SUBANTARCTIC ISLANDS OF NEW ZEALAND AND AUSTRALIA
This is without doubt one of the most inspirational and informative journeys or expeditions into the Southern Ocean ecosystem that one can make anywhere in the world. Long recognised for their rich biodiversity, the Subantarctic Islands lying to the south of New Zealand are UNESCO World Heritage sites. This places them in a select group of only 180 natural sites that have been designated as ‘the most important and significant natural habitats’ on the planet. They are also afforded the highest conservation status and protection by the Australian and New Zealand governments and access to these islands is by permit only. On this expedition we offer you the unique chance to explore, photograph and understand these wonderful places in the company of some of the most knowledgeable and passionate guides.
As a young biologist, Heritage Expeditions founder Rodney Russ first visited these islands in 1972 with the New Zealand Wildlife Service. He organised New Zealand’s first commercial expedition there in 1989, and many years and over 100 expeditions later, he is still as passionate about the islands as he was in 1972. It was only natural that his family should travel with him, what wasn’t predictable was that they would join him in the business and be as passionate about the conservation of this region as he is. As the original concessionaire we enjoy good relationships with the conservation departments and some of the access permits we hold are unique to these expeditions.
The name we have given to this voyage ‘Galapagos of the Southern Ocean’ reflects the astounding natural biodiversity and the importance of these islands as a wildlife refuge. (The book ‘Galapagos of the Antarctic’ written by Rodney Russ and Aleks Terauds and published by Heritage Expeditions describes all of these islands in great detail.) The islands all lie in the cool temperate zone with a unique climate and are home to a vast array of wildlife including albatross, penguins, petrels, prions, shearwaters and marine mammals like sea lions, fur seals and elephant seals. The flora is equally fascinating; the majority of it being like the birds and endemic to these islands.
This expedition includes four of the Subantarctic Islands, The Snares, Auckland, Macquarie and Campbell. Each one is different and each one is unique, just like this expedition.
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: 4th December
This expedition is our only one of the year that leaves from the scenic, historic and extremely pleasant to explore port down of Dunedin. Many passengers took their time to enjoy everything this small city has to offer this. This evening we gathered at the Scenic Hotel Southern Cross for our first meal together and to meet with our Expedition Leader, we were briefed on plans for the next day and the expedition we were about to set out on.
Day 2: 5th December
Leaving the Port of Dunedin
Passengers were up bright and early this morning in excited anticipation of the adventures ahead. After an early breakfast and luggage check at the central city hotel we boarded the coach to our waiting home for the next 12 days: the Spirit of Enderby, or Professor Khromov. On arrival we were greeted by Expedition Leader Judd Hill and his expedition staff.
Once on board, the mandatory lifeboat drill and a couple of briefings were completed as well as an introduction to the staff and the vessel. The afternoon was spent settling into cabins, familiarising ourselves around the ship, or on deck. As we left the Otago Peninsula we passed the Northern Royal Albatross colony at Taiaroa Head and those out on deck also saw their first albatrosses of the journey White-capped, Southern Royal and Salvin’s. As the sun set on our first day we all gathered for our first delectable meal cooked by two of the most important people on the ship: chefs Ed and Connor.
Photo credit: Heritage Expeditions
Day 3: 6th December
The Snares and at sea to the Auckland Islands
Arriving at The Snares, a shipping hazard turned wildlife watching spectacle, we quickly realised that a strong swell from several directions meant launching the Zodiacs was going to be impossible. Fortunately for us though, our experienced crew manoeuvred the vessel close to the islands so that we could all enjoy the incredible wildlife spectacle. From the bridge and the decks we saw tens of thousands of Sooty Shearwaters gathering offshore whilst several albatross species cut their way through the flocks with motionless wings. Common Diving-Petrels whirred through the mass constantly with never-stopping wings whilst sporadic flotillas and porpoising groups of penguins gave us our much desired views of the endemic Snares Crested Penguin which is only found on these rock stacks.
The rest of the day was spent at sea, mostly further settling in, reading or socialising in the bar/library, and for the birders and wildlife enthusiasts getting to grips with some of the trickier seabirds. Highlight of the afternoon came in the form of an unexpected Chatham Albatross that gave several passes of the ship and fantastic views. A single Grey-faced Petrel was well-received, as were some much-desired Fulmar Prions.
Day 4: 7th December
The Spirit of Enderby visits many incredible islands, but Enderby itself has to be up there with the very very best. Its name adorning both the vessel and the island we were surely in for a great day. The group quickly split into two once on shore, with the roughly equally sized groups going in the same direction across the island before splitting. Along the way we found a Yellow-eyed Penguin with chick in the forest, Southern Royal Albatrosses on nests across the plateau, many Auckland Island Dotterel scattering across the open landscape, small groups of Red-crowned Parakeets and further along the coast the gorgeous Light-mantled Sooty Albatross on its nest.
Once the groups had split, one group went for a long walk around the island whilst the remainder took a more leisurely pace and spent some time looking for birds and photographing the wildlife and landscapes. Some of the highlights included several extremely obliging Subantarctic Snipe for both groups, lots of comical Yellow-eyed Penguins giving great views, many Auckland Island Tomtits, a Brown Skua catching a Subantarctic Snipe and of course lots of dapper Auckland Island Shags.
Along the shore where the Zodiacs were departing with beaming passengers we found several obliging Auckland Island Teal, whilst out at sea a Southern Right Whale made a rare appearance, breaching repeatedly. On the way back to the ship many groups were treated to up close encounters with Yellow-eyed Penguins and an Auckland Island Shag colony.
With all Zodiacs back on board by sunset we had a well-deserved hearty meal before settling for the evening.
Photo credit: Heritage Expeditions
Photo credit: Heritage Expeditions
Day 5: 8th December
Auckland Island (Tagua Bay)
With another morning free to explore the Auckland Islands, and a strong wind blowing from the west, we decided to hide in the shelter of Carnley Harbour, and more specifically Tagua Bay. Here we landed on the shore of main Auckland Island and had a very pleasant walk along the rocky sealion-laden shore, through the Rata forest and up a hill to a spectacular viewpoint looking out over the bays of the island and across the caldera of an ancient volcano. With some sea time ahead of us on the way to Macquarie Island this was a popular decision for a leg stretch and some final dirt beneath our feet.
Our afternoon at sea was spent relaxing, listening to lectures on seabirds and marine mammals, and seeing the first brilliant White-headed Petrels of the voyage as well as many other seabird species.
Day 6: 9th December
At sea toward Macquarie Island
The stretch of ocean between the Aucklands and Macquarie is notoriously rough and treacherous, but for us it was nothing short of calm. This was received with mixed emotions – the birders wanted it bumpy for better birding, but the majority were pleased to get some respite from the expected rough conditions.
Highlights today included the opening of the sea shop, the editing of excellent photos taken in the Aucklands and birding from the decks producing some top seabirding, the highlights of which included Grey-headed Albatross, Wandering Albatross, Antarctic Prion, South Georgian Diving-Petrel, Soft-plumaged and numerous White-headed Petrels.
Day 7: 10th December
Macquarie Island (ANARE station & Lusitania Bay)
Waking this morning we were greeted by very borderline conditions. A medium swell wrapping around the island, a fair wind and some chop made for interesting conditions but sending two staff scout boats to the island we decided to make a landing.
Arriving at the beach next to the ANARE base we were instantly greeted by several curious and inquisitive King Penguins, small groups of Gentoo Penguins that were less curious, and even a few Macquarie Island Shags collecting nesting material. For the remainder of the morning and well into the early afternoon we split into several groups and wandered this part of the island with ranger guides. Along the way we found plenty of penguins to point our cameras at, as well as good numbers of Southern Elephant Seal and lots of Northern and Southern Giant Petrels, Brown Skuas and even some Redpoll, a key species for the Aussie birders. Along the further rocks we also found some Eastern Rockhopper Penguins to discuss, but this was interrupted by the announcement that a Leopard Seal had hauled out onto the beach just a little further down. All groups rushed to the shore and sure enough there laid a Leopard Seal looking rather fidgety and uncomfortable. It had been a spectacular experience.
Back on board for a late lunch, we cruised in the ship all the way down to the southern end of Macquarie Island to Lusitania Bay, the fabled site of an enormous (c.60,000+ pairs) colony of King Penguins. Here, despite a tricky swell, we managed to swiftly and safely load the Zodiacs with eager passengers for a cruise of the shore to get up close to the colony for better views. The noise, smell and scenes were just incredible. What a day.
Photo credit: L. Gwynn
Day 8: 11th December
Macquarie Island (Sandy Cove)
Sandy Cove, on the east side of Macquarie Island, is an absolutely incredible experience. We spent an entire morning here, landing early and just wandering along the shore for several hours. Here we had King and Royal Penguins by their hundreds, some were so curious they approached us, pecking at our belongings to see what they were. The photographic opportunities for these birds both on shore and in the water were absolutely endless, not to mention the bountiful skuas, giant petrels and shags. A definite highlight for many was the abundance of cute and playful Southern Elephant Seal weaners – the young pups that are left on the beach to grow before they head to sea and become independent. Anybody laying or sitting on the beach was almost instantly approached by one of these playful giants, which often made themselves at home by laying on top of us – one of those magical, must-have wildlife experiences.
After a long morning on shore, once everybody had cramp in their cheeks from smiling and laughing too much, we made our way back to the ship for lunch. Whilst everybody had lunch the staff dropped the rangers back at the ANARE station and picked up 4 Australian Antarctic Division staff who would travel with us back to New Zealand. Our afternoon was spent at sea, with some relaxing, some downloading and editing photos, and some birding from the bridge or decks.
Photo credit: C. Todd
Day 9: 12th December
At sea toward Campbell Island
The stretch of ocean toward Campbell Island often offers some great seabirding, and today was no different. We had a constant trail of almost every seabird species previously recorded today – including likely Blue Petrel as a highlight, as well as lots of Gibson’s Albatross, Campbell Albatross, Grey-headed Albatross, White-headed Petrel, Mottled Petrel and an unexpected Northern Royal Albatross.
Others spent the day relaxing or editing photos before enjoying another masterfully prepared dinner.
Day 10: 13th December
Campbell Island is special. Everybody who visits says the same – it’s a majestic beauty with natural wonders untold. There is no book, photo or video that quite does its beauty justice and it is always with great excitement that voyagers awake in Perseverance Harbour in anticipation of the day to come.
