SUBANTARCTIC ISLANDS OF NEW ZEALAND
You won’t find them mentioned in a travel brochure on your high street; you won’t find them in most guidebooks, you probably don’t know anyone that has ever been there and they don’t even appear on some maps of the South Pacific – these are the ‘forgotten islands’. Despite their low profile, they are among the most remarkable wildlife reserves in the Southern Ocean, designated UNESCO World Heritage sites and afforded the highest protection of any nature reserves in New Zealand. Remote, uninhabited and on no regular shipping route, access is further restricted by a strict Management Plan which limits the number of people allowed ashore each year.
Departing the Port of Bluff (Invercargill) the first of these islands we visit are The Snares. No landings are permitted because the islands are honey-combed with seabird burrows. Of particular interest are the Snares Crested Penguin, a Fernbird and Tomtit all of which are endemic. We should see them all as we enjoy the dramatic coastline and tree daisy forest from our Zodiac cruise.
In the Auckland Islands, the largest of the island groups, we will have the chance to spend the day ashore on Enderby Island, arguably the most amazing Subantarctic Island. Here you can hike through the windswept Rata forests, and along the exposed coastal cliffs. The wildlife is never far away and its lack of fear means close encounters, great for photography and observations. In Carnley Harbour in the south of the Auckland Islands there are a number of fascinating sites, including a Shy Albatross colony, abandoned Coastwatcher’s huts, a shipwreck and castaway depots that we can visit. The weather will dictate what we do.
Campbell Island, the southernmost island of this expedition, is an example of what can be achieved in restoring islands. In recent years sheep, cattle, cats and rats have all been eliminated and the island is rapidly recovering. The great English botanist Sir Joseph Hooker, a friend of Charles Darwin, visited Campbell Island in the 1840s and described the flowering fields of ‘megaherbs’ to be “second to none outside of the tropics”. We can say the same now, because of the removal of these introduced animals. This island is also the home of the majestic Southern Royal Albatross, the endemic Campbell Island Flightless Teal and Snipe.
These islands represent a priceless ecosystem. Joining this expedition redefines natural history travel and will leave you wishing you could have spent more time there.
Pre/Post cruise transfers, all on board ship accommodation, 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.
23rd – 30th December 2013
Monday 23rd December
We converged on the Kelvin Hotel, Invercargill at 1400 and Heritage Expeditions staff were there to greet us. Our luggage was loaded onto a truck to be taken directly to the Spirit of Enderby which was berthed in Port of Bluff and thirty minutes later we boarded a coach that took us to the ship. The Security check at the port seemed a little OTT (over the top), but we were eventually cleared to board the ship. On board we were directed to our cabins where our luggage awaited us and the process of unpacking began. Once this was accomplished we explored the ship and discovered a welcome drink and snack available in the Bar/Library.
The pilot came aboard and we sailed at 1600. Sea conditions in the strait weren’t too bad but the ship set a course for sheltered water south of the Northern Muttonbird Islands. When we arrived there we were summoned to a set of compulsory briefings which included an introduction to the staff and ship then a safety briefing. The later was divided into two parts, a theoretical part and a practical part. For the practical part we had to go to our allocated muster stations adjacent to the lifeboats and then climb into the boats. At the completion of this exercise, the bar opened and then dinner was served. Just before the briefings we had a good sighting of a Blue Whale – it was a great way to start the trip.
Tuesday 24th December
The Snares Islands
We arrived off the Snares Islands at approximately 0630. It had been a relatively comfortable trip south but there was a building NE sea and swell. When it was behind us the ship remained fairly stable, but it was not good for Zodiac cruising. The swell was clearly demonstrated by the pattern of the waves breaking along the coastline we wished to explore. The captain put the vessel into a “holding pattern” off the east coast while we had breakfast and watched the conditions closely. Despite the conditions there were some great views of Buller’s and Salvin’s Albatross, Snares Crested Penguins and there were thousands of Sooty Shearwaters massing on the water just offshore prior to going out to feed for the day.
After breakfast we abandoned our plans for a Zodiac cruise and set a course for Port Ross in the Auckland Islands some 140 miles away. Conditions weren’t too bad during this voyage as the NE wind/sea swung throughout the day to SE and there was periods of heavy rain and fog making the journey more real and magical. At 1030 Alex gave a lecture entitled “The Botany of the Subantarctic Islands” which was well attended despite the motion of the vessel. Then at 1200 Katya gave a presentation on Cetaceans of the Southern Ocean and again there was a good turn out for this. Rodney’s briefing on the Auckland Islands scheduled for after lunch was postponed because the sea conditions had deteriorated somewhat, but by late afternoon we were all absorbed quarantine measures required for our landing the next morning. This involved the vacuuming of all clothing and equipment being taken ashore to rid it of seeds which could seriously affect the island ecosystem. The bar opened at 1830 and dinner was served. Folk retired early in anticipation of a calm anchorage in the early hours of the morning.
Wednesday 25th December
When we awoke the vessel was anchored in the upper reaches of Port Ross near Shoe Island. It was beautifully calm and the wind had eased and sun was trying to come out. The ship had arrived at anchor at about 0130 and Rodney woke us at 0615 to begin the busy day. It started with a briefing at 0645 which covered the safe use of Zodiacs, an overview of the history and natural history of the Auckland Islands and a description of our first landing at Hardwick (Erebus Cove). Breakfast was scheduled for 0730 and by 0815 the Zodiacs started shuttling people ashore. At Erebus Cove we had the opportunity to visit the small graveyard and inspect the Victoria Tree. Our two hours ashore went very quickly and we were soon back aboard so we could steam the few miles to Ranui Cove. Once there everyone again boarded the Zodiacs and this time we visited the abandoned No 1 Coast Watchers hut. The weather had improved remarkably and by our arrival it was warm and sunny. Ranui Cove is very sheltered and we enjoyed hearing great birdsong from both Bellbirds and Tui. We inspected the hut and then walked to the smaller lookout hut where the coast watchers looked out over the harbour. There were magnificent views from a small promontory above the huts out over the entire expanse of Port Ross which sparkled in the sunshine. The track to and from the lookout was a little muddy and slippery in places, but all felt it well worth the effort. Everybody was back on board by 1300 hours and the captain didn’t waste any time in lifting the anchor and heading to Carnley Harbour while we enjoyed lunch.
