopper Penguins. After a late lunch we said farewell to this wonderful island, departing on our journey to Campbell Island at 3pm.
Elephant Seal roadblock, Buckles Bay, Macquarie Island. Photo credit: ABreniere
As we sailed today we enjoyed lectures from Samuel on Penguins, Adam on Prions of the Southern Ocean and Agnes on Albatross. Later Rodney gave an introduction to Campbell Island. Birders spent much of the day on deck scanning the skies, recording a number of Blue Petrels, while others sorted their numerous Macquarie Island photos, caught up on their reading or dozed.
We came to anchor in Perseverance Harbour at around 3.30am. At 8.45am Rodney departed with a group of 15 to enjoy a day long walk which included skirting Col Peak to Windless Cove and returning to Camp Cove. Next Adam set off with a group to Garden Cove where they walked along the foot of Mt Honey on a hunt for the Campbell Island Snipe. The difficult walk was worth it and they returned triumphantly with photographs of this elusive species. The remainder of the group went for a Zodiac cruise stopping off firstly at Tucker Cove where we examined the only remaining relic of the original homestead, the redoubtable Shacklock stove. Our next landing was at Camp Cove, where the ‘loneliest tree in the world’ (according to the Guinness Book of Records) sits guarded by Hooker’s Sea Lions, one of which seemed very keen to board one of the Zodiacs, and then escorted us towards Garden Cove. Along the coastline we saw half a dozen Campbell Island Flightless Teal, numerous New Zealand Pipits and a couple of White-fronted Terns. On our way back to the ship we saw a young Southern Royal Albatross attempting to launch into the skies from the sea without much luck. He probably needs more time to work on his technique. Once back aboard it was time for some lunch before donning the wet weather gear again for our 1.30pm landing to walk the boardwalk on the Col Lyall Saddle between Col Peak and Mt Lyall.
Adam led the way up the boardwalk towards the Southern Royal Albatross which we could see nesting in large numbers. The boardwalk made walking much easier for the humans, and also for the wildlife. We encountered two Hookers Sea Lions very high up on the walkway who obviously make a habit of using this most convenient thoroughfare and are not so inclined to share it. After some persuasion the groups made it safely past these growling creatures. The Bulbinella rossii (commonly known as the Ross Lily) were in flower, dotting the landscape with yellow and very close to the walkway we saw the Blue Hebe in flower – the deep blue with a hint of mauve made a very pretty sight. There were Southern Royal Albatross dotted all over the hillside, and one even decided stroll right past the group and across the boardwalk. It then climbed to the top of a small ridge and after a few moments launched into the stiff breeze. It was truly magnificent to see this huge bird in close-up. One pair was observed mating and other birds were displaying and ‘sky calling’. More birds appeared as the afternoon wore on. The walk back down to the bay was less challenging due to the one remaining Sea Lion being in an easier spot to pass. Samuel and a few others had the privilege of being approached by a Campbell Flightless Teal while waiting for transfer back to the ship. It actually walked right up to him and nibbled at his fingers. A truly memorable moment with the world’s rarest duck!
Rodney’s group also reported a very successful day scrambling through the scrub and sliding down muddy patches. They found huge numbers of albatross at the top of the ridge. They had also seen teal on the coast and a nesting Campbell Island Snipe right next to the track. By 7.30pm everybody was back on board for dinner at 8pm.
Southern Royal Albatross, Campbell Island. Photo credit: ABreniere
When not out on deck we enjoyed some documentaries and lectures while making our way from Campbell Island to the Antipodes. Firstly there was a double feature on Pest Eradication on Campbell and then Macquarie Islands. Adam followed with an introduction to the cetaceans of the Southern Ocean. After lunch we saw a documentary detailing how the Campbell Island Flightless Teal was rescued and re-introduced to the island. Samuel ended the day’s presentations with a talk about Sir James Clark Ross, asking “was he the greatest Subantarctic explorer ever?” Dinner offered a choice of salmon or venison.
When we awoke we still had some way to go until our arrival off the Antipodes. Rodney gave an introduction to the Antipodes and Bounties at 10am and most spent the rest of the time on deck in light winds and calm seas. We came to anchor in Anchorage Bay in the Antipodes after our arrival at around midday. After lunch it was time to venture out under sunny skies in the Zodiacs for a closer look at these rocky outposts where we were lucky enough to see Erect-crested and Rockhopper Penguins and Antipodes and Reischek’s Parakeets. During the journey south from Anchorage Bay to Leeward Island and back we also saw numerous New Zealand Fur Seals, a few Elephant Seal weaners and a lone Subantarctic Fur Seal surveying us from the rocks. We spent a wonderful two hours exploring caves and inlets along the rocky coastline of these seldom visited islands. The ship stayed at anchor until after dinner at 7.30pm when we set out to cover the 70 miles to the Bounty Islands.
Antipodes Islands. Photo credit: ABreniere
We reached the Bounty Islands at around 6.30am. The swell was too large to Zodiac cruise these giant volcanic rocks which had been thrust up from the seabed in relatively recent geological times. The ship made three passes of the islands which we could see were teeming with birdlife. Many hundreds of Salvin’s Albatross flew over the decks or were grouped on the surface, and as Rodney had promised, the Bounty Islands Shags also flew out to investigate the ship. As we departed, Adam did some chumming which attracted a large amount of interest, particularly from the Salvins. At 10.30am Meghan and Agnes opened the Sea Shop in the Port side dining room and did a brisk trade. The rest of the day was spent on the decks in the bright sunshine. We continued to enjoy excellent sailing conditions and Rodney was very pleased with our progress towards the Chatham Islands.
Bounty Islands. Photo credit: MKelly
After a 7.30am breakfast, Rodney called us all to a briefing to discuss our activities in the Chathams. He announced that the privately funded Taiko Trust had offered to take people for a close up viewing of the Taiko (or Magenta Petrel) at their Sweetwater property in exchange for a NZD1,000 donation. Four people signed up for this rare and very special experience to see one of the world’s rarest seabirds with an estimated population of less than 150.
Adam did some chumming from the back deck and attracted hundreds of albatross including Salvins, Chatham Islands, Buller’s, Northern Royal, Southern Royal and Black-browed. Rodney gave a general introduction to the Chatham Islands as we cruised the calm seas.
We reached Pyramid Rock at around 1pm and the ship completed a circumnavigation of this distinctive Chatham Islands landmark showing bright patches of bright pink ‘Ice Plant’ flowers dotted around its steep sides. We were fortunate to be able to see it in all its glory in bright sunshine with the deep blue sky as a backdrop. New Zealand Fur Seals relaxed on the rocks at its base, possibly taking a break from checking out the numerous cray pots which were places at regular intervals. Meanwhile various bird species including Chatham Islands Albatross and terns surveyed us from high above. Rodney had checked the Chatham’s weather forecast and decided that since a strong Easterly front was coming we should take the opportunity today to take a Zodiac cruise along the lee of South East Island before wind and swell made it impossible.
We set off after a late lunch, and although conditions were not ideal, as Rodney said it was “now or never”. We managed to see numerous Pitt Island Shags sitting along rocky ledges and Shore Plovers darting amongst the rocks. Little Blue Penguins, Tuis, Tomtits, Buller’s Albatross and Pipits were also in evidence. Some caught fleeting glimpse of parrots, but the Black Robin was a little too difficult to locate from the shore. Zodiacs back aboard, we headed for Waitangi.
We slipped quietly into our anchorage off Waitangi at around 1.30am and received Megan’s 5.45am wake-up call for a 6am breakfast. After breakfast we attended a short briefing from Rodney, packed our lunches and were ferried ashore for a day on the main island. The group was delighted by the timely appearance of a Chathams Oyster Catcher which obligingly waited near the pier where we landed. School buses then transferred us to the Tuku Reserve, Bruce and Liz Tuanui’s property, where we walked a track through native bush to the sea and most got to see the Chatham Island Pigeon and Chatham Grey Warbler. Fantails and Weka were also seen, but as steady rain began to fall many cut their walk short and picnicked in the buses. Four of the group took the opportunity to be taken inside the predator proof fence at Springwater to see the Taiko or Magenta Petrel. They declared it a magnificent experience well worth the large donation to the programme.
We returned to the township and enjoyed some free time to explore. Probably due to the now heavy and persistent rain, most made a bee-line for the pub and had a few cultural exchanges with the locals, along with hot and cold drinks. Chefs Bruce and Dean were already in residence in the bar playing darts. Rodney announced that he had heard from the Captain that conditions in the bay were not good for retrieving everyone from Zodiacs so he had decided to move the ship to another anchorage further around the island. The trusty school buses having returned from their primary task of returning children home from school would transfer us by road to the new location. Unfortunately when the ship arrived at this new point it was discovered that conditions there were even worse, so the ship returned to the original anchorage. However the only safe way to board the Zodiacs was off the beach which meant we would all get very wet. We boarded the buses again and headed for the beach which by this time was a very wet and windswept place to be. Fortunately the very kind bus drivers allowed us to wait on board until Cally called us in groups of 8 to go down and meet Meghan on the shore where we donned our lifejackets. One of the Russian crew, Doctor Roger, Agnes and Meghan man-handled the craft on shore as Rodney and Samuel drove to and from the ship. It was a wild and wet ride and everyone got soaked but hot showers and drinks cheered us on our return.
Once everyone was back aboard, Rodney announced that there was no point in us staying in the Chathams as the weather was only going to deteriorate further, so we would set a course for Dunedin that night after dinner, cutting our time short by half a day. We had had excellent weather up until then but the ‘purple patch’ had now come to an end. Some keen birders stayed on the bridge or out on deck in the 40 knot winds as dinner was served at 7.30pm and were rewarded with sightings of the rare Taiko or Magenta Petrel and the Chatham Islands Petrel. It was a fitting end to an eventful day as we bade farewell to our last island at 10.30pm.
Chatham Islands forest. Photo credit: MKelly
The ship was rocking and rolling quite a lot all day so lectures were suspended. Bird species highlights included the Great Shearwater, Fluttering Shearwaters, Gould’s, Black-winged and Westland Petrels.
Another day of heavy swells meant many hunkered down in their cabins. Those who ventured onto the bridge or upper decks saw a large Sperm Whale early in the morning. Bird species of note included Hutton’s, Fluttering and Flesh-footed Shearwaters. In the late afternoon Rodney gave a presentation on the Spoon-billed Sandpiper and the work Heritage is doing to support its conservation in the Russian Far East.