Today is one which is split into three. Two groups are laid out – one which hikes the ‘North-West Bay Epic’ and another which spends the morning Zodiac cruising the harbour and the afternoon at Col Lyall. The epic hikers set off around 8am in anticipation of a long and rewarding walk that would take them across the island and back, seeing vast and impressive landscapes, numerous nesting albatross, bountiful Hooker’s Sea Lions and even the ultra-rare Campbell Island Flightless Teal. The second group set off soon after, first of all scouring the shores of this large natural harbour for its hidden wealth. First up was an obliging pair of Campbell Island Teal, which totalled over 10 individuals this morning, before turning our attention to the World’s Loneliest Tree. After we were finished with a short landing we caught up with a couple of Hooker’s Sea Lion colonies as well as Yellow-eyed Penguins that were milling around on the shore. Further along we found several Light-mantled Sooty Albatross nests and small groups of them resting and interacting on the water – a special experience that very few of us had witnessed before.
The afternoon was just as exciting, if not more so. It is not often that one gets to sit mere metres from one of the largest flying birds in the world, let alone watch as chicks stretched their wings likely for the first time. We spent the entire afternoon making our way slowly up the Campbell Island Snipe-laden boardwalk (we had extremely good views of at least 10 Snipe today) before reaching the Southern Royal Albatross colony at the top. Here we spent time admiring the view out to Dent Island, where the flightless teal was rediscovered, before spending time sitting amongst the albatross to immerse ourselves in their world – an experience few ever get to enjoy.
The evening was, as ever, spent calmly and serenely in the shelter of the bay before making our way out to sea, enjoying a delicious dinner as we went. Evening drinks on deck lined the sunset perfectly as Grey-headed Albatross drifted by.
Photo credit: C. Todd
Photo credit: L. Gwynn
Days 11 to 12: 14th and 15th December
At sea toward New Zealand mainland
With an expected front that promised to punish us head on from the North the executive decision was made to make a swift dash for the shelter of Stewart Island – and that was most certainly the correct call. In the early hours of the 15th we experienced some rather impressive seas – rolling and pitching to great degrees, massive splashes across the bow as we hit waves, and rising cheers from passengers as we all looked on in excitement – finally the Southern Ocean was living up to its reputation, which we enjoyed from the safe and relatively stable platform that is our home – the Spirit of Enderby.
Given the bumpy and sometimes wild conditions, seabirding over these two days was, as expected, great. We had an almost constant following of dozens of albatross of over 8 species including some particularly obliging Gibson’s Albatross and unrivalled arms-length views of Campbell, White-capped, Black-browed, Light-mantled Sooty, Salvin’s, Southern Royal and Northern Royal Albatross. Flanking these were Pintado, Soft-plumaged, White-headed, possible Kerguelen, White-chinned, Southern and Northern Giant Petrels, Sooty Shearwaters and a constant procession of Black-bellied and Grey-backed Storm-Petrels and Fairy Prions.
Finally we reached the shelter of Stewart Island where we were able to enjoy our final evening in absolute comfort, enjoying a well put-together slideshow of photos taken during the voyage as well as a highly-social final evening of cheese and drinks in the bar. This marked the end of another spectacular Heritage Expeditions voyage – a voyage in which we had achieved almost everything we set out to, and much more besides.
Day 13: 16th December
On arrival in to Invercargill after a hearty breakfast we disembarked and transferred by coach to Invercargill Airport or a central city drop-off.
Click here for the Species List.
3 – 15 December 2015
We left the harbour of mainland New Zealand from the Port of Otago, Dunedin at 10 am. We settled in fairly quickly. There was a 2-3 cm swell running, not perhaps the fiercest introduction to the Southern Ocean, but it did prove that oceans can behave, at least for a time. We had a leisurely cruise down the harbour in bright sunshine out to the heads with the Royal Albatross colony to our right (starboard for those diehard nautical fanatics who have to obfuscate the simplest terms). There were a few New Zealand Fur Seals wallowing in suitably slobbery fashion and the pod of dolphins we had booked to serenade our passage was late, but eventually turned up to see us on our way. We then nosed into the Pacific to start our run towards The Snares, hoping to find a bit of shelter to park the ship for a while.
The first lecture deep down on Level 2 went over how best to enter and leave a Zodiac. The dining room floor stayed fairly level for our first lunch – it is always good to have a well behaved dining room to start with, little did we know! We also had a practical introduction on how much fun we could all expect in a lifeboat. The last talk of the day was an introduction to The Snares islands and why such a growly piece of coastline gets so very few visitors.
The sea conditions were a little rough towards nightfall and the decision was made to head direct for the Auckland Islands with The Snares being impossible to approach, we thus remained hopeful for the way home. The ship was a bit twitchy overnight.
Photo credit: G.Bodo
The night was a wee bit bumpy with a fairly vulgar note in the wind and come dawn it was still a wee bit breezy. There was a good turn out at the first breakfast. The simple joy of a day at sea was embraced and there were some great bird sightings throughout the day. We rocked our way south into a south/south-westerly swell and night found us making relatively steady progress with a predawn arrival into blessedly calmer waters. The total distance travelled horizontally (135 miles) was supplemented by around 200 miles simply going up and down and sideways alas, but that sums up sea travel fairly well.
Our third day at sea dawned pretty calmly as promised in the quiet waters off Enderby Island. Basalt column cliffs dominated the left side of the. It was relatively calm as we tucked into an early breakfast, with the dining room behaving almost as well as the one at home. After breakfast Rodney gave a lecture on the history of Enderby including the sad failure of the Port Ross township of Hardwick. Although it survived a couple of meagre years it was clearly doomed by lunchtime on day one. The Auckland Islands proved a very popular spot for shipwrecks. They even hosted two shipwrecks at the same time at one stage. One group of survivors manufactured shoe lasts and smelted metal manufacturing tools to build a ship for their own rescue. In the meantime the other group failed to even get a shelter together. We all got ashore mid morning and ambled up to the far side across the boardwalk. At the end of the boardwalk some continued on to explore Derry Castle Reef before returning to the DOC huts, while others enjoyed the good weather and views around the start zone. We then idled off shore enjoying the calm till sleep claimed us.
Photo credit: M.Cawthorne
The ship quietly relocated overnight and we awoke in the calm of Carnley Harbour, which more specifically is the collapsed caldera of what was once a fairly productive volcano, a few cones and plugs pointing to its somewhat smoky past. Having finished a peaceful breakfast, we made our way for a quick lecture from Rodney on the Auckland Islands group. Later we nosed around the historic sights such as where the Erlangen crew took out 200 tons of Rata wood, the site of the wreck of the Grafton and New Zealand’s number 2 Coast Watchers base. After 70 odd years of consistent neglect by the New Zealand government, the huts were looking slightly sorrier than the hull remnant of the Grafton. Apparently there was one sighting of an enemy vessel during the entire time of the Coast Watching project. Given that the German navy had abandoned wind powered vessels the previous century, it is hard to fathom why they would have bothered with a massive detour this far south. Perhaps they were feeling guilty and had a Rata replanting scheme in mind!
We had a pleasant clamber up to the view point with a restored watch hut not yet entirely covered in trees. It was noted that it had been fitted with a little log fire. A few Sea Lions were very keen to join us. It was interesting to see how far they had wandered up the hill and to be fair they did contribute quite well to track maintenance. After a quiet lunch we drifted out to find some more heavy duty wave action for the 350 odd nautical mile sprint down to the eastern outpost of the Australian Empire, aka Macquarie Island. The chefs and waiting staff again did a most superb job of putting food on plates and keeping it there until it was attacked by hungry expeditioners.
After some rough morning seas, the ocean calmed down a bit. ‘Millpond’ would be pushing it but it was certainly better than the morning. Evening found us gently rolling along with barely a rock to the ship. There was one brief whale sighting which looked ‘Baleenish’ but the encounter was too brief to be certain which one. A very brief bird recap for the day was held in the bar before dinner and relatively peaceful night.
Photo credit: R.Sagar
We found ourselves gently drawing near to Macquarie Island. This island sits right on the continental divide and hosts more earthquakes than anywhere else in Australia. After breakfast and an introductory lecture the landings started at 9.45am in Buckles Bay, just near the Australian Antarctic Division research station. An impressive symphony of snorts, farts, honks and squeaks from Elephant Seals accompanied us all the way up to the base where we were treated to freshly baked scones. The penguins were suitably curious about the boat loads of new arrivals. The Orcas were more focused on looking for fresh and tender baby Elephant Seals that had just begun to frolic in the surf. The large pots for cooking up Sea Lions and penguins looked suitably rusted and decrepit and were now ironically almost totally surrounded by penguins. We noted that Joseph Hatch (the blubber boiling man) claimed that there were more penguins left there at the end of his project than the start. We were back aboard the Spirit of Enderby eating lunch as we steamed to Lusitania Bay but alas found it immersed in murk and grey so headed back north for another restful night off Buckles Bay.
Australian waters were behaving very well with just a gentle rock and not a lot else to greet the morning greyness. Meantime, a good breakfast before we went ashore to Sandy Bay. The baby Elephant Seals didn’t seem to have heard about the 5m rule and several made close attempts to befriend passengers. The Royal and King Penguins were both fairly noisy but with a much smaller symphonic range than the blubbery snot and flatus machines on the beach. The Skuas/louts of the beach were ever watchful for exposed baby penguins but were equally happy savouring anything dead. The rain did eventually pass and one of the crew reported seeing the sun but it didn’t appear to want to dry anything and escaped before the last of us was retrieved back for lunch. We decided to return all the rangers back to their base and head off towards Campbell Island.
Photo credit: R.Sagar
After breakfast the lecture theatre the place to be with a full programme offered for the day. Offerings came from Rachel who discussed the making of a seabird from the evolutionary perspective. Chris then shone some light on marine weather, in part gleaned from his amazing yacht trip across the NW Passage. Martin talked about the Hookers Sea Lion and Elephant Seals and then Rodney gave an outline to Campbell Island to end the day. These presentations and watching out for wildlife consumed a relatively calm day for the Southern Ocean as we cruised north towards Perseverance Harbour, arriving around midnight for a peaceful sleep.
It was a beautiful dawn and everyone agreed that the sun was definitely in the sky. The early party left for North West Bay on a fairly good path although a wee bit overgrown with a reasonable grunt up through tussock. We negotiated a path through the middle of a small landslip over to the far cliffs, avoiding the acidic fetid fish oil, the result of projectile vomit from the petrels on one side and the cliff edge on the other. Then it was time to stop for lunch on the beach, sitting around a trickle of a waterfall while a Leopard Seal lazed below along with a dozen Elephant Seals which were busy yawning, belching with the occasional lifted flipper. After lunch we drifted up to the North West Hut. The last visitor had apparently been over in March this year. Later we crossed up and over the central basin where we mostly managed to avoid the low flying albatross, that swooped by with a very audible ‘whoosh’. Groups were gadding and gamming around generally and one even deigned to flap a wing in the breeze. We then descended back through the Dracophyllum slalom course to the beach at Camp Cove where the most depressed/loneliest tree in the world (a Sitka Spruce) was shivering with a gleeful Connor, both waving in the wind. Connor had come by Zodiac to deliver us back to the Spirit of Enderby. The rest of the party ascended Col Lyall on the boardwalk to view the albatross who behaved beautifully in the increasing wind with a great deal of activity from 3.30pm onwards giving a behavioural bonanza. Martin ‘flushed out’ a Snipe. With wind rising from the north east, Rodney collected the last of the group from Tucker Cove and we enjoyed dinner and a calm night.