The trip south was very pleasant despite the fact that we couldn’t see a lot of the coast as we were quite a way offshore and there was some cloud over the tops. We cruised into the eastern entrance of Carnley Harbour at 1600 where conditions were prefect – blue sky, calm seas and no wind – and steamed up to Epigwatt in the North Arm where we dropped anchor. Rodney had all 5 Zodiacs lowered and we went ashore at the site where the Grafton was wrecked in 1864. There we could see the remains of the ship in the form of timber lying on the shore and the remains of the hut survivors built in the Rata forest. We had about 30 minutes here before re-boarding the Zodiacs and cruising further up the harbour as far as Figure Eight Island where a small number of New Zealand Sea Lions were breeding . As we made our way back to the ship we encountered a group of thousands of Sooty Shearwaters feeding just off the coast. The Bar opened at 1830 so we could enjoy refreshments after our busy day and prepare for our Christmas dinner. Bruce and Colleen the chefs had prepared a sumptuous feast and the staff had decorated the dining rooms beautifully. The atmosphere was buoyant and the table settings were spectacular. The meal began with soup served to the table and then we helped ourselves to the lavish buffet which offered seafood, meats, salads and vegetables – much more than we could possibly eat. Dessert was also served buffet style with a wide variety of dishes available. The meal finished at about 2130 and we retired in anticipation of another great day at Enderby Island. The anchor was lifted at 2230 and we cruised back to Port Ross during the night.
Thursday 26th December
It is unlikely anyone heard the anchor drop at 0200 at which time there was a slight change in the motion of the ship as she rolled gently on the easterly swell that was still running. Rodney woke us shortly after 0600 for breakfast at 0630. This was followed at 0715 with a briefing, lunch making and Zodiac departures at 0830. There was still a swell breaking on the beach but Rodney and Sergey were in the water with drysuit/waders on catching the boats and guiding them in through the surf. Alex was on shore to guide us across the beach and up to the Department of Conservation (DOC) huts where we were able to change into walking boots. When everyone was ashore the last Zodiac was sent back to the ship with one of the sailors and we were organised into two groups (as had been described in the briefing). One group set out to walk around the island and the other group visited the Western Cliffs and the Light-mantled Sooty Albatross colony before returning to the beach. Alex, Katya, Agnes and Dr Roger led the group making their way around the island. Rodney and Samuel looked after the rest.
The weather was absolutely perfect for our excursion, with some high cloud which broke up later in the day and not a breath of wind, a very rare and unique experience in this part of the world. Most returned to the beach by lunchtime and watched the Sea Lions or looked for Teal along the shoreline. We were eventually to see a group of seven Teal on the wave platform, but there weren’t many Yellow-eyed Penguins seen. This wasn’t surprising as most of the birds move either early in the morning or late in the evening.
The “around the island” walkers made good time as everybody had to be back by 1500 for our departure to Campbell Island. They watched the Sea Lions for a while before walking across the island to the Western Cliffs. Lunch was enjoyed in the Rata forest near Pebble Point. Jessie was able to collect all the plant specimens she needed for her thesis and most people had good sightings of Snipe. Teal were abundant and most enjoyed great views of Yellow-eyed Penguins and Parakeets.
Samuel starting shuttling people back to the ship at about 1400. With the tide a little lower we were able to work from the wave platform which made it a little easier. Everybody was back on board by 1500 and the captain lifted the anchor and set a course for Campbell Island. ETA at Campbell Island was about 0600 and the sea and weather conditions in the evening were superb. Most folk chilled out reading, downloading photos or talking. Agnes opened the Sea Shop for a short while as we cruised and the bar opened at 1800 for pre dinner drinks.
Friday 27th December
We dropped anchor off the old Metrological Base in Perseverance Harbour on Campbell Island at about 0530 in flat calm conditions. Breakfast at 0630 was followed by Rodney’s briefing on the history and wildlife of Campbell Island. He then outlined the options for the day which included a walk to North West Bay, a Zodiac cruise in the upper harbour to the main historical sites and a walk to the Col Lyall Saddle. The group was split about 50/50. Alex, Samuel and Sergey led the North West Bay walk while Rodney, Katya and Agnes led the Zodiac excursion and Col Lyall walk. The North West Bay walkers got away immediately after making their lunch and then the Zodiac Cruise departed for Tucker Cove. Here the group landed at the site of the abandoned farm homestead which was guarded by Sea Lions. From there we cruised around to Camp Cove and made a landing at the site of the ‘loneliest tree’ (a Sitka Spruce) and the ‘Lady of the Heather’. After leaving there we cruised into Garden Cove and past Venus Cove, arriving back aboard the ship at about midday. We enjoyed our picnic lunch on board and then were shuttled ashore to the abandoned metrological base at the start of the boardwalk to Col Lyall. It took about an hour to climb up onto the Col Saddle under sunny skies. The views on the way up were speculator and as Rodney had promised, the albatross activity increased as the afternoon wore on. Later in the day the number of birds increased and the amount of activity increased correspondingly. It was a little early in the season for the megaherbs to be at their best, but they still looked quite beautiful dotting the hillsides.
The North West Bay walkers had made exceptionally good time and Alex called up for a pickup at Camp Cove shortly after 1600. Rodney went back down from the Col Lyall Saddle to do that while Katya and Agnes stayed up at the top. Due to their early return, some of the walkers were able to make their way up the boardwalk towards Col Lyall while the remainder returned to the ship. Alex and Jessie headed off so Jessie could collect more plant specimens for her PhD studies (she had a collecting permit to do this) and didn’t get back until 2200. Everybody else was back on board for dinner at 2000. After dinner Chris (Todd) and some of the crew helped Rodney and staff unload 7 x 200 litre drums of helicopter fuel to be stored as an emergency supply on the island. With that done and Alex and Jessie back on board, everybody retired for the night.
Saturday 28th December
The Expedition staff were up at 0500 to check the weather and were happy to report to the six people interested in climbing Mt Honey (the highest peak on the island) that conditions were clear so they could make their ascent. Fortunately for the remainder of the group they were woken individually, leaving the rest to snooze on until 0715. After breakfast Rodney gave a briefing on the options available for the day. We could walk from Tucker Cove to the old Coast Watchers hut then to Beeman Base with Agnes, return up the board walk with Samuel or take a Zodiac cruise with Rodney.
Rodney and Samuel dropped the Coast Watch hut walkers off at the head of Tucker Cove where the group saw a Teal and several Elephant Seals. Samuel’s group was next ashore and then Rodney picked up those for the Zodiac cruise which followed the shoreline and had great views of Campbell Island Shags, Antarctic Terns and Yellow-eyed Penguins. They also took the opportunity to photograph the Elephant Seals in Tucker Cove. In Camp Cove Charlotte wanted to have a swim, simply to claim that she had swum at Campbell Island. It was perhaps a highlight for those on the Zodiac cruise to watch her being chased out of the water by a very indignant Sea Lion. There was some discussion over whether he was more upset about that fact that she was swimming at his beach or the fact that her dress code was not up to his standard (she was skinny dipping). It was rather hilarious and fortunately for Charlotte, everybody was too polite to photograph or film it!
At 1100 it was time to collect all the groups. Agnes ran her group out to the ship and picked up those that had been on the board walk while Rodney went up to Garden Cove to collect those that had climbed Mt Honey. We departed Campbell Island at 1200 and set a course for the Port of Bluff whilst keeping an eye on the weather to see if the Snares would be workable. During the afternoon Samuel screened two documentaries about Campbell Island which detailed the rat eradication project and the reintroduction of the Campbell Island Teal. Later Alex gave a botanical recap and Jessie spoke about her studies. After dinner we were invited to a presentation by Olga on Killer Whales (Orca’s) in the Pacific. She talked about her studies in the Commander Islands plus work being done in New Zealand and Antarctica.