Enroute to the mainland of New Zealand again. Photo credit: MKelly
It was our final day at sea on the long trek back to New Zealand’s South Island. During the morning Samuel gave a presentation on his winter at the French base in Antarctica. Some spent a last day enjoying the sunshine on deck while others began packing. Megan and Agnes finalised the ship accounts and at 5pm we all gathered in the Lecture Room for the last time for a briefing about our disembarkation and a recap of the expedition highlights. Rodney thanked everyone for entering into the spirit of the expedition and each team member said a few words. Adam then gave a short summary of the wildlife highlights and commented that we had counted a staggering 49 tubenoses (later revised to 48) which is a new record for this itinerary. He gave credit to the many sharp eyed birders in the group who put in long hours on the bridge and decks. Rodney then asked the two Enderby Trust recipients, Henry and Joshua to sum up their experience in a few words. Henry was unusually reticent but said he would be drawing the birds for years to come. The gathering ended with the showing of a beautiful slide show Meghan had put together from photos she, Agnes and Samuel had taken during the voyage. This presentation was available in the bar afterwards for everyone to copy onto their laptops, tablets and memory sticks to take home. Dinner was a buffet extravaganza as Bruce and Dean pulled out all the stops to make it a memorable last meal together. ‘Second stomachs’ were required to do the dessert selection justice. Reluctantly we tore ourselves away from the dining rooms to continue packing or take a final few photographs of the beautiful sunset.
The pilot boarded at 5am and guided us into the inner harbour to the port of Dunedin where we came alongside at 7am. After Customs clearance we posed for an official group photo on the wharf and then boarded buses for transfer to the city or airport. We had spent a wonderful few weeks together, made and cemented many friendships and seen islands and wildlife many can only dream about. We may not meet again, but the memories and photos will linger on. Sail well my shipmates!
Spirit of Enderby. Photo credit: MKelly
Birding Down Under:
21 December 2012-8 January 2013
Day 1. Invercargill/Bluff
We all arrived safely from our varied points of origin and gathered for an enjoyable buffet dinner at the Kelvin Hotel to meet our fellow travellers and have an introduction to the trip from Expedition Leader, Rodney. We all agreed it was a bonus that the world didn't end on this day, as the Mayan calendar had suggested and some around the world believed might happen.
Day 2. At Sea
We were free to wander around Invercargill this morning, with the 'official option' being a visit to the fine Southland Museum where, among other things, we got to touch the legendary Tuatara and learn of its remarkable natural history. After lunch we boarded the bus for the short drive to the harbour in Bluff, where we embarked the Spirit of Enderby, our home for the next 17 days. After time to settle into our cabins and explore the ship we had an introductory briefing and departed about 4pm to head out into the Southern Ocean. The meaning of 'harbour' was graphically apparent as we headed from the flat water of Bluff into the howling winds and rolling seas of Foveaux Strait, which separates the South Island from Stewart Island. Birding in the late afternoon was non-stop action before breaking for dinner and a well-earned sleep. Our first albatross (a White-capped aka Auckland Shy) was spotted as we left the harbour. After that birds were constantly in view, with at least five species of albatross (including our first Royals and Wandering), and many thousands of Sooty Shearwaters and Fairy Prions, along with good numbers of Cook's Petrels, a few giant petrels and Mottled Petrels, and the dapper little Pintado (or Cape) Petrels.
46o35'S 168o20'E (Bluff) ending 8pm at 47o18'S 168o17'E; sea-surface temperature (SST) 15oC. Variably cloudy, sunny, 20-25 knot NW wind and cross swells.
Day 3. The Snares
After leaving the lee of Stewart Island in the early hours we got to experience the notorious 'Southern Ocean Roll' which continued through the day and made for a challenging Zodiac cruise at The Snares, where we arrived in early morning. On our second attempt the Zodiacs were loaded and we were privileged to enjoy an up-close experience with the remarkable flora and fauna of our first island outpost.
The highlight was simply being among masses of the endemic Snares Crested Penguins, with groups standing around on the rocks and amid the lush kelp as well as swimming all around and right up to our Zodiacs. The otherworldly forest, growing on burrow-riddled soil (homes to millions of shearwaters and petrels) held the endemic all-black tomtit and the somewhat elusive fernbird. Watching numerous Southern Buller's Albatross, families of Antarctic Terns, scavenging skuas, lounging Fur Seals and a few Hooker's Sea Lions was also a great experience. Remarkably we also encountered three vagrant seabirds - a Little Penguin, a stunning Chatham Albatross, and a Great Cormorant (aka Black Shag) that seemed to think it was a penguin. Back out to sea and heading south, most people took the chance to relax, while the birders were rewarded with increasing numbers of Mottled Petrels and Black-bellied Storm-Petrels, among numerous other species.
48o00'S 166o40'E (Snares) ending 8pm at 48o58'S 166o44'E; SST 14-11oC. Mostly cloudy morning, becoming variably cloudy, sunny p.m., 20-30 knot NW wind and cross swells.
Day 4. Auckland Islands – Enderby Island
A grey misty dawn found us rounding the low bluffs of Enderby Island in the north of the Auckland group. After breakfast, a briefing and a slide show on the history (natural and 'unnatural') of the Auckland Islands we prepared for what would be a memorable day ashore. Enderby Island, for which the Spirit of Enderby is aptly named, is a great example of an island that is reverting to its natural state thanks to the eradication of non-native mammals. Hence the birds are remarkably confiding, from ubiquitous pipits at one's feet and flightless Auckland Island Flightless Teal to brilliant Red-crowned Parakeets and handsome Double-banded Dotterels running around at very close range. Added to the mix are the spectacular, eye-level courtship flights by Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, groups of Auckland Shags harvesting the lush grass for their nests and cryptic Subantarctic Snipe scurrying underfoot. A scattering of Yellow-eyed Penguins and the spectacle of a colony of Hooker's Sea Lions on the beach (with boisterous sub-adult males scattered around the island) all added to the wildlife encounters and photo opportunities for the day. Then there were the wonderful carpets of flowering megaherbs, nesting Southern Royal Albatrosses, a brief but vivid fly-by from a New Zealand Falcon, the prehistoric looking Rata forest and a vagrant Australian Shelduck. Having a full day to explore the island was indeed a treat, and our individual memories of the sights, sounds, and smells of this Christmas Eve will be indelibly etched in our memories. A small contingent, entertained by lively guitar music provided by Tracey, stayed up to see in Christmas Day - and what a day it would be.
50o30'S 166o16'E (Enderby); SST 11oC. Overcast and misty, brightening slightly before some afternoon rain; winds generally light and overall mild.
Day 5. Auckland Islands – Carnley Harbour
The yacht Oceanopolis being sailed by a Frenchman in a solo around the world race which we found on our arrival off Enderby had pulled away in the early hours of the morning. We hoped he made it back into the race. Overnight we moved south to Carnley Harbor, where a low cloud ceiling and strong north-east winds (gusting to 50+ knots and whipping the water into a swirling white frenzy) limited our choices for landings. We ship-cruised up the north arm of the harbour in the early morning and heard a fascinating talk from Rodney about the history of wrecks on the Auckland Islands, after which there was an option to go ashore at Tagua Bay. One group climbed through the stunted forest to the old coastwatchers' hut and lookout, while another tried birding around the beach. The howling gale made looking for bush birds a wee bit challenging, but being inside the forest with its lichens and gnarled understory was an incredible experience. Some great Zodiac work got us safely back to the ship in the wind-whipped waters, after which we enjoyed a leisurely and very fine Christmas meal, prepared by our chefs Lindsay and Bobbie. Battening down the hatches we headed out from the sheltered waters and attempted to move on towards Macquarie Island. The north-west wind continued to howl and rage, and the seas were spectacular, with waves crashing over the bow as we plunged into mountainous seas. The albatross were dwarfed by the white-capped swells and we agreed were certainly experiencing the legendary Southern Ocean. Many stayed safely in their cabins but for those who braved the conditions, the birding was great, with numerous White-headed Petrels, some nice Grey-backed Storm-Petrels, and plenty of great albatross (mainly the local-breeding Gibson's Wanderers) riding out the storm and gliding around the ship. After a few hours of making very little headway and a memorably rocking dinner, the Captain and Rodney made the very sensible decision to turn back and wait out the storm in the lee of the Auckland Islands. A steady night's sleep was perhaps the best Christmas present any of us could have wished for!
50o48'S 166o04'E (Carnley Harbor), turning back 8pm at 50o58'S 165o20'E; SST 11oC. Overcast and misty, 45-60 knot NW wind and mountainous cross swells (to 8-10m) upon a confused sea.
The Ocean South
It rocks our World
As albatrosses sail
Put food to mouth
Before it's hurled
By one unholy gale
Streaks of white
Climb mountains made of sea
A roaring fire
A Christmas not for me
Day 6. At Sea
We awoke in the lee of the Auckland Islands and after breakfast lifted anchor and headed back out to sea. Conditions had abated somewhat but it was still a rather rocky day. Then again, the wind is what albatrosses like, and we enjoyed the constant presence of Gibson's [Wandering] and Southern Royal Albatross, along with numerous Auckland Shy (White-capped) Albatross and our first Grey-headed Albatross. The spectacular White-headed Petrel was also a regular feature, as were Antarctic Prions. Also seen during the day were Black-bellied and Grey-backed Storm-Petrels, a few Mottled Petrels, and our first cetacean – a Southern Bottlenose Whale.
50o47'S 166o15'E (Auckland Islands) ending (8pm) at 51o49'S 164o22'E; SST 11oC to 9oC. Variably cloudy and sunny, with 30-40 knot WNW to WSW wind and 5-6m swells.
Day 7. At Sea
Dawn found us in gentler seas and in Australian waters, continuing south-west to arrive off Macquarie Island by about 9pm. Birding through most of the day was relatively quiet over these deep ocean waters, although we had great opportunities to study Wandering and Royal Albatrosses and practice some seabird photography. Adam gave a lecture on the world's albatrosses in the morning, followed by shopping opportunities at the Sea Shop; and in the afternoon Rodney and Adam prepared us for our Macquarie Island visit, followed by vacuuming quarantine measures supervised by Igor our DOC representative. After dinner the island was just discernable through the fog, and the cloud ceiling lifted just enough to view the huge King Penguin colony at Lusitania Bay, as the winds whipped up the sea and hundreds of seabirds including our first Soft-plumaged Petrels and Black-browed Albatross flew around the ship.
52o57'S 162o06'E ending at 54o35'S 159o06'E (Macquarie); SST 9oC to 8oC. Overcast with spitting rain showers, 15-20 knot winds and 3m swells, with winds gusting to 40+ knots in the lee of Macquarie.