Photo credit: M.Bartlett
Sadly the day dawned misty and cloudy decimating the attempt at Mt Honey before it began. The Zodiac cruisers went from below Beeman Hill down to the base finding a good assortment of seals, teals, shags and a godwit. Some went ashore at Camp Cove for a close up view of the Sitka Spruce. They then visited at the homestead site inspecting the sole remnant, a stove. With worsening weather and dampening enthusiasm, there was a strong trend back to the ship for lunch. Lunch cued our departure as we patched up and were off for home via The Snares and hopefully a final Zodiac spin. There was lots more bird activity as we went north.
The ride was still a bit bumpy as we headed for The Snares. Rodney gave a summary of the evolution of Heritage Expeditions from the early days on the Acheron which carried just 12 passengers to the Spirit of Enderby carrying 50 passengers today. He then gave a hint of his next venture which is once again a 12 passenger vessel but totally different to his first ship. The name of this new vessel will be Strannik which is Russian for ‘pilgrim’. We look forward to hearing more about this new venture and craft. Later we had a sneak preview of film shot by some of the passengers and were impressed by Genevieve’s editing skills in what they said was raw footage. The images took us right back to the stark beauty of the islands we had visited. We were able to cruise in close to The Snares and could see dense clouds of Sooty Shearwaters, sedate Snares Crested Penguins passing and fairly good albatross numbers. A relatively quiet night followed as we headed back to Bluff for breakfast.
Photo credit: R.Sagar
Disembarked after breakfast and waved farewell to our new friends. The Southern Ocean had managed to live up to its tempestuous reputation but we had still achieved most of what we set out to do. Thanks to all for their participation and to Captain Dimitri and his crew. Good luck for 2016 and beyond.
11 December 2014
Port of Bluff, New Zealand
46° 35’ 9 S 168° 20’ 5 E
Forty seven keen passengers boarded the Spirit of Enderby in the afternoon at New Zealand’s southern most port Bluff. After familiarising ourselves with the ship, clearing customs and completing safety and ship briefings we departed Bluff in uncharacteristic light easterly wind conditions. These conditions had the local birdlife confused with very few to be seen in the first few hours, but before long we had our first Black Brow and Bullers Albatross, complemented with a growing number of Sooty Shearwaters, Cape Pigeons and Prions.
With conditions suitable for a trip down the west coast of Stewart Island, we were treated to magnificent views of Masons Bay and Cod Fish Island which is home to New Zealand’s endangered Kakapo. The chefs started the trip with an excellent dinner which everyone enjoyed in calm conditions.
12 December 2014
48° 01’ 9 S 166° 37’ 5 E
Dawn greeted the Spirit of Enderby on station in the lee of the Snares Islands. Thousands of Sooty Shearwaters were departing the island for their days fishing with an urgency that only parents expecting hatchlings can have.
After an early 0630 breakfast we had a short Zodiac briefing before loading the Zodiacs and heading in to discover the joys of the Snares in pretty calm conditions.
Excellent views of early Bullers Albatross pairs, Sooty Shearwaters and Snares Erect- crested Penguins were obtained close up to the Zodiacs. In the more sheltered bays there were views of Tom Tits and occasionally the elusive Fern Bird. A small group in Rodney’s boat sighted the rare Snares Snipe. Most of the headlands had New Zealand Fur Seals hauled out and we were witness to a great sparing match between adolescent Hooker’s Sea Lions. At the penguin slide further to the north of the island we witnessed the great feats of dexterity as the Snares Erect-crested Penguins in their hundreds exited and entered the water.
After an excellent morning at the Snares Islands we departed for Auckland Island accompanied by the usual host of birdlife including a few Salvin’s Albatross which nest on the western chain of the Snares.
13 December 2014
Enderby Island, Auckland Islands
50° 31’ 4 S 166° 15’ 3 E
After a rough night the Spirit of Enderby anchored in the calm waters of Port Ross at the Auckland Islands. A hearty breakfast was enjoyed before we were briefed on the landing and plan for the day. By 0930 we had begun loading the Zodiacs in a stiff south west breeze and enjoyed our first landing in the Subantarctic Islands. Within minutes of landing we had experienced the extreme contrasts of the heated aggression of Hooker’s Sea Lions preparing for the breeding season and the serene solitary existence of the Yellow Eyed Penguin. On the boardwalk over to the wild-west side of the island we sighted the stately Southern Royal Albatross who had commenced nesting and the territorial behaviour of Banded Dotterel defending their nests. The mega herb Bulbunella rossii was in full bloom on the western side of the island so as not to be outdone by the more diminutive Gentions. We enjoyed several glimpses of the Auckland Island Snipe in the vegetated depressions of the western coast as well as a great view of Light Mantled Sooty Albatross which were nesting in the cliffs there. Martin led the party doing the short walk back across the island with opportunities to stop and savor the delights of Enderby Island at a more leisurely pace.
The party embarking on the round trip of the island found a delightful lunch spot just past Derry Castle Reef on the edge of the Rata forest. Further on we had a chance to enter the forest and experience the surreal ‘Hobbit-like’ environment which was home to Tom Tits and Bellbirds. On the final stretch along Sandy Bay Beach we got to see the beginnings of the Sea Lion season with three pups in evidence and a couple of harems starting to form, with all the associated fighting and posturing of the males. After a glorious day ashore we were treated to a fine dinner and a well-deserved sleep back aboard the Spirit of Enderby.
14 December 2014
Carnley Harbour, Auckland Islands
50° 48’ 8 S 166° 04’ 6 E
After an excellent nights sleep in the calm of Port Ross, the Spirit of Enderby motored down the east coast of Auckland Island and arrived at the head of Carnley Harbour at around 0615. We were greeted by overcast skies and calm conditions as the ship dropped anchor in Tagua Bay, home to the old New Zealand government coast watching station during World War II.
After a short Zodiac ride ashore in flat conditions we assembled on the beach and got ready to commence the short climb to the coast watching station huts. A young male Sea Lion had other ideas and had to be gently persuaded by Rodney and Don to let us pass. After a short walk we arrived at the remains of the accommodation huts which are in near collapse. Some of the great names in New Zealand nature conservation were resident here during wartime coast watching operations and it is their research that formed the base line for subsequent scientific investigation of the natural history of these Islands. Another short climb and we were able to view the observation buildings which had to be manned from dawn to dusk throughout the duration of the war. However, no enemy ships were ever sighted from this station.
Back aboard the Spirit of Enderby we enjoyed a fine lunch before commencing our journey south towards Macquarie Island.
15 December 2014
En-route to Macquarie Island
53° 01’ 9 S 162° 01’ 0 E
After the excitement of our landings in the Auckland Islands it was good to spend a day at sea and enjoy the luxury of a sleep in. The pelagic birding remained good with plenty of Gibson’s Wandering Albatross, Storm Petrels and Prions.
We attended a most insightful lecture on Hooker’s Sea Lions by Martin whose experience with these fascinating creatures is second to none. After lunch we enjoyed a talk on Cultural Landscape Change by Matt which brought together much of the history we had experienced on our landings so far. By 2100 we were approaching Macquarie Island and had the unusual experience of seeing another ship in these waters. It was the Royal New Zealand Navy Frigate Wellington no less, on an inspection of the Subantarctic Islands. We were blessed with a relatively quiet night in the lee of Buckles bay.
16 December 2014
Buckles Bay/Sandy Bay Macquarie Island
54° 30’ 3 S 158° 56’ 9 E
An early morning swap over of Macquarie Island staff was completed in foggy calm conditions at Buckles Bay near the ANARE station. With the rangers aboard we were given briefings on our landing at Sandy Bay by while the Spirit of Enderby moved anchorage.
The landing was completed in near flat conditions and a spectacular morning was had wandering amongst the Royal Penguins, King Penguins and the lounging Elephant Seals. With many weaners on the beach we anticipated seeing Orca who were reportedly patrolling the area but to no avail. The look out at the end of the boardwalk offered spectacular views of the Royal Penguin rookery which was at full capacity and very noisy with many chicks apparent.
After a short trip back to the ship for a late lunch we steamed back up to Buckles Bay and prepared to go ashore to look at the ANARE base. The fog had rolled in so we were surprised when we arrived at the beach to see a wedding party turned out to welcome the returning former base leader Jeremy Smith. After a short tour of the base facilities we were invited into the mess for the world famous scone and cup of tea. We got to experience the warm hospitality of the base which is arguably one of the more remote of Australia’s bases and a keen few also got to sample some of the ginger beers and stouts produced by the island’s boutique brewery.
Outside the birders were able to catch a glimpse of a lone Adelie Penguin which had arrived at the island as a vagrant and also to view the small group of Rock Hopper Penguins on the return journey by Zodiac to the ship. A late dinner and a well deserved rest awaited us back aboard the Spirit of Enderby.
17 December 2014
Off Macquarie Island
54° 37’ 0 S 158° 57’ 5 E
We awoke to thick fog and a building northerly wind which precluded any attempts at landing or seeing the sights of Lusitania Bay. As we had wisely already boarded the returning Macquarie Island staff we decided to set a course for Campbell Island. Fog remained with us for much of the day which meant bird watching was severely restricted, so we were treated to a documentary on the history of Macquarie Island and an interesting talk by Jeremy Smith who was station leader at Macquarie in the 2010 season, at the beginning of the rabbit eradication programme.
18 December 2014
En route to Campbell Island
53° 35’ 5 S 164° 24’ 2 E
The ship made good time over night towards Campbell Island and the rolly northerly swell began to ease back to the northwest, making conditions more comfortable as the day wore on.
We enjoyed a full programme of lectures beginning with Heather’s fascinating insight into the Albatross species of the Southern Ocean. This was followed by Don’s talk on his experiences of living at Cape Dennison, East Antarctica for a year. His descriptions of the majesty and the fear of experience a whole seasonal cycle in Antarctica was a feat very few have achieved.
After a delicious lunch we heard from Matt who gave us insights into the wind, waves and weather of the Southern Ocean. By evening we were experiencing that rare condition in the Southern Ocean of calm. Rodney introduced us to Campbell Island in his lecture which had us all keenly anticipating a big day ashore tomorrow. After dinner we experienced some great birding from the decks before retiring for a good sleep.