Sunday 29th December
Being Sunday and a day at sea, breakfast wasn’t scheduled until 0830 so everyone could enjoy a relaxing start to the day. The sea conditions were quite comfortable, with the wind from the NE. We had experienced 8 days of easterly weather, which is unheard of in this part of the world where the prevailing weather is from the Westerly quarter. This meant that unfortunately the Snares remained unworkable. It was still calm enough to use the lecture room so Samuel gave us an interesting talk on the Sea Birds of the Southern Ocean, focusing on the ones that we had seen on this expedition. At midday Katya screened a video called “Blackfish” which is a thought provoking documentary on Killer Whales in captivity. After watching this chilling film it is unlikely anybody from this voyage will go to the SeaWorld Park to see Orcas again. Lunch was served at 1300 and the afternoon was taken up with settling on-board accounts. At 1730 we all gathered in the lecture room for a briefing on disembarkation and a recap of the expedition. The recap, compiled by Katya with photos supplied by herself, Alex, Samuel and Agnes, was excellent and very nicely captured the essence and the spirit of the expedition. We were all invited to download this power point presentation to take home so we could show friends and family. The bar opened at 1830 and most attended for a final glass together before our last dinner on board the Spirit of Enderby. Packing was then the focus of the evening for most.
Monday 30th December
The pilot was booked for 0700 but arrived a little early so we were alongside by that time as breakfast was served. The luggage was left outside our cabins before we went to breakfast and the crew delivered it ashore for transfer to our chosen destination. We gathered for a group photo before joining our coach for the trip to Invercargill hotels or airport and said our farewells. It had been a unique and memorable Southern Ocean Christmas for us all.
Day 1: 15 Dec 2013
We all gathered at the Kelvin Hotel in central Invercargill as checked our bags through the Heritage bag security system with the help of Dave, Max, Martin and the radio operator from the Spirit of Enderby. Bags were loaded onto the truck which left for Bluff immediately. Martin checked us aboard the coach and found that two of the group were not present. Undaunted, we set off for Bluff, leaving Dave to search them out. The trip through the flat countryside past paddocks dotted with herds of red deer, occasional sheep and dairy cattle, took about 30 minutes. We stopped at the wharf security office where we were once again checked by the jovial Port of Bluff wharf security officer. Fortunately Dave located the two missing passengers in the pub in Invercargill having a quiet beer and delivered them to the ship. Aboard the Spirit of Enderby, staff and crew directed us to our cabins where we found our bags, name tags and information about the ship and the Subantarctic islands.
At 1530 Nathan gave a welcome aboard briefing and introduced the expedition team. At 1630 Nathan gave a comprehensive safety briefing followed by Agnès, who described the operation of the domestic side of the services provided on the Spirit of Enderby. The Bluff Harbour Pilot boarded at 1800, mooring lines were dropped and we proceeded slowly out of Bluff Harbour passing the Sterling Point light on the starboard side. Twenty minutes later the pilot launch burbled alongside, the Pilot leapt nimbly aboard and waved us away. Our expedition to the Subantarctic islands had begun! Samuel, Agnès and Alex opened the bar and did brisk trade as we crossed Foveaux Strait. Dinner was called as we progressed south in the lee of Stewart Island where conditions were thankfully calm with just a slow, gentle roll. By 2115 we were due east of the Breaksea Islands and Port Adventure. Most people took advantage of the calm conditions and took to their bunks early.
Departing Bluff. Photo credit: SBlanc
Day 2: 16 Dec 2013
Conditions were not comfortable for new sailors as we headed south east for Campbell Island. At 0700 the wind was NW 20-25kts with a westerly swell of 4m.
The Spirit of Enderby (aka Professor Khromov) is an icebreaker and as such, does not possess such niceties as large, active, wing-like stabilisers protruding from the hull which would be ripped off in the ice. The consequence of this is a propensity to roll like a crewman heading home from the pub after a night of serious drinking. The best place to appreciate this is in the galley. There the chefs produce top quality dishes while under fire from jars of olives escaping from the cupboards, pots slopping mysterious boiling liquids over the stove and jars of sun-dried tomatoes in oil and peeled garlic cloves leaping from the fridge to smash on the tiled floor. Then there are the feats of extraordinary balance and athleticism as the stewardesses, Natalia and Zoya, carry armfuls of food-laden plates through the dining rooms without touching the walls or dropping a thing.
A few hardy souls trickled in for breakfast but left soon after to wedge themselves into the relative safety of the seats in the Bar/Library or take to their bunks – the best place to be in those conditions. Despite this, some of the more vertical bird enthusiasts roamed the decks adding to their lists. The unpleasant conditions prevailed all day.
Photo credit: SBlanc
Day 3: 17 Dec 2013
We could see the outline of Campbell Island through the murk and entered Perserverance Harbour at about 0715. Martin was up on the bridge deck counting the Sea Lions at the breeding rookery on Davis Point and later the cynically named Paradise Point where Sea Lions have bred in smaller numbers over the last few years. The counts were as follows:
Davis Point: Males (including Beachmasters) 45; Females 35-40 Pups about 6
Paradise Point: Males 3-4; Females 1; pups 0
The Captain dropped anchor opposite Beeman Base, the old Meteorological Station and suddenly all was quiet and still. Passengers we’d not seen since Bluff emerged from their cabins, pale and relieved. At 0815 Nathan gave a comprehensive briefing and introduction to Campbell Island and outlined the plan for the day. There would be a walk to Northwest Bay led by Alex or a climb to the Col Lyall Saddle up the boardwalk.
After breakfast, everyone prepared their own packed lunch for the day with the help of the chefs. The first Zodiac left the ship at 0930 with Alex, Dr Lucinda, Kathryn Pemberton the DOC representative and the Northwest Bay walkers. Later Zodiacs ferried the remainder of the group to Beeman Base from where they could walk up the boardwalk at their own pace and according to their agility. Along the boardwalk the prickly shield fern Polystichum vestitum and the water fern Histiopteris incisa were common, mosses are everywhere and spectacular lichens cling to the trunks of the grass trees Dracophyllum longifolium and D.scoparium. Progress was leisurely as there was a keen group of botanists among the walkers and the temptation to photograph orchids, mosses, lichens etc was constant. About 500m from the first platform on Col Lyall progress for some of the walkers was briefly held up by a large 5-6year old male Sea Lion which had found a pleasant place on the boardwalk to rest. He saw no reason to move when confronted by a group of brightly coloured people but eventually huffed his way off into the tussocks. Surprisingly, Yellow-eyed Penguins are also frequently found way up the boardwalk considerable distances from the sea. The most common bird encountered is the Pipit which is unafraid of humans and will obligingly pose near the camera. Up around Col Lyall three species of the megaherb daisies Pleurophyllum are common as are the two large relatives of carrots Anisotome latifolia and A. antipoda, along with the iconic bright yellow subantarctic lily Bulbinella rossi. The gentian Gentiana antarctica is endemic to Campbell Island as is the beautiful blue flowered hebe H.benthamii found next to the boardwalk.