Day 8. Macquarie Island
We awoke off the Australian Base at Buckles Bay, Macquarie Island, and early risers managed to see all four penguin species around the ship, plus a breaching Orca! The eight Aussie personnel we had brought from Invercargill disembarked after breakfast, when we picked up three outbound personnel, three rangers (Richard, Paul and Lauren) and two rabbit and rat hunters (Kelly and Stephen) to accompany us south to Sandy Bay. Thanks to the efforts of people like Kelly and Stephen, the non-native rats, mice and rabbits were almost completely eradicated in 2011 and the vegetation and bird populations are already showing signs of recovery. However ongoing monitoring and diligence are still needed, but signs are good that Macquarie has become a success story in the annals of island restoration.
Words cannot really describe the experience of arriving at a beach packed with stately King Penguins and groups of hurrying Royal Penguins, complimented by the associated sounds and smells of the lounging and lunging Southern Elephant Seals. Skuas and giant petrels wheel overhead against the green, well-vegetated cliffs, while Antarctic Terns plunge-dive in the bays as Macquarie Shags swing by. Despite the low cloud ceiling and misty conditions, this was a very special day, and it seemed as if we were on another planet named the Planet of the Penguins; with the rest of the world so far removed as to be completely forgotten. The colony of Royal Penguins with chick creches, now accessible via a new and very sturdy boardwalk, and the mass of King Penguins with their 'wooly' youngsters were impressive for their sheer density – what perfect jigsaw puzzles they would make! And how many photos were taken?
With golden ears
And silver shawl
Bills pointed to the skies
They show no fears
And stand so tall
Emitting bugle cries
All ruling here
An island home
Remote and rarely seen
That few will roam
And fewer still have seen
After leaving Sandy Bay we lunched on the ship and moved north to Buckles Bay, where the whipping wind, rocky beach and driving rain made for a slightly tricky landing. The warmth of our Australian hosts more than compensated however, and a fascinating tour of the base also featured a few Redpolls (much appreciated by some of the birders) as well as delightful Gentoo Penguins, numerous Elephant Seals (making themselves quite at home in the buildings!), and some striking white-morph Southern Giant-Petrels. Hot drinks with scones and cream at the mess allowed us a window into life on the base, but all too soon it was time to head back to the ship, now with three new Australian personnel to transport back to the 'real world’. Luckily, sea conditions had improved and the Zodiacs were able to cruise by the Rockhopper Penguins at Garden Cove before we boarded for another fine hot dinner and a good sleep.
Day 9. At Sea
The rolling swells eased somewhat during our day at sea, heading ENE towards Campbell Island. Katya gave a lecture on the whales and dolphins of the region in the morning, and Rodney talked about the history of Campbell Island in the afternoon. Birding was steady, with a good variety of species logged by the day's end, including 10-11 albatross species, some nice White-headed Petrels, and our first Fulmar Prion (in Australian waters!). We crossed back into NZ waters at about 1pm.
53o55'S 162o11'E ending at 53o12'S 166o15'E; SST 6-10oC. Overcast and misting, becoming foggy in pm, 10-15 knot NW to W winds and 3-4m mixed swells.
Leathery liquid pewter
Heaving and sighing with swell
Foggy and leaden horizon
Foreboding what no-one can tell
Day 10. Campbell Island
A rainy dawn found us just off Campbell Island, with numerous albatrosses, Pintado Petrels, and giant petrels around the ship. Our first Campbell Shags flew out to greet us as we turned into Perseverance Harbour, with cloud-shrouded island tops on either side, and colonies of Hooker's Sea Lions and shags on opposite shores. After dropping anchor and eating breakfast we had a briefing and outline for the day. Some opted for 'the long walk' while others opted for Zodiac cruises around the bay and then climbed the boardwalk to Col Lyall. The 'long-walkers' set off first and had an amazing day, even if the first half was in driving rain. Besides spectacular views and megaherbs, they found a pair of Campbell Teal, two single Antipodes Albatross, and even the little-known endemic (but formally undescribed) Campbell Snipe, only discovered in 1997. Both groups enjoyed close-up and personal experiences with the nesting icon of Campbell, the Southern Royal Albatross. It really is quite a moving experience to be so close to these ocean giants.
All the Zodiac cruisers also had great views of the flightless Campbell Island Teal, with a record-breaking seven birds being seen – something unimaginable even three years ago. It is wonderful to witness the island fauna steadily recovering. As well as 'the world's loneliest tree', an Eastern Curlew was a little out of place, as were three Great Cormorants (aka Black Shags). We were absorbed by the feeding frenzies of gulls and Antarctic Terns, along with the handsome endemic shags, so the rain was little more than a vague background effect. After a chance to dry off and eat their picnic lunches at leisure on the ship, the 'short walkers' ferried back ashore to the boardwalk as the sun came out for a welcome warming.
Despite low clouds the afternoon remained dry, if breezy. The opportunity to see the majestic Southern Royal Albatross nesting and displaying up close will be forever etched in our minds. The unique flora of this island is also something very special. Lush slopes painted in verdant greens, varied purples, and golden yellows by carpets of flowering megaherbs, where confiding pipits made their homes will never be forgotten. Those staying late enjoyed some spectacular 'gamming' as groups of pre-breeding albatross gathered to display, and a few people even managed to glimpse the elusive Campbell Snipe. Overall an exhilarating day, followed by a fine dinner and a well-earned sleep.
52o39'S 169o09'E (offshore in am) to 52o34'S 169o14'E (Perseverance Harbour); SST 10oC. 'Undercast' and rainy through lunchtime, becoming mostly cloudy with sunny spells and a cool NW wind in the pm.
Day 11. At Sea
The day was spent at sea heading ENE towards the Antipodes. It was a day of albatross and sunshine, with a following sea making things very pleasant. We awoke to the classic 'Southern Ocean' spectacle of numerous albatross and White-chinned Petrels circling the ship, and by the day's end we had enjoyed some ten species of albatross, with countless chances to see that elusive 'honey eye' on the handsome Campbell Albatross. At times there were upwards of 20 Southern Royals and two Northern Royals around the ship, and in the late afternoon an optimistic skua tried his chances by harassing these ocean giants, but without success. Videos were shown that discussed the rat eradication from Campbell and the successful reintroduction of the teal there, followed by a talk from Steve entitled Seabirds of the World, Part 1 - What is a Seabird? In the afternoon Adam gave a fine lecture giving an over-view of penguins of the world. After dinner and the reading of the bird list a select band of hardy souls stayed awake to sing in the New Year as the seas rolled beneath us.
51o54'S 171o31'E to 50o47'S 175o18'E; SST 10-11oC. Variably cloudy and mostly sunny, with 15-25 knot NW winds.
The morning sun
Spills silver light
On softened southern seas
Our northward run
Begun last night
The Spirit takes with ease
Day 12. Antipodes Islands
It's not a bad start to the year when five of the first seven species you see are albatross! The first few hours as we approached the remote Antipodes Islands were packed with birds, from good numbers of the endemic Antipodes Albatross to the diminutive Subantarctic Little Shearwater, plus White-headed and Soft-plumaged Petrels. Surprisingly we saw a White-faced Storm-Petrel amongst plenty of prions (including Fairy, Fulmar, and Broad-billed), plus a briefly seen Sei Whale. The towering cliffs of the Antipodes were bathed in welcome sunlight as the braying choruses of penguins carried out to the ship. Pintado Petrels circled all around as we entered the lee of Ringdove Bay. A surprise was finding a yacht already there. The Tiama had just delivered some albatross researchers for the season and was heading back to the South Island.
After lunch we had some amazing Zodiac cruises at these rarely visited outposts of volcanic rock. The lush green, vegetated steep slopes and the amazing, kelp-fringed shores held hundreds of Erect-crested Penguins, smaller numbers of Rockhopper Penguins, and hundreds of New Zealand Fur Seals, among which were a few Subantarctic Fur Seals. There were pipits seemingly everywhere and the endemic Hochstetter's (Red-crowned) Parakeet was also quite conspicuous. It took considerable work combined with a little bit of luck and the sharp eyes of Katya however to find the less common Antipodes Parakeet. Antarctic Terns dived at skuas, Light-mantled Sooty Albatross wheeled overhead, smoky-blue Fulmar Prions flitted in and out of magical caves, and the cliffs, caves, waterfalls, kelp, and crystal-clear waters were mesmerising. After dinner back on the ship we headed on northwards, towards the Bounty Islands.
49o51'S 177o23'E to 49o35'S 178o51'E; SST 9-12oC. Variably cloudy and mostly sunny, with 15-25 knot NW winds.
Day 13. Bounty Islands
A misty but sunny dawn and a rolling swell found us just south of the Bounty Islands, a rugged group of exposed stacks. These islands are one of nature's untold spectacles, absolutely packed with nesting albatross, penguins and fur seals, along with Fulmar Prions and the handsome Bounty Islands Shag, perhaps the rarest (and certainly the most localised) shag in the world. The rough seas and dashing white surf added to the atmosphere as thousands of Salvin's Albatross wheeled on the updrafts or sat on the water. We also noted hundreds of Pintado Petrels and a few Southern Royal Albatross, while groups of shags flew out to circle the ship in greeting. Leaving the dizzying spectacle of the Bounty Islands behind, we headed on north, towards the Chatham Islands, the last island group on our itinerary.
The afternoon at sea was somewhat bumpy (including one memorable 45o roll as we crossed the 180o meridian in mid-afternoon!) but good numbers and an increasing diversity of birds kept the birders out on deck. New species added included Northern Buller's Albatross, Short-tailed Shearwater, and three species of gadfly petrel – Grey-faced, Black-winged and Pycroft's Petrels. Somehow the chefs kept to their work in trying seas and once again produced a wonderful meal, served as always by the redoubtable Natalia and Ala.
48o05'S 179o02'E to 46o13'S 179o20'W; SST 9-12oC. Variably cloudy and mostly sunny, with 20-25 knot NW winds and cross swells.
Day 14. At Sea
The waters we transited today are arguably the richest in the world for seabirds, and an impressive 25 species of tubenoses were recorded. Squadrons of weaving prions accompanied us for a while, allowing great comparisons of Broad-billed and Fairy prions (yes, they really do look different!), while 10 species of albatross including the stunningly handsome Chatham and Northern Buller's, plus both royals as almost constant accompaniment. The most familiar bird of the day however, was the plucky little White-faced Storm-Petrel, which could be seen almost all day long, skipping and splashing over the waves. Instead of heading straight to Pyramid Rock as originally planned due to a strong weather system we headed to the lee of the main island and anchored off Port Hutt for a pleasantly calm night as the storm passed by and the wind dropped.