19 December 2014
52° 32’ 9 S 169° 09’ 5 E
The Spirit of Enderby reached the calm waters of Perseverance Harbour at 0200 and we awoke to a light southeasterly breeze and overcast conditions. After a quick breakfast and briefing, 28 keen hikers shuttled ashore to begin the walk to northwest bay with Rodney and Don as guides. The wind conditions meant the usually wild west coast was relatively calm and the bird watching was up to its usual high standard with Royal Albatross at close range, along with Snipe and Teal on the lower reaches of Camp Cove.
The Col-Lyall group enjoyed a leisurely Zodiac cruise up to Garden Cove with a stop at Camp Cove to visit the ‘loneliest tree in the world’. The tree was guarded by a lone male Hooker’s Sea Lion which Martin managed to subdue and made us think of a boy and his dog! A further stop in Tucker Cove at the old farm homestead site along with its resident Giant Petrel population was enjoyed before a cut lunch and rest back aboard the Spirit of Enderby.
The afternoon expedition up to the Col-Lyall saddle was rewarded with excellent views of the Southern Royal Albatross nesting, gamming and swooping overhead. By 1700 the Northwest Bay walkers had arrived at Camp Cove where Matt forfeited his wages by forgetting the lifejacket bin on the Zodiac pick up!
By 1800 everyone was back aboard the ship and enjoying the pleasure of a hot shower and a fine meal. This was followed by a sound nights sleep.
20 December 2014
52° 33’ 0 S 169° 09’ 6 E
A brilliant morning on Enderby Island was greeted by the hardy souls who had volunteered for the Mt Honey walk. After a quick briefing at breakfast and the production of one of Rodney’s hand drawn maps, the party was shuttled to Garden Cove over a glassy calm Perseverance Harbour. It soon became apparent that Rodney’s comment “muddy in spots” was very much an understatement! Once the bush line had been gained it was slog to the top of the 557m mountain. The herb fields, Snipe spotting and Royal Albatross nests were impressive as was the view from the top which happily coincided with the clearing of the early morning cloud that had shrouded the peak.
While this expedition was taking place Rodney lead a group on a Zodiac cruise of the upper reaches of Perseverance Harbour, while others elected to walk the board walk to the Col–Lyall saddle. A select few of the Mt Honey walkers decided to cap the morning off with a swim from the ship followed by a sauna. Martin also went for a swim at the Campbell Island wharf, but instead of a sauna he basked in the warm humour of his peers!
By 1200 we were all back aboard the Spirit of Enderby enjoying a delicious lunch before taking in the abundant bird life along the northeastern coast of Campbell Island. Grey headed, Campbell Black Brow and Southern Royal Albatross were in abundance as we headed north in calm conditions.
A relaxed afternoon was had watching documentaries on the Campbell Island rat eradication and the reintroduction of the Campbell Island Teal before yet another fabulous dinner prepared by Cy and Conner.
21 December 2014
En route to Bluff
48° 53’ 1 S 168° 40’ 0 E
A calm night at sea and a late breakfast saw a well-rested group greet our last full day of the voyage. A light westerly breeze sprang up as we crossed on to the continental shelf south of Stewart Island and we were rewarded with an increase in birds following the ship.
For those interested in birds of the extinct kind, Martin gave a wonderful talk on the Auckland Island Merganser which was last reported on the island in 1902. He followed this up with a documentary on the search for treasure on the infamous Auckland Island wreck of the General Grant. A much younger Martin starred in the section on Sandy Bay and the resident Hooker’s Sea Lion colony.
Just before another delicious lunch Rodney presented us with an introduction to the Russian Far East which the Spirit of Enderby explores in the northern hemisphere summer. This destination looks equally as enthralling as the Subantarctic and sparked a keen interest in many of us.
By mid afternoon the outline of Stewart Island was in view from the bridge. Rodney took us through some of the great experiences we have had in an expedition recap which was followed by a slide show prepared by Heather and Doug of our adventures on the voyage.
Just before dinner the ship came to anchor in the calm lee of the east coast of Stewart Island and the Mutton Bird Islands of Foveaux Straight. Cy and Conner prepared a sumptuous banquet for our final dinner which was enjoyed by all.
At 0500 the next morning the Spirit of Enderby headed for the pilot station at the port of Bluff where we arrived alongside at 0730. We bid our farewells to our newfound friends and departed with some special memories of the Subantarctic and the Southern Ocean.
Day 1: 3 December 2013
At 9am the bus swept onto the wharf in Dunedin and expeditioners began to board the Spirit of Enderby (aka Professor Khromov) and luggage and cabins were organized. Once aboard most found the deck where entertainment was provided by a pipe band, augmented by a saxophone, piano accordion and singing guitarist. An addition to the band was one very burly, beautifully socialized and friendly dog belonging to one of the wharf workers. He was obviously accustomed to the wharf-side environment and pranced and gamboled about as the band played a selection of Scottish tunes and some updated medleys.
At 1000 we slipped our moorings and the Spirit of Enderby, guided by the pilot, proceeded down the channel heading for the open sea. Off the Aramoana Mole the Dunedin pilot boat burbled alongside to collect the pilot waiting on the rope ladder hanging down the ship’s side. With a nimble ‘Zorro-like’ leap the pilot landed on the deck of his vessel and waved us off. We rounded Tairoa Head where we could see Royal Albatrosses nesting amongst the long grass and soaring over the upper slopes of the Head. At 1130 we filed down through the ship to the lecture room where Nathan gave his informative introduction to the ship and the staff.
It was not long before we felt the gentle roll and lift of the open sea. Captain Dimitry Zinchenko set our course for the Subantarctic islands and the voyage began. Lunch was announced and the chefs produced the first in a series of superb meals which we would enjoy throughout the voyage.
At 1330 we all participated in the mandatory lifeboat drill which precedes every voyage. As the alarms rang (7 bells followed by one long one) expeditioners donned their life jackets and made their way to the boat deck where all climbed into the bright orange lifeboats. Conditions in full lifeboats can only be described as ‘intimate’, but what better way to meet your fellow travellers? Passengers were advised that the boats contain food and water for a full complement for about 6 days. “Excuse me” said one querulous voice, “but where do we go to the bathroom?” In the afternoon Nathan gave his introductory lecture on the use of the Zodiac inflatables and followed that with an illustrated introduction to the Snares Islands, our first destination.
Conditions for our first day at sea were superb. A light northwesterly wind and sea followed us as we made our way south past Saddle Hill, the Catlins coast, Murderers Bay and Nugget Point. The evening meal was excellent and the sunset beautiful as we sailed south along the east coast of Stewart Island.
Departing Otago Harbour. Photo credit: A.Breniere
Day 2: 4 December 2013
Weather forecast: Northerlies 15-20kts freshening to 40-45kts in the afternoon, swell from north at 2-3m. Sea conditions moved from benign to decidedly more malignant overnight and the run on sick bags was like the New Year sales.
0730 Breakfast was attended by a few hearty stalwarts and a parade of pale faces who had to rapidly learn the art of eating cereals without spilling the milk.
During the morning Samuel and Martin were on the bridge birding and whale watching respectively. Samuel saw our first Mottled Petrel of the trip and some Sooty Shearwaters. Martin saw three whale blows but the height of the swell and the wind speed prevented identification. As we travelled south, moving out of the lee of Stewart Island, conditions became increasingly rough. Nathan decided it was too rough for the planned Zodiac cruise of the Snares Islands and the ship would travel as close as possible to the islands to allow passengers a relatively close look instead. Wisely, in deference to the tender state of many of the passengers and aware that in rolling conditions sitting in the lecture room is akin to being inside a galloping cow’s stomach, Nathan postponed the mid-afternoon lecture. Meanwhile the super-keen bird watchers were out on deck while other passengers popped in and out the doors to get some fresh air. At 1620 a pod of 6 Common Dolphins was seen 15-20m off the port side. Among the birds seen were Wandering, Royal and Salvin’s Albatrosses, Black Bellied Storm Petrels, White-chinned and Giant Petrels and a Thin-billed Prion.
The wet aft-deck is particularly slippery in a heavy roll as one of our number discovered when he fell onto his back and shot towards the gate where, fortunately, he prevented himself from being the first man-overboard with a well placed foot on the superstructure. During this caper his grandson stood aghast, mouth open, clutching his camera – but no photos. What a missed opportunity! Up on the port side 400 level, another passenger, unused to the roll, inadvertently toppled out through the open door onto the deck among the legs of those lining the rail. One of the staff got her upright and back inside, shaken but not bent. Some minutes later she took another tumble and fell down the stairs tragically breaking her femur in the process. Dr Sam, an A&E expert, rapidly attended to her in the ship’s hospital and made her as comfy as possible for the overnight run back to Port Pegasus, Stewart Island, while Nathan arranged for her to be helicoptered off the ship the next morning and taken to Kew Hospital in Invercargill.
The meals today were again excellent even though they were prepared under very trying conditions by chefs Bruce and Dean. What a shame 31 crème caramels remained uneaten. The “Mal de Mer” won again!
Snares Islands. Photo credit: S.Blanc
Day 3: 5 December 2013
After breakfast in the sheltered, bush-clad calm of Port Pegasus, one of New Zealand’s most beautiful natural harbours, Martin gave a comprehensive introductory talk on the Hooker’s (New Zealand) Sea Lion which we were to encounter in coming days at Sandy Bay, Enderby Island. At about 1000 our unfortunate patient was taken by Zodiac into North Arm at Port Pegasus where she was uplifted and flown by helicopter to Invercargill for further treatment. As soon as Nathan returned, the Zodiac was loaded and secured and Captain Dimitry resumed our course south to Enderby Island.
After lunch, Samuel gave an introductory talk on sea birds of the region illustrated with some exceptional photographs. At 1530 everyone went to the Bar/Library where the DOC rep, Kirsten Ralph, was overseeing the important task of cleaning and vacuuming all packs and walking gear to be taken ashore of any vegetable matter to prevent the accidental introduction of alien seeds to at Enderby Island.
The last talk of the day was Nathan’s fascinating introduction to the Auckland Islands. He covered the geological history, sealing, settlement, the shipwrecks, farming, the wartime activities of the ‘Cape Expedition’ coast watchers and finally, the implementation of reserve status and removal of feral animals.
Day 4: 6 December 2013
Auckland Islands - Enderby Island
At 0430 the Spirit of Enderby dropped anchor about 500m offshore from Sandy Bay, the location of the second largest breeding rookery of New Zealand Sea Lions. The weather was not quite what we’d hoped as thick sea fog blanketed the island and driving mist promised a soggy walk around the coast.