At the Col Lyall saddle the Southern Royal Albatrosses begin flying around in the mid to late afternoon and most of the walkers had started back down the boardwalk by then. True to form, we saw albatross soaring overhead between 3-4pm. We watched a couple of greeting ceremonies but activity was slow and the last walkers departed from Col Lyall around 1630. What you miss with one species you often make up for with another however. As the last group of walkers reached Beeman Base they flushed a Snipe and watched Teal and a young Elephant Seal puddling about just off the wharf. Once everyone was back on board and rigorous boot washing was completed, most made their way to the bar for a refresher while Nathan set the activity plan for the next day.
Spirit of Enderby at Campbell Island. Photo credit: SBlanc
Day 4: 18 Dec 2013
At 0500 Nathan, Samuel and Martin met on the bridge to assess weather suitability for the Mt Honey climb. Unfortunately it was raining backed by a stiff north westerly wind and the fog was down to sea level so the walk was cancelled. The botany enthusiasts were ferried ashore at 0800 to begin a short walk up Col Lyall boardwalk once again while the remaining passengers took a Zodiac shoreline cruise. We noted that the ‘resident’ Sea Lions, Teal and young Elephant Seal were still present at the Beeman Base and then made our way to Tucker Cove. This was the site of the ill fated farm where the jetties and the fence line up the hill could still be seen. Giant Petrels and Antarctic Terns were present near the entrance to the cove. We motored on into Camp Cove where people could see the lone Sitka Spruce, reputedly planted by Lord Ranfurly in the early 1920s, and now known as ‘The loneliest tree in the world’ if you believe the Guinness Book of Records . The Zodiacs then moved on into Garden Cove, where sealers reputedly planted root vegetables to sustain themselves. By this time the wind had risen and the rain started. Nathan called the boats back to the Spirit of Enderby, and arranged for the botanists with Alex to be picked up. By 1100 we were all back on board, the Zodiacs stowed and secured for the passage north. An early lunch was announced so we could eat in the relative lee of Campbell Island’s east coast.
At 1130 Captain Dimitry lifted the anchor and the Spirit of Enderby departed Perserverance Harbour. We steamed up the coast, passing North East Harbour and the Bull Rock albatross colony before rounding North Cape and setting what was to be a lumpy course into the wind and sea northwest en route to the Auckland Islands.
At 1500 Martin gave a lecture on Hooker’s (New Zealand) Sea Lions in the Bar/Library. He covered the natural history and population status of this animal, which we would see in good numbers on Enderby Island.
Campbell Island Coastline. Photo credit: A.Fergus
Day 5: 19 Dec 2013
The Spirit of Enderby dropped anchor at 0430, 500m offshore from Sandy Bay, Enderby Island, the northernmost of the Auckland Islands. After a dreadful night the weather had improved and the southerly wind had dropped. By 0800 the sky was clear and the sea calm delivering perfect conditions for our landing.
The first Zodiac went in to assess the landing site and dropped wader-clad Alex and Martin off to assist with landings. The group was then ferried ashore by Zodiacs where they landed on the rock platform west of the beach. When the tide is right, landings there are easy and all stepped ashore to be met by two pairs of Auckland Island Teal dibbling about in tide pools and under the kelp. We walked past territory holding bachelor Sea Lions and climbed up to the old boatshed constructed originally in 1888 by the crew of the Stella (Capt. Fairchild). There the lifejackets were stowed in bins and gumboots changed for walking boots before setting off. Nathan gave us three options to choose from: a short walk to the top of the boardwalk taking in the Sooty Albatrosses before returning; a walk concentrating on botany with Alex; or a long walk around the eastern end of the island back to Sandy Bay.
Choices made, we passed the Stella shipwreck provision hut (1880) and set off up the boardwalk through the wind-twisted Rata forest. Red-crowned parakeets and Bellbirds were seen flitting through the canopy. The boardwalk wound its way out of the forest and through the wind sculpted rata, myrsine and aromatic Cassinia bushes. About 200m up the boardwalk a Royal Albatross was sitting serenely on its nest about 1m away. We walked through the meadow of yellow Bulbinella rossi interspersed with pink flowering Anisotome megaherbs and beautiful clumps of gentians ranging in colour from white to deep magenta. At the top of the boardwalk Martin flushed two Snipe as we walked toward the Sooty Albatross which were nesting on the cliffs. Those feeling like a short walk or botanising went back down the boardwalk, while the long walkers set off at a rapid pace as they had to get back to the beach by about 1600. Martin went down to spend time watching Sea Lions which had only recently begun pupping.
While walking between Derry Castle Reef and Northeast Bay, Isabella and Yuin saw a whale rolling about not far offshore, which Yuin managed to photograph. The animal turned out to be a Right Whale. Observations of Right Whales in the summer are unusual but not rare. At this time they are seen solo or in pairs. During June-July these whales come into Port Ross to breed and more than 150 have been recorded there in a single day.
By 1430 people had begun to drift back toward the Boatshed. The first Zodiac took passengers back to the ship at 1500 then hourly after that. The long walkers began to arrive back at the beach around 1600 and spent time watching the Sea Lions pupping. At 1000 Martin had counted 15 pups and 1 stillborn pup. By 1600 there were 32 pups and 1 stillborn pup. Watching pups being born, bonding with their mothers then suckling is an unforgettable experience for most people. Also unforgettable is the speed and efficiency of the ever present Skuas in cleaning up the beach! By 1800 all expeditioners were back on board and the Bar/Library was buzzing with conversation after a superb day.
Enderby Island - Expeditioners and Hooker's Sea Lion. Photo credit: ABreniere
Day 6: 20 Dec 2013
As we proceeded south toward Carnley Harbour in the lee of Auckland Island we could see the clouds speeding downwind at a good 25kts. At about 0800 we entered Carnley Harbour between the main island and Adams Island and were confronted by a very strong northerly wind lifting whitecaps everywhere. The wind was driving heavy rain showers and dense clouds hung well down the hill slopes. The Captain dropped anchor in Tagua Bay in the lee of Musgrave Peninsula and those wanting to go ashore made ready for a walk through the Rata Forest to the Tagua Bay Coast watchers hut and lookout.