45o19'S 178o10'W to 43o49'S 176o41'W at anchor; SST 12-16oC. Variably cloudy and sunny, with 25-35 knot NW winds and 6-8m confused cross swells, changing to 5-10 knot S winds by late afternoon.
Day 15. Chatham Islands – Waitangi
A gloomy and rainy dawn greeted us as we prepared for a day ashore on the main Chatham Island, which is 45 minutes' ahead in time from the rest of New Zealand. After two weeks of visiting remote and largely pristine islands, the pastoral landscape and human habitation of the Chathams came as a bit of a shock to the system. We landed at Port Hutt, where some Pitt Island Shags decorated a dilapidated fishing boat, and then headed by bus south through Waitangi, where a vehicle reshuffle allowed us to stretch and see the Chatham Oystercatcher before we pressed on to the Awatotara Valley. This private reserve, under the stewardship of Bruce and Liz Tuanui, gave us a taste of how the island looked before human habitation, and what can be done with some foresight and commitment to conservation. We split into groups to walk along the valley enabling us to see some native and re-vegetated forest habitats. The rain mostly held off, and all groups enjoyed good views of the endemic pigeon and warbler (or gerygone), as well as the Tui, fantail and pipit, along with roadside harriers and Wekas. Back in town there was time to relax, wander, do some shopping, and stop at the hotel for a drink and some fish and chips. By 5pm we were all back aboard and the ship headed south along the coast to waters off The Horns where a dedicated small band skipped dinner and maintained a petrel vigil. Their diligence paid off. A distant Magenta Petrel was followed by a closer Chatham Petrel. Then a second Magenta Petrel made a close circuit of the ship and, in the fading light, another Chatham Petrel whipped across the bows before a memorable sunset. Two of the world's rarest seabirds within an hour, and even photos of both! A euphoric bird list and recap of the day was followed by a welcome sleep.
43o49'S 176o41'W (at anchor) to 44o09'S 176o51'W; SST 15oC. Overcast and misty with morning rain, brightening and drier through the day; 15-25 knot fresh and cool S winds.
Day 16. Pyramid Rock
What a difference a day makes! Dawn found us in calmer seas south of The Pyramid. Here we were treated to the spectacular sight of tens of thousands of albatross circling around this striking islet, ostensibly home to all of the world’s population of the very handsome Chatham Albatross. The sun shone and blue skies made for glorious views of the islands. After circling The Pyramid while Adam chummed in scores of squabbling albatross, we headed over to South East Island, where we took a Zodiac cruise along the coastline. Despite a big swell we all had great views of the very local and unique Shore Plover, along with nesting White-fronted Terns, lounging fur seals, and the distinctive but as-yet-unnamed 'Chatham Skua' - a member of the Brown Skua complex but in some ways looking more like a South Polar Skua. Moving between the islands we all enjoyed the sun out on deck as Chatham Shags flew around the ship. After lunch we made a close pass of Mangere and Little Mangere islands, historic features in the story of the Black Robin, a conservation icon. By 2:30pm we started to head west and away from the Chathams, still in warm sunshine and low, rolling seas with a liberal scattering of White-faced Storm-Petrels and albatross in tow. Some mid-afternoon chumming by Adam offered us great views (and more photo opportunities) of six species of albatross, as well as Pintado Petrels, giant petrels, and even a few prions and storm-petrels. After dinner we were entranced by the very rare sight of a big group of Southern Right Whale Dolphins porpoising off the bow.
44o26'S 176o50'W to 44o26'S 177o40'W; SST 15oC. Sunny and partly cloudy, 5-10 knot S wind with mixed swells.
Day 17. At Sea
A relaxing day on board with gently rolling seas, saw many folk taking the opportunity to be outside and enjoy the sunshine. The opening act in cetacean entertainment for the day was a trio of the very rarely encountered Shepherd's Beaked Whales. The main act of three Orca appeared briefly in the late afternoon. We crossed back over the 180o meridian in the morning and birds were steady throughout the day, with numerous albatross (some recognizable individual Wanderings being with us all day), White-faced Storm-Petrels, and 'Cookilaria' petrels (mainly Cook's but with a few Pycroft's identified courtesy of digital images). Steve gave part 2 of his Seabirds of the World (penguins and albatrosses) lecture in the morning, and in the afternoon Katya gave a fascinating lecture on the human history and natural history of the Russian Far East. After dinner the movie The Big Year was shown in the lecture room.
44o40'S 179o43'W to 45o02'S 176o58'E; SST 15oC. A sunny morning, becoming mostly overcast in the pm; 15-20 knot N wind in am, becoming 5-10 knots in pm, with generally low and rolling seas.
Day 18. At Sea
It was a good morning to rest and start preparing for re-entry into the 'real world’ today as the weather remained fine and the seas calm. Birdlife was dominated by good numbers of Sooty Shearwaters along with a few Hutton's Shearwaters, our last Wandering and Royal Albatrosses. Two tantalizingly brief sightings of whales also punctuated the day. Steve gave the third and final part of his Seabirds of the World presentation after lunch as the wind freshened and the ship started to roll again. We watched the Mottled Petrels and Sooty Shearwaters glide effortlessly on the breeze they are built for.
In the afternoon we had a recap of this remarkable voyage, followed by a briefing for our arrival in Dunedin tomorrow. Meghan put together a wonderful slide show of the trip and Rodney and other members of the Expedition Team reminded us of the places we had visited and the things we had seen on what was truly a remarkable expedition to a little-visited but magical corner of the planet. The group gathered in the bar for drinks as the skyline of the Otago hills on the 'mainland' appeared on the horizon, and then enjoyed a delicious last night dinner buffet prepared by Lindsay and Bobbie.
45o20'S 174o16'E to 45o42'S 170o50'E; SST 13-14oC. Variably cloudy, sunny, some rain and near-sleet showers; 10 knot SW winds, increasing to 25 knots in the pm.
Day 19. Dunedin
The pilot came aboard at 6am. As we cruised up the long harbour channel to Dunedin city, the birders were still adding a few new species to the trip list while others were absorbing the sights of the New Year in the real world. Despite the bright sunshine, a howling wind made it quite cold outside, making us wonder whether we had we brought the Subantarctic back with us. After custom formalities and a group photo it was time to disembark and begin our travel back to various homes around the world. Thanks to everyone for making this such a wonderful and memory-filled trip to some of the most special places on the planet. We had travelled some 2,718 nautical miles and visited seven remarkable island groups on our voyage through the great Southern Ocean.
Click here for Species List
Monday 31st October 2011: Invercargill
An excited group of voyagers met for a pre-expedition dinner together. We were joined at the Kelvin Hotel by Expedition Leader Rodney, Gemma, the Hotel Manager and Eric, the onboard Doctor. Rodney gave the first of many expedition briefings and outlined the programme for the following day.
Tuesday 1st November 2011: Invercargill/Bluff
After a hearty breakfast we gathered beside a tremendous pile of luggage in the Hotel Foyer for a security check before the full expedition gear for 50 people was whisked away. Adam Walleyn, the “bird man” on the Heritage Staff, walked with us to the Southland Museum where we enjoyed the ‘Roaring Forties’ display and also had a chance to stare down the prehistoric Tuatara.
Back at the Kelvin Hotel we enjoyed our last shoreside lunch for 18 days and then headed to Bluff to join our gear which had efficiently been transferred to our bespoke cabins aboard the expedition ship, the Spirit of Enderby.
After being shown to our cabins we took advantage of the calm water conditions by meeting for a full briefing of the lifeboat and safety drills and to meet biologist Katya, plus the remainder of the ship’s staff. Adam then gave an introduction to the Snares Islands and the use of the Zodiacs. We set sail with our afternoon free for birding and getting to know our fellow travellers, heading south with expectations high.
Our first day’s birding highlights were many and some of them unexpected. For example we saw two Fiordland Crested Penguins and also a Southern Fulmar. Prions were abundant and there was a long debate about which they were. The final consensus was that most (if not all) were Fairy Prions. Diving Petrels and Sooty Shearwaters also escorted the ship.
As Adam recapped the Bird Log in the bar before dinner, Rodney discussed the practice of taking Sooty Shearwater chicks as a “Traditional Food”. He gave the history of the practice and also raised questions of whether it was sustainable given the modern techniques which they employ to catch the chicks now.
After an eventful first day, everybody retired to bed soon after dinner in anticipation of waking on our first morning aboard ship.
Wednesday 2nd November 2011: Snares Island
We awoke to the sight of the Snares Islands where the Captain had positioned the ship in the most sheltered part of the Bay. We successfully negotiated our first boarding of the Zodiacs and cruised inshore following the coast to the north through a Sea Cave. Here we had first views of the Tomtit and the Fernbird. We slowly worked our way along the coast and into Boat Harbour. There were some very good displays from the local New Zealand Fur seals - one was keen to show us how fast he could swim. There were also good numbers of New Zealand Sea Lions. Several big adult males lolled on the shore while sub adult males were swimming and cavorting around the Zodiacs giving us some great photos. We got our first very good views of the Snares Crested Penguin in Boat Cove. There was a large group on the southern side of the harbour coming and going from the small colonies up under the forest. From Boat Cove we continued cruising to the north; to the area known as the Penguin Slide – a steep rock face that penguins use to climb up onto the Island. Exhilarated by our first wildlife encounters we returned to the ship and set a course to the Auckland Islands.
Expedition Leader Rodney gave two presentations during the course of the afternoon. The first was an introduction to the Auckland Islands. In this lecture he covered the history of the Islands from its discovery in 1806 until the present day. He divided the history into quite distinct periods:
The second presentation looked at the mitigation measures that we as a group would take to reduce the accidental introduction of alien species to the Islands. As a result of seeing a deep sea trawler during the day Rodney also discussed deep sea fishing in New Zealand’s EEC which promoted a lively debate amongst the group.
Thursday 3rd November 2011: Enderby Island
In the early hours of the morning we dropped anchor in Sandy Bay at Enderby Island. After breakfast we gathered in the lecture room where Rodney had drawn a large scale map showing our options for the day. We landed on a beach close to a small group of sub adult male Sea Lions. Some of our group were concerned the animals may try to bite us, but as Adam had predicted, they just looked upon us as a species not worthy of their attention. Just as we entered the bush we saw a Giant Petrel chick and adult. Through the bush and very close to the board walk there was a Yellow-eyed Penguin on a nest and we also saw a number of Southern Royal Albatross near the summit ridge including a chick.
At the western terminus of the boardwalk Rodney successfully led a Snipe hunt and further along the cliff top there were a number of Light Mantled Sooty Albatross. At this point we could choose whether we were going to walk around the Island or retrace our steps back along the boardwalk to Sandy Bay.