After breakfast, the chefs, Bruce and Dean, assisted expeditioners to assemble their packed lunches and by 1000 all passengers going ashore had been landed at the convenient gap in the rock platform west of the beach. We all walked in single file past the massive bachelor male sea lions guarding their territories in anticipation of the arrival of the females coming ashore to pup in about 7 days and climbed up to the historic boatshed erected in 1888 by the crew of the NZ government vessel “Stella”. Life jackets and gumboots were stored there in bins from the ship and we then made our way across the sward past the restored Stella Hut (built in 1880) to the boardwalk crossing Enderby Island to the northern cliffs. The boardwalk snakes its way through the wind-sculpted Rata forest where we saw Red-fronted Parakeets (“Kakariki”) and out into the open where we walked among wind-shorn Rata bushes with crimson new growth and aromatic Cassinia bushes to the top of the island (elevation about 30-35m asl). At that point, those who wished to continue the walk eastward around the island set off with some of the expedition team, while those content to botanise and spend more time in the Sandy Bay area were free to return to Sandy bay and the Sea Lions under the watchful eye of Arthur.
As time was limited the walkers set a fast pace and despite the awful conditions, managed to see Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses soaring through the murk, Red-billed Gulls, Auckland Island Shags, Skuas, Black-backed Gulls, Giant Petrels, Red Polls, Pipits, Red-crowned Parakeets , Flightless Teal and Yellow Eyed Penguins. The walkers returned to Sandy Bay between 1430 and 1500. There was little activity among Sea Lions on the beach where only 4 females and one stillborn pup were present.
Everyone was back on board the ship by 1645 when the anchor was lifted and we left Sandy Bay. Captain Dimitry ran a course south in the lee of Auckland Island in oily, foggy calm, so we could dine in relative comfort. At 2130 we cleared the lee of Auckland and Adams Islands and rolled our way across the westerly swells south west to Macquarie Island, 360 nautical miles (and 1.5 days) away.
Yellow Eyed Penguins. Photo credit: L.McKenzie
Day 5: 7 December 2013
At Sea enroute to Macquarie Island
Throughout the night and in the early morning, despite the 20kt southerly wind and a 2m swell on the port quarter, we maintained a brisk speed of 11-11.5kts en route to Macquarie Island. As the Southern Ocean would have it, by 1000 our speed was reduced to 9kts with rising sea and wind. A few albatrosses and prions followed the ship but the hardy birders on deck reported nothing unusual.
In the late morning Samuel gave a superb lecture on penguins, demonstrating once again his profound knowledge of his subject and his ability as an excellent photographer. Lunch was a perfect lasagne produced by Bruce and Dean under tricky conditions in the galley where the ship’s roll caused anything unsecured to levitate and fly about the stove, ovens and benches.
Just after 1415 Duade spotted 2 sperm whales at 53°10’S 161° 50’E. Fifteen minutes later, Martin gave a repeat of his lecture on Hooker’s Sea Lions for the benefit of those who missed it the first time around. The lecture was well attended, despite the roll, probably because of group’s recent experience of these animals on Enderby Island. By and large, this was a day when people either stayed on their bunks or in the Bar/Library reading, playing cards, editing photographs or just socializing. However, as might be expected, a small coterie of hardy birders made it out on deck looking for those ‘life list’ sightings or the one remaining species they haven’t seen.
Our speed had been reduced to 9kts and once again the chefs gave us a hard choice, Blue Cod fillets or Short Ribs. When conditions are difficult for the chefs the staff usually help out in the galley. Tonight Martin was the fish cook.
2130 Our speed had risen to 10.8-11.2kts and we had a little over 50nm to run to Macquarie Island with an ETA around 2am.
Day 6: 8 December 2013
Macquarie Island - ANARE Station at Buckles Bay and Sandy Bay
Soon after 0200 we dropped anchor in Buckles Bay, Macquarie Island. The motion ceased and all aboard dropped into a deep and restful sleep in preparation for a busy day ahead. After the miserable conditions at Enderby Island and on the way to Macquarie Island, one could be forgiven for thinking the weather was not going to improve much. How wrong you can be. The morning was sunny and clear and in the lee of the island the westerly wind was hardly apparent. A pod of Orca patrolled the water just off the beach followed by hopeful Giant Petrels and Skuas.
After Nathan’s comprehensive introduction to Macquarie Island we all prepared for a much anticipated landing. Martin and Arthur went ashore first with Nathan to act as boat ‘grabbers’ at the landing and by 1000 all passengers were ashore enjoying close encounters with King, Gentoo and Royal penguins, the predominantly white Southern Giant Petrels and Elephant Seal weaners about 2 months old. Our party was split into groups, each accompanied by one of the efficient TASPAWS (Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service) rangers. One group climbed to the lookout platform from where you get a panoramic view of Buckles Bay on the eastern side, Hassleborough Bay on the west, and along The Neck to the Base Station where most of the inhabitants of Macquarie Island do their work. Another group was down on the beach photographing. We made our way along Hassleborough Bay beach to the balloon shed where the meteorologist explained the workings of a hydrogen filled, high-altitude met balloon and the data collecting package it carries. Finally we stopped at the Base mess hall where the hospitality and quality of the scones is legendary (for all you bakers, lemonade is the secret raising agent) and the tea and coffee come just at the right time. Passports were stamped with the Macquarie Island ‘visa’ by the ‘postmaster’. For one of our number this visit to the Macquarie Base had special significance. Graham Lodwick was a physicist here 50 years ago to the day and found the group photo on the wall to verify it. Back at the landing, we farewelled our Macquarie wildlife Ranger escorts and boarded the Zodiacs, which made a brief run past the Rockhopper Penguin rookery on the way back to the ship for lunch.
At 1530 the weather was holding but the accumulation of high cirrus and other clouds suggested a northerly change was on its way. Captain Dimitry lifted the anchor in Buckles Bay and steamed south along the coast to Sandy Bay where all were landed for a three hour walkabout among the Royal and King Penguins and the Elephant Seals. Here all the animals and birds are fearless and inquisitive. Penguins would nibble at boots and clothing, while Elephant Seals were accepting and playful. After first investigating Dr Sam, who was lying prone on the beach, an Elephant Seal pup licked his face, then crawled up onto his back and went to sleep! Sam had to record this or nobody back in Lyttelton would believe him. He passed his camera to Martin who took the shot, handed the camera back and walked away laughing, leaving Sam to work out how to get out from beneath the affectionate, and fairly hefty youngster.
After 3 hours ashore, our group and rangers were shuttled back to the Spirit of Enderby which, by this time, was rising and falling 1.0m – 1.25m on the increasing swells. Transfers from Zodiacs to the gangway were tricky but everyone managed to board safely, thanks to some timely ‘strong arming’ by the Bosun Yuri and one of the Russian crew. We steamed back to Buckles Bay in an increasing northerly wind and swell to drop the rangers at the Base. Local safety rules require that we have two Zodiacs in the water at any one time, and perhaps that is just as well. Nearing the landing, we noticed a big (8-9m) male Orca with an exceptionally large dorsal fin, patrolling the kelp edge close to the beach. He was on the lookout for a tasty young Elephant Seal yearling. We waited until he had cleared the area, then quickly dropped the rangers at the beach and made our way back to the ship. The Zodiacs were craned aboard and lashed down at the end of a great day ashore. It is a rare occasion indeed when you can get excellent weather on Macquarie Island which allows excursions at both Buckles Bay and Sandy Bay in one day. Bruce and Dean produced yet another superb dinner and the Captain steered us slowly southward in the lee of the island towards Lusitania Bay, the site of a huge King Penguin rookery.
Sandy Bay, Macquarie Island. Photo credit: S.Blanc
Day 7: 9 December 2013
Macquarie Island - Attempt at Lusitania Bay and enroute to Campbell Island
Lusitania Bay, the site of Joseph Hatch’s infamous (failed) 1899 penguin oiling venture, was hidden from view by sea fog driven by a stiff northerly wind. Given our tight schedule, there was no point in hanging about so the Captain set a course for Campbell Island. The wind on our beam and the westerly swells on the port quarter promised a rolly trip. Breakfast was marked by human cannonballs with plates of food lurching about the restaurant. Fortunately nobody was hurt.
In the galley where Bruce was preparing lunch it was like a war zone, with the air punctuated by bangs and curses. Bruce was showered with spices and black pepper corns which rolled about the deck making walking interesting. Dean made repeated trips to the hold for lunch ingredients emerging with terse comments such as, “it’s carnage down there mate”. But, as usual, Bruce and Dean put out an excellent lunch for those passengers who were brave enough to come to the dining room. The food would never have made it onto the tables without the athleticism and extraordinary balancing skills of Natalia, the Chief Stewardess and Zoya her assistant. Despite the conditions, these two never dropped a plate, were always cheerful and somehow always knew where vertical was.
In the afternoon a visitor to the galley would have seen Dr Sam, his Hobbit feet dusted white with flour, sitting watching the bread mixer as it prepared the dough for the naan bread to accompany the curry at dinnertime. The clingfilm-covered dough was left to prove in a large roasting pan in the warmth of the galley. As the afternoon wore on the dough rose and rose and showed signs of escaping from under or, exploding from its clingfilm bonds. It was rapidly punched down and Sam and Martin spent the rest of the afternoon rolling the naan bread which Sam cooked for the evening meal.
Day 8: 10 December 2013
Enroute to Campbell Island
At sea en route for Campbell Island. Course 075°, wind 040°, 20 - 30 kts. Swells 3m. Rough. In the words of the Chief Mate Evgenii (Zhenia), “Is very good weather for this place”. Nathan decided there would be two lectures in the morning, by Samuel and Martin respectively. In the afternoon, Agnès opened her ‘Sea shop’ and trade was brisk as usual. Later, Nathan gave his introduction to Campbell Island. He then asked for a show of hands of all those interested in walking across the island to Northwest Bay and back. The remainder elected to walk to Col Lyall.
After a very rough, rolly and sleepless night (the ship was rolling up to 30° each way) Campbell Island appeared through the murk at about 1830. About 30 minutes later we entered the calm of Perserverance Harbour. The air was cold and rain showers came scudding down the harbour from the northwest. We passed Davis Point on the northern side of the harbour entrance and Martin made repeated counts of the Sea Lions hauled out at what is the largest rookery on Campbell Island.
Davis Point rookery: Males 42 (incl 3 harem bulls); Females 30, Pups 1
About ½ mile further into the harbour, on the south side, is the euphemistically named Paradise Point where Sea Lions have bred in the past. Because of the nature of the terrain here – a 25-30° peat and tussock slope dropping to a 2.5m cliff with rain pools at the waters edge – pup mortalities have been very high in past seasons.
Paradise Point rookery: Males 3-4; Females 1. Pups 0
At about 1930 we dropped anchor off the meteorological station (Beeman Base).