Once all the walkers were ashore, the Zodiacs were anchored and we set off up the track toward the Coastwatcher site. The walk to the hut site took about 20 minutes through dripping Rata forest. At the midway point along the track we got reasonable views of the harbour toward Figure of Eight Island which was just visible through the rain and murk. The accommodation hut is now a sorry ruin of delaminating plywood panels and rusting iron. The kitchen still contains the original Shacklock Orion wood stove, now descending through the rotting floor. On the shelves opposite there were tins which once held raisins, sugar, powdered ginger and other necessities, rusting away. We moved on to the Tagua observation hut with its view straight down Carnley Harbour to the entrance. This 2m square building, in contrast to the main accommodation hut, is in good condition and still dry inside. By 1130 the weather had not improved and we made our way back down to the shore of Tagua Bay where the Zodiacs began ferrying us back to the ship.
Everyone was back aboard for lunch as the weather began to clear and the clouds were lifting. After clearing Carnley Harbour, Captain Dimitry set our course for the Snares Islands, our last stop on the way back to New Zealand. During the afternoon Samuel gave an excellent lecture on Sir James Clark Ross one of the most eminent polar explorers of the 19th century. Port Ross is named after him.
Photo credit: SBlanc
Day 7: 21 Dec 2013
In the morning we arrived off the Snares Islands where conditions looked promising for a Zodiac cruise, despite the quite heavy swell which made boarding both Zodiacs and the ship at the end of the cruise quite an athletic event. The Spirit of Enderby was hove to and as the weather cleared, 4 Zodiacs were launched, collected their passengers without incident and motored close inshore. The sun came out and the weather could not have been better for Zodiac cruising. The drivers explained the geology and vegetation of the islands and introduced us to the very special birdlife. We saw Snares Tomtits, Snares Fernbirds, Snares Crested Penguins, Sooty Shearwaters (over 1.5 million pairs), great rafts of Cape Petrels, Buller’s Albatross and Antarctic Terns. Along the shore the local Hebe elliptica bushes fringed the vegetation beneath the dominant tree daisy forest of Olearia lyalli and Brachyglottis stewartiae. As we cruised around the coves near the Biological Station we were followed by juvenile male Sea Lions. The last site visited along the shore was the spectacular Penguin Slide. Here the glittering muscovite granite cliff rises from the sea at an angle of about 35°. At the tide line a small patch about 3m wide has been scraped clear of kelp by penguins landing. Above this, the rock face has been cleared of vegetation and peat all the way to the colonies on top by generations of penguins daily passing up and down. At 1030 we had to move back to our rendezvous point and 30 minutes later we were safely aboard again with Zodiacs secured for the trip to Bluff.
Our course was set for the 64nm trip north to Stewart Island. The rest of the day was taken up with settlement of onboard accounts with Agnès, Nathan’s disembarkation briefing and our final dinner onboard. The chefs really did us proud with a buffet style final dinner which included roast turkey or roast beef with vegetables and all the trimmings, followed by Dean’s famous tiramisu which, if lit, would burn with a blue flame. At 2010 we dropped anchor off The Neck in calm seas with no roll so all enjoyed a restful night.
Snares cruising. Photo credit: SBlanc
Day 8: 22 Dec 2013
After breakfast all bags, colour-marked for their destination, were put out into the corridors then quickly offloaded onto the wharf and into the luggage truck. At 0900 it was time to bid farewell to our fellow travellers and board the bus which took us away from the The Spirit of Enderby, our home for the last 8 days.
Thursday 5th January 2012: Bluff
Our expedition party assembled early on a grey, showery Invercargill morning. Locals assured us that this was not normal Invercargill weather, as the previous month had been dominated by sunshine. Once bags had been assigned cabin numbers, the luggage was taken from us to be transferred to the ship. Then the group of voyagers boarded the coach for the short transfer to Bluff, all chatting with newfound friends about the adventure to come. After brief formalities at the port entrance we boarded the ice-strengthened Spirit of Enderby. Our Expedition Leader led us through a short introduction of key ship staff and crew and the Hotel Manager explained shipboard life and the hotel system.
We headed out into Foveaux Straight aiming for shelter in the lee of Stewart Island where we dropped anchor for lunch. Birds had been in good numbers around the ship as we crossed Foveaux Straight, Shearwaters, Salvin's Albatross, Pied Shags, Common Diving Petrels and Fluttery Shearwaters were all present, as were small pods of Dusky Dolphins.
After lunch we were briefed on the safe use of zodiacs and lifeboats, as well as the very important biosecurity measures. Then the emergency bell tolled and we moved quickly to our assigned lifeboats. By now we were in full sun and had great views of The Neck, a sand spit on the Eastern side of Stewart Island's Preservation Inlet (a fantastic site for spotting kiwi should you find yourself there). A quiet afternoon with little swell saw us progressing at 10 knots around the East and Southeast of the Stewart Island coastline. From Shelter Point our direction changed and we commenced a southerly line for Campbell Island. By dinner time the swell had increased, leaving the dining room sparsely populated. Those of us who did enjoy a delicious first dinner on board soon took ourselves off to our cabins, hoping conditions would ease during the night.
Friday 6th January 2012: At Sea
Air temperature: 11°C
Water temperature: 11°C
Wind: NW 12 mps 23 knots
Overnight we had maintained our direct course for Campbell Island and a good swell had remained with us overnight. After breakfast we attended the first lecture for the day, detailing the evolution, life history and population dynamics of the seals of the southern oceans. The lecturer introduced us to the 4 species we were likely to see, and explained the difference between true seals and eared seals. The key dissimilarity is that the latter can turn their rear flippers and walk on four feet. We were impressed to hear that the largest seal on earth, the Elephant seal, which we hoped to see on either Campbell or Enderby Island, can reach up to 4 metres in length and 3.4 tonnes. The Elephant seal is a true seal, and along with the Weddell, Crabeater, Ross and Leopard seals, makes up the complement of that type present in the Southern Ocean. The Eared seals include the New Zealand Fur Seal, present on all three island groups we would visit, as well as the Antarctic Fur Seal, the Subantarctic Fur Seal, and the Hookers or New Zealand Sea Lion. The rarest seals in the world, these Sea Lions would feature regularly in our island adventures.
The midday lecture explained the history of Campbell Island, ranging from the discovery in 1810 to the bicentennial expedition in 2010/2011. The presenter touched on the sealers, relayed the story of the 'Lady of the Heather', and the French Venus Expedition in 1874. Continuing chronologically he covered the first whalers in 1888, the beginning of the pastoral lease in 1895, and the 1907 Subantarctic Islands Scientific Expedition. The more recent activities of note on Campbell Island included the erection of the 1970 and 1984 fence lines, when first half, and then the majority of the island was cleared of sheep. We were also told of the rediscovery, by Heritage Expeditions founder, Rodney Russ, of the Campbell Island Teal in 1975 on Dent Island. Lunch followed, and the chefs, appreciating some of our motion-related dilemmas, were kind enough to end the meal with ginger crunch, a natural remedy for queasiness. For those who were about after lunch, there was a very enlightening lecture introducing us to the flora of all three Subantarctic Islands, touching on what drives the assembly of Subantarctic ecosystems. Some quirks of the megaherbs were included as these are clearly the sexiest of the biotic elements of the island.