Soon after the groups separated, the first of a number of hail storms raced across the Island. At Derry Castle Reef one group saw a number of Island Teal but more surprisingly saw a flock of 16 Grey Teal. There were also at least three Spur Winged Plover and a couple of Godwits.
A number of people saw two Southern Right Whales breaching about 500 metres off the northern coast line. These whales breed here in Port Ross in August and September so it was interesting to see these still here while the rest would have headed to Antarctica. In the mid afternoon as the group was making its way along the north coast there was a violent snow storm which lasted for about one and a half hours. It was the first time that either Rodney or Adam had seen snow on the ground on Enderby Island. The front eventually passed over and the sun came out and the wind dropped. Some of the group returned to the Spirit of Enderby, while others remained on the island enjoying the activity on the beach.
In our review of the Bird log that evening it was noted that there had been sightings of some unexpected species in this area such as the Grey Teal, Spur-winged Plover and a white faced heron.
Friday 4th November 2011: Carnley Harbour
The crew lifted anchor in the early hours of the morning and headed down the east coast of the main Auckland Islands.
We anchored in the north arm of Camley Harbour near Epigwatt, the site where the Grafton was wrecked in 1864. Two zodiacs were launched and we spent about one and a half hours on the beach where we checked out the remains of a small part of the hull of the Grafton and the site of the survivors hut. The wind swung more to the South and it snowed again, frosting the beach and forest with icing sugar. Some of the group saw a Yellow-crowned Parakeet, heard Bellbirds singing melodically and watched a few Pipits along the beach.
The Zodiacs then returned to the ship and the Captain shifted the vessel up under the lee of Adams Island while we tucked into lunch. There was a very large numbers of Sooty Shearwaters feeding near our anchorage, most likely sheltering from the strong winds as we were. After our warming lunch we headed south, enjoying the few miles of calm waters to where we could see the whitecaps outside the entrance. At the harbour mouth we steamed out into the southern ocean and took on the storm. The ship handled it extremely well, punching into it with a little bit of sideways rock and roll. It was an exhilarating ride and gave us our sea legs. This was after-all part of the adventure! Adams Island slowly slipped over the horizon as we headed further south.
Saturday 5th November 2011: At Sea
We made good time overnight and the good thing about these winds Rodney assured us, was that they meant ideal conditions for landing at Macquarie Island.
Most people decided to ride out the day either on the bridge, bar/library or relaxing in their cabins, though some hardy birders observed the first Soft Plumage Petrel of the voyage. Over dinner anticipation was high over tomorrows landing on Macquarie Island.
Sunday 6th November 2011: Macquarie Island
The wind and sea conditions eased overnight as forecast and the Captain took the vessel around the north head and anchored in Hasselborough Bay where conditions were flat for landing.
We spent most of the day on the island and were guided by the ranger staff who work on eradication and conservation programmes. It was interesting to meet and talk to these hardy individuals who gave us a good insight into the local ecosystem. We climbed to the lookout on Razorback Hill and down the beach towards Gadgets Gully where there were a number of King Penguins on the beach and one Lone Royal Penguin. On the Isthmus and on beach there were a number of Elephant Seals, and also Gentoo Penguins with chicks. Close to the Base many folk also saw a couple of Rockhopper Penguins. There was no shortage of Redpolls flying around for those wanting to add them to their Australian list.
The Rangers joined us back on board the Spirit of Enderby and answered questions as we cruised back around North Head. Sadly sea conditions did not allow for a landing at Sandy Bay so we cruised down the coast to Lusitania Bay to view the very large King Penguin colony. It is estimated that there are up to one and a half million breeding birds there – that is a lot of Penguin!
Monday 7th November 2011: Macquarie Island
Next morning Adam gave an illustrated lecture on Macquarie Island which gave a good overview of the discovery and settlement of the Island and the sealing and oiling periods. In the afternoon we headed on towards Campbell Island.
Tuesday 8th November 2011: At Sea
The wind and sea swung more to the south west overnight and this morning saw us surfing along. There were not a lot of birds around as we were still in very deep water, though numbers increased later in the day as we came into the shallower water on the Campbell Plateau.
In the afternoon Rodney gave a lecture about the history of Campbell Island, including the human history from discovery in 1810 to the present day, as well as the wildlife we could expect to see. He told of the efforts to remove the introduced animals including sheep, cattle, cats and eventually the rats, which inspired the Australians to tackle the same issues on Macquarie Island.
Wednesday 9th November 2011: Campbell Island
Sea conditions improved considerably in the early morning as we approached Campbell Island and we dropped anchor at the head of Perseverance Harbour in calm conditions. We were offered two options for the day on the island. The first was an all day walk and the second option was a Zodiac cruise of the upper harbour then a walk to Col Lyall Ridge up the boardwalk.
The group on the all day walk spotted a pair of Campbell Island teal swimming around the wharf area, then a couple of nests of Northern Giant Petrel. The first Royal Albatross was spotted above the slip face at southern end of Homestead Ridge. A couple of Yellow Eyed Penguins were seen before we reached Capstan Cove. After lunch in the company of a tired old male Sea Lion, the group walked to the North West Bay Hut. On the walk back we were excited to discover a group of about four Light Mantled Sooty Albatross nesting on a rocky knob near the track. One of the memorable highlights however was simply lying down in the tussock observing the dynamics of the Albatross colony at close quarters.
The second group started with a Zodiac cruise into Tucker Cove, the site of the old farming homestead and also the coast watchers hut. From Tucker Cove we cruised into Camp Cove and saw the “loneliest tree” then crossed to Venus Cove where the French had observed the Transit of Venus in 1874. It was on the way to the wharf that we had ring-side seats in what was a very unevenly matched fight. A young Royal Albatross sitting on the water was attacked by a male Sea Lion from below and Giant Petrels from above. The Albatross really didn’t stand a chance - a tragic end to a young life.
At the top of the boardwalk we spent some time observing and photographing the activity at the Albatross colony. Over dinner the groups compared experiences as the ship departed for the Antipodes Island.
Thursday 10th November 2011: At Sea
Most people took advantage of the crisp clear morning and were up on deck straight after breakfast. Emma opened the sea shop and did a brisk trade with those wanting retail therapy as we cruised on through the Southern Ocean.
After lunch Adam gave a talk on ‘Tube Nose’s of the Southern Ocean’. This was an in-depth look at the albatross and petrel species that we have seen and may expect to see on this expedition. Adam was followed by Katya, who spoke about ‘Adaptions of Marine Mammals to Life in the Ocean’. Both Adam and Katya show great knowledge of their subjects and are passionate presenters.
Everybody went to bed with big expectations for tomorrow. For at least three members of the group it would be a day on which they would see their last penguin species.
Friday 11th November 2011: Antipodes Islands
Late in the morning the Antipodes Islands loomed like ghostly galleons out of the cloud and mist. Groups boarded the Zodiacs in choppy seas to explore the coastline. Everyone got to see the Erect Crested Penguin which was the bird high on everyone’s list and we also sighted a couple Rockhopper Penguins. One lucky group had good views of parakeets and others were treated to a close encounter with an immature Sub Antarctic Fur Seal who took a fancy to one of the Zodiacs.
Saturday 12th November 2011: Bounty Islands
At the Bounty Islands we saw large numbers of New Zealand Fur Seals. This seal population was almost wiped out during the sealing period in 1950’s where numbers got down to only 10. Fortunately disaster was averted and there are now thousands living here. Rodney explained that although this is a wonderful result, it is possible that they are impacting the distribution and numbers of both Salvin Albatross and the Erect Crested Penguins that also nest on the Islands. Some of the group were sickened to see the sad sight of a young seal with a piece of plastic stuck around its neck, showing evidence that rubbish spreads even to these remote parts of the world.
With everyone back on board by the afternoon, we took the opportunity to do some ‘chumming’ to see what birds we could attract. The first to appear in great numbers were Cape Pigeons and some Fulmar Prions, though these were quickly displaced by the much bigger and more aggressive Salvins Albatross. When the chum was finished we headed towards the Pyramid Rock in the Chatham Islands some 280 miles away, buoyed by the thought of the seabird rich areas we would transect tomorrow.
Sunday 13th November 2011: At Sea
During the night we had been crossing the Bounty trench which is over 5,000 metres deep in places and by late morning we were coming onto the Chatham Rise. Many of the group were up at sunrise with some not even coming down to breakfast, such was the anticipation of seeing birds such as the Magenta and Chatham Petrel. Viewing conditions were difficult however due to fog which came and went intermittently. Adam laid fish oil slick and then we doubled back on it to see some Storm and Grey Faced Petrels.
Rodney gave a lecture introducing ‘The Chatham Islands’. He talked about the history including the Moriori People, European discovery and settlement and then the later ‘invasion’ by the Maori people and the impact they had on the Moriori people. He also discussed the Islands unique natural history and highlighted the work being done to conserve the Black Robin, Taiko and Chatham Petrel. He stressed the importance of the local involvement in conservation projects as so much of the land there is privately owned.
Sightings of Chatham Island Albatross welcomed us to Pyramid Rock in the early evening as we came to anchor. There were many birds around after dark which had been attracted by the ships lights, even though we turned off as many as possible.
Monday 14th November 2011: South East and Mangere Islands
This morning we took a close look at Shags or Cormorants on a roost at Pitt Island. Here we saw a group of about 10 birds, young and adults, with at least one in breeding plumage. White-fronted Terns were also nesting on the cliffs and large numbers of New Zealand Fur seals basked on the rocks.
As we cruised towards the north we saw the first of many New Zealand Shore Plovers which positioned themselves perfectly to the delight of the photographers on board. Accompanying us in the water was a pod of Common Dolphins that played in the vicinity of the ship and Zodiacs all morning.
Next we headed north for Little Mangere Island some 22 miles away where there was some shelter from the wind and sea. Here we saw a pair of Oystercatchers on the wave platform and Adam spotted his first Forbes Parakeet, though others had seen some earlier in the day.
It seemed no time at all before we were steaming towards Waitangi. During the afternoon there was a shout on the PA system from Adam “Magenta Petrel ahead of the ship!” This created a mad scramble with cabin doors flying open and people running. Everyone got great views and excitement rippled around the ship. After the photographs had been taken, most people returned to their cabins, though a few determined souls awaited a repeat performance and they were rewarded with another two sightings. Everyone agreed it was an amazing day to see three Taiko (or one Taiko three times!) A truly remarkable day in birding!