At Sea. Photo credit: S.Blanc
Day 9: 11 December 2013
After breakfast Nathan and the Northwest Bay walkers were dropped ashore at 0930 to begin their trek across the island. The weather looked alright at this time but we knew it could change quickly. One hour later, Samuel and Martin began landing passengers at the base before setting off for Col Lyall. The wind was gusting strongly and the rain began slashing down driven by the strong northwest wind. Agnès, Samuel and Arthur led off with the main group while Dr Sam and Martin helped Joan along the boardwalk. Joan made steady progress, stopping frequently to admire the plants (she trained as a botanist) and the views, which she said were “so much better than looking at my feet all day”. The sleety rain, low cloud and strong, gusty wind made for a cold, wet walk. As the first Zodiac back to the ship was at 1300, people started down soon after reaching the Col Lyall saddle. Although there were a few albatrosses sitting in the shelter of tussocks or on nests in the vicinity of the saddle no displays had taken place. Sam, Joan and Martin had a late lunch in the shelter of the huge tussocks as albatrosses ghosted out of the murk, wings whooshing in the wind barely 4-5m above ground. Fifteen minutes later the cloud and mist lifted a little and a full changeover display occurred – just what Joan and Michelle had wanted to see. We set off back down the boardwalk for the base and 2 ½ hours later Samuel came and picked us up. Joan, complete with sticks, was craned aboard in the Zodiac, ending a very creditable day for this remarkable 84 year old ex-Himalayan climber. The Northwest Bay walkers had returned after a tough but rewarding walk with stunning views when the weather permitted. Notable observations today were Campbell Island Teal, Hooker’s Sea Lions and young Elephant Seals around the landing, Snipe up the boardwalk and of course, Southern Royal Albatrosses. 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.
Up around Col Lyall, three species of the megaherb daisies Pleurophyllum were common as were the two large relatives of carrots Anisotome latifolia and A.antipoda. The iconic Subantarctic yellow flowering 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.
The animated chatter over dinner was the best indication of a good day’s activities.
Southern Royal Albatross, Campbell Island. Photo credit: A.Breniere
Day 10: 12 December 2013
Three activities were planned for the morning before our departure at about 1230:
Mt Honey walk, Zodiac cruise, a return to the Mt Lyall boardwalk for those who missed out yesterday.
At 0530, the 13 Mt Honey (569m) climbers, accompanied by Samuel and Dr Sam were dropped at their departure point at the eastern end of Garden Cove. At about 0620 an amazing phenomenon occurred in Perseverance Harbour, a blinding sunrise in a largely clear sky! At 0840 Nathan briefed everybody opting for the Zodiac cruise and Col Lyall.
At 1030 the cruise and Col Lyall groups boarded the Zodiacs and were away. The walkers were landed at Beeman Base and the Zodiac cruisers with Agnès, Nathan and Martin set off around the head of Perserverance Harbour visiting Tucker Cove and the farm site, the ‘loneliest tree in the world’ at Camp Cove, and Garden Cove. As usual the wind got up and blew strongly around Beeman Hill with great willwaws ripping towers of spray off the sea and raising an ugly chop – just when the Zodiac drivers had to land their passengers back on the ship. Martin collected the Col Lyall walkers while Agnès and Nathan brought Samuel, Dr Sam and the Mt Honey climbers back aboard without incident.
Captain Dimitry lifted the anchor at about 1230 and we sailed up the east coast of Campbell Island so all aboard could have lunch in relative comfort before setting our course for the Snares Islands, about 30 hrs steam away.
View from Mount Honey, Campbell Island. Photo credit: S.Blanc
Day 11: 13 December 2013
Enroute to Snares Islands
Both the lectures and Nathan’s briefing re disembarkation procedure were cancelled due to the rough conditions encountered as we push into a strong northerly wind and a beam sea. Nevertheless, we were making a good 11.3kts and our ETA at the Snares was 1530.
0830 Position: 49°07’S 167° 11’E. 1 fin whale crossed the bow from starboard to port.
At 1530 we hove to in South Bay. A heavy swell was running with a wind chop over the top. Two Zodiacs were dropped, with Nathan and Sam in one, Samuel and Martin in the other. The boats proceeded out through the passage between the islands on the eastern side of the bay heading up the coast for the biological station where four ornithologists, who have been working on the islands for 14 days, were picked up for return to New Zealand.
In the Bar/Library before dinner Nathan gave his disembarkation briefing. He was followed by Samuel who presented a superb chronological slide show of the trip he and Agnès had prepared. This was made available free to any passengers either on a memory stick or DVD.
This evening, under very trying conditions, Bruce and Dean excelled themselves in the galley preparing a special end of cruise buffet of roast lamb, ham, prawns, mussels, salmon, salads, potatoes, kumara and vegetables. For dessert there was a selection of crème caramel, meringue baskets with mascarpone, raspberries and cream. It was the perfect fare to complement a similar trip.
Photo credit: A.Breniere
Day 12: 14 December 2013
Port of Bluff
At 0630 on a sunny Bluff morning we were slowly making our way to the pilot station.
The pilot boarded at 0700 and 30 minutes later the Spirit of Enderby was secured alongside. It was sad to see all the corridors lined with baggage as we prepared to disembark. Customs and Immigration and biosecurity officers come aboard and, in no time we were cleared for landing. A short time later we had boarded the bus for the airport or town centre taking with us new memories, new friendships and memory cards stuffed with unforgettable images. Our adventure was at an end.
9 December 2012 - 21 December 2012
Click here for Species List
Sunday 9 December
On a balmy early December day in Hobart the members of our expedition party began to gather. In nearby streets and on the wharves of Hobart one could pick the occasional stranger or pair of strangers with a glint of high-sea excitement in their eyes. By 9:30pm we were no longer unknown to one another as 52 of us gathered together for a formal introduction and our first meal together. A few drinks and a few hours of friendly greetings later, everyone retired, buzzing with anticipation for our departure the following day.
Monday 10 December
Breakfast was a casual affair before checking out of the hotel and spending some hours enjoying the mash of history and chic that makes up downtown Hobart. By 8am the Spirit of Enderby was alongside Pier 3 at the Hobart Wharf and customs and Heritage Expedition staff members whirred into action to prepare the ship for a 4pm departure. At 12:30pm we boarded a bus with our bags of ‘expeditioning’ equipment. On arrival at Pier 3 the bus was boarded by customs agents who cleared us to embark the ship. It was a home-coming for some, a first time for others, as we boarded the Spirit of Enderby. After quickly finding our lodgings, we met again with the customs folk on board and officially exited Hobart. An hour later once the south-easterly wind pinning us to the wharf abated, we set off, passing the huge ‘Voyager of the Sea’ which loomed above us. We had watched her 3,500 passengers spend the day funnelling on and off the ship and did not envy them at all as we all looked forward to our small ship experience. We tested our emergency systems and lifeboats as we exited the river and harbour surrounding Hobart. The first reading of on board ornithologist Adam’s bird list followed dinner and we continued out into the Tasman.
Tuesday 11 December
We awoke to a sunny morning as an unpredictable westerly swell from South Africa had picked up overnight. After breakfast a pair of Orca was spotted off the bow of the ship. We lunched at 1pm and by this time we had travelled far enough to be lattitudinally on par with Bluff, our final destination in 10 days’ time. Adam gave us an introduction to the Albatross of the Southern Ocean and then returned to the Bridge, where with his support we spotted one Sei Whale and three Finn Whales. Later in the afternoon botany expert Alex gave an introductory lecture to the flora of the Subantarctic Islands, stage one in his grand plan to convert or at least sway those more animally oriented in the direction of green things. Following chefs Lindsay and Bobbie’s fantastic dinner, Adam updated us on the bird list. His top three for the day were (1) 2,000+ Broad Bill Prions (a significant sighting, the details of which would be passed onto the appropriate agencies); (2) Gould’s Petrel; (3) White-headed Petrel.
Wednesday 12 December
Another late breakfast eased us into our day at sea. The first notable change from yesterday was the increasing roll on the ship, mostly noticeable as more grabbing for tumbling items at the breakfast table. Following breakfast we watched ‘The Edge of Nowhere’. A film about the recovery of Fur Seals on Macquarie Island, and the monitoring of their success during the breeding season. Adam followed this with an introduction to the marine mammals of Southern Ocean. He detailed the various groups, their life history and ancestry, their distinctive characteristics and our likelihood of encountering them. Lunch at 1pm was of the outstanding standard we had already come to expect. We had the great pleasure that afternoon of one of our fellow passengers, David Panton, sharing with us his photos of Macquarie Island taken 48 years earlier, when he summered over on the island from December 1964 until March 1965, as a University of Adelaide student. David matched his photos with tales of life on the island, detailing adventures and aspects of the natural history. Following on from dinner, Tim Fraser, our Department of Conservation representative, spotted four Fur Seals from the Bridge. Armed with information from Adam’s lecture and his growing identification skills, he claimed them to be Subantarctic Fur Seals. The day was capped off with the bird list reading by Adam, his top three species for the day were (1) Northern Royal Albatross; (2) Mottled Petrel; (3) Kerguelen Petrel.
Thursday 13 December
We awoke to find the ship escorted by a convoy of Antarctic Prions. Expedition Leader Nathan updated us on our progress informing us that with 150 nautical miles to run we were expecting to be at Macquarie by 10pm. Hotel Manager Meghan opened the sea-shop for a spell after breakfast, giving folk the opportunity to pick up Subantarctic mementoes for friends, family and for personal collections. At midday Nathan gave us a Zodiac briefing, instructing everyone in the safe use of the craft for landings, cruising and disembarkation. After lunch we heard a lecture from Samuel who introduced us to the penguins of the region. He covered the diversity, the ancestry, the anatomy and life history of this family of birds. Another great dinner came and went and then for those keen few who were still on the bow or the Bridge at 9:45pm, Macquarie Island slipped into view. First North Head was visible as a black shadow hung with cloud, but within 15 minutes the first few flickering lights of the peopled isthmus could be seen. The ship rounded North Head, past the isthmus and continued south to anchor off Sandy Bay for a quiet night in the lee of the island.