Our final lecture for the day explored the history of the Cape Expedition, which ran from 1940-1945, and was the covert name for coastwatching stations set up on many of New Zealand's offshore islands during World War Two. Presenter, Rowley Taylor, had had the pleasure of meeting a number of the coastwatchers soon after they had returned from Campbell and the Auckland Islands, and hence there are very few people with his insight into their work and daily life. He detailed the conditions the coastwatchers found on the islands when they arrived, the establishment of their huts and the ships that serviced their requirements. The incredible collection of images Rowley had procured from the men themselves was a particular highlight of his lecture, preparing us visually for enormous changes that have taken place on Campbell Island. Finally Rowley pointed out the great natural history literature that resulted from the Cape Expedition, an underutilised and highly important resource for comparative research on the island today. After a few drinks around the bar and a tasty dinner, we all retired, quite ready to end our slumbers in the calm waters of Perseverance harbour.
Saturday 7thJanuary 2012: Campbell Island
Air temperature: 8°C
Water temperature: 10°C
Wind: NW 3 mps 6/7 knots
Russian Christmas was upon us. We spent much of the morning practising the Russian greeting "Serasve storm Christovem!" on the crew. After breakfast, Expedition Leader Nathan introduced us to Campbell Island and our options for the day. Botanist Alex led the North West Bay route, which we began by 9.00. From a dry landing at the wharf of the old meteorological station the group headed through the Dracophyllum scrub, past fields of Giant Button Daisies over to Tucker Cove, where the path to the old coastwatchers hut begins. Having a big day ahead we had to forgo a visit there and continue up and onto the wide flat cushion bog of Homestead Ridge. Crossing the ridge through masses of Beak Orchids, Odd-Leaved Orchids, and the first patches of Damnamenia daisies, we came to the base of an old slip now forming the trail up onto the southern ridge flanking Col Peak.
A quick morning tea fuelled us up the ridge. Passing our first Southern Royal Albatross we made our way onto the ridge proper and were delighted to see one of the most spectacular gardens of megaherbs on Campbell Island. Seldom do all three species of Pleurophyllum occur together, but here all three were in flower, as well as hybrids of the Emperor Daisy and Giant Button Daisy. Studded between this mix of unlikely shapes and colours were pockets of yellow and pink cauliflower-like flower-heads on stretched stalks, respectively the Macquarie Island Cabbage and Anisotome latifolia. In the middle of the megaherb field a Skua cried to attract our attention while its chick hid itself somewhere off behind a daisy. West of our position, the three teeth of Dent Island protruded into the sea. We climbed a little further to our highest point of the day and then began moving down along the coastline, above the sandstone cliffs. The effect of the great wind strength here was evident along the trail, where bits of sandstone had been scoured off and thrown back inland. Through dense patches of aromatic Anisotome we continued, eventually finding ourselves amid coastal tussocks reaching two metres and forming a labyrinthine path down to our lunch spot at Capstan Cove. Sea Lion sub-adults and pups, Elephant Seals, Hoiho (Yellow-eyed Penguins) and Giant Petrels all competed for our attention in the cove, where we spent a happy half hour exploring before climbing up through the Dracophyllum.
Here it was evident that Dracophyllum could indeed reach tree status, as we wandered upright under the canopy. Our company decided to investigate North West Bay hut where sporadic research into Southern Right Whale breeding is on-going. We returned to the 1984 fence line and picked a scant path through the ever spreading Dracophyllum scrub, emerging between albatross. Just at that moment sharp, biting, horizontal hail began. Hoods raised and our resolve hardened, we strode determinedly below Mt Dumas and across Camp Stream to a cave which was originally the Coastwatchers point of retreat should enemies attain the island. The two lounge chairs put there by Meteorological Service workers remained in place and were a welcome respite for a number of our party. A short plummet down to Camp Cove, the home of the "Lady of the Heather" and the Sitka Spruce, led us to the waiting zodiacs. It had been a fantastic walk, albeit a little more bracing than we anticipated.
Those who had chosen to follow the boardwalk to the Col-Lyall saddle in search of albatross and megaherbs had also been found by the wind and hail. The boardwalk wound up and around Beeman Hill, passing the old Meteorological Station Hostel, before opening out into a cushion bog, dotted with orchids and the first megaherbs. A short climb led to the mecca of Southern Royal Albatross nesting sites and a great view down into Northeast Harbour. At the top of the boardwalk wonderful views up and down the Western Coast and out to Dent Island complemented the dense megaherb field on the summit of the ridge. Events of the day were recapped when everyone was back aboard the Spirit of Enderby and we sat down to another great dinner. Folks slipped off fairly early to their cabins to regain a little energy for a second exhilarating day on Campbell Island.
Sunday 8thJanuary 2012: Campbell Island
Air temperature: 9°C
Water temperature: 10°C
Wind: NW 8 mps 12 knots
For the keen thirteen who were eager to brave the heights of Mt Honey, the highest point on Campbell Island, an early start was essential. By 6.45 the group was delivered to Garden Cove. Within 45 minutes we had sped up the Rollercoaster track, so named for its continual rolling bumps. From the saddle of Mt Honey and Filhol Peak we attacked the Western flank of Mt Honey and began the steady grind through the tussock and megaherb field to the rocky tip of the mount. After one hour and fifty three minutes (as confirmed by a zealous timekeeper in the group) the first members of our party were on the top, followed very closely by the remainder. Our success was recognised by a small family of Sea Lions, resident atop the peak, who saluted us with barks as we arrived. Within minutes of arriving on the top of Mt Honey we were incredibly lucky to see the sun emerge from cloud. With spirits high and time to spare, we basked in the sun, explored the top of peak and recorded our achievement with a group photo. The walkers returned along the Rollercoaster, now taking the time to admire the orchids, club mosses, and dwarf scrub, and awaited the water-taxi back to the ship.
While some climbed Mt Honey, a second group went up the Col-Lyall boardwalk to find a good deal more movement than the day before among the albatross, and also found a juvenile Elephant Seal. A third group spent the morning exploring the history of Campbell Island via zodiac. After seeing a pair of Teal at the Meteorological Station wharf, the team cruised around Tucker Cove and landed at the site of the Tucker Cove Homestead. The group was told the history of the sheep station, and the one remaining feature, the Shacklock Orion Stove, was admired. A second landing at Camp Cove provided the opportunity for meeting the 'world's loneliest tree' and to examine the flax planted around remnants of a sod hut, supposedly once the residence of the 'Lady of the Heather'. Back on the zodiacs, they rounded the coast to the gravesite of Mr Duris, where the purpose and history of the French Venus Expedition was discussed, before returning to the ship.