Tuesday 15th November 2011: Chatham Islands
Today we had the opportunity to spend some time exploring ashore. It was a simple dry landing onto the Chatham Island Wharf – quite pedestrian after some of our wet landings on the other islands. We were taken by bus to the south coast property of Bruce and Liz Tuanui. On their land they have made a number of Reserves including the very large Tuku Reserve where the Taiko breeds. Bruce and Liz are also involved with the ‘Taiko Trust’, established to further conservation work on the Chatham Islands.
It was wonderful to see the native plants regenerating and there was a fantastic display of the Chatham Island Forget Me Not and Button Daisy. Birds seen here included the Pigeon, the Grey Warbler, Parakeet and Tui. One of the Tomtits liberated on the reserve a year ago was also heard, though not seen.
Back in town we had time to explore the craft shop, General Store, the Post Office and the most important local meeting place, the Pub. There were large flocks of Prions and a good assortment of Albatross species seen as we left the Chatham Islands behind us and headed towards Port Chalmers, the port of Dunedin on New Zealand’s South Island.
Wednesday 16th November 2011: At Sea
In the morning Adam talked about ‘Albatross’s of the World’. He noted that we had seen a good number of species on this voyage and recapped what we knew about them and their distribution. He also looked at those species that don’t occur in this part of the world.
After lunch Katya gave a lecture on ‘Antarctica vs Arctic – Regions of Contrast’, although she suggested another title for the lecture might be “Why Polar Bears Don’t Eat Penguins’. She explained the differences between these two similar but very different Polar Regions. Her enthusiasm inspired some of us to discuss a Northern Hemisphere expedition in the future.
During the afternoon the ship was visited by a Southern Bottlenose Whale and those who captured photos of this rare species were very pleased with the results. Shortly after the excitement of this encounter we saw a Black Winged Petrel.
Thursday 17th November 2011: At Sea
A beautiful dawn greeted us and most people spent time on deck in the sunshine enjoying the last full day of our expedition. During the morning Katya gave a presentation on the ‘Russian Far East’. Her knowledge and passion for the region was obvious. The keen sea birders among us became very excited at the prospect of seeing so many species of Auks in one area. Others were keen to see the unique plant species and Polar Bear “nursery” on Wrangle Island.
After lunch we watched a presentation Katya had put together using photos she and Eric had taken throughout the trip. It was excellent and brought back many happy memories. There were great photos of the people, the birds and the mammals we had seen. The group discussed the highlights of the voyage and many made plans for reunions where friendships would be renewed in the years to come. Afterwards we gathered on the back deck for a group photo followed by a sumptuous farewell dinner where the chefs Bruce and Jeremy excelled themselves. This final feast together was a fitting finale to a unique experience.
Friday 18th November 2011: Dunedin
We came to anchor in the early hours of the morning and sadly bid farewell to the wonderful staff, crew and fellow intrepid travellers. The voyage may be over, but the photographs and memories will pull us back to those many special moments exploring some of the most pristine islands on earth.
31st October 2010: Bluff and the Foveaux Strait
Forty nine passengers gathered for breakfast in Invercargill and checked in their luggage. After a tour of the Southland museum and lunch, we boarded our coach for the port of Bluff and by mid afternoon were finally onboard our home for the next month, the Spirit of Enderby. After completing customs we slipped the moorings and set sail. Our adventure had begun! Skies were clear and it was calm and warm as the pilot guided us out of Bluff harbour. We gathered in the lecture hall for an introduction and safety briefing and afterwards completed the practical part of the life boat drill once at sea. We entered into Foveaux Strait and the waters were remarkably calm, an excellent introduction to life at sea. The first seabirds were spotted – Sooty Shearwaters, Cape Petrels and White-capped Albatross. In these calm conditions it was even possible to see little Blue Penguins and Common Diving Petrels sitting on the water; a few observers even managed to see the localised Fiordland Crested Penguin. Adam gave an introduction to the Snares Islands and the bar opened for a drink. Stephen and Brad served up their first excellent dinner and most people opted for an early night as we steamed south.
1st November 2010 The Snares Islands and southbound
Unfortunately the weather deteriorated throughout the night. The notorious Southern Ocean lives up to its reputation. The morning was dark and wet and the Snares were covered in low cloud. Much to our delight the birds were still very active, and after an early breakfast and a Zodiac briefing, we attempted a Zodiac cruise. Nathan, our Expedition Leader, decided it too unsafe and so we cruised the shoreline in the ship instead and luckily had very good viewings of the Snares Crested Penguin at sea. Also seen were hundreds of diving and cape petrels, and many New Zealand Fur Seals.
We decided to cut our losses and head once again for the open ocean toward the Auckland Islands. On route we had excellent bird activity seeing Southern Royal, Salvins and Whitecapped Albatross, Mottled Petrels, Broad Billed Prions, and Black-bellied Storm Petrels. After meeting in the bar to discuss our observations, we were once again treated to an incredible meal by our chefs. I could get used to this life at sea! Then off to bed in anticipation of the Aucklands tomorrow.
Day 3 - Enderby Island, Auckland Islands
In the early hours of the morning we anchored off Enderby Island. Following a spectacular sunrise and calm conditions we sat for breakfast and thought of our great day ahead. Nathan gave us a briefing of the day’s activities, we packed lunch and headed ashore on two Zodiacs. Once ashore we could enjoy the relatively pleasant conditions that were on offer. The day would showcase plenty of sun and rather light winds…in other words..perfect.
Walking across to the western cliffs via nesting Southern Royal and Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, we split into two groups - the smaller group returned to the bay with Tessa and spent much of the day exploring there. The larger group headed off on a fantastic walk around the island. Everybody came back with great experiences and memories. Hooker’s Sea Lion were lying all around in the grasses and along sections of the coast. Seemingly menacing, they were in fact harmless and everyone enjoyed interacting with them. There were birds all around. Of particular interest on Enderby are the healthy populations of Subantarctic Snipe and the flightless Auckland Teal. Almost everyone ended up seeing a snipe at some point scuttling through the tussock or megaherbs and most people also saw the teal along the shoreline or swimming on small ponds around the island. Other birds recorded include: Red-crowned Parakeet, Bellbird, Tui, the omnipresent Auckland Islands Pipit, Auckland Island Tomtit and, of course, the majestic Light Mantled Sooty Albatross - arguably the most beautiful of all the albatross. Along the coast were Antarctic and White-fronted Tern, Kelp and Red-billed Gull, and Brown Skua. The botanizing also proved interesting. The Bulbinella were in bright yellow blooms and there were good examples of Stilbocarpa, Anisotome, and Gentiana. A walk inside the rata forest here was one of the highlights and had a very different character to open coastal regions.
Eventually we all returned to the landing beach and after savouring a last few minutes ashore, hopped back into the Zodiacs and returned to the ship. The wind was still slight which made for a straightforward return to the ship and a very pleasant night at anchor in historic Port Ross.
Day 4 - Auckland Island
In the early hours the captain raised the anchors and we steamed down the east coast of Auckland Island toward Carnley Harbour. This place is rich in history of shipwrecks and strandings. We entered the heads, its steep cliff faces like enormous gates. The weather was calm but the forecast told us this was likely to change…for the worst. We steamed up the harbour in search of suitable anchorage, the weather deteriorating and eventually opted to explore some observation posts used in World War Two. The Zodiacs were lowered and we made our way across the dark water to a gentle rocky shore where we landed and were greeted by a New Zealand Falcon. What a spectacle! Once on shore we scaled the hills through thick rata forest and as we ascended the rain began. Our hike took us past disused huts, but we found that one had been restored. It was fabulous to see this far outpost and reminder of long ago. What a hard living the occupants must have had. Interestingly we saw two New Zealand Sea Lion females high in the rata, escaping the attention of the many males in the area - this is the beginning of their breeding season.
The wind had increased to over 40 knots and the rain now lashed the coast so we descended the muddy slopes and boarded the Zodiacs, seeking the safe warm dry ship we now called home. Once aboard we battened the hatches and stowed everything of value as we were in for a rough ride. Making our way out of Carnley Harbour we headed south west for Macquarie Island.
Day 5 - At Sea
A day for bed. We were in a storm in the notorious Southern Ocean. Wind gusts of over 40 knots were recorded and seas up to 8 metres were slowing the ship to only 3-4 knots. It was slow and rough going and all except the Russian crew - steering us toward Macquarie - stayed in bed. As Nathan told us…it is the safest place to be!
Day 6 - Macquarie Island
The seas had abated and it wasn’t long before we spotted Macquarie Island far in the distance. The first sightings of King and Royal Penguins were soon made, followed by Black-browed and Light-mantled Sooty Albatross. What a sight it was! Dean and Tess (who had spent 12 months on Macquarie Island researching fur seals) gave us an introduction to its flora and fauna. At Buckles Bay we dropped off 4 of our passengers who were going ashore on Macquarie for the summer, and picked up in exchange 3 of the Rangers and the station Doctor.
After a briefing we boarded the Zodiacs for an afternoon ashore at the incomparable Sandy Bay. The beach was flat calm making for a straightforward landing and the weather was pleasant ashore. We were immediately greeted by the hordes of King Penguins that throng the beach here. These large penguins have a lot of character and showed to full form today, investigating us closely and following us around, making a mockery of the 5-meter rule! Most of us eventually wandered over to the breeding colony where there were many older chicks still about. Indeed there were so many King Penguins that it was an overwhelming sensory experience and it took quite a while to settle down and sit with a single bird or group of birds. The smell and the sound of so many birds was just as impressive as the sight. Down the other end of the beach were Royal Penguins which could be seen sitting on eggs. This penguin is endemic to the island and can be seen nowhere else in the world. Skuas and Giant Petrels patrolled the colonies looking for scraps and Elephant Seals of all sizes from the largest of the males to this year’s pups were scattered along the beaches. It was hard to believe that these lazy looking blobs could be as energetic in the water as we had been told. Even a pod of Orca were spotted from the ship. On a more depressing note, 59 rabbits were counted up on the hillsides and the tussock grasses were heavily depleted. We will be the last tourists ever to see this island overrun with rabbits, assuming that the upcoming eradication goes to plan.
Our hungry stomachs eventually vied for attention with the spectacle and by the evening every one was back on board and was delighted to eat a fantastic meal on a flat sea.
Day 7 - Buckles Bay
Conditions were still good in the morning. Although noticeably cooler than previous days, it was bright and the water was flat. We anchored in Buckles Bay and after breakfast were ready to head to shore. On land we split into three groups and had a walk around The Isthmus where the weather soon improved and the sun even poked out at times. The stretch of the legs was welcome too.
The walk provided an insight into the island’s history and allowed us close encounters with its amazing wildlife. Hiding amongst the tussock grass were numerous Southern Elephant Seals; a small colony of Gentoo Penguins was a highlight as were the numerous King Penguins dotted around the shoreline. Our walk was followed by a tour around the research station where coffee and scones awaited us.