Friday 14 December
Before most of us arose the Russian crew had brought the ship back up to the isthmus. By 7:30am, in about 25 knots of westerly wind, we had collected four Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife staff members who were to act as our guides on Macquarie. We breakfasted with Anna, Narelle, Paul and Richard before returning south to Sandy Bay. Good numbers of Light-mantled Sooty Albatross suspended themselves in updrafts around the ship as we made our way south. At 8:20am Nathan gave us a briefing for the day ahead, and by 9:30am the first Zodiacs were ashore. At Sandy Bay we were relatively protected from the wind, and almost everyone got ashore without getting very wet, and once ashore, most had to halt and take a moment to absorb the biotic spectacle in front of them. Littering the beach were Elephant Seal weaners, marching groups of curious King Penguins, and flocks of Royal Penguins. To the south of Sandy Bay mature female Elephant Seals slumbered piled upon another. We crossed over the highway below the Royal Penguin colony and passed the moulting King Penguins who had established themselves mid-stream below the boardwalk, taking to the boardwalk ourselves. Only a dozen or so vertical metres above the boardwalk we watched the vegetation change from coastal tussocks into herbfield, with a broad plain of the megaherb Pleurophyllum hookeri, the Silver Leaved Daisy, stretching inland and beginning to flower. Starkly contrasting the low herbfield were the exclosure plots, 30-year-old squares of vegetation protected from the now extinct rabbit horde. These quadrants established with great foresight, will seed the island’s recovery, and provided us an image of what the island will be like in years to come. Further up the boardwalk a pair of skua casually minded their small chick which shuffled between daisies in a bid to evade our notice. We came to the end of the boardwalk, and were greeted by a mass of squawking, pebble-pilfering and regurgitation in a colony of thousands of Royal Penguins raising this season’s chicks. Here we could sit back and simply be enthralled by the performance, but we also had Paul from the Macquarie Island staff with us who was happy to share all he knew about island life and the colony in front of us. Back down on the beach most folk took the opportunity to sit down above the surf and wait for the wildlife to engage with them. It seldom took more than few minutes before a group of inquisitive King Penguins came to investigate just what we were and what we were up to. Similarly, the nursing instinct of the Elephant Seal weaners had them lumbering towards us on the beach. A squall passed over and the weather evolved continually from morning, over lunch, into early afternoon, when sunshine eventually took hold. North of the rocky outcrops and small rock stacks that provided us with some of the coastal protection we were enjoying was a small King Penguin colony, dotted with fat brown-downed chicks. The comings and goings of this highly entertaining colony spurred thousands of camera clicks from the revolving group of observers. But this was only a tiny colony, and by 3:30pm we were all back on the ship and heading south once again to the largest King Penguin colony at Lusitania Bay. The Zodiacs went out in two groups along the coastal edge of the colony where we all marvelled at the huge numbers of birds. This year alone the Lusitania Bay colony had produced 46,000 chicks, very welcome numbers given this was one of Joseph Hatch’s main bases for penguin slaughter. Rusting hulls of digestors mid-colony are now the only reminder of the penguin oil industry. Back on board the ship, we all agreed with Adam that the top three for the day were (1) King Penguin; (2) Royal Penguin; (3) Light-mantled Sooty Albatross. Plant of the day, now that we were seeing them, was undoubtedly the Silver Leaved Daisy, Pleurophyllum hookeri, topping the mere 18 species we saw ashore.
Saturday 15 December
We had an early rise for a 6.30am breakfast and an uncertain day ahead. There had been a change in the weather overnight, made obvious by the increasing roll of the ship. Nathan, Adam and Samuel had been studying our landing site with binoculars from the wee hours of the morning and reported 1.5m swells crashing onto our landing rocks. During breakfast the team kept an eye on the north north-easterly swell intensifying in Buckles Bay and after Nathan, Adam, Alex and Samuel inspected the landing site by Zodiacs they reported that a safe landing was not possible. Plan B was to get the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife team on board and head south with them back to Sandy Bay. We hung off the beach for 30 minutes waiting for a window, but the growing swell and a report from the field team at Sandy Bay soon stymied these plans so we set out course to Campbell Island. We had all had a fantastic day at Sandy Bay and despite not being able to stay longer we still had plenty of memories of our time here. Everyone took the opportunity for a quiet day aboard the ship, dozing, reading or birding on the bow. Before dinner we had a recap of our time on the island, what we had seen and how lucky we had been the day before. Adam’s top three birds from our day at sea were (1) Grey-headed Albatross; (2) Soft-plumaged Petrel; (3) Brown Skua.
Sunday 16 December
We had breakfast at 8:30am as the ship punched into the north north-westerly wind, which was blowing all the way from Westport on New Zealand’s West Coast to us, 1500km to the south. Following breakfast Nathan let us know the plan for the day, noting the increasing northerly and the 110 nautical miles we had left to run to Campbell Island. At 10:30am Alex gave a lecture on the environmental history of Campbell Island, predominantly from a botanical viewpoint, which was well attended. Afterwards we watched two films courtesy of the Department of Conservation. The first named ‘The Battle for Campbell Island’ detailed the 2001 rat eradication programme, while the second ‘The Impossible Dream: Campbell Island Teal story’, retold the story of the discovery and recovery of this species. After the typical gourmet lunch courtesy of Lindsay and Bobbie we sailed into the increasing northerly wind which could be heard whistling around the ship. Around 1pm we crossed an invisible barrier in the ocean, where the sea floor rose approximately 700m as we came over the edge of the Campbell Plateau. The most notable outward sign of this change was the variety of birdlife present around the ship. We began to see good numbers of species like the Campbell Albatross and the Southern Royal Albatross. The swell increased to 3-4m as we rolled on towards Campbell, but by 6pm it began to abate and we could soon see a shrouded triangle of rock appear north-west of the bow – Jacquemart Island. Dinner was followed by Adam’s bird list, his top three being: (1) Campbell Albatross; (2) Southern Royal Albatross; (3) Grey-back Storm-Petrel.
Monday 17 December
While most of us slumbered peacefully on a calm sea in the lee of Campbell Island our always quietly industrious Russian crew plotted our strategy to land at Perseverance Harbour. Around 1am the wind had dropped to 40-50 knot winds as the ship rounded the entrance of the harbour. By 5am we had anchored off Beeman Point and shortly afterwards Meghan’s breakfast announcement heralded the start of what would be a magnificent day. The island’s peaks and coves were hung with clag, but the balmy 12°C temperature gave some indication that cloud would eventually give way to sun.
After breakfast Nathan gave us a full briefing, both an introduction to the natural history of Campbell Island, and an outline of our options for the day. Alex led those who elected to walk the challenging North West Bay route and Meghan joined this team of eight. At 8:45am we boarded a Zodiac and were dropped on the old ramp by the wharf, where we clambered up around the old generator and balloon-release buildings of the Meteorological Station. From there we made our way towards Tucker Cove, where we picked up one of our finds for the day, a Far Eastern Curlew, later confirmed by Adam as the first report for this species from Campbell Island. We followed the coast before heading up through the Dracophyllum toward Homestead Ridge. Across the partially board-walked bog we made our way through a dwarfed heath herbfield, where the Beak Orchid Waireia stenopetala, had begun to flower. Following an old slip for a short steep stint, we attained the ridge that stretches south from Col Peak. Dotted along the ridge in and amongst megaherbs were the nests of Southern Royal Albatross, often on our trail. On the coastal cliffs, gardens of megaherbs contained all but one of the six megaherb species: Giant Button Daisies P. criniferum, Emperor Daisies P. speciosum, Silver Leaved Daisies P. hookeri, giant subantarctic carrots Anisotome latifolia, and Macquarie Island Cabbages Stilbocarpa polaris were all in various stages of flowering. Here also the clouds lifted and we could look west down on Dent Island and North West Bay. We were occasionally startled by Sea Lions amongst the head high tussocks, so we stayed in close contact as we navigated the tussock labyrinth down to Capstan Cove. Lunch on a sunny beach was made perfect by the presence of Yellow-eyed Penguins, scrapping Sea Lion bulls, and about a dozen dozing Elephant Seal weaners. Up through the Dracophyllum forest, which graded into scrub, we wound our way along the 1984 fence line. At the top we basked in the sun with Southern Royal Albatross soaring overhead. From here we sidled through mixed vegetation, past small gamming groups of albatross, over streams and peat scars until we reached Cave Rock, the emergency shelter of the Campbell Island Coastwatchers. It was only a short stroll downhill from here, through more Dracophyllum forest, to Camp Cove and the Sitka Spruce. As Samuel brought the Zodiac into the bay to collect us we reflected back on what could not have been a better day. At that moment Meghan fell waist deep into an Elephant Seal wallow, much to the amusement of the group and in their opinion making it now a perfect day!
While we completed our north-west circuit, the remainder of our group had their own adventures. Most of the group left the ship by Zodiac at 9:30am first landing at the site of the old homestead, now little more than an Orion Shacklock stove and a sward of pasture grass. After exploring the site, the team continued onto Camp Cove, watching Giant Petrel chicks among the tussock and a large bull Sea Lion waddling around Camp Stream. The group provided some much needed company to the loneliest tree in the world, and may also have provided some cheer to Camp Cove’s other lonely soul. In amongst the flax above Camp Cove is the remains of a sod-cottage, the forlorn home of the ‘Lady of the Heather’. Reputed to be the illegitimate daughter of Bonnie Prince Billy, the so called Lady of the Heather was abandoned on the island by a sealing gang, where she lived out her days, seen by passing ships, wandering in tartan across the rolling highland-like hills. Until the 1980s a heather plant clung to life beside the cottage, adding some sway to the tale. By 11:30am everyone was back on board the ship for a brief lunch, before returning ashore at 1pm to conquer the Col-Lyall boardwalk. Past the old meteorological hostel, the boardwalk wound up around Beeman Hill. A dead Sea Lioness had thoughtfully been removed from the boardwalk by the four researchers on the island, and two Snipe were seen by the lead group. Across the open cushion bog and into herbfield and scrub, the boardwalk continued up into Southern Royal Albatross nesting territory. Here two birds had nested almost right on the boardwalk this season. Everyone had the opportunity to explore the area further by stepping off the boardwalk in the zone around the old terminus. The final stretch of the boardwalk led through fantastic megaherb fields — blooming under brilliant low afternoon light — and up onto Col-Lyall ridge. Fighting buffeting winds, the group had the opportunity to look south into North West Bay, before slowly meandering back down the boardwalk to the wharf.
By 6:30pm everyone was back on board the ship for a great dinner courtesy of Lindsay and Bobbie and by 7:45pm we rounded the entrance of Perseverance Harbour and bid farewell to Campbell Island. The plant of the day, never easy to choose on Campbell, probably had to be the Ross Lily, Bulbinella rossii, it beat the 84 other species we saw by the intensity and abundance of flowering. A great year to have seen it!