The anchor was lifted after lunch and we navigated out of Perserverance Harbour, with albatross on the bow and small colonies of Sea Lions on both sides of the vessel. Conditions were remarkably favourable, so we were able to anchor off Cossack Rock to experience a very rare and cool excursion. Five zodiacs were loaded into the water and we began an incredible journey along the Northeast coast of Campbell Island, stretching from the heads of Northeast Harbour all the way to Bull Rock. Here mixed colonies of Campbell Island Albatross, Grey Headed Albatross, and Black Browed Albatross sat like fortifications on the cliff edges. As each new cove came into view, each albatross garrison increased in area and population, until the penultimate colony at Bull Rock. Campbell Island Shags, Hoiho, Arctic Terns, and Light Mantled Sooty Albatross were all spotted along the way. Flushes of bright green below some of the colonies gave an indication of the importance of marine subsidies into the terrestrial ecosystem. From Bull Rock we headed out towards a great raft of albatross only to find an intense current, which tested the power of the 60 horses on the back of each zodiac. Closer to shore we approached a reformed raft of albatross. Five zodiacs wide, we slowly approached the raft, resulting in some stunning photos and an incredible sense of being as one with the wildlife as the birds took to the air with a great beating of wings around us.
We returned to the ship, tired and very exhilarated. Many of us were probably not aware how lucky we were to have experienced as much as we had in just one day. Reluctantly we bade farewell to Campbell Island and after a much appreciated dinner, most retired early to dream about the next adventure, the Auckland Islands.
Monday 9th January 2012: Enderby Island
Air temperature: 10°C
Water temperature: 11°C
Wind: N 9 mps 13 knots
We awoke surrounded by ocean, pushing 10 knots toward the Auckland Islands. After breakfast the heads of Carnley Harbour were in view, with Adams and Auckland Islands both shrouded in mist. Soon after the islands were in sight, Rowley Taylor presented our New Zealand Geographic keynote lecture, describing his early experiences in the Subantarctic and the production of his book "Straight through from London". The first expedition our speaker had made to the Subantarctic was in 1954 to Enderby Island, sailing on the Homeleigh. Those four days of research were focused on rabbit parasites and set the tone for Rowley's future research on exotic mammals on Subantarctic islands. Rowley went on to describe his involvement with the Antipodes and the Bounty islands, and noted his enviable record of having spent time on all of our Subantarctic islands, Antarctica and Raoul Island in the Kermadec group. The insight into scientific operations of the time was of particular interest, and if hanging a hoary lab coat across a bit of old wire was still an official distress signal, then such an article should certainly be an integral component of everyone's field attire. Rowley's lecture ended and the weather began to threaten our afternoon agenda. While we awaited signs from above, we learned about the chronological history of the Auckland Islands. Starting with Polynesian arrival, the presenter moved through Maori and Moriori settlement, onto the establishment and failure of Hardwicke. The most notable of the shipwrecks were illustrated, as was the Erlangen Rata poaching episode. We were then taken through to the establishment of the automated meteorological station on Enderby Island. By lunchtime we were at anchor in the Western Arm of Carnley Harbour, and over lunch folks decided how their afternoon would be spent. The options were a zodiac cruise or a hike up the South West Cape. Those who opted for the latter reported a fantastic trip up to the White Capped Mollymawk (Shy Albatross) breeding colony.
Bunches of endemic Auckland Island Gentians bloomed in whites, stripes, pinks, mauves, and all shades through to a deep cerise, and all three species of Hebe were noted. Pipits lost the limelight to the albatross with their nests elevated amongst the massive stalked heads of multi-coloured Anisotome bunches. While the hiking group were looking down upon this spectacle, members of 'team zodiac' were looking up with similar reverence. Prior to crossing the channel north of Monument Island, we had cruised along the northern shoreline of the Western Arm of Carnley Harbour, passing finger posts and an ever-reddening forest canopy. In Trinity Cove the motors were killed and the craft drifted to the chorus of Bellbirds soused on Rata nectar. We followed the coastline closely, noting patches of flowering Shore Hebe, the occasional Auckland Island Shag and the odd Hooker's Sea Lion. This was all prior to us sharing the views of the albatross colony. By this time we were motoring in and out of a large sea cave, admiring the twists of the Bull Kelp that bordered the most fantastically blue water. This vivid blue was broken only by huge pulsing pink and white jellyfish so large they could be seen by the group high above us. Fortified by these sights we took on the challenge of Victoria Passage and after battling the current, we emerged somewhere near Fairchild's Garden. A small group of parakeets and a New Zealand Falcon were spotted as we meandered up towards the site of the Adam's Island boat shed. By 18.00 everyone was back aboard, and the Captain decided to moor for the night close to Tagua Bay.
Tuesday 10th January 2012: Enderby Island
Air temperature: 11°C
Water temperature: 11°C
Wind: N 6 mps 11 knots
Overnight the captain lifted anchor and moved the ship to Port Ross off Enderby Island, so we awoke with Enderby Island just visible through sea-mist. After breakfast we were briefed on the character of the island, where we should look out for certain wildlife, and what our options were for the day. Zodiac shuttles to the island began and we landed on a rock platform at the western end of Sandy Bay. Sandy Bay itself was relatively quiet. Tussles with the Sea Lion beach masters were yet to begin in earnest and the female Sea Lions were just beginning to plot their escape route from the harems.
We congregated around the old boat shed, discarded the gear we would not need for the day, and headed off into the haze. Hoiho or Yellow Eyed Penguins, dotted the open turfs we had to cross before breaking into the low forest. As the height of the vegetation grew, rounded mounds of Mountain Tauhinu and Weeping Mapou were evident in full flower, and these gave way to patches of the intense crimson of the Southern Rata.
Once on the boardwalk my orchid-searching eyes were alerted. First, small green Bird Orchids appeared. These gave way to Odd Leaved Orchids, pockets of Onion Leaved Orchids and Sun Orchids, the latter so close to bursting into flower that temptation to lie in wait along the boardwalk was almost too much. Towards the Northern end of the boardwalk the dwarf forest species were replaced by tussock and two megaherbs, Ross's Lily, Bulbinella rossii, and Anisotome latifolia. There is no common name for the Anisotome, but we would be pretty safe in dubbing it the Super-Carrot of the Subantarctic. This vegetation change had also led us into Snipe country and to the joy of the group, one was soon spotted and photographed. We crossed the 'Super-Carrot' fields, with endemic Auckland Island Gentians in full bloom, and hit upon the nesting sites of a few pairs of Sooty Albatross, embedded amongst a small colony of Auckland Island Shags.
Now the group divided into two, with some continuing around the perimeter of the island and the remainder returning via the boardwalk. The perimeter walkers set out to explore the rocky outcrop and pebbly beach at Derry Castle reef. This area where the reef attaches itself to the mainland is a biological treasure trove. Auckland Island Teal dozed between patches of rock, while a bevy of Auckland Island Banded Dotterel, numbering almost 50, grazed amongst the mats of turf vegetation. Sea Lions were sporadically dotted over the area, and in the northeast corner of the beach a colony of Fur Seals barked huskily at any incomers. From Derry Castle we followed the coast around Bones Bay and Three Cave Bay. The beaches beyond Fur Seal Cliffs were laden with mature and sub-adult Sea Lion males. We climbed up and over to Gargoyle Point to observe the ever-increasing colony of Auckland Island Shags. The birds were in a very social state and most definitely warranted a visit. Excellent photos of chicks and incoming birds were our reward. We parted ways with the shags and cut inland a little, following grass sward between high tussock, to the edge of the forest. Bellbird and Red-Crested Parakeets darted and dived amongst the Southern Rata and Weeping Mapou, and we followed indistinct Seal Lion tracks into the forest. Under a canopy of Rata, a sparse understory dominated by the contrasting shapes of Turpentine Scrub (Dracophylum longifolium) and Macquarie Island Cabbage (Stilbocarpa polaris) complemented the diversity of ferns and the occasional Hoiho nest.