Warmed up once more it was time to walk back down to the Zodiacs and head to the ship. En route we passed a small colony of Rockhopper Penguins and admired their climbing skills. We also picked up some Macquarie Island expeditioners who had finished their winter there. They were waved off from the Macquarie Station by a host of men wearing colourful frocks and a fine display of flared trousers. Once back onboard it was time for lunch and to head for the open ocean, toward Campbell Island.
Day 8 - En Route to Campbell Island
The seas today were moderate, with a breeze coming from the South West. This made our open ocean transit more bearable than the one we experienced to Macquarie. Today we learnt much about the places we had visited. Dean gave us a presentation on his and Tessa’s Fur Seal research during their time on Macquarie, and Jeremy, the outgoing Station Leader, gave us a talk on the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Program. Both were extremely interesting. Tess opened the sea shop and much to our delight there were many quality wares available to act as retail therapy. Later in the day Adam provided an excellent lecture on the albatross species of the world and made it very clear that this expedition was the best on Earth to view the magnificent creatures. On deck there were ample opportunities to see a host of bird species as we swiftly made our way across the Campbell plateau. The birders recorded 7 species of albatross including large numbers of Southern Royal and Campbell Albatross and some interesting petrels including White-headed, Mottled, Soft-plumaged, Blue, and Grey. Another delicious meal served by the chefs and before we knew it the day had come to an end.
Day 9 - Campbell Island
Tess woke us up around 7 am. The sun had just risen behind fog and low cloud and we awoke to the beautiful and serene Perseverance Harbour, a haven of calm in the southern ocean. The sight of land and a level ship came as a relief to us sea-weary travelers.
The day started with breakfast followed by a Zodiac cruise of the Harbour. This cruise visited several coves and was accompanied by numerous birds including good views of the endemic Campbell Island Shag.
After Nathan gave us an introduction to the island, we set off in the Zodiacs for the short ride to the wharf at Beeman Base. Once ashore we had the whole day to spend on the boardwalk that runs up to the Col-Lyall Saddle. After passing through the derelict buildings of a New Zealand Meteorological Station, we carried on up through thick Dracophyllum scrub. Moving higher and accompanied by many curious, confiding Campbell Island Pipits, we moved out of the shrub zone and into the tussock zone. Here was what we had come to see: spectacular megaherbs of many species: Pleurophyllum, Bulbinella, Stilbocarpa, Anisotome. Of even more interest were the numerous behemoth Southern Royal Albatross. These had often been our traveling companions during our days at sea, but here on the tops of Campbell Island we could appreciate their true size and beauty at this, their stronghold breeding colony. The albatross sat amongst the tussock, patient and quiet. It was an incredible sight to see these magnificent creatures so close.
As the afternoon wore on, male birds engaged in some spectacular displays of behavior, the sound and sight of which is impressive.
Almost everybody made it right to the end of the boardwalk at the western cliffs where the views out over Dent Island and the southern ocean were unfortunately obscured by cloud, but even that was breathtaking. As the day wore on, people drifted back to the landing site and the ship, for another great dinner. Then it was off to sea once again - the expedition must push on.
Day 10 - At Sea, En Route to Antipodes
A tremendous morning of slight seas and clear skies. This really is the life! We had all day to learn about and enjoy the vast expanse of the beautiful southern ocean. After breakfast we were treated to a documentary on the pest eradication of Campbell Island, followed by a presentation on the New Zealand Sea Lion research led by our NZ Department of Conservation representative Louise Childers. After lunch Dean taught us all about the whales of the region and immediately after this had finished the whale sightings began! Incredible. Many people saw up to three whales from the ship and with only brief observations it was decided that these were most probably Minke and Fin whales. Hopefully in days to come we would see more. Adam also told us about the 17 penguin species of the world, many of which were all around us on this expedition, and several of which can only be found on the islands we visit. As for birding, it was a splendid day with great conditions for viewing and photographing. The albatross were particularly curious, often coming right over our heads on slow approaches. It was also a fine night for the bar and we all shared our many stories and observations of the day. Brad and Stephen then topped it all off with a delicious meal.
Day 11 - Antipodes
We awoke this morning to a ship that was not rocking. It was calm outside and there was no wind. A low, dense fog surrounded us and early morning birding proved to be fairly quiet. After a hearty breakfast we attended Nathan’s briefing for the Antipodes and there was much excitement as, with a successful sighting of the Erect Crested Penguin, some of us would be able to say they had seen all 17 penguin species. Up on deck we all gazed in awe as the Antipodes emerged from the fog. Five Zodiacs were promptly launched and we climbed aboard ready for a long cruise of the Antipodes coast in near perfect conditions!
It wasn’t long before we spotted the Erect Crested Penguins, but this was just one of the many unique sightings for the day. The Antipodean Parakeet is found only here and many were spotted in the tussock and - to our delight - even in flight; we also saw the more common but also endemic Reischek’s Parakeet. Fur seals littered the rocky shore and both NZ Fur Seals and Subantarctic Fur Seals were sighted. Many were in the brilliant blue water, frolicking lazily around our boats. The cliff faces were dramatic indeed, with beautiful basalt columns and lava flows easily visible on every shore. Vegetation was astounding and no bare patch of dirt could be seen anywhere. Antipodean Albatross soared across the skies with their smaller cousins, the Light-mantled Sooty Albatross. Even a colony of Black-browed Mollymawks was spotted high on a cliff face. Rockhopper Penguins also made an appearance.
It truly was a spectacular Zodiac cruise. We re-boarded the Spirit of Enderby, lifted the anchors and started our cruise for the Bounty Islands. Each day simply is better than the last!
Day 12 - Bounty Islands
Wow! That is the one word that truly sums up this magnificent series of rocks in the middle of nowhere. Only 80m at their highest point, they are jam-packed with wildlife, and so is the surrounding water which teems with all kinds of marine life. The day started early. Out on deck we could see a fog hovering over the islands, masking their true brilliance. A quick breakfast and we were in the Zodiacs where the seas were once again calm which made for excellent boating. Approaching these rocky outcrops it was plain to see that not a square metre of real estate was spare. NZ Fur Seals lived closest to the water’s edge and hundreds of females with pups, males and juveniles were about. Above them in altitude were Erect Crested Penguins in their thousands. They are entertaining little penguins and there was no shortage of humorous moments as they went about their very busy lives. Still above them were over 30,000 breeding pairs of Salvin’s Albatross. These are majestic animals at sea, but perched like this in the cliffs they were crowded in together along with the penguins and seals, endemic Bounty Shags and Fulmar Prions. Amazingly we also saw a Leopard Seal who appeared very fat, probably because it had been gorging itself on penguins. All too soon we had to go back to the ship, but that was fine because Adam had prepared buckets of chum to feed the albatross. It was as if all 30,000 pairs had come to feed, because the sky and water were covered with Salvin’s Albatross. This was a spectacular sight, truly amazing! The ship then set north for Pyramid Rock in the Chatham Island group. En route we had a brief sighting of a Sei Whale and calf, and also a spout far in the distance. The birding was sensational with no fewer than 10 species of albatross recorded on the day, along with numerous other species of tubenose. This was an exceptional day, and was perfectly completed with a scrumptious meal by our chefs.
Day 13 - En Route to the Chatham Islands
Someone must have pleased the Sea Gods because the weather was once again perfect! Amama, the ship’s doctor said it was because she was wearing her lucky ‘good weather earrings’. Perhaps we might have to convince her to leave them here with us on the ship. The day started very early indeed with Adam excited about the possibility of sighting the rare Magenta Petrel (or Breakfast Petrel as he called it) as well as the Chatham Island Petrel, another rare species. Most of us were on deck by 7am looking towards the skies. Neither of these species were sighted, but many others were. These included several new species for the trip: Buller’s and Chatham Island Albatross, Cook’s and Grey-faced Petrel and White-faced Storm-petrel. At one stage we tried laying some fish oil in the water. It did not attract the mythical petrels, but it was impressive to see dozens of storm-petrels and white-chinned petrels appearing out of nowhere to feed on the slick. As we approached the Chatham rise, whale blows were also sighted, though we couldn’t confirm what species they came from. But it didn’t matter because just seeing them was great. Dean thought he saw a Sun Fish and Adam saw a small Basking Shark. These were indeed rich waters. Before long the Chatham Islands loomed over the horizon, with Pyramid Rock dead ahead. This structure is actually an ancient volcanic plug, but these days is home to the world’s only breeding population of Chatham Island Albatross – 4,500 pairs in all. After a circumnavigation of this geological structure we anchored off South East, an essential bird refuge. Into the Zodiacs and cruising the shores it wasn’t long before we spotted the Pitt Shag, the Shore Plover, hundreds of nesting White-fronted Terns, and to our surprise and delight the Little or Blue Penguin. Chatham Island Oystercatcher proved much harder to track down, although we did eventually find a pair. New Zealand Fur Seals were everywhere with pups and there was yet another Subantarctic Fur Seal. It was a superb afternoon with a beautiful sunset and a relaxing evening.
Day 14 - Chatham Islands
Today was a day of exploration for many of us who had never been to the Chatham group before. Because we were ahead of schedule, and because the weather was once again great, Nathan decided we should take this opportunity to circumnavigate the islands. First up was Star Keys. It was here that one of our only Chatham Island Shags flew in to investigate the ship. Then off the Forty Fours - which coincidentally lie on the 44 Latitude line – we found a major breeding colony for Northern Royal and Buller’s Albatross. Next, we saw the Sisters in the North where the largest breeding colony of the Northern Royal Albatross is situated. Adam once again got his hands dirty with the chum so we could all have exceptional close encounters with these giants of the skies. Very few people ever come to these islands so this made it all the more special. We all felt very privileged, and with memory cards once again full of incredible images, we set sail for Waitangi to anchor for the night in preparation for the day to come. As expected, the boys in the galley served up an exquisite meal with fine desserts and with our bellies full we lay to rest. Tomorrow we would be exploring the great Chatham Island and all its wonders by foot.
Day 15 - Chatham Island
We awoke this morning to the calm and pleasant harbour of Waitangi. On the shore many houses and fishing boats could be seen; this was a working township. Chatham Island accommodates around 480 permanent residents with the population declining annually. We enjoyed an early and hearty breakfast, and then it was into the Zodiacs for our final tour of the expedition. We disembarked on the wharf and awaited our transport to the Awototora Reserve. This reserve and others in the area have been covenanted by Bruce and Liz Tuanui and, operating under the Taiko Trust, they are bringing back the native vegetation and birdlife to the Chatham Islands, including the Magenta Petrel. The transport was the school bus and once aboard we headed off to this private sanctuary of endemic birdlife. We saw much cleared land on the way; it is no surprise that some species are in decline as their habitat is simply disappearing.