Tuesday 18 December
After an unsettling night due to weather, we arrived at the Auckland Islands and Carnley Harbour. A late breakfast was followed by a quiet morning. By 11am land was in sight, and at 11:30am the ship was steered into the harbour entrance. We continued up the long channel that separates the main Auckland Island from Adam’s Island to the south. Past Musgrave Peninsula to starboard of the ship, where we would return in the afternoon, we continued up into the Western Arm of Carnley Harbour and we could spy crashing swell in the notorious Victoria Passage at the end of the harbour. After lunch Adam gave us an introduction to the Auckland Islands. He talked about the biological importance of the island group, for example Adam’s Island is the largest island in the world never to have had pests introduced. Adam also touched on the historical significance of the area. The Auckland Islands had been a staging post for many significant Antarctic expeditions, and in their own right had a very chequered history of disaster, disappointment and death. Nathan took over from Adam and briefed us on the afternoon’s landing. We landed in Tagua Bay, near a narrow isthmus that almost severs Musgrave Peninsula from the main island. Following a barely recognisable path we continued up to the site of the old Coastwatcher’s hut where Nathan provided an overview of the site. From here we continued up, passing a stunning patch of white and purple Spider Orchids Singularybas oblongus until we emerged above snow tussocks on an open hillock. Here to the north-west we could look into the North Arm of Carnley Harbour, home to the wreck of the Grafton, and the rata clearing that had fuelled the Erlangen’s eastward journey to South America. A short two minute walk led down to the old Coastwatch station, which looked out to the south-east of Carnley Harbour. Everyone slowly returned in batches down to the beach. By 6.30pm we were back on the ship and within the hour it was time to dine. For those of us still awake and in biotic-wonderment, the bird and plant list followed. I missed Adam’s top three species for the day, but the Spider Orchids won out on the floristic front, beating the 39 other species seen from the Tagua Bay site.
Wednesday 19 December
Meghan roused us all at 6:15am with promises of rain and 7°C. Within 15 minutes we were eating, and by 7:30am Nathan was introducing us to Enderby Island and briefing us for the day ahead. The team had two options ashore on beautiful Enderby Island – a long walk, almost a circumnavigation of the island’s coast, and a shorter walk, allowing more time for absorbing the wildlife. In small groups everyone boarded Zodiacs for a beach landing among a group of SAMs (Sub Adult Male Sea Lions) who were far too curious for comfort. Once ashore, all of us regrouped above the beach near the research team’s buildings and from here we set off. First we quickly crossed a small stream and grassy sward, keeping a good pace so as not to block the passage of Yellow-eyed Penguins from the forest to the sea.
We soon joined a trail leading into the gnarled Southern Rata Metrosideros umbellata forest which led up onto a boardwalk stretching right to the northern coast of the island. For the most part this boardwalk crosses a dwarf forest, punctuated with bog patches, Royal Albatross nests, and various orchid species. The scrub then grades into herbfield and a plain of Ross Lilys, endemic gentians and Giant Carrots. We dismounted the boardwalk and continued through the megaherbs to the coastal cliffs where half a dozen pairs of Light-mantled Sooty Albatross nest. This gave us a great opportunity to get shots of them on the nest, or keening out to sea. Here our group split and the circumnavigators began the rest of our journey, while the short-walkers remained to enjoy the megaherbs and the albatross, before eventually retracing their steps back to Sandy Bay, and the growing throng of Sea Lions on the beach. Those who opted for the long journey continued along the coast, around Ihupuku and Whakhao Bays and down toward Derry Castle Reef, where good numbers of Fur Seals, Dotterels and Yellow-eyed Penguins could be seen in the distance. Just before we reached the reef we spotted a pair of Red-crowned Parakeets grazing on gentian flowers, happily oblivious to the passing humans. Further along undulating coastal hills we passed Bones Bay and Three Cave Bay before reaching the eastern side of the island and the two main Auckland Island Shag colonies. Here the birders among us had good opportunities to snap this endemic species close-up. From North East Cape, the smaller of the two Shag colonies, we cut in a little towards the forested centre of the island, crossing prime Snipe territory among tussocks and sedges. We saw six Snipe that day, far more than are generally seen on one visit to Enderby. In the forest we simply stopped and stared. It would be difficult to find such a strange and beguiling forest anywhere else in the southern hemisphere. The understorey was dominated by Macquarie Island Cabbage, with long rhubarb-like stems extending upwards to support large open plates of leaves which caught the falling red stamens and leaves from the canopy of Southern Rata. Above the cabbage came the spiky subcanopy of Dracophyllum, clashing shapes and textures that were overtaken by the gnarled, twisted boughs of Southern Rata, stretching out and closing in the canopy. Down on the south coast we spotted multiple Teal in many tiny water bodies, before reaching the scrub-cut track that would lead us along the last part of the coast and back once again to Sandy Bay.
Crossing the back of the beach so not to upset the carnage on the beach, we met up with the remainder of the group and could now observe the action on the shore. Beach Masters paraded through their harems, ready to tackle invading neighbours or speculators from the sea. Opportunistic females took their chances to bound seaward and pups called lamb-like for their mothers. We were lucky enough to witness the furore of a beach-birth, the cries of the pup for its mum, and the airborne disintegration of the afterbirth among the claws of three dozen skuas. Hours could disappear watching this spectacle, but with rising tides we needed to get back to the ship. By 6:30pm we were eating, and by 9pm the ship’s compliment was silent, tired out from our huge day. Most had retired, trying to sneak in a few hours’ sleep before we hit the much bigger seas ahead. Top three birds for the day were possibly (1) Auckland Island/Subantarctic Snipe; (2) Auckland Island Teal; (3) Red-crowned Parakeet. Plant of the day tied between the two endemic gentians, and they only really beat the 78 other species we saw today because of their Parakeet association.
Thursday 20 December
We were woken at 7am by Nathan as we were nearing The Snares. Around the ship Bullers Albatross, Diving-Petrels and the occasional Snares Crested Penguin began to arrive. To our port side the western chain of The Snares appeared, Tahi through Rima, the Maori numbers one to five giving their names to the chain of five rocky islets. By 7:45am we were below North East Island, the main island of The Snares; to the east of the ship was Broughton Island and off the coast to the west was Alert Stack. The Captain put the ship into a holding pattern as we watched willywaws whip off the swell and enjoyed our breakfast in something like comfort as we were hidden somewhat from the northerly. Sadly, this was as close as we would get to the Snares as the seas were too choppy to venture closer in the Zodiacs. It was great to see the islands as close as we did however, and those who were searching for bird ticks, generally got the species they were after. At 9am we continued up the eastern coast of The Snares and set a course for Stewart Island, 60 nautical miles away. We spent the next 7 hours being shunted by the wind and waves, as 60 knot winds beat down from Puysegur Point, the far western corner of New Zealand’s South Island. Several times during the day we changed our course to make the passage more comfortable. Eventually we neared Stewart Island and the sea began to calm so we were able to enjoy a late lunch, created by our ever resourceful chefs in the galley. At 4.30pm sadly things were beginning to wrap up in earnest, as Meghan finalised shipboard accounts and passports were returned. At 6.15pm everyone got together for the last time in the lecture room and enjoyed a visual recap of our fantastic trip. Nathan briefed us all on disembarkation for the following day, and gave a very heartfelt thank you and farewell to staff and travellers alike. We all adjourned to the bar and by 8:15pm tucked into the bounty of an enormous buffet which Lindsay and Bobbie provided with a final flourish. The day was formally closed with the reading of Adam’s final bird list. His top three for the day were (1) Bullers Albatross; (2) Cooks Petrel; (3) Salvins Albatross. By dusk we were anchored below Bluff Hill as the light of Dog Island flashed to the east of us and the final party was over.
Friday 21 December
By 3:30am the Spirit of Enderby was tied up at the wharf in Bluff. Bunkering had begun early, and folk busied themselves packing before breakfast at 7am. By 8am New Zealand Customs and Quarantine were on board and we filed through one by one, officially clearing the vessel into New Zealand. By 8:30am the time had come to say our farewells, and after a group photo on the wharf, everyone disbanded. Some went on to Stewart Island for more adventures, others to Invercargill and the airport, perhaps to home, perhaps to another fantastic destination. It would be difficult to believe however that these new adventures could compete with what we had just experienced. It was wonderful to visit these far flung islands in the company of people who share a passion for the Subantarctic.
Please contact us for further Trip Reports
" To the team,
This is just a note of thanks to those who led and looked after us on the trip to the Sub-Antarctics over Xmas New Year. We liked the way you could and would push the boundaries to maximise the opportunities, all within what you were able to assess as acceptable levels of risk. We liked the way you shared your knowledge, always, willingly, and excited us with your enthusiasms. We liked the way you opened up yourselves to us so we felt we were travelling with you, not separate from you. While thoroughly professional you were all naturally casual and unaffected as well. You seemed relaxed (although we knew you were always watchful, always on the alert) and that meant we could relax too. Although many of you have done the trip and such trips many times at no stage did we think any of you were just going through the motions; that you were just a bit jaded and bored with the whole scene.
Don’s leadership was impressive. He really knows how to make it all feel special. We liked the way he shared his own experiences too. Jessie was clearly an efficient manager and an excellent hostess with a lovely sparkle. Jane was bright, energetic and there was always a buzz when she was around. Alex’s enthusiasm for the islands rubbed off on us and was excellent company. Mitch had a mischievous and infectious charm along with an understated serious side. We quickly struck up a type of empathy with Mike and liked him a lot. His generosity in gifting us a memory stick was greatly appreciated. The enigmatic Judd certainly knew his business and I liked how on occasions he revealed some anecdotes about his life I couldn’t possible share here. Connor was great. Yes, the food was good, but he made a real and positive impact on the social side. Frank had a Teutonic twinkle in his eye and was a good walking companion. George was keeping a watchful eye on us all and I appreciated how he asked me about whether I had a health issue after misinterpreting some comments I had made. We had some good chats and found we had a family connection and various people and places in common.
Dimitri and offsiders seemed brilliant and made us feel we were in responsible and experienced hands. The open bridge policy is gold. Natalia endeared herself to all while the sultry Lina performed with poise. And Lina our cleaner was a sweetie and we talked as best we could and enjoyed her photos of Wellington etc. And the guys that worked the Zodiac loading and unloading were focussed and effective. They never missed a beat from what we could tell. And I’ll never forget the crane operator Bonsin (?) who insisted on dragging me like a sack of potatoes back on board after returning from kayaking.
Great trip. Many thanks and we’re looking forward to the next one (hopefully Kamchatka 31 August).
" I participated in the Galapagos of the Southern Ocean trip, commencing on Dec 9th, 2012. I very much appreciated the opportunity to visit a part of Tasmania that has interested me for a long time, and to step ashore on Macquarie Island was an amazing experience. To be able to experience the vast colonies of breeding King and Royal Penguins and to see Albatrosses close by and megaherbs in full flower was exceptional. Thanks to the staff of Heritage Expeditions for looking after us so well. "
" We wish to thank you all for a wonderful Expedition to the Galapagos of the Southern oceans, December 9-21.
It met all our expectations and more and we enjoyed it all, even the rough seas!
This was a very special way to celebrate our 50th Wedding Anniversary, made even more memorable by the very generous gift of the book on The Southern Galapagos you gave us, thank you! "
" It was a dream come true to have a week watching seabirds and the wildlife in the Subantarctic Islands, and an experience I'm sure I will remember for the rest of my life. Thanks to all the staff and crew for such an enjoyable trip south. "
" Many thanks for a brilliant end to 2010. I had a completely fantastic time on the trip to the Subantarctic Islands. "