Emerging from the forest we followed the coastline once again, passing along East Bay, Northeast Cape and eventually Pebble Point, the south-east corner of the island. The occasional Snipe or Teal were flushed and at moments where the tussock seemed to be getting the better of our ankles, Parakeets appeared to bring light relief. I followed two bobbing heads into the forest once again, and found a Hoiho nesting on the concave bows of a Rata with its blue eyed chick (the yellow eye and eyebrow develop later with the first moult). Along the Southern coast was Teal country, with adults and chicks seen in small creeks and at Teal Lake. At this point my eyes were starting to seek out a new family of orchids (new for the Subantarctic anyhow) which were spotted on a previous trip to Enderby. The Green Hood or Pterostylis species had been seen just the previous week growing below the tussock, and we were lucky enough to find three populations on this day, collecting GPS coordinates, counting and photographing each. We then followed the last curling stretch of trail, cut through scrub, towards Sandy Bay, and came over a low ridge to witness the promised dose of Sea Lion sex and violence. Having made good time around the island, everyone had the opportunity to get to the back of Sandy Bay and admire the beach masters fighting, the females escaping, and to generally fawn over the pups. Back aboard the Spirit of Enderby we recapped the day in the bar, then swapped stories and shared photographs over another amazing meal. We retired with a feeling of excited anticipation for what we might see on the Snares.
Wednesday 11th January 2012: Snares Islands
Air temperature: 13°C
Water temperature: 13°C
Wind: NW 7 mps 14 knots
By breakfast the Snares Island group was in view and a pod of 15 Dusky Dolphins were porpoising off the bow of the ship. On arrival at the Snares, conditions were perfect with quiet seas and full sun. While the Spirit of Enderby drifted off the Southern coast of the main Snares Island we took the opportunity to get all five zodiacs into the water. We cruised around South Promontory, through the gap between North East Island and Broughton Island, and in slightly choppier more exposed waters we continued up to Station Point. Rafts of returning Snares Crested Penguins arose in the water around us as we crept closer into Station Cove. We eased the boats in around Station Point which was littered with New Zealand Fur Seals, and had incredible views of the haul out area for the Snares Crested Penguin. From here smoothed trails headed up into the forest through Shore Hebe and into the forest of Tree Daisies.
Olearea lyallii was still in flower, and patches of the yellow bundles of flowers of Brachyglottis stewartiae could be seen on the skyline. We could see in the understory the massive, glossy leaves of Snares Punui, Stilbocarpa robusta which is a sister species of the Macquarie Island cabbage. We snuck into the small cove where the little green research station sits tucked amongst the Tree Daisies. Beside this inlet half a dozen Sea Lions relaxed and roared in the shallows while a very young Elephant Seal hauled itself onto the rocks in an effort to distance itself from both us and the Sea Lions. Within the forest and scrub, chirps and whistles from the endemic Snares Fernbird and Black Tomtit were heard and the latter eventually emerged to be seen from at least one zodiac. From Station Cove we returned south around Mollymawk Bay and back through the channel at South Promontory. Here we regained our hug of the coastline, watching for nest sites of the southern race of Buller's Albatross and the sporadic nests of Salvin's Albatross. Continuing along the coast we marvelled at swathes of Snares Punui, flocks of Sooty Shearwaters and the occasional Fur Seal or Sea Lion. We crossed the channel from North East Island to Alert Stack and explored the east coast of Alert Stack as we waited for the Captain to reposition the Spirit of Enderby for our pick up. In all we had circumnavigated almost half of North East Island, an incredibly rare event, only made possible by the perfect conditions of the day.
Back aboard we had a late lunch, after which we settled in to listen to the Heritage Expeditions story. The company started out with a small bus tour through Central Otago, through to the first vessel, the first polar able vessel, to the present Spirit of Enderby. We were briefed on the extensive northern hemisphere cruising programme the ship follows in the Arctic summer. The distinct and very different flora and fauna in the setting of an active volcanic zone, accompanied by an enticing slide show, had many plotting a return to the ship. That evening in sight of Stewart Island, the chefs created an incredible buffet meal, and the noise in the bar wound up a notch, aided by our training in the correct practice of Russian vodka consumption. Midnight ticked over and for a few the fun continued into the wee small hours, though most turned in for our last night at sea.
Thursday 12th January 2012: Bluff
We awoke in Bluff Harbour to a beautiful cool morning. Breakfast over, bags were once again labelled and the farewells began. Rowley had the pleasure of practicing his autograph as boxes of his books were handed over to keen readers, and plans were set for future meetings in far off places. At 8.30 we waved as the bus pulled away from the ship, sad and just a little deflated that our thoroughly fantastic seven days in the Subantarctic with a very rewarding group of enthusiasts was at an end. Here's hoping that at least some of us will meet again in New Zealand's southernmost isles.
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" Evening Cally,
Just a quick note to thank you and the team for a wonderful voyage to the Snares, Enderby, Auckland & Campbell Islands early January. Trevor and I both enjoyed the voyage and consider our adventure to be one of the highlights of our travelling portfolio.
The Heritage Team were undoubtedly experts in their fields; from Don/Rodney and guides who brought the islands alive; the Captain and officers and in no small way, the galley and housekeeping team members. The Russian crew all deserve medals continuing with their duties when the “Professor Kromov” was being her dynamic best; especially the galley crew and chefs who never failed to serve appetising food fit for any top class restaurant.
Thanks also to the wild life on the islands– their appearances and displays were spectacular as were the islands themselves. It is no small wonder that the early coast watchers relished their time on the islands regardless of weather and hardships....
Trevor relished every minute of his big 60 treat and I can look back and categorically state that it was money well spent.
Thanks again to the Heritage Team, yourself and our travel agent.
" Had a terrific trip to the southern islands and will certainly consider other expeditions with your company in future. "
" Was a dream come true to be so close to the wild life and feel free with them, Money could not buy this experience of a life time. Now for a trip to the south pole. Check my site for photos of my trip, they are in sets marked, Campbell, Auckland and Snare Islands. "
" I learned so much about the history, fauna and flora of the islands. "
" Thank you for a wonderful voyage on board Spirit of Enderby. The scenery, the birds, the animals, and the flora of the Forgotten Islands were outstanding. The experience was one not to be missed. "