At the bush reserve we met our guides who detailed how over the past 15 years they have managed to help return this small valley to its former self, complete with bird life. It did not sound like an easy task. Most of us contributed to their cause by purchasing their beautiful merchandise. Every little bit helps.
Then it was off on our walk of the reserve. We split into two groups - some taking the long but brisk walk to the coast and back, while others ambled along more slowly in the hope of spying some of the reintroduced species. The landscape was stunning: a small creek flowed through the valley and the sound of birds could be heard all around. Indeed, this project seemed to be succeeding. The plant life was lush, the track was muddy and we had to cross small stretches of the creek - some of us found it harder than others, but we were all very happy with our experience. Most of the birders tracked down their quarry – the endemic Chatham Island Pigeon and the Chatham Island Gerygone. It was also great to see several Chatham Island Fantail and Tui, the latter another success story of the Taiko trust!
Then it was back on the bus to visit the bustling metropolis of Waitangi Bay. It was a Wednesday so the Post Office was closed, but the pub wasn’t so we all seemed to gravitate there and enjoyed a cold beverage or two and a chat with some of the more colourful locals. In our final ride in the Zodiacs we returned to the Spirit Of Enderby, washed our boots and returned our Life Jackets. The captain raised the anchor and steered for Dunedin, two days sailing from here. But of course the day was not complete without another fine meal and a spectacular sunset!
Day 16 – En Route to Dunedin
We awoke once again to a calm sea and sunny skies. Save the one storm we had on the way to Macquarie Island, the weather has been exceptional and we all felt very lucky that the southern ocean has been so kind to us. After breakfast many of us pottered around the ship out on deck looking for more seabirds, reading books or just enjoying the conditions. Others sat in the library organising the thousands of images they had taken during our expedition. Adam provided some much-needed identification hints for the Petrels of the Southern Ocean in the lecture theatre. It was a great insight into the many and varied life habits of the petrels which seem to occupy a wide range of niches in this region. On deck, two separate sightings of Gray’s Beaked Whales were recorded, a type of whale little-known and quite different to any other. These observations were quite special. After lunch, Dean showed us two short documentaries he made during his time on Macquarie Island, giving us an insider’s view of this incredible place. Later in the day Nathan answered many questions regarding our mighty ship, the Spirit of Enderby, and how she operates throughout the world. In the evening the bar was full as we all met to tell stories of the trip and share our experiences. Then it was off to dinner.
Day 17 - En Route to Dunedin
The last full day of the trip had arrived. A gentle breeze and light swell greeted us as we sailed closer to Dunedin. It was an extremely pleasurable day to be out on deck and a relaxing day too, as we all wound down the trip.
Before lunch Nathan gave a talk about Russia and showed some mouth-watering photos from the region. Judging by the reactions of people in the lecture hall, there is a good chance we will see some of you there in the near future!
In the afternoon we had an expedition recap. To summarise the innumerable highlights of the past 19 days would be an impossible task, but the photo slideshow certainly brought back many memories.
Birding was quite good in the calm conditions, although birds struggled to fly with the lack of wind, particularly in the afternoon when the sea became oily calm. We did record several new species for the trip – Hutton’s and Buller’s Shearwater and a very surprising observation of Gould’s Petrel. But the day will always be remembered for its whales: the morning showcased a cow and calf Fin Whale, the world’s second-largest animal, and this female was a particularly large individual. In the afternoon it was another cow and calf pair - this time Sei Whale. We also recorded a Minke Whale cruising along, but it was the Beaked Whales that stole the show. These mysterious squid-feeders of the deep ocean are rarely seen, but on this day we saw over 10 groups. Many of the observations were very good and hundreds of photos were taken. At one point there were 3 animals clear out of the water at the same time. Beaked Whales are notoriously hard to identify, even with good photos, but the vast majority of the 50 or so animals seen today were Gray’s Beaked Whale.
After gathering for a delicious farewell dinner it was time to finish packing and swap photos and email addresses.
Day 18 - Dunedin
We picked up the pilot early and sailed the final two miles into Dunedin harbour to come alongside in perfect conditions. After one final breakfast and the customs formalities it was time to board the bus. We had traveled 2630 nautical miles together and after 19 days it was time to return to our normal lives. Everyone went their separate ways and everyone will carry their own memories with them: King Penguins crowding around us at Sandy Bay; waves crashing over the bow in the southern ocean; the joy of seeing Southern Royal Albatross at Cambell; Minke whales breaching; all those Gray’s Beaked Whales; stepping back in time in the observers huts on Auckland Island; the Antipodes and Bountys; chumming and being chased by Hooker’s Sea Lion on Enderby Island. These are but a few of the memories that will live on with us as we move forward. This has been an epic journey and one that will never be forgotten. The sights, sounds and smells of the southern ocean - the Subantarctic Islands are experienced by few. You are among those lucky few. Remember that you now have a duty to advocate for the protection and conservation of these remarkable places.
Please contact us for further Trip Reports
" Just home after a fabulous trip to the sub-antarctic islands of New Zealand. Hard to tell what is most memorable, but seeing a baby Southern Royal Albatross being fed a half-dozen whole squid just a few feet away from us was amazing. The birds were fantastic, headlined by the mythical Taiko, which buzzed the ship early one morning. Rodney and his super team did a great job keeping us safe and teaching us about the wonders of these magical destinations. "
" Fabulous trip, taking in the little visited islands of Chatham, Bounty, Antipodes, Campbell, Maquarie, Auckland and Snares. The ship is fairly basic, but comfortable with lots of storage space in the cabin. Third level cabins share toilets and showers. The staff were very good, and lectures were interesting. The chefs were excellent, and the food was delicious. "
" This was my third incredible Heritage Expeditions voyage aboard the Spirit of Enderby, two of them completed in Jan-Feb 2014 (In the Wake of Scott and Shackleton) and March 2014 (New Zealand's Remote Islands) and my earlier Russia Far East Voyage Across The Top of World in August 2012.
I was very excited to read about the forthcoming special sailing to the Antipodes, the Bounties and the Chatham Islands Archipelago which included the remote and difficult to get to islands of Forty Fours. I booked that same day!
The New Zealand's Remote Islands voyage was lead by the tireless, the entirely enthusiastic and most professional Rodney Russ. As I have experienced previously, Rodney's supporting team rose admirably to the tasks of keeping the expeditioners well informed, well fed, and very, very happy with superb zodiac exploration of the up-close fauna and geology and thousands of photographic opportunities. Several clients were world class wild life photographers. Other clients had travelled great distances from other parts of the globe for the exceedingly rare opportunities to sight some of the world's rarest and endangered bird species. One of these species is the endemic Bounty Island Shag, another the Shore Plover which breed only on Rangatira Island. At the Antipodes, a lone King Penguin was observed enduring the catastrophic moult, along with thousands of Erect Crested Penguins, also in the process of the annual moult. Hundreds of New Zealand Fur seals co-habited with the penguins. There were also good sightings of the endemic Antipode parakeets and the Antipodes subspecies of Pipit. Several immature bachelor elephant seals slumbered in intimate heaps on the wave polished volcanic boulders of the tidal zone.
While The Bounty Islands lack soil and flora (nil on both accounts) the granite rocks support many thousands of birds and New Zealand Fur Seals. Sea conditions for deploying the zodiacs were marginal to say the least, due to 2-3 meter swells and tidal currents. However, with the help of expert sailing by the diligent Russian crew and the equally adept handling of the zodiacs, Rodney and his staff managed to get 14 of us safely into three zodiacs and we spent a magical hour exploring the tidal edges of the kelp encrusted granite rock, observing fur seal adults and creches of very young pups, erect crested penguins either side of the catastrophic moult, marched the penguin highways of eons, returning or fro fishing expeditions, haughty Salvin's albatross chicks sat upon their ancestral pedestalled nests, rafts of Bounty Island shags swam close to the almost stationary zodiacs while rafts of Erect Crested penguins dived or porpoised away from us.
The Heritage staff onboard included the athletic Rowley Taylor who first visited the Sub Antarctic Islands as a 22 year year old and would be celebrating the 60th anniversary of that first life changing trip. His enthusiasm for the outstanding beauty, ruggedness, remoteness and the huge array of species has not diminished in the least over the decades.
Rhys Richards has an on-going love affair of many decades with the Chatham Islands and imparted his vast historical knowledge and the understanding of current ongoing changes which the Islands and Islanders are experiencing.
Mike Bell, Secretary of the Taiko Trust and a very much a hand's-on, in-the-field conservationist humbly shared his passion for his work and the intimate knowledge of the wildlife of the Chathams and their outer islands.
Overall, it is a very rare opportunity to visit some of the least visited, the remotest and least known islands in the world, and to witness the huge array of pelagic species which inhabit these seemingly hostile, stunningly beautiful habitats and natural environments.
And who cannot be moved by the ever changing light, the multitudes of blue hues of the ocean's restless textures, the dances of the petrels on the wave crests and the simply breathtaking witnessing of the beauty and ease of many of the world's species of albatross skimming these latitudes for decades.
The visions remain long after the journey.
" Everyone did his or her job so well, what a team. I admired Nathan and Adam enormously, watching them take a cart load of (mainly) oldies and keep them safe whilst showing them such special places, was a pleasure. "
" “It was the passion of the staff which has further fuelled my interest in the area, it has made me think of post-graduate study in the area. Heritage is passionate for the conservation and protection of the islands and passes this on to the passengers.”
" “A quest of a life time was realised when we saw the rare Magenta Petrel at sea. To get close to such rare and majestic species is a true privilege”. "
" I cannot speak too highly of Rod and his team. They got us close to a multitude of species that I will only see once in my lifetime. The warmth and knowledge added to what can only be described as the world’s most unique birding experience” "
" "Initially I thought I was on a journey to see some of the most hard to see species of birds in the world. I was mistaken. Along with the world class birding was the absolute grandeur of the subantarctic and the warmth and camaraderie that the Heritage team which made this a truly special experience”. "
" “We all have dreams, most never see the light of realisation. It was on this voyage that I was to feel the excitement of fulfilment of my life long dream to see the birds of this long forgotten part of the world” "
" Thank you for a very enjoyable trip to the Subantarctic Islands- and particularly for having the patience to wait for me and not discouraging me from making the climb on the Auckland Islands to see the White Capped and Gibson's albatrosses. It was a great experience and the effort was well worthwhile